Yosemite National Park is one of America's most popular tourist attractions, and when the weather is nice, bicycles are a common sight. Should you bring your eBike to Yosemite? Where can you ride eBikes inside Yosemite national park? Yes!
Yosemite is a massive national park, but when most people say "Yosemite", what they usually mean is Yosemite Valley - just a few square miles where much of the tourism and camping are highly concentrated. Bicycles are ideal for getting around Yosemite Valley.
Bikes are a great way to explore Yosemite Valley
Because Yosemite Valley features very popular attractions (like the iconic Half Dome) it struggles in peak season with traffic and pollution. Parking is limited and it can be difficult, or even impossible, to go from attraction to attraction by private car. If you're just visiting for the day, you'll need a reservation during most times of the year.
Day visitors are encouraged to park, once, then get around the Valley by shuttle bus. Review this map (PDF) of Yosemite Valley. You cannot park in the campgrounds without a campground reservation. As a day visitor, you'll park at the "Visitor Parking - Curry Village" label. Because the shuttle can be full, or slow, an eBike is a great alternative to waiting! Park your car at the Curry Village day use lot and explore by bike.
Some roads are closed to cars entirely and are accessible only by shuttle bus, bike, or walking, period. As a result, your own eBike is a great way to get around the Valley floor quickly, easily, and without emissions.
Yosemite treats eBikes like any other bicycle
In terms of rules and regulations, your eBike is treated just like any other bicycle inside Yosemite IF it has an electric motor less than 750 watts, and fully-operable pedals.
In general, if you have an eBike that meets the Class I, II, III labeling system, you can ride it in Yosemite National Park, subject to these rules:
- you can definitely bring your eBike to Yosemite (and it's encouraged!)
- all bicycles, including eBikes, are not permitted on off-road surfaces (i.e. you cannot ride on any trail)
- you can ride your eBike on all of the 12 miles of paved bike and walking paths in Yosemite Valley.
- you can also ride your eBike on any paved surface intended for cars and other motor vehicle traffic, subject to the normal vehicle code. The road to and from the Valley is long, winding, and narrow (everyone but experienced riders will probably want to avoid it), but an eBike can help you keep up with traffic.
Camping with your eBike in Yosemite
If you're camping with a tent or RV in Yosemite Valley, a bicycle is the perfect way to get around. You can ride to the bathroom, campground store, showers, shuttle stop, or ranger station quickly and easily.
For longer trips, you'll need a way to charge your eBike battery, so keep that in mind before you book. Tent campsites don't have electricity, but there are a few lodging options that do:
- The "Yosemite Cabins with Bath" at Curry Village. Note: other lodging types at Curry Village don't have wall outlets.
- The Ahwahnee (hotel)
- Yosemite Valley Lodge (motel)
Fortunately, Yosemite Valley is completely flat, and the speed limit is low, so your eBike battery can last a very long time, avoiding "range anxiety". You might be able to avoid the need to charge at all during your Yosemite trip, if you're careful.
Unfortunately, as with any populated area, bike theft can be a problem in Yosemite campground. Don't forget to lock up your bike to keep it secure in the campgrounds, especially overnight.
Renting a bike inside Yosemite
Bicycle rentals are available inside Yosemite Valley*. You can rent a bike, helmet, child trailer, or even a tandem! Renting a bike is a good way to experience the Valley if you're unable to bring your own bike. A short-term rental relieves you of the stress of loading your bike onto a car to get to Yosemite in the first place, and it's a great alternative for people who don't own their own bike.
Yosemite Valley's Bike-share program
In addition to traditional daily and hourly rentals, Yosemite also offers a "grab and go" bike share program powered by mobile phone apps, similar to the New York City Citi Bike share*. You use the app to unlock a bike at one of the stations, then return it whenever you're done. Simple.
Learn more about Yosemite's Bike Share program.
"Car-free" riding opportunities inside Yosemite National Park
There are a few opportunities to ride on Yosemite's roads in a car-free environment. Some happen periodically, and some are permanent.
Winter weather creates some of the car-free opportunities. High-elevation roads like Glacier Point and Tioga Pass are closed during Winter. The Park Service then plows these roads during Springtime as temperatures warm. After plowing, but before the roads open to cars, the Park Service often opens these roads to bicycles. This provides a rare opportunity to ride these beautiful (and challenging!) roads free of cars.
A car-free opportunity also exists on the Eastern-most end of the Valley loop road, near the Happy Isles and Mirror Lake trailheads. Only shuttle busses are permitted on this section of road, no private car traffic. This makes for an almost 100% car-free riding experience because the shuttles run only occasionally. Riding your bike to one of the hiking trailheads as a jumping-off point is a great way to skip the (sometimes long) wait for the shuttle!
As with any ride, you should have safety in mind before you begin.
- We recommend everyone should wear a helmet at all times, but riders under 18 must wear helmets inside Yosemite by rule.
- Keep in mind the park has low speed limits, both on bicycle paths and on the open roads. The speed limit on bike paths is 15 MPH. It's quite easy to exceed the speed limit, even without an eBike - so make sure you keep an eye on the speedometer. Park rangers take speeding seriously.
- Watch for wildlife - it's not uncommon to see bears in the middle of the street!
- Watch for distracted drivers. The scenery is beautiful, but keep your eyes on the road, and pull to the side and stop before you stare.
What about riding outside of Yosemite?
This article contains information about Yosemite National Park specifically, but Yosemite is surrounded by other National Forests, California State Parks, and local parks, each with their own rules and regulations surrounding bicycles, and eBikes. If you visit Yosemite National Park, you may also pass through other multiple jurisdictions with different rules on the way, so you'll need to check with those specifically before riding.
* A note about weather
Yosemite is in the High Sierra and has serious Winter weather. As a result, some of these locations and programs only operate during the Summertime. Bike share, rentals, and other programs tend to run approximately from May - October, but can change based on current weather patterns.
To avoid an unpleasant surprise, before planning a trip get the latest version of Yosemite Guide for a current snapshot.
I hope you have a wonderful trip to Yosemite Valley and enjoy some riding while you're there!