Hetch Hetchy / Your Own Very Private Yosemite


Imagine a Yosemite National Park without the crowds but with waterfalls, lakes, hiking, fishing, campgrounds and history. That’s what we offer you. Fewer than one in twenty park visitors have seen this special part of Yosemite but, with an article in YosemiteGold.com magazine and this web posting, the secret is out.

First things first. It’s called Hetch Hetchy. It is indeed a part of Yosemite National Park. First inhabited by the Ahwahneechee Indians, it was explored by naturalist John Muir who later would call it his favorite corner of Yosemite. His lobbying to Congress was instrumental in making Yosemite a national park…our first.

San Francisco Bay Area residents have their own reason to salute this special “corner of Yosemite”. It is the the source of a vital resource for them. The O’Shaughnessy Dam, built from 1915 to 1920, delivers, via 156 miles of pipeline and 37 miles of tunnels, crystal clear drinking water to San Francisco and environs.

Enough of the history though. Hetch Hetchy is to be enjoyed today or any day of the year. Accessible via the Highway 120 western corridor through Groveland, visitors wanting to explore this special place should turn left on Evergreen Road which is only a mile short of the usual 120/Big Oak Flat entrance to the park. The next 8 miles will take you across creeks, 2 historic ranches, a Stanislaus National Forest campground, the Evergreen Lodge and, finally, Camp Mather (owned & operated by the City of San Francisco Recreation & Parks Dept.). At Camp Mather take a right on Hetch Hetchy Road. One mile later you’ll discover the “secret entrance” to Yosemite. You’ll also see entrance information. This entrance is open from 7am to 7pm. Here you’ll also find valuable camping & hiking information. This is also the home of several major trail heads.

It’s a short drive to a backpackers’ campground, picnic area and the O’Shaughnessy Dam. There are restrooms, a phone at the picnic area and a bike rack at the dam parking lot. The dam site offers 4 trail heads, an easy to access tunnel and a view of the headwaters of the Tuolumne River.

Things to remember: There’s no swimming in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; it’s San Francisco’s drinking water! This entrance to the park does not allow automobile access to other parts of the park including Yosemite Valley & Tuolumne Meadows. You’re only a half hour though from the 120/Big Oak Flat entrance which does allow access to other park areas. You will be required to pay the normal Yosemite National Park entrance fee. Your entrance receipt, however, is good for 7 days and can be reused for other entrances to the park.

And one final note, don’t be surprised if you see a bear in the Hetch Hetchy area. We saw this bear cub hanging out near the picnic area undoubtedly looking for a handout. Under no circumstances should you feed these bears. Rangers remind us that easy fixin’s disturb the bear’s foraging instincts. They soon lose their natural fear of humans and won’t hesitate to invade your picnic table or even tear open a car trunk if they smell anything interesting…even the mint fragrance from a tube of toothpaste! Too many of these human-aclimated bears here in Yosemite become nuisance bears and have to be relocated elsewhere or, in some cases, the worst troublemakers are put down. So sad when it can all be prevented. Don’t feed the bears. For more about the bears in the park, check out our Yosemite Bear Information page

Enjoy this secret corner of Yosemite and everything it has to offer. If you have the good fortune to have visited Hetch Hetchy, we would love to hear from you. Just e-mail us: [email protected]

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