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I'm planning an RV trip from San Diego and we have RV Site reservations on the western Sierra, near Oakhurst.

There are many attractions we'd like to see on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, so I'm considering taking an extra day and going "the long way" up Highway 395, instead of straight-shooting through Bakersfield and Fresno.

The website says that even entering Yosemite for day-use requires a reservation (we are in June 2020, "phased reopening" stage of the coronavirus pandemic).

My point of confusion is this: Does traveling through the Tioga Pass along Highway 120, and then south on Highway 41, require actually entering and traversing Yosemite National Park, and hence requiring a reservation that I don't have and is very hard to get? Or can we just stay on the public highway and never enter the park?

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  • @DavidSupportsMonica: The answer is actually explicit on that page, see "I am just driving through the park and not planning to recreate. Do I need a day-use reservation?" The answer is yes. Would you like to post it? Jun 21 '20 at 1:30
  • @NateEldredge Thanks! That's embarassing that I didn't read far enough down the page to find it. I'll be happy (if abashed) to post it. Jun 21 '20 at 1:32
  • Hey, you were 99% of the way there :-) Incidentally, it's an interesting factoid that CA 120 has a gap and Tioga Road isn't officially part of it. I've traveled that route several times and never knew that. Jun 21 '20 at 1:35
  • @NateEldredge I saw that too, and also never noticed it and I've been going back and forth fairly regularly since the early 70s, when my family owned a vacation home in the Eastern Sierra. Tioga Road may not be a state highway in the classic sense — the CHP doesn't patrol and the State doesn't maintain it — but it's certainly listed as CA120 on every map I've ever seen, including those published by the state. Jun 21 '20 at 1:38
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This has now changed as of summer 2021, but only if you're truly driving straight through by the most direct route without any stops at all. According to the FAQ:

Do I need a day-use reservation if I am just driving through the park?

You can drive through the park to reach a destination on the other side of the park without a reservation. The entrance station ranger will provide a time-stamped permit valid for the time needed to travel from entrance to entrance. You must drive the most direct route to exit the park; stopping is prohibited. Violating park regulations can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail.

The park entrance fee still applies and provides access to visit Hetch Hetchy during open hours when it's not full.

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Yes, you will need a day-use reservation to drive through the Park.

The NPS's Yosemite page contains this FAQ:

I am just driving through the park and not planning to recreate. Do I need a day-use reservation? How can you limit access to a state highway?

Yes, you still need a day-use reservation. Tioga Road, which connects with Highway 120 at the park boundaries near Big Oak Flat and Tioga Pass, is not and has never been a state highway. Originally a private mining road, private citizens purchased the road and donated it to the National Park Service, which has improved and maintained the road ever since. The National Park Service is solely responsible for providing road maintenance, as well as law enforcement and emergency services, along all roads within Yosemite National Park.

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  • Whilst this answer was correct at the time of posting/accepting, the rules have changed in 2021. Be sure to check out the other answer from Zach Lipton which contains the correct information for 2021.
    – Doc
    Jul 26 at 5:00

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