Guide to Camping in Yosemite National Park

Guide to Camping in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park offers some of the most scenic camping opportunities in California. From staggering giant sequoias to massive granite cliffs, there’s a lot to take in when camping in the park.

However, Yosemite is also known for being very, very popular, so if you want to grab a campsite, be sure to book early (more on that in a bit).

Thankfully, there are over 2,000 campsites available within Yosemite and many more outside the park’s boundaries for you to choose from.

Here are 10 best campgrounds in and around Yosemite National Park.

Read More :

Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park

North Pines Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : March 15 to October 15 (approximately)
  • Cost : $26 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Located in the heart of Yosemite National Park in the middle of Yosemite Valley, North Pine Campground offers excellent views of the granite peaks and glistening waterfalls that make the region so special.

The campground is one of the 3 reservation-based campgrounds in Yosemite Valley, so booking a site 5 months in advance is essential. North Pines offers 81 campsites that are suitable for tents up to 8-person, though some are also able to accommodate trailers up to 35’ long and RVs up to 40’ long.

With each site, you get access to a fire ring, picnic table, and a bear-proof food locker. All of the sites are non-electric, so it’s worth bringing a solar panel or a portable generator to charge your devices.

Lower Pines Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : April 1 to October 15 (approximately)
  • Cost : $26 to $36 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Situated at the base of Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, the Lower Pines Campground is a seasonal tent and RV camping option that offers good access to dozens of trails. A few sites within the campground are designated as double sites for groups of 7 to 12 people, while a handful of others are also wheelchair accessible.

Lower Pines has 60 campsites that must be reserved up to 5 months in advance. Each of these campsites can accommodate tents and most can also accommodate RVs up to 40’ and trailers up to 35’.

All of the sites in this campground come with a camping table, fire ring, and food storage locker. Cell service is limited in the valley, so walkie talkies are a great idea for communicating with the rest of your group.

Upper Pines Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $26 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

The largest of Yosemite Valley’s reservation-only campgrounds, Upper Pines Campground is located right next to the Happy Isles Nature Center. It is the only one of the reservation-based Pines campgrounds that’s open for year-round use.

In Upper Pines, there are 238 campsites, all of which are open to tent campers. Some of these sites are able to accommodate RVs up to 35’ long and trailers up to 24’ long. However, in the winter months, only about 50 campsites are open.

It’s important to note that campsites in Upper Pines are hard to come by and reservations sell out within minutes. Additionally, the park may close the campground at any time for severe weather, especially if there’s more than 1’ of snowfall forecasted during the winter.

Camp 4

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : All Year
  • Cost : $6 per person per night
  • Reservation : Lottery

Camp 4 is the only non-reservation-based campground in Yosemite Valley. It is particularly famous in the rock climbing world as it used to be a popular camp spot for climbers looking to tackle some of the toughest big wall routes in the park.

These days, the park service is experimenting with a summertime lottery system where campers can enter a lottery one night in advance to secure a campsite. During the winter months, campsites are first-come, first-serve and no lottery system is available.

All campsites at Camp 4 are walk-in, so it’s best to bring lightweight gear, like a 2 person tent or a backpacking chair.

The campground tends to draw a much younger crowd, especially among those looking to climb El Capitan or Half Dome. Out of all the Yosemite Valley campgrounds, it is the least family-friendly, though it is a nice place to pitch a tent if you enjoy socializing with others.

Tuolumne Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV / Horse
  • Open : July 15 to September 15 (approximately)
  • Cost : $26 to $50 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Nestled in the eastern portion of Yosemite National Park in the scenic Tuolumne Meadows, the Tuolumne Campground is one of the largest camping areas outside of Yosemite Valley. It is a popular family camping location and half of the tent/RV sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis while the other sites are reservable.

The campground offers 304 tent sites, most of which can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35’ in length, and 6 of which are wheelchair accessible. Additionally, it has 7 group tent-only sites and 4 horse-specific sites that are large enough for trailers up to 27’ long.

Tuolumne Campground is about 1.5 hours from Yosemite Valley, but there is a small grocery store nearby. The campground’s opening and closing dates vary greatly depending on snow conditions, as it is located along Tioga Road, which is not maintained in the winter.

Bridalveil Creek Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV / Horse
  • Open : July 15 to September 5 (approximately)
  • Cost : $30 to $50 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Bridalveil Creek Campground is located in the western portion of the park, off of Glacier Point Road. It is open usually from late spring to early fall as its high elevation (7,200’) brings lots of snow each year.

All of the campground’s 110 individual tent and RV campsites are first-come, first-serve. However, Bridalveil Creek also has 2 tent-only group sites and 3 horse sites with space for trailers up to 24’ that must be reserved ahead of time.

There are no utilities or services within the campground, though Curry Village in Yosemite Valley is about 1 hour away. From Bridalveil Creek, you can access some of the park’s popular trails, including the Four Mile Trail, the Panorama Trail, and the Sentinel Dome Trail.

Porcupine Flat Campground

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : July 1 to October 15 (approximately)
  • Cost : $12 per night
  • Reservation : No

Porcupine Flat Campground is an idyllic location for campers that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in Yosemite Valley. The campground is about a 1-hour drive north from the Valley and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

At Porcupine Flat, there are 52 tent-only sites (including 4 accessible sites), each of which has a fire ring, a food locker, and a picnic table. However, the campground uses vault toilets and has no potable water, therefore a water filter, water treatment system, or a kitchen stove for boiling water is a must.

The campground is situated right off of Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120), so it’s open seasonally based on snow conditions. Although Porcupine Flat has limited amenities, it’s a great option for secluded camping on a budget.

Summerdale Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May 15 to September 15 (approximately)
  • Cost : $34 to $36 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Although it’s technically located in Sierra National Forest, the Summerdale Campground is just 1.5 miles away from the Wawona Visitor Center and Mariposa Grove. Due to its proximity to the park, the campground is very popular during the summer months.

Summerdale Campground has 30 RV and tent sites, all of which are non-electric. Each site comes with a paved parking area, a camp grill, campfire ring, and picnic table. There is running water in the campground, though there are only vault toilets available.

The campground is known for its babbling creek, which offers nice fishing opportunities. Additionally, the community of Fish Camp is just down the road and has a selection of amenities for campers to enjoy.

Indian Flat RV Park

  • Type : Tent / RV / Cabin
  • Open : All Year
  • Cost : $20 to $289 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Indian Flat RV Park is a privately-owned campground located just to the west of Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance on Highway 140 (El Portal Road). It is open all year long and reservations are highly recommended, especially between May and September.

For RV campers, Indian Flat offers one of the few places near the park where you can get full hookups. There are 25 RV sites and 25 tent-only sites in the campground for visitors to choose from.

If you’re looking for a bit of extra comfort during your stay in Yosemite, the campground also offers tent cabins and cottages with kitchenettes, bathrooms, and cable TV. Plus, Indian Flat RV Park offers access to an outdoor pool so you can cool off after a long day of hiking.

Hodgdon Meadow Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All Year
  • Cost : $18 to $50 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Nestled in the far western section of the park off of Big Oak Flat Road, Hodgdon Meadow Campground is a popular family camping area for people looking to see some of the more remote sections of Yosemite.

The campground has 105 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 35’ long. These sites are available all year long, but reservations are required between mid-April and mid-October.

Hodgdon Meadow also has 4 tent-only group sites that are available by reservation only from mid-April to mid-October. All sites in the campground have access to drinking water, flushing toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, and food lockers. Amenities are also available at a small general store in Crane Flat, just 8 miles away.

Camping Tips for Yosemite National Park

These tips will be very useful if you’re planning to camp at Yosemite National Park.

  1. Book early. Most reservable campsites in Yosemite are open for reservations on the 15th of the month, 5 months before your trip, and 7:00 AM (local time). This means that if you want to camp in June, you’ll book on January 15th. Camping in the park is popular, so book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
  2. Check the weather. For campgrounds that are open in the winter, severe weather can cause unexpected closures. The park is likely to close campgrounds if the forecast calls for more than 1’ of snow in 24 hours or winds greater than 30mph.
  3. Be bear aware. Yosemite is known for its habituated black bear population. At nearly every campsite in the park, there are bear-proof food lockers that you must use to store your food. Storing food in vehicles is prohibited and can get you in serious trouble.
  4. Arrive on time for your reservation. The park is strict about campsite reservations, so if you arrive more than 24 hours after your check-in time, you may lose your campsite. Therefore, arrive on time, every time.
  5. Bring photo ID. For most reservations in Yosemite, you’ll be required to show photo ID at check-in. The name on your ID must match the name on the reservation or you’ll forfeit your campsite and won’t be refunded your fees.
  6. Know the campfire rules. Many campgrounds in Yosemite Valley have special rules about when you can have a campfire during the summer months. Most require that campfires be completely extinguished before 10pm.
  7. Arrive early for first-come, first-serve. There are plenty of non-reservable campsites in the park, but you need to arrive early to grab a spot. To play it safe, arrive by at least 9:00 AM during peak summer season to avoid disappointment.
  8. Get permits for backpacking trips. If you’re looking to go a bit further afield, there are plenty of great backpacking campsites in the park. All backcountry stays require a wilderness permit which is available by lottery 24 weeks (168 days) before the date of your trip.
  9. Don’t count on cell service. Cell phone service is notoriously fickle in Yosemite, especially in Yosemite Valley. If you need to communicate with others in your group, walkie talkies are often your best bet.
  10. Get $5 showers in Curry Village. The only place you can get a shower in the park is at Curry Village or the nearby Housekeeping Camp. These showers are relatively affordable and are a great way to rinse off after a day of hiking.
  11. Horse campsites are by phone reservation only. If you need to book a horse campsite at Bridalveil Creek or Tuolumne Meadows, you’ll need to call the park directly at (290) 375-9535 to make a reservation.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.