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Cedar Lodge 2.5

El Portal, California, United States

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Review Summary

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  • A short drive to Yosemite National Park’s west entrance
  • Surrounded by rustic beauty and adjacent to the Merced River
  • Spacious rooms provide coffeemakers and mini-fridges
  • Some rooms have whirlpool tubs, kitchenettes, and sleeper sofas
  • Full-service restaurant and sports bar
  • Gift shop sells food and drinks, including beer and wine
  • Meeting space for up to 175 people
  • Free parking
  • Wi-Fi is available (for a fee)


  • Wi-Fi is spotty and requires a hefty daily fee
  • Breakfast costs extra
  • Maintenance and housekeeping complaints
  • Virtually no cell phone service (common for the area)

Bottom Line

The budget Cedar Lodge is one of the closest hotels to Yosemite National Park’s west entrance, so it stays busy year-round with tourists visiting from around the world. It’s a simple, motel-style property in a picturesque setting next to the Merced River. Highlights include a full-service restaurant and sports bar, a large gift shop for food and drinks, and two pools. The 211 rooms are spacious and include coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and mini-fridges; some have whirlpool tubs and sofa beds. But, the hotel has seen better days and many past guests have complained about its upkeep and having to pay for Wi-Fi. The nearby Yosemite View Lodge costs more, but has a pizza restaurant and fireplaces in some of the room. 

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A casual and rustic hotel that stays busy year-round

The location near one of America’s most popular national parks means this hotel buzzes with activity all year, but especially in the summer, when droves of tourists and tour groups descend on Yosemite. A diverse collection of travelers from around the globe check in here, including lots of young people seeking outdoor adventures. Other than the mountains surrounding the hotel, the most striking feature on arrival are the huge wooden bears seen around almost every corner of the property. The bears are meant to convey the casual and rustic nature of the hotel and its wilderness surroundings. The two-story lobby has terra-cotta tile floors and a huge painting of the adjacent Merced River. A cluster of comfy chairs and sofas sit in the center, and a bank of large windows brings in lots of natural light. 


On Central Yosemite Highway, about 30 minutes from the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center

The Cedar Lodge is located along the Central Yosemite Highway that runs into Yosemite National Park’s west entrance, which is about a nine-minute drive or a 13-minute bus ride to El Portal. El Portal has a grocery store, gas station, and post office. There are only a few dining possibilities along the highway between the hotel and the national park. The Valley Shuttle, which takes visitors east (for a fee) to El Portal and then on to Yosemite, stops right outside the hotel. By bus, it takes approximately 90 minutes to reach the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center; driving takes about 35 minutes, depending on traffic and the time of year. Approximate drive times to Modesto, Sacramento, and San Francisco are two hours, three hours, and three-and-a-half hours, respectively. 


Spacious but dark and dated; with coffeemakers, mini-fridges, and flat-screen TVs

The Cedar Lodge's 211 rooms have a dated decor that’s dominated by dark-wood furniture, dark-green bedspreads, upholstered armchairs, and diamond-patterned carpeting. Drab beige walls and black-and- white photos of iconic Yosemite scenes don't do much to alleviate the overall gloominess. We saw a spacious Standard Double Queen that included two armchairs, a table, and a desk with an upholstered wood chair. Other room options include Standard King and larger Deluxe Rooms with sleeper sofas, some of which have whirlpool tubs. Junior Suites include kitchenettes, sleeper sofas, and twin Murphy beds. Standard amenities include coffeemakers, 32-inch flat screen TVs, and mini-fridges. Rooms are generally quiet. 

Bathrooms are brighter, with a roomy, white acrylic vanity and shower/tub inserts with white tiling. Past guests have weighed in with a litany of complaints that range from peeling wallpaper and stained linens to moldy shower curtains and inoperable phones and hairdryers. The room we saw could have used a deeper cleaning around the shower/tub, and the furniture showed obvious signs of wear. 


Indoor and outdoor pools, full-service restaurant, and free parking

For a budget, motel-style property, the Cedar Lodge has some attractive amenities, such as indoor and outdoor pools. Cedar House is the restaurant and sports bar that serves a breakfast buffet (for a fee) and classic American bar food for the rest of the day. Free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available in the lobby. The gift shop is large, and sells a wide variety of souvenirs, supplies, food, and drinks including beer and wine. A picnic area features tables and grills, and parking is free. Wi-Fi is available, but the signal is weak and it requires a hefty daily fee. The Wi-Fi problem is an issue, given that cell phone service is virtually nonexistent. Meeting space for up to 175 people is available, and there is a computer and printer that guests can use in the lobby. A safe deposit box is provided at the registration desk. 

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9966 Highway 140, PO Box C, El Portal, California 95318, United States