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What City is Closest to Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is beloved for its camera-ready views, hiking trails, camping opportunities, and much more. Many idyllic cities surround the park, but which city is the closest to Yosemite?

El Portal is the closest city to Yosemite, located along Highway 140. Although it may seem like a sleepy city, you will find amazing surprises and endless fun activities here. Bring your camera and be fully energized to explore El Portal.

In this guide, I will discuss El Portal and what you can do in this western gateway. This will help you spice up your experience in Yosemite, so keep reading!

What to expect on your way to El Portal

Come ready for a scenic drive along Highway 140 to El Portal. This road follows the wild Merced River, offering spectacular views of wildflowers during spring and rocky outcroppings.

One of the things you will encounter when nearing this town is Savage’s Trading Post. This is a vacation home near the Merced River. It is one of the oldest landmarks in California and an excellent place to stay.

As you drive along the Merced River, you will notice many picnics and camping areas, including Red Bud and Indian Flat. The areas feature restrooms, picnic tables, parking, and other amenities.

Some of these areas boast unique sites for fishing, swimming, and rafting.

What to do once in El Portal

You are now in El Portal and looking for family activities and attractions. Don’t worry, as El Portal is the home of fun and surprises.

Every year, this fascinating city receives many vacationers since it brims with incredible things to do.

Here are some activities and destinations that will make your vacation 100 times better.

El Portal Market

El Portal Market is a small market along Highway 140 a few minutes from Yosemite Park.

The market is an ideal spot to pause your drive and make purchases. It has many stores selling fresh fruits, milk, toiletries, snacks, beverages, and other supplies needed for a trip. You’ll also find a 24-hour gas station.

One of the fantastic things about the El Portal Market is its nice outdoor tables where you can relax instead of sitting in your car during snack time.

Yosemite Valley Railroad

Have you ever had an old-age train experience? If not, you can get a taste of how passengers and goods were transported from Merced to El Portal between 1907 to 1945 at Yosemite Valley Railroad.

This railroad follows the Merced River, and you can see its track from Highway 140 from the riverbank.

You will find a collection of railway equipment here, including a railway signal box, a locomotive, and a hand-powered turntable.

Take a train ride through this area and enjoy the beautiful scenery for an hour. During summer, you will find lots of kids onboard the train making it more fun as they enjoy the historical ride.

Wilderness Badass

Sometimes the services of a guide tour company come in handy during family vacations. This is more so when visiting a place for the first time.

Wilderness Badass is your number-one plug for vacations in El Portal. They offer legendary adventures for visitors and help them create unforgettable memories in the park.

The company boasts professionally trained guides with certifications in food handling, wilderness medicine, and the creation of safe yet thrilling adventures in Yosemite National Park.

Engage with this company if you want more than a vacation experience. Their services are available throughout the year.

Parkside Pizza

Grab a pie at the Parkside Pizza and treat your family to a great lunch.

The slices are large to be equally shared between a family of four or five. The staff also offer fast and friendly services so you won’t deal with hunger pangs for long.

Where to stay in El Portal

El Portal offers a variety of lodging options for visiting families, so you shouldn’t worry about where to safely and comfortably stay. Let’s look at the various lodging options in El Portal.

Cedar Lodge

Book your stay at Cedar Lodge and enjoy comfort and serenity.

This property is located in a rural setting and on a river, and you will love the natural beauty and scenic views. The rooms are comfortable and clean, with conveniences like heating and ceiling fans, televisions, ironing boards, coffee makers, and housekeeping services.

Take time to rest, relax at the hot tub, and enjoy hot family meals at the property’s on-site restaurant. Your kids will have a wonderful time at the indoor or outdoor pool.

Red Bud Lodge

The Red Bud Lodge is a perfect hideaway for families visiting the Yosemite area. This property is located a few minutes from the national park.

The rooms are clean and comfortable, offering great views of the surrounding nature and the soothing sounds of River Merced.

The amenities in this motel include a pool, parking, barbeque grills, and much more. Take a walk down the Merced River in the evening and enjoy some tranquility.

Yosemite View Lodge

Staying at Yosemite View Lodge would be perfect for your family. This hotel is the closest to the national park’s entrance and offers impressive views of the park. Most of its rooms also have gorgeous views of Merced River from the balconies.

The amenities offered in this property include Internet access, free parking, and fantastic dining options, the River Restaurant being the best.

Can I fly into El Portal?

Yes, you can fly into El Portal. This city has two major airports nearby: the Merced Regional Airport and Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The Merced Regional Airport is the closest to El Portal and also the national park. There are direct flights to El Portal, but that depends on where you are flying from.

Once at the airport, you can take a taxi or rent a car to take you to your hotel.


El Portal is the closest city to Yosemite National Park. This city is perfect for a family stay as you explore the park and surrounding areas.

It offers excellent shopping and adventure opportunities. Plan your trip and make the most of your time in Yosemite!

» MORE: How Many Entrances to Yosemite?