What You Need to Know First
Within Yosemite National Park, you have 13 campgrounds to choose from. Of these, 4 are in the Yosemite Valley, 5 are along Tioga Road above the valley and the rest are along Highway 120 and 140.
You'll find more places to stay outside the park boundaries but within easy driving distance.
Other camping options include staying in the tent cabins at Housekeeping Camp in Half Dome Village, roughing it on a backcountry camping trip or getting a coveted spot at one of the spectacular High Sierra Camps.
If you are camping in an RV, you need to know what to expect - and what amenities you won't find here.
Campgrounds Inside Yosemite
If you want to go camping inside Yosemite National Park, you'll find campgrounds that accommodate recreational vehicles, camping trailers, and tents, along with some backcountry sites that you have to hike to.
For any sites inside the park, reservations are recommended. Here's what you need to know about making camping reservations at Yosemite.
Couldn't get the reservation you wanted at Yosemite, try using Campnab. For a small fee, they will scan the reservation system for up to four months, checking for openings and the notify you when openings appear. They scan every five minutes to an hour, depending on how much you pay for the service.
Camping In Yosemite Valley
Three of the Yosemite Valley campgrounds are clustered in one area. They are North, Upper and Lower Pines.
The fourth campground is a walk-in, tent campground only, called Camp 4. This camp is especially popular with rock climbers.
Camping Elsewhere in Yosemite National Park
How to Choose Your Best Campground
Every campground has its pros and cons and it's hard to sort through them all to figure out which one is best for your trip. That's where you should turn to Recreation.gov which is the National Parks' reservation site.
Search for Yosemite National Park, then click Campgrounds. From there, you can filter by type of site, dates, and amenities to find the campground that best meets your needs. Use their map to see where each campground is and be aware that some of them are not in (or even near) Yosemite Valley.
Campgrounds Outside Yosemite
If all the Yosemite National Park campgrounds are full, or you just want to stay somewhere else, you'll find options along all the main routes into Yosemite. They include a few privately-run camping spots and some places where you can set up camp in the National Forests and other public lands around Yosemite.
You'll even find a friendly forest lodge that takes all the work of setting up your camp, so all you have to do is show up and have. fun.
What You Need to Know About Yosemite Camping
- Drinking water is available at water spigots throughout the campgrounds, but not at each site. Bring a big water container to minimize the number of trips you have to make.
- If you will be washing dishes, you have to carry your dirty water to the restrooms to dispose of it. A small bucket is ideal.
- There are no lights in the restrooms. Bring a flashlight or two; ones that can stand on their own are best.
- You don't have to own a tent to sleep in a Yosemite campground. You can sleep in your car if you want, but only in a proper camping spot.
- Campsites can be dusty and campfires can create a lot of smoke in the evening. If you have allergies, take precautions.
Yosemite Campground Elevations
Campgrounds in Yosemite are at 4,000 to 8,600 feet (1,200 to 2,620 meters). If you are susceptible to altitude sickness, plan your Yosemite camping at a lower elevation.
Campgrounds in Yosemite Valley and at Wawona are the lowest elevation, about 4,000 feet.
If you're looking for a lower-cost place to stay at Yosemite or like the idea of "roughing it" a little without pitching a tent and sleeping on the ground, you may want to check out Yosemite's tent cabins. They have wooden floors and beds, but with a tent over the top. Bring your own comfy bedding and move right in, without having to pitch a tent or sleep on the ground.
No one will make up your bed or change your towels every day in the tent cabins, there's no spa or coffee maker and you can't order room service, but you can enjoy that out-of-doors feel in more comfort and with less work.
If you want to take your RV to Yosemite, you need to know a few things first about where you can camp and what the campgrounds provide. Places you can park outside the campgrounds are limited and you need to know how to keep your camper safe from bears.
It all sounds a little complicated, but don't worry. Here's what you need to know about taking an RV to Yosemite.
Yosemite High Sierra Camps
If you love the idea of backcountry camping trip at Yosemite, but don't want the hassle of taking a tent along, the High Sierra Camps are perfect for you. The five camps spaced along a loop in Yosemite's High Country are a day hike (5.7 to 10 miles) apart. They provide meals and comfy tent cabins.
Spaces are limited and demand is high. So high that you have to get into a lottery just to get a reservation. Here's what you need to know about Yosemite High Sierra Camps.
Back Country Camping
To go backpacking and camping in Yosemite backcountry, you need a permit. To avoid over-loving the wild country, the Park Service limits the number of people who enter a trailhead every day. Of that quota, 60% of the permits can be reserved ahead of time and the rest are available on a first come, first-served. You can make reservations between 24 weeks and 2 days before you start your hike. The Yosemite Wilderness Website has all the info you need.
Overnight Guided Trips
If you'd like to try an overnight backpacking trip but are nervous about doing it by yourself, the Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service offers scheduled group trips and custom trips, and they'll take care of all the permits and planning.
If you don't want to (or can't) carry all the food and gear you need, the pack and saddle trip folks will use their livestock to tote it in for you. They also offer custom trips.