Winter conditions in Yosemite National Park may require the use of tire chains on any vehicle navigating park roads. This condition is entirely weather-dependent and determined by the National Park Service in Yosemite. You are required by federal law to carry tire chains in your vehicle if entering a designated chain control area, even if your vehicle is equipped with snow tires and/or four-wheel-drive. Chains can become mandatory on any park road at any time. Tire Chain Control
is administered on park roads by law enforcement park rangers who will deny entrance to the park if you do not have tire chains for your vehicle. Tire chain requirements are strictly enforced in Yosemite. You will be subject to a citation and fined up to $5,000 if you fail to install chains when required.
There are three categories of chain requirements: R1, R2, and R3.
R1: Chains or snow tires are required on the drive axle of all vehicles.
Two-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires that have an M+S rating and a minimum tread depth of 6/32 of an inch are OK to drive without putting on chains.
R2: Chains are required on all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels.
4WD vehicles with M+S rated tires are OK to drive without putting on chains.
R3: Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions. Including those with four wheel/ all wheel drive.
Chains should be the correct size for your tires. Chains must be installed on drive wheels, either front or rear wheel drive. For cars with four wheel or all wheel drive chains must be installed on one axel. Cable-type chains are acceptable, but they may not provide as much traction as traditional chains.
Control areas can change rapidly from place to place because of changing weather and road conditions. You must install tire chains when highway signs indicate tie chains are required. You can be cited and fined by the California Highway Patrol if you do not comply.
For current road information inside Yosemite call 209-372-0200. Select 1 and then 1 again. Current Conditions in Yosemite National Park
For current road information outside of Yosemite National Park, call CALTRANS at: 1-800-427-7623 (1-800-GAS-ROAD).
Yosemite’s gateway towns – Oakhurst on CA Highway 41 and Mariposa on CA Highway 140 – offer tire chain purchase and rental services:
Oakhurst Tire Chain Information
Mariposa Tire Chain Information
- Mud and Snow tires are typically designated with a "M+S" on the side of the tire, and must have a minimum tread depth of 6/32 of an inch to be legal.
- Tire traction devices (chains) can be link chain, cable chains and/or spider straps
- Studded snow tires may be used if the tires are also rated as snow tires, if not, the tires must be chained up as studs do not replace chains.
- Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds must chain up - typically this applies to large vans and trucks.
- All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle of the vehicle, even with 4-wheel drive and snow tires.
- If the trailer has brakes, it must also have chains on one axle.
An alternate option for accessing Yosemite in winter when tire chains are required is to park your vehicle on CA Highway 140 outside Yosemite in the town of El Portal at the public transportation bus stop and use the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System to travel into and out of Yosemite. See the Public Transportation page for more information.