If you’re planning a Yosemite National Park camping trip, you won’t want to miss this guide. There are more than a dozen campgrounds in the park, designated backpacker sites, and backcountry camping.
With so many options, it can be hard to know where to start. Not only that, but in 2022, all of these sites must be reserved online ahead of time, and reservations can be hard to come by.
But don’t worry; this guide will give you all the information you need to choose a campground, plus tips and tricks for snagging a reservation. With these tips, you will have a great time camping at Yosemite National Park.
What to Expect When Camping at Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National park is home to incredible natural sights like waterfalls, giant sequoias, sweeping valleys, and granite rock cliffs, to name a few.
It’s not hard to see why camping in Yosemite is so popular! Everyone wants to spend some time in this beautiful place, and camping is the perfect way to see more of the park.
Summers are mild in Yosemite, with highs in the upper eighties and lows in the fifties. Winters can be quite cold, with highs in the forties and lows in the twenties and thirties.
The rainiest months are November-March, and snow is possible from October-May.
Nature and Wildlife
The park is home to hundreds of animal species and thousands of plant species. Spotted owls, peregrine falcons, black bears, big horn sheep, and red foxes are just a few animals you might see in the park.
Entrance and Reservation Information
In order to camp at Yosemite National Park, you must reserve a campsite ahead of time, and no same-day reservations are available in the park.
There used to be some first come, first served options, but not anymore. In an effort to help reduce crowding in the park, ALL camping is by reservation only.
All visitors, including campers, are required to pay an entrance fee when entering Yosemite National Park. The fee is $35 per standard vehicle and $30 for motorcycles.
Drive Through Reservations
You may have heard of drive-through reservations. To keep crowds to a minimum, reservations are required to drive in or through the park during peak hours. The good news for campers is that if you have an overnight camping reservation, you don’t need to book a drive-thru reservation, even during peak hours.
Yosemite National Park Camping
From May-September, most campsites fill up within minutes of the reservation period opening up. Reservations open at different times for different campgrounds, so the best thing to do is check the specific campgrounds you’re interested in to see when their reservations open up.
For the best chance of snagging a spot, make sure you know when your dates will be open for booking and set the alarm to be on the reservation page by 7:00 am pacific time the morning they open up.
Reservations at popular campgrounds during peak times are sometimes gone in seconds, so this is not a time to sleep in!
Costs for Camping in Yosemite National Park
Prices range from $20-$36 per night, depending on the campsite. Camp 4 is priced per person rather than per campsite and is $10 per person per night.
Camping in Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is the most popular area to camp in at the park. The Valley is relatively small but includes some of the most popular attractions in the park, like El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. Camping in Yosemite Valley means you’ll be close to all of these attractions and have less driving or walking during the day to explore them.
Since it’s so popular, Yosemite Valley is often the most crowded area to camp in at the park, and reservations go quickly.
Upper Pines is the largest campground with 238 campsites. The campground is divided into loops which make it feel less overwhelming. The sites are relatively small and close together, so there is little privacy.
Campsites at North Pines have a more intimate feel, especially if you choose a campsite along the river.
Camp 4 is a tent-only campground open from May 20-September 30 in 2022. The only way to reserve Camp 4 is through a lottery system the day before your requested reservation. Visit the park website to learn more about the lottery.
Camping North of Yosemite Valley
The area North of Yosemite Valley has seven different campgrounds.
Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows have flush toilets available. Tamarack Flat, Yosemite Creek, and Porcupine Flat have vault toilets.
Tamarack Flat campground is located next to Tamarack creek. It’s a tranquil campground and perfect if you’re looking for more solitude.
White Wolf campground is close to two different lakes, so it’s a good choice if you plan to do some fishing.
Camping South of Yosemite Valley
Wawona campground is about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley. The sites are spread out and offer a good amount of privacy, especially in B and C loops.
RV Camping at Yosemite National Park
RV campsites are available at the following campgrounds.
- Upper Pines (maximum length 35 feet)
- Lower Pines (maximum length 40 feet
- North Pines (maximum length 40 feet)
North of Yosemite Valley:
- Hodgdon Meadow (maximum length 35 feet)
- Crane Flat (maximum length 35 feet)
- White Wolf (maximum length 27 feet)
- Tuolumne Meadows (maximum length 35 feet)
South of Yosemite Valley:
- Wawona (maximum length 35 feet)
- Bridalveil Creek (maximum length 35 feet)
No electric hookups are available anywhere in the park. Dump stations are available year-round at the Upper Pines campground and the Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows sites during the summer.
Backcountry camping at Yosemite is allowed with a valid Wilderness Permit.
Permits are issued for specific trailheads to prevent crowding and maintain the feeling of solitude in the wilderness. Once you decide where you’d like to camp in the backcountry, check the trailheads map to see what trail to apply for.
Wilderness permits are available to book online ahead of time through a lottery system. If you don’t get a reservation through the lottery, forty percent of permits are reserved for first come, first served online reservations seven days in advance.
There are backcountry campgrounds located near the High Sierra camps and in Little Yosemite Valley. Away from these areas, you can camp wherever you like in the wilderness as long as you follow the wilderness regulations.
If you have a wilderness permit, there are a few backpacker campgrounds in the forecountry where you can spend one night before and after completing a wilderness trip.
These are at Hetch Hetchy next to the overnight parking area, in the back section of White Wolf campground, and behind North Pines Campground.
There is also a backpacker campground at Tuolumne Meadows, but it’s closed until 2024 or 2025.
Things to do while camping at Yosemite National Park
There is no shortage of fun things to do on a Yosemite National Park camping trip. Whether you want to stay active or take it easy, there is plenty to see and do at the park.
Many visitors come to Yosemite to hike Half Dome. Depending on where you start, the hike is between fourteen and sixteen miles roundtrip with 4,800 feet of elevation gain. This strenuous trail is not for the faint of heart, but it offers truly spectacular views if you’re up for the climb.
Another popular hike is the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail. This easy trail is about one mile long with fifty feet in elevation gain and excellent views of both the upper and lower Yosemite Falls.
Yosemite National Park is one of the best places in the world for rock climbing. If you’ve ever wanted to do an overnight climb, Yosemite is a fantastic place to do it.
If you’re interested in rock climbing, check out the rock climbing regulations on the park’s website.
For a less strenuous activity on your Yosemite National Park camping trip, you may want to try fishing. There are several lakes, rivers, and creeks to fish in at the park. A California State fishing license is required for anyone over sixteen, and you can get a fishing license online.
Yosemite National Park is a great place to do some bird watching. The park has documented two hundred sixty-two species, including owls, doves, hawks, falcons, eagles, and more.
Look at the bird checklist to see what birds you can find in the park during each season.
What to Bring on a Yosemite National Park Camping Trip
Here are a few things to remember to bring on your camping trip to Yosemite.
- Camping Gear (tent, sleeping bags, etc.)
- First aid kit
- Lightweight, breathable clothing with layers.
- Good hiking shoes or boots
- Bug spray
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Food and water
Wrapping up Yosemite National Park Camping
Hopefully, you found these tips and tricks helpful! With a little planning, you’ll be ready to have the best Yosemite National Park camping trip ever. For more National Park camping guides, don’t miss the national parks section on the blog. There is tons of information to help you get out and make the most of your time camping in national parks.