Discover If You Need Chains for Yosemite National Park in 2023

From November through March, chain requirements may be in effect in Yosemite National Park, even if you only plan to visit Yosemite Valley and use the free shuttle. Snowy or icy road conditions are common in the mountains of California, including Yosemite, during the winter months, and federal regulations require the use of chains or cables to reduce the chances of accidents.

When Are Chains Required in Yosemite National Park?

The park service strongly recommends having chains if you’re visiting Yosemite between November and March. You might even need them as early as September or as late as May, as the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Chain requirements are strictly enforced and apply to all vehicles, including four-wheel drive and rental vehicles.

Here’s a breakdown of when chains are typically required in Yosemite:

  • November through March: Chains are often required on roads both inside and outside of Yosemite.
  • October and April: Chains are less often required.
  • September and May: Chains are rarely required.

High-elevation roads like the Wawona Road (Highway 41), Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 from the west), and Badger Pass Road tend to require chains more often than the lower-elevation roads, such as the El Portal Road (Highway 140), roads within Yosemite Valley, and the Hetch Hetchy Road.

Where to Buy or Rent Chains for Yosemite

Do You Need Chains for Yosemite National Park

You can purchase chains or cables at most auto parts stores and gas stations, particularly in communities surrounding Yosemite National Park. A limited selection of chains is also available for purchase at the Village Garage in Yosemite Valley and the Wawona gas station.

Be sure to purchase chains or cables that match your tire size. It’s important to note that it’s difficult to find businesses that rent chains; they’re usually only available for purchase.

Chain Requirements Outside of Yosemite

The chain requirements in Yosemite are not unique to the park. You may encounter chain controls even before you enter Yosemite, as they apply in all the mountainous regions of California. You can check on current chain requirements for the following roads outside of Yosemite:

  • Highway 41
  • Highway 120
  • Highway 140
  • Highway 88
  • US 50

Tips for Driving with Chains in Yosemite

If you do need to use chains in Yosemite, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Practice putting the chains on your tires before your trip, so you’re familiar with the process.
  2. Carry the necessary tools and equipment, such as gloves, to make the installation easier.
  3. Drive slowly and carefully when using chains, as they can affect your vehicle’s handling.
  4. Remove the chains as soon as the road conditions improve to avoid damage to your tires and vehicle.


In summary, if you’re planning to visit Yosemite National Park during the winter months, it’s highly recommended to have tire chains or cables with you. Chain requirements are strictly enforced, and they apply to all vehicles, including four-wheel drive and rental vehicles. Be sure to check the current conditions and requirements before your trip, and be prepared to use chains if necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Yosemite.

National Park Service – Yosemite National Park: Winter Driving – Winter Chain Controls in Yosemite
Reddit – Chains Required
Redwoods in Yosemite – Yosemite Winter Chain Controls: What You Need to Know About Winter Driving Chain Requirements
National Park Service – Yosemite National Park: Tire Chains

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