We had an epic summer vacation at Yosemite this year, one we hope to repeat again soon. No matter where you live, you’re likely driving at least an hour or two to get to Yosemite. I thought I’d share what we learned about driving there with these Yosemite road trip tips.
Yosemite Road Trip from Arizona?
I am not a huge road trip girl, so we did not make the 12-hour road trip from Tucson to Yosemite. Dang, just typing 12-hour road trip gave me hives. 😉
And let’s be fair, that’s easy 15 or 16 hours with stops for bathrooms and meals, one most likely people would break up into 2 very long driving days.
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Research Flights if necessary
If you don’t already live within 8 hours of Yosemite, I’m going to recommend you fly to a Yosemite area airport.
Unless you love road trips and have lots of extra time to drive, flying to Northern California is the best bet for most families making the trek to Yosemite National Park.
Summer break had just started when we went but my husband didn’t have an extra 4 days of vacation time to drive to Yosemite and back, so we opted to fly into San Jose instead.
There are a few big airports near Yosemite National Park: San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento. They are all 4-5 hours away from the Yosemite.
There are a few smaller or regional airports that are closer. Modesto, Merced, and Fresno are all under 2 hours to the park entrance. Given that Tucson itself is a smaller airport, there were no reasonable connections or prices for us to fly into one of the closer airports.
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Arrive Early in the Day
We found a nonstop flight from Tucson to San Jose on Alaska Airlines that worked perfectly. It helped us avoid having to stay in a hotel before heading out on our Yosemite road trip. Our flight arrived early enough in the day for us to grab groceries and drive the ~4 hours to Yosemite.
We had lunch outside of San Jose after we picked up our groceries, then arrived at our yurt before dark, just in time for a quick dinner. Did she say yurt? Yup. We stayed in a yurt! I’ll share more about our yurt later!
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Grocery Pick Up
There aren’t any large grocery stores near Yosemite National Park. Nor was grocery delivery available to our yurt. 😉
So we opted for the next best thing. We opted for grocery pick up at Walmart. We simply ordered our groceries the night before and picked them up as we left the San Jose area. This saved us so much time!
There was no time wasted cruising the store, searching for items on our grocery list. No waiting in a long checkout line to pay for the groceries. And no begging for extra treats and random goodies from the kids while in the store!
After doing a little research on grocery stores near San Jose, I found a Walmart right on our route to Yosemite that offered Grocery Pick Up.
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Pack Insulated Cooler Bags
When we arrived, a store employee brought our groceries right out to us within 5 minutes and helped us load them into our vehicle. I had finalized our grocery order the night before with our credit card information, so the whole process was easy peasy.
I packed a couple of insulated cooler bags for our cold stuff and also ordered a couple bags of ice with our groceries. The entire grocery process took about 15 minutes, mostly because we had to arrange the cold items together in our cooler bags with ice.
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Drive the Right Vehicle
We had the opportunity to review the Mazda CX-9 while in California and found it to be the perfect vehicle for our Yosemite Road Trip.
Why is the Mazda CX-9 the perfect Yosemite road trip vehicle? It had lots of cargo space with the 3rd row folded down. And we definitely needed the extra storage space with 3 suitcases, 5 backpacks, and groceries for the week.
The second row had lots of space for our two boys to spread out while riding in the car. They appreciated the built-in window shades and back seat charging ports both essential during long road trips.
We were already familiar with the Mazda navigation system from our Houston adventure last year and appreciated the ability to easily input our destination.
Plus its navigation system displayed current speed limits and advance notice of upcoming exits and appropriate driving lanes which helped on unfamiliar roads.
Mazda Connect also paired with our iPhones automatically, which allowed us to easily use our apps, listen to our music, send messages and make phone calls using the Mazda command center console.
Yosemite Road Trip Tips: Book Accommodations in Advance
Yosemite Valley accommodations often sell out a year in advance, especially during the busy summer season. We didn’t make our Yosemite road trip plans until the spring, so we couldn’t stay in one of the official Yosemite National Parks properties.
Our accommodations were amazing though, better in some ways. We found a riverside Yurt at a campground resort just outside the Yosemite National Park entrance. Glamping is the best way to experience a national park! I’ll be sharing more from our stay at Yosemite Lake RV Resort in an upcoming post.
We were provided with a week-long test drive of the 2018 Mazda CX-9 during our visit to Northern California in exchange for our honest opinions.