How To Travel to Yosemite National Park With Public Transportatoin
Traveling to Yosemite National Park via public transportation has a lot of advantages for those coming from areas too far to comfortably drive. Coming from Chicago, driving was not an attractive option. But flying means that you either have to rent a car, or use public transportation to get to your final destination. Each has their disadvantages. Renting a car for a hiking trip is tough because you are mostly paying for it to sit in a parking lot while you are off backpacking. But often to get to a particular trailhead it is much easier to have your own vehicle. On the other hand, public transportation will inevitably be much cheaper but will limit your flexibility. Especially if you are under 25, renting a car can become a huge expense. If possible, I always try to exhaust public transportation options. For Yosemite National Park, it is absolutely possible to utilize public transportation.
If you plan on flying, the best option is to fly to San Francisco, then use the bus and train systems to get into the park.
Step 1: BART to Richmond Station
The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the train system serving San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. From wherever you end up staying, hop on the BART and navigate to Richmond Station. It is located about 15-20 miles away from San Francisco. Richmond is both a BART station and an AMTRAK station.
Step 2: AMTRAK from Richmond to Merced
Take the Amtrak from Richmond to Merced. This ride will take about 2.5 hours. You need to plan ahead so that you arrive in Merced in time to get on the YART (step 3) to get to Yosemite Valley. Helpful hint: Do not worry if your train is running a bit behind. The YART bus will wait until the Amtrak arrives since it knows a lot of people are trying to make that connection. We booked our Amtrak reservation the night before without any issues, but you can probably save a bit with more advanced reservation. Tickets cost about $50 roundtrip.
Step 3: Yellowstone Area Regional Transit System (YART) bus from Merced Amtrak to Yosemite Valley.
The YART bus will take about 2.5-3 hours to navigate up into Yosemite Valley. Tickets cost $25 dollars round trip. Put your book away for this drive, it offers some incredible views of the valley! The bus will drop you off at various locations throughout the valley. Get off at the Valley Vistors Center to get to the ranger station for permit pick up.
Check for current route schedule and fare