Highway 41 runs 60 miles north from central Fresno to the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park. Fresno is a city of 500,000 with dozens of hotels in most of the major hotel chains (no Hyatt brands). There are only a few lodging options between Fresno and the south entrance to Yosemite.
Yosemite Valley lies another hour’s drive past the Highway 41 entrance to the national park. There are no fixed-structure lodging options in the park past Wawona Hotel before you reach Yosemite Valley 28 miles away on a mountainous winding road traveling at elevations of 4,000 to 6,000 feet.
This post covers four lodging options outside Yosemite Valley along the Highway 41 north route:
- Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino (30 miles south from park entrance)
- Oakhurst motels (12 miles south from park entrance)
- Tenaya Lodge Yosemite at Fish Camp (2 miles south from park entrance)
- Wawona Hotel in Yosemite N.P. (inside Yosemite park and 27 miles south of Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley; one hour drive)
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino is a Las Vegas style tribal casino located right off Highway 41 about 30 miles from central Fresno and 5 miles south of the town Coarsegold, California and 12 miles south of Oakhurst. This is a large hotel-casino-entertainment complex with over 400 hotel rooms and several restaurant dining options and a nice indoor-outdoor pool area.
The day I was traveling this property offered the best deal in the area for a hotel room with rates under $100 all-in for a nice looking room in a multi-story tower with views of the wooded Sierra foothills. I give this property my recommendation as a great lodging option if the price is similar to prices in Oakhurst or Fresno.
Oakhurst will be about 20 minutes closer to Yosemite National Park, but Chukchansi Resort-Casino will probably be the best lodging for the price compared to Oakhurst or Fresno.
Like most casinos the Chukchansi hotel rooms are relatively cheap and this hotel will provide the most room for the least money in the Yosemite area as long as you restrain yourself from losing your cash gambling.
Oakhurst, California on State Route 41 is at 2,300 ft elevation, 12 miles outside the park entrance, and the last real town for choice in markets, restaurants and services and hotels with Best Western, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards hotel options. The road climbs quickly past Oakhurst into the Sierra Mountains.
Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn is currently #1 on TripAdvisor.com for Oakhurst hotels. Shilo Inn #2; Comfort Inn (Choice Privileges) #4; Days Inn (Wyndham Rewards) #6 and America’s Best Inn #7 of 7 hotels. Just throw the word Yosemite somewhere in the hotel name. There are more B&Bs than hotels in Oakhurst and some are pretty fancy including the internationally recognized Chateau du Sureau or known locally as Erna’s for the Elderberry House restaurant. A room here will set you back about $500 per night.
Sample Oakhurst Rates: Friday, June 17
- Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn = Sold Out on 6/17 and 6/18. Rate is $130 for Thursday 6/16.
- Shilo Inn Oakhurst Suites = $125
- Comfort Inn Yosemite Area = $200
- Days Inn Oakhurst Yosemite = $164
- America’s Best Value Inn Yosemite = $134
- Chateau Du Sureau = $474
Tenaya Lodge is an upper upscale 4-diamond AAA hotel with 244 rooms and full-scale hotel services located on Highway 41 just before Fish Camp at the 5,000 ft elevation, 2 miles south of the Yosemite National Park south gate entrance.
Tenaya Lodge has a restaurant and outdoor pool. Racks of bicycles and snow shoes offer guests both winter and summer activities.
Indoor facilities include a full service spa, indoor pool, steam room and sauna in locker rooms.
Tenaya Lodge is a wooded setting which actually limits the panoramic views from the hotel. Plenty of pines to check out though.
Rates in mid-May for standard room $179 Sunday-Thursday; $245 Friday-Saturday.
The former cottage-style Apple Tree Inn, that was rated 3-diamond AAA in 2008 became the Tenaya Lodge Cottages in 2009.
In Fish Camp you will find a general store and gas.
Wawona Hotel inside Yosemite National Park is located a few miles inside the park on the main Highway 41 route to Yosemite Valley and still a good 45 minute drive to the Yosemite Valley lodging options.
Wawona Hotel is a historic 19th century outdoors style hotel with six separate large two-story structures and 104 hotel rooms, many accessed from the exterior sides of the building along wide verandas. I like the feel of the old buildings as the second floor outside deck slopes a bit between the building and the railing.
Lodging here is rustic and rooms have bath or no bath. Rates run in the $250 per night range after tax for a room with bath or around $164 after tax for a room without bath. The hotel already shows sold out for the entire month of June and July, although August shows plenty of availability.
Wawona area of Yosemite National Park provides a restaurant, golf course, riding stables, Pioneer Museum, BBQs and large relatively flat meadows for space to play with the family and camping areas. There is an outdoor swimming pool in summer that remained unfilled during my visit. Swim season is not quite there yet considering snow fell three days after my visit.
The Wawona Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Related Loyalty Traveler post: Yosemite Valley – photos and hotel/cabin tent lodging options (5-17-2011)
The mountains are calling and I must go – Kings Canyon National Park Highway 180 scenic drive (5-15-2011)