Where do I start when visiting Yosemite?
Most first-time visitors head to the Yosemite Valley, taking either Highway 120 or 140 into the park from the west. There's also a south entrance at Wawona, an entrance on the northwest into the Hetch Hetchy Valley and an eastern entrance at the Tioga Pass that's only accessible in the summer.
Can you just drive thru Yosemite?
You can drive your own vehicle into and around Yosemite. Shuttle buses are not mandatory, but are recommended (except in 2021, when they are not available).
Is 120 or 140 better for Yosemite?
120 is more going up/down mountains. 140 is a gentler grade, going up along the Merced River. 140 distance is slightly longer, though not too much.
In general, the roads are fine - and worst thing you will find is being behind a super slow vacation recreational vehicle). If you are going to Sequoia as well this trip use 180 in and out of the park only (the road to 3 Rivers area is scary - and not worth driving.).
Big Oak Flat Entrance
Your most direct route to Yosemite is through the Big Oak Flat Entrance or the Arch Rock Entrance, which is located southeast of Big Oak Flat. To enter through the Big Oak Flat Entrance, you will take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east via Manteca, Calif.
Highway 120 will be the best way to approach Yosemite if you are coming from the big cities of San Francisco or Sacramento and their major airports. This scenic route skirts around the Northern edge of Mariposa County and passes through the lovely towns of Buck Meadows and Groveland.
Reservations are not required to visit Yosemite but are recommended if planning to stay overnight in 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.