Camping on the east side of the Sierra Nevada range lets you stay reasonably close to Yosemite National Park. National forest and other public lands let your family get back to nature at rustic campsites set beside pretty alpine lakes and in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Note that Tioga Road, which connects the east side of the Sierra Nevada with Yosemite National Park, is usually only open between June and October. The exact opening and closing dates vary each year, depending when the snow melts in late spring or early summer and then when it falls again in early autumn.
Just east of Yosemite’s Tioga Pass entrance station along Hwy. 120, the Inyo National Forest is packed with family-friendly campgrounds, stretching down toward the shores of Mono Lake around the town of Lee Vining. Driving south along Hwy. 395, you’ll find many more US Forest Service (USFS) campgrounds including: along the pretty June Lake Loop; near the four-seasons resort town of Mammoth Lakes; and outside Bishop, the gateway to majestic Mt. Whitney. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also operates popular campgrounds outside Bishop, scenically set in the Owens Valley enjoying gorgeous views of Mt. Whitney, as well as at Crowley Lake between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.
Most public campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra Nevada are closed during winter. Facilities at these campgrounds vary, from having convenient drive-up car and RV sites with flush toilets and drinking water nearby, to primitive walk-in sites without any water. Overnight camping fees in the Inyo National Forest or on BLM land typically range from $5 to $21. At first-come, first-served campgrounds (which most are), plan to arrive by 10 a.m. during summer to catch other campers vacating their campsites. Reservations are recommended, especially between May and September, for the few campgrounds that accept them. For campsite reservations, visit www.recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777 or (518) 885-3639.