|Individual (on foot, horseback, motorcycle, or bus)||7 Days, Yosemite National Park||$10|
|Automobile||7 Days, Yosemite National Park||$20|
|Yosemite Pass (automobile)||1 Year, Yosemite National Park||$40|
|America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (automobile)||1 Year, All US National Parks and Federal Recreation Areas||$80|
|Senior Pass (automobile)||Lifetime, All US National Parks and Federal Recreation Areas, only for US citizens or permanent residents 62 or older||$10|
The best choice depends on your circumstances, but if you're going to visit Yosemite more than once or visit multiple parks, the Yosemite or America the Beautiful passes are worth getting. It's a mystery why people will readily shell out $50 apiece for a day in a theme park, but won't part with the same amount for a park pass that will cover their entire family. Look how they compare:
|Famous Theme Park||Yosemite Pass|
|Gets you into||a theme park (1 square mile)||Yosemite National Park (1,100 square miles)|
|Who gets in?||you||you and everyone you can fit into your car|
|How long is it good for?||1 day||1 year|
|Wildlife||bored teenagers in animal costumes; toddlers on sugar highs||deer, bear, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, etc.|
|Thrill ride duration||2 minutes (rollercoaster)||2 days (climbing El Capitan)|
|Favorite occupation||waiting in line||staring at mind-blowing scenery|
|flowers, mountains, trees, you name it||fake||real|
|Back Country||employees only||go walkabout anywhere|
|Money spent on cotton candy and funny hats||how much have you got?||only the rangers wear funny hats here|
It's enough to make you reconsider just what is the happiest place on earth.
There's another benefit to having a Yosemite or National Parks pass: on busy summer weekends when traffic is backed up dozens deep at the entrance gates, the park service will frequently set up a special lane just for pass holders to use so they can buzz straight into the park past the carloads of visitors trying to find change for and get advice from the entrance-booth attendants. (Imagine that the checkout line at the grocery store extends to the back of the building, and everyone in front of you is a little old lady with a month's worth of groceries in the cart, and each one of them is paying by check, arguing over half a dozen expired coupons, and buying three or four mysterious items that don't scan and require a bagger be sent off to look up the price. Imagine this, and you'll know what it's like entering Yosemite on Fourth of July weekend without a pass.)
If you want to buy a pass but not wait in line at the park gates to get one, you can order them ahead of time at the national parks website or call 1-888-GO-PARKS.
What, the Yosemite Pass isn't good enough for you? Smokey the Bear is weeping in his porridge. Oh, well: try the getting-in-free page; if you're sufficiently determined, one of the methods there may suit you.