Where Should I Camp in Yosemite National Park?
You’re headed to Yosemite National Park where more than 800 miles of trails await you for an adventure full of fun, but where should you camp?
Here’s a personalized guide to Yosemite campgrounds to help you decide where to spend the night, from car camping paradise and remote backcountry sites to RV heaven.
The first thing you’ll need to decide when before you make a camping reservation for Yosemite National Park is if you want to stay at a front-country campground or a backcountry campground. Front-country campgrounds allow you to pull up close to your site in your car, or park your RV in a designated site. Backcountry campgrounds require that you hike in to your site with all your gear in a pack on your back.
Start planning now. In 2023, all Yosemite campgrounds will require advanced reservations in the summer months on www.recreation.gov.
Front Country Campgrounds
Upper, Lower and North Pines Campgrounds in Yosemite Valley
Looking for a place to spend the night in one of Yosemite’s 9 campgrounds that accommodate RVs? Upper Pines, Lower Pines and North Pines campgrounds located conveniently in Yosemite Valley are a perfect choice. Upper Pines Campground is the only RV-friendly campground open all year round and has a dump station. It can accommodate an RV length of 35 feet and trailer length of 24 feet. Do note, there are no electrical, water or sewer hookups anywhere in Yosemite.
With scenic views of Half Dome, you are far enough from Curry Village, that you feel a bit away from the rest of the crowds but close enough that you can walk to the general store to get an item you forgot to pack. There’s tap water here, which means you have flush toilets and an easy drinking water source. Shuttle stop no. 15 is at the entrance of the campground, making getting around the park without your RV simple and worry free.
Lower Pines and North Pines campgrounds can accommodate bigger RVs with a maximum length of 40 feet and a trailer length of 35 feet. These campgrounds are open from mid April to late October each year. They are both located along the Merced River, making it easy to fall asleep to its gentle sounds.
While these campgrounds are great for RVers, they are also perfect for tent campers.
Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley
Camp 4, located near Yosemite Falls, is the park’s famous rock climbers’ campground. It’s situated near the base of granite cliffs that draw climbers from all over the world.
All campsites at Camp 4 are tent-only. You cannot drive right up to your campsite. Instead, you’ll have to park in an area adjacent to the campground and walk your gear a short distance to set up camp.
Because of its popularity with the Yosemite climbing community, Camp 4 reservations are issued through a one day in advance lottery. The lottery runs daily between mid-May and mid-September. Applicants must apply to the lottery the day before their desired reservation date. Find more information at www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/10004152.
Tamarack Flat Campground near Tioga Road
Tamarack Flat is the first campground you’ll encounter on Tioga Road driving from east to west, making it the closest to Yosemite Valley. The road to the campground is more primitive, making all sites tent-only. You’ll have to drive a three mile, un-paved road through the forest to get here. This campground is small, making it cozy and quiet. There’s no running water, so you’ll have to boil, filter or treat water from Tamarack Creek. Restrooms are pit toilets.
Tamarack Flat Campground is usually open from late June through September.
Yosemite Creek Campground near Tioga Road
At Yosemite Creek campground north of the Yosemite Valley, you’ll find your piece of paradise.
Open July through early September, there’s a lot at Yosemite Creek that separates you from the throngs of tourists cavorting below in the Yosemite Valley about an hour’s drive away. The most obvious barrier is the 5-mile bumpy road that leads you from Tioga Road to the campground.
At the campground, you’ll be staying at 7,700 feet, so bring warm layers and a winter hat because temperatures up here will be significantly cooler than those in the valley, especially at night. There’s no RV or trailer camping here, so the 75 sites are all for tents, adding to the solitude of the area. Pets, however, are allowed.
Yosemite Creek runs through the campground, making a great place to take a dip. Know that site 51 is at the waterhole, so if you don’t want a bunch of strangers near your campsite, you may want to avoid it. The creek also is the main water source for the campground. All creek water must be treated with a filter, boiled or treated with water tablets. With no running water comes the inevitable ⎯ pit toilets rather than flush toilets.
An added bonus is the Ten Lakes trailhead leaves from the campground.
White Wolf Campground near Tioga Road
White Wolf Campground is tucked in a gorgeous coniferous forest off of Tioga Road between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows. Small RVs that don’t exceed 27 feet in length are allowed at this campground in some sites. Be sure to read the site descriptions before reserving to make sure your vehicle will fit in the site you choose.
White Wolf sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet, giving it one of the shortest campground seasons in the park. It usually opens mid-July and closes in September, depending on conditions. Flush toilets and potable drinking water are available at the campground. The nearby White Wolf Lodge offers breakfast and dinner in its rustic dining room when open.
Porcupine Flat Campground near Tioga Road
Porcupine Flat is a more primitive-style campground with narrow roads, making it unsuitable for RVs. Tent campers will have to filter, boil or treat water from nearby Porcupine Creek for cooking and drinking. Since there’s no running water at this campground, the restrooms are pit-toilets.
Located at 8,100 feet in elevation, Porcupine Flat Campground usually has a short season, normally open mid-July through early October.
Tuolumne Meadows Campground near Tioga Road
Tuolumne Meadows Campground is expected to be closed through 2025 for significant renovations.
Crane Flat Campground near Big Oak Flat Road
Situated along Big Oak Flat Road, northwest of Yosemite Valley, Crane Flat is perfectly positioned for those wanting to explore the Merced and Tuolumne groves of giant sequoias.
This RV-friendly campground is usually open July through mid-October and can accommodate rigs up to 35 feet in length. Not every site can accommodate vehicles of the maximum length, so carefully read the descriptions before booking if you’re traveling in an RV. Potable water for drinking and cooking is available and this campground has flush toilets.
Hodgdon Meadow Campground near Hwy. 120
If you’re coming to Yosemite from San Francisco on Hwy. 120, Hodgdon Meadow is the first campground you’ll encounter coming through the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Located closest to the uncrowded Hetch Hetchy area of the park, its well positioned for those who want a basecamp to explore Yosemite and the surrounding area.
Hodgdon Meadow can accommodate large rigs up to 40 feet in length. Drinking water and flush toilets are available at this campground and it’s one of the only campgrounds open year round in the park.
Bridalveil Creek Campground near Glacier Point Road
Close to Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point, Bridalveil Creek Campground south of the valley offers solitude from the chaos of the Yosemite Valley and conveniences like flush toilets and a tap for water.
Usually open seasonally from sometime in July through mid-September, it’s home to 110 sites with scenic forest views, Bridalveil Creek campground does accommodate RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 24 feet.
It gets cold at night here, dropping sometimes into the 30s in July and August. Pack warm layers and a winter hat, which may seem mind boggling if you’ve spent time in the Yosemite Valley. You can always snuggle with Fido to keep warm in the tent since pets are allowed here.
You may have limited to no cellphone coverage, so get ready to truly disconnect from the rest of the world in this secluded spot.
Wawona Campground near Wawona Road
The farthest south of Yosemite’s campgrounds, Wawona is close to the community of Fish Camp and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Situated along the South Fork of the Merced River and at an elevation of just 4,000 feet, its picturesque and often warm in early and late season.
Wawona can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length and has a nearby dump station located in Wawona. Drinking water and flush toilets are also located at this campground.
Yosemite is even more incredible when you get away from the developed parts of the park and explore its wilderness. There are countless options for backpacking in the park, so we’ve highlighted three of our favorites.
High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s Backcountry
Most of the High Sierra Camps will re-open, after a several-year closure, in 2023. Vogelsang and Merced Lakes will remain closed in 2023. The remaining camps will have backpacking-style food service.
Leave tent poles and cooking gear behind when you set out for one or more of the five High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry. Located 6-10 miles apart on a loop trail northeast of Yosemite Valley, each camp offers different views and amenities. Plan to backpack to one, or complete the entire 49-mile loop.
Each camp is made up of a small village of canvas safari-style tents that sleeps fewer than 50 people. You’ll sleep in a steel-framed dorm-style bed equipped with mattresses, pillows and blankets or comforters. Most camps also have wood-burning stoves to heat the tents. Parties of fewer than four may end up sharing one of the co-ed tents with strangers. Each camp has a restroom, and three of the camps have hot showers that are available as water supply allows. Purified drinking water is also provided, so you won’t even have to filter your own water. There’s no electricity at the camps, so you and your family can totally unplug. Family-style dinner is served each night in a dining tent at 6:30 p.m. and the next morning you can enjoy family-style breakfast at 7:30 a.m. The camps can even provide lunches to eat on the trail upon request.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience is justifiably very popular. A lottery is held each year in the fall for the following season to secure reservations.
Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley Backpack
For a truly family-friendly backpacking trip, consider Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley, a very popular area precisely because it is such a great place for day hikes to Half Dome and for bringing the family on a short backcountry adventure. Be aware it is one of the most difficult places in the park to get a wilderness permit.
Spend a couple days hiking around this long, flat valley surrounded by granite domes, waterfalls and the Merced River that cuts through it. The campground is pretty rustic with shared food lockers and a pit toilet.
Camping is not allowed between Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley, so you have to set up camp a minimum of two miles past the trailhead. This means at or beyond either Moraine Dome or the Half Dome/John Muir Trail junction. Camping is not permitted on top of Half Dome or at Lost Lake.
You will need a wilderness permit to backpack in the park. Sixty percent of permits are available via a lottery 24 weeks in advance on www.recreation.gov. The remaining 40% are available seven days ahead on a first-come, first-served basis, also on www.recreation.gov. Log on the second permits become available for your best chance at getting one of these very competitive campsites. If you plan to hike Half Dome on your trip, you will need to add a Half Dome permit to your wilderness permit.
Hetch Hetchy-Lake Vernon Loop Backpack
Tucked in the northwestern part of the park, the strenuous 30-mile Hetch Hetchy-Lake Vernon Loop is a great way to escape crowds and enjoy incredible lakeside nights. This route is relatively low in elevation ⎯ 3,900 feet ⎯ so it’s hot in the summer but with so few people around, it’s a gem.
This three-night backpacking route passes by enormous granite slabs and gorgeous, remote lakes with relatively few visitors. The trail starts at the Beehive Meadows Trail, following an old road as it switchbacks up the cliffs above Hetch Hetchy and through the forest until you reach Laurel Lake 8.3 miles later.
Spend your first night at Laurel Lake, followed by Lake Vernon the following night and then Rancheria Falls for your final night before you hike the last 6.7 miles to complete the loop to your car.
You will need a wilderness permit to backpack in the park. Permits are available via a lottery 24 weeks in advance on www.recreation.gov.
Sixty percent of reservations become available in advance, while 40% are available seven days ahead on a first-come, first-served basis. Log on the second permits become available for your best chance at getting one of these very competitive campsites.
Yosemite Campgrounds at a Glance
There are 13 developed campgrounds inside Yosemite National Park.
|Upper Pines||238||Flush||No||Yes Dump|
|Lower Pines||60||Flush||No||Yes Dump|
|North Pines||81||Flush||No||Yes Dump|
* = Closed in 2022
Sites = Number of campsites in campground
Toilets = Type of toilet facilities
Group = Group sites available
RV = Sites available for RVs
Camp 4 Lottery
Camping Regulations in Yosemite
These are some of the camping regulations that apply throughout the park. Additional regulations may apply at each campground. Violation of these regulations may result in a fine and/or revocation of your camping permit.
You must keep your food properly stored from bears 24 hours per day. Find out more about bears and food storage.
In Yosemite Valley, campfires are permitted only between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. between May 1 and Oct. 1. However, these regulations may change, depending on the moisture levels of the valley. At other times of the year and in out-of-valley campgrounds, fires are permitted at any time. Fires must always be attended and put out completely with water when not attended (do not let them smolder). Firewood collection (including pine cones and pine needles) is not permitted in Yosemite Valley; you can purchase firewood at stores near the campgrounds.
Sleeping in Vehicles Only Permitted in Designated Campsites
Camping or sleeping in vehicles is permitted only in designated campsites. Sleeping in vehicles is not permitted anywhere else in Yosemite.
Maximum Number of People Permitted per Campsite
A maximum of six people (including children) and two vehicles are allowed per campsite. Both vehicles must be parked on the parking pad.
Camping Time Limit
There is a 30-day camping limit within Yosemite National Park in a calendar year; however, May 1 – Sept. 15, the camping limit in Yosemite is 14 days, and only seven of those days can be in Yosemite Valley or Wawona.
Pets in Campgrounds
Pets are permitted in all developed campgrounds except Camp 4 and all group campsites. Pets must be on a leash and should not be left unattended. Find out more about pet regulations.
Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.; generators are only allowed to be used from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Camp wastewater must be disposed of in designated utility drains. Sewage must be disposed of at designated dump stations (Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Tuolumne Meadows).