With more than 4 million people visiting Yosemite National Park last year — and that number expected to increase this year — it's no wonder lodging inside the park is snatched up quickly.
"We typically sell out during the summer season," Delaware North Cos. spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro said of its Yosemite accommodations (Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Curry Village and the housekeeping camp on the Merced River; the Wawona Hotel, and in the back country, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, White Wolf Lodge and the High Sierra camps). "Now and then there can be a cancellation and people can get lucky," she said.
The same is true for the park's 13 campgrounds, which are operated by the National Park Service. Campgrounds can be reserved five months in advance; hotel rooms and other lodging in the park can booked up to 366 days in advance at http://www.yosemitepark.com or (801) 559-5000.
Many visitors are forced to look outside Yosemite's boundaries for accommodations, especially during the peak summer season. Although lodging outside the park can fill up quickly too, there are more options, from tents to yurts to historic hotels and charming inns.
Below are three resorts, plus some other places to stay along the state highway corridors — 140, 120 and 41 — leading into the park. When Tioga Pass is open, lodging can also be found along U.S. Highway 395 and in the tiny town of Lee Vining (http://www.leevining.com).
Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
Location: 6979A Highway 140, Midpines, Calif., about 20 miles from the park's Arch Rock entrance.
Amenities: This hip retreat offers hotel-style rooms, canvas tent cabins and a hostel. Private rooms with baths have themes from psychedelic to Victorian. There also are private rooms with a shared bathroom. Like Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, the Bug has tent cabins that can accommodate couples and families. The dormitory-style hostel, which caters to backpackers on a budget, has a kitchen and is licensed with Hostelling International.
The Bug's cafe is housed in a funky lodge where people gather over a pint of beer or game of chess. Its menu includes buckwheat blueberry pancakes ($6) for breakfast and meat and vegetarian options for dinner (entrees from $8.50 to $18).
Guests can follow a strenuous hike up Yosemite Falls or Half Dome with a stop at the Bug's spa. Services include yoga, massages, facials and a hot rock sauna. The Bug's forested property also has a seasonal swimming hole.
Cost: Starting May 1, a private room and bath for two is $115 a night, plus tax, and an insulated tent cabin costs $65, plus tax. The hostel is $25 a person, plus tax, for non-Hostelling International members (members pay $22).
Info: (866) 826-7108, http://www.yosemitebug.com.
Nearest town: Mariposa, about 10 miles west, caters to tourists visiting the park. The town's Main Street has a variety of antique and gift shops sandwiched between clusters of hotels, ranging from chains such as the Best Western Yosemite Way Station ( 966-7545) to those independently owned and operated.
The River Rock Inn has seven affordable rooms, a deli garden cafe and occasional live music ( 627-8439, http://www.riverrockncafe.com). For other options, check out the Yosemite-Mariposa Bed and Breakfast Assn. at http://www.yosemitebnbs.com.
On Mariposa's Main Street, the Butterfly Cafe (Mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly") features a Half Dome burger with avocado, bacon and blue cheese for $10.95. The cleverly named Pony Expresso, just off Main Street on Lower 5th Street, sells fresh-roasted coffee and local ayurvedic teas.
Mariposa has a historic courthouse and two museums: the California State Mining and Mineral Museum at the Mariposa Fairgrounds and the Mariposa Museum and History Center, which focuses on the area's rich Gold Rush history.
Yosemite Lakes Camping Resort
Location: 31191 Hardin Flat Road, Groveland, Calif., off Highway 120, about five miles from the park's Big Oak Flat Entrance Station.
Amenities: Those looking for an alternative to the typical hotel room will enjoy the cozy yurts at this camping resort. There are 14 hillside yurts, six along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River and two in a meadow near the river. Each has a kitchen, bathroom, satellite television and deck with a grill. The yurts are heated and open year-round. There's a two-night minimum stay on Fridays and Saturdays. Most yurts sleep four people. Guests have access to free wireless Internet, a Laundromat, a miniature golf course and other recreational activities. Yosemite Lakes also accommodates recreational vehicle and tent camping.
Cost: From May 1 until Oct. 16, hillside yurts are $166.24 a night, plus tax; river yurts are $206.99, plus tax.
Info: (800) 533-1001, http://www.stayatyosemite.com.
Nearest town: Groveland, about a 20-minute drive west, features a community park, historic saloon, restaurants and shopping. At Mountain Sage, customers can purchase camping gear, trail maps and a latte all in one stop. On the other end of Main Street is Dori's Tea Cottage, where Yosemite-bound commuters can get lunch (sandwich, fruit and cookie) to go for $8.95. The teahouse sells about 65 teas, including popular candy bar-flavored teas. For traditional hotels, try the Groveland Hotel ( 962-4000, http://www.groveland.com) and Hotel Charlotte ( 961-7799, http://www.hotelcharlotte.com), both on Groveland's Main Street.
The Highway 120 corridor also has several B&Bs, including the Blackberry Inn in nearby Buck Meadows ( 867-5001, http://www.blackberry-inn.com) and Lillaskog Lodge, on a mountaintop 11 miles from Yosemite ( 962-1818, http://www.lillaskogyosemite.com). Yosemite Pines (www.yosemitepinesrv.com), a recreational vehicle resort just outside of town, also features more modest yurts without kitchens or bathrooms. Starting May 1, they cost $109 on Friday and Saturday nights.
Historic Sierra Sky Ranch Resort
Location: 50552 Road 632, Oakhurst, Calif.; off Highway 41, about 10 miles from the park's South Entrance.
Amenities: Established in 1875, this property was originally a working cattle ranch. It also was a tuberculosis hospital in the 1920s, a religious retreat and a recovery center for soldiers wounded in World War II.
In 1946 the ranch was converted to a hotel, with John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe among its celebrity guests. Now, the ranch can house up to 72 overnight guests in 26 rooms.
There's a veranda on which to relax, as well as a swimming pool for hot summer days. Fishing is allowed in a trout stream on the property.
A steakhouse and saloon are attached to the resort's rustic lounge. The resort is also popular for events (there are family reunions booked until 2015).
Cost: Standard rooms are $135 to $155 a night, while suites are $175-$225, plus taxes.
Info: (559) 683-8040, http://www.sierraskyranch.com
Nearest town: Oakhurst, about three miles south, has modern shopping centers, fast food restaurants and lodging. Driving north on Highway 41 will bring you to Fish Camp — a cluster of cabins with a general store and post office near Yosemite's southern entrance.
As you approach, you'll find the Narrow Gauge Inn ( 644-9050, http://www.narrowgaugeinn.com), which has 26 rooms, a fine-dining restaurant, flower gardens lining a seasonal creek, a swimming pool and hot tub.
Along the highway in Fish Camp is Yosemite Big Creek Inn ( 641-2828, http://www.yosemiteinn.com. This bed-and-breakfast has three guest rooms next to a year-round creek. Another B&B in Fish Camp worth noting is the Tin Lizzie Inn, a Victorian-style inn where guests have a chance to drive an original Model T Ford ( 488-6877, http://www.tinlizzieinn.com).
Across the highway from the Tin Lizzie is Tenaya Lodge ( 514-2167, http://www.tenayalodge.com), a massive complex with a conference center and spa. It's the only Yosemite-area property outside the park operated by DNC.