Last year, a record 5.2 million visitors passed through the gates of Yosemite National Park. If you were one of them, there’s a good chance you arrived by car. A growing number of Yosemite visitors, however, are discovering the ease and convenience of Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System, or YARTS.
The bus service, managed by the Merced County Association of Governments, has been providing public transportation between Merced and Yosemite since 2000; it added service from Fresno to the park entrance accessed via Highway 41 in 2015. Providing a public transportation option from the Central Valley is crucial to keeping the park accessible to all who want to enjoy it, says YARTS transit manager Dick Whittington.
The benefits of taking the bus are many — in addition to the convenience of not having to drive your own vehicle, it can provide savings for some riders. A round-trip ticket from Fresno to the Yosemite Valley costs $30 ($20 for seniors; children under 12 ride free with a paid adult fare) — but the park’s gate fee, which is waived for YARTS passengers, ranges from $25 to $35, depending on the season.
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YARTS is also an Amtrak Thruway and Greyhound Interline provider. Visitors are able to purchase tickets to Yosemite on the YARTS website or through Amtrak or Greyhound and transfer to a YARTS bus at Fresno’s Amtrak/Greyhound station. “The same ticket will take you into the park,” says Whittington.
“We don’t want to love Yosemite to death,” he says. “It’s a gorgeous, special place and we have to take care of it. Please be a good steward and pick an alternate way to get here.”
Besides, he adds, riding the bus can be a relaxing and inspiring way to begin your vacation: “When you’re freed of that steering wheel, you just see things you’ve never seen before. It’s a whole different trip.”