Like most national parks, Yosemite makes an excellent road trip. In fact, at first glance it would appear that it’s almost impossible to plan an independent accessible visit to this popular California national park without a car. And that assumption would be incorrect. Truth be told, with a little advance planning it’s possible to fly or take the train to a nearby gateway city, and then take wheelchair-accessible public transportation to the park. And once you arrive, there’s no shortage of wheelchair-accessible connections to the different areas of the park. Best of all, not only is this an extremely accessible way to see Yosemite, but it’s also quite affordable.
Fresno Yosemite International Airport is the closest commercial air terminal to the park; but don’t let the name fool you, as it’s actually a 2.5-hour drive to Yosemite Valley from the airport. Although wheelchair-accessible rental vans are available, the cheapest way to get to the park is to take YARTS — the Yosemite Area Regional Transit System.
YARTS operates four routes from gateway communities to popular stops in the park. The Highway 41 Route operates several times a day from May 15 to September 15, and runs from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport to the visitor center in Yosemite Valley. The regular one-way fare is a very reasonable $16, and the disabled fare is $11.50. And if you fly United Airlines, just show your boarding pass to the driver and you’ll ride for free.
All YARTS buses are lift-equipped, but 48 hours advance notice is required to assure accessibility. And if you’d prefer to take Amtrak to your gateway city, YARTS also stops at the Fresno Amtrak Depot. And once you arrive in Yosemite you can take the free wheelchair-accessible park shuttle to your hotel. If you’re not staying in the park, Highway 41 YARTS buses also stop at the Oakhurst Best Western and Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp. It’s a fast, easy and accessible way to get to the park. For more information about YARTS, or to make a reservation, visit yarts.com/.
To be honest, no matter how you get to Yosemite, you’re better off taking the shuttle once you get there. That way you don’t have to fight the traffic or search in vain for parking. The Yosemite Valley shuttle stops at all the major attractions and lodges, and allows easy access to the accessible trails at Lower Yosemite Fall, Happy Isles and Sentinel Meadows. Additionally, all park shuttle buses are lift equipped.
Aramark — a Yosemite lodging concessionaire — also operates several tours, including the popular Valley Floor Tour. This two-hour ranger-led tour is conducted in an open-air-tram, which offers a good view of the surrounding landscape. Wheelchair-accessible tour vehicles are available with 48 hours notice. Call (888) 413-8869 or visit www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/guided-bus-tours/ for more information.
If you’d like to explore the wheelchair-accessible sites in Mariposa Grove, then consider the Aramark Yosemite Grand Tour. This eight-hour tour includes stops in Yosemite Valley, and at Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove. An accessible bus is available with 48 hours advance notice; however this popular tours fills up quickly, so it’s best to book it at least two weeks in advance.
Finally, if you’d like to explore the sites along Tioga Pass Road, then hop on the Tuolumne Meadows Hiker’s Shuttle, which offers service between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows from June to September. The shuttle stops at May Lake Junction, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Lembert Dome, Pothole Dome, Cathedral Lake Trailhead, Dog Lake Parking, Tuolumne Meadows and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. Fares are dependent on the stop, and accessible buses are available with 48 hours advance notice. For more information call (209) 372-1240.