If you seek a small inn or inexpensive motel for your visit to Yosemite , consider staying outside the park proper and driving in each day. A wealth of inns, lodges, and B&Bs cluster near both the west and south entrances to the park. If you prefer a standard chain motel, Oakhurst (south of Fish Camp on Highway 41) and Mariposa (to the west on Highway 140) have most of the usual suspects.
If you’re planning an extended stay at Yosemite with friends or family, it might be more convenient and economical to rent a condo or house with a full kitchen, privacy, and the comforts of home. You can find these at the Yosemite West Condominiums (800/669-9300), rented through the Yosemite Four Seasons Vacation Rentals. Modular buildings can be divided into a number of separate units—or not, if you want to rent a large space for a big crowd. The studio and loft condos sleep 2–6 people and have full kitchen and access to all complex amenities.
Luxury suites are actually one-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, pool tables, hot tubs, four-poster beds, and all sorts of other amenities. Two- and three-bedroom apartments sleep 6–12 people. And the full houses can fit up to 22 guests, so you can fit an entire family reunion or college ski party into one huge house!
You can’t miss the River Rock Inn and Deli Garden Café (4993 7th St., Mariposa, 800/627-8493, www.riverrockncafe.com , $100–132) with its vivid orange-and-purple exterior in the heart of Mariposa. What was once a run-down 1940s motor lodge is now a quirky, fun motel with uniquely decorated rooms that make the most of modern Pottery Barn-esque wrought-iron and wood styling and the spaces the decorators had to work with. Never fear: The colors become softer as you step through the door of your reasonably priced guest room.
Two suites provide enough space for families, while the other five rooms sleep couples in comfort. The River Rock is a 45-minute drive from the west entrance to Yosemite, and at the southern end of the long chain of Gold Country towns, making it a great base of operations for an outdoorsy, Western-style California vacation.
If you prefer cozy seclusion to large lodge-style hotels, stay at the Highland House (3125 Wild Dove Ln., 209/966-3737, www.highlandhousebandb.com , $127–165) outside Mariposa to the west of Yosemite . The house is set deep in the forest far from town, providing endless peace and quiet away from civilization. This tiny B&B has only three guest rooms, each uniquely decorated in soft colors and warm, inviting styles. All rooms have down comforters, sparkling clean bathtubs and showers, and TVs with DVD players.
Another lovely small B&B, Poppy Hill Bed and Breakfast (5218 Crystal Aire Dr., Mariposa, 800/587-6779, www.poppyhill.com , $137–165) sits 27 miles from the west entrance to the park. The four airy guest rooms are done in bright white linens, white walls, lacy curtains, and antique furniture. No TVs mar the sounds of the expansive gardens surrounding the old-style farmhouse. But you can take a dip in the totally modern hot tub any time. A full gourmet breakfast served on your schedule puts the right start on a day spent exploring Yosemite or the Mariposa County area. This inn can be hard to find, especially at night. Double-check the directions on the website and consider using a GPS device if you have one.
Near the south entrance to Yosemite  on Highway 41, the Narrow Gauge Inn (48571 Hwy. 41, Fish Camp, 888/644-9050, www.narrowgaugeinn.com , $132–215) recalls the large lodges inside the park, in miniature. This charming 26-room mountain inn offers one- and two-bed guest rooms done in wood paneling, light colors, white linens, or vintage-style quilts. Each room has its own outdoor table and chairs to encourage relaxing outside with a drink on gorgeous summer days and evenings.
The restaurant and common rooms feature antique oil lamps, stonework, and crackling fireplaces. Step outside your door and you’re in the magnificent High Sierra pine forest. A few more steps takes you to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad—the narrow-gauge steam train from which the inn takes its name.
For inexpensive lodge-style accommodations in Fish Camp, check in to the White Chief Mountain Lodge (east of Fish Camp, 559/683-5444, http://whitechiefmtnlodge.com , $112–118). The basic rooms feature light wood paneling, tribal-design textiles, and inoffensive accents and lighting. Small TVs offer in-room entertainment, but the woods outside your door invite you outside to enjoy all that the rich Sierras have to offer. The lodge has its own restaurant and offers packages that show off the best of the Wild West heritage of the area.
The Tenaya Lodge (1122 Hwy. 41, 888/514-2167, www.tenayalodge.com , $345–400) sits just outside the south entrance of Yosemite , offering plush lodge-style accommodations at a more reasonable price than comparable rooms inside the park. Guest rooms are styled with rich fabrics in bright oranges and other bold, eye-catching colors. The modern wall art evokes the woods and vistas of Yosemite. The beds are comfortable, the baths attractive, and the views forest-filled. Tenaya Lodge focuses on guest care, offering a three-meal-per-day dining room, a full-service spa that specializes in facials, and daily (and nightly) nature walks complete with costumed guides. Check at the desk for events occurring during your stay.
If you plan to do some fishing during your trip to the Yosemite area, the Pines Resort (54432 Road 432, Bass Lake, 800/350-7463, www.basslake.com , $245–375) is perfectly located for your angling convenience right on the shores of Bass Lake; bring your boat! You can choose a suite (a split-level king room with dark floors, light walls, fireplaces, and mountain-y touches, some with spa tub) or rent a chalet (a two-story cabin in a rustic mountain style that sleeps up to six, with a full kitchen and outdoor mini-barbecue).
The Pines is a full-service resort, with a restaurant (Ducey’s), bar and grill, market, all-weather tennis courts, summer swimming pool, year-round hot tubs, spa services, shaded lakefront chaise lounges, and wedding and meeting facilities.