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10 Best Campgrounds at Yosemite National Park

Dec 1, 2017

Yosemite National Park covers a large area, but the most spectacular and iconic section of the park is Yosemite Valley. This is a relatively small portion of the park, open year-round, where you'll find many of the most famous attractions, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan. If you can secure a campsite at one of the campgrounds in this area, it will save you an incredible amount of driving time. At the far end of the valley, near Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village), and not far from Yosemite Village, are three fabulous campgrounds; Lower Pines, Upper Pines, and North Pines. All three of these are clumped together in close proximity to one another. The only other campground in the valley is the tent-only Camp 4, with a long history as a base for climbers.

View from Washburn Point
View from Washburn Point | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Still within the park, about an hour's drive west of Yosemite Village, but on two different roads, are Wawona Campground and Hodgdon Meadow Campground. A number of small first-come, first-served campgrounds are found along the Tioga Road (open in summer only) and a few other locations around the park. On the east side of the Tioga Pass is Tuolumne Meadows Campground. From November until May or June, when the Tioga Road is closed, there is no access to the Yosemite Valley from this campground.

1 North Pines Campground

North Pines Campground
North Pines Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Set amid towering pines, granite cliff walls, and alongside a rushing river, North Pines Campground has a beautiful setting, a fantastic location, and a woodsy feel. Located at the far end of the Yosemite Valley, near Half Dome Village, also commonly called Curry Village, you can walk right from this campground to some nearby hiking trails. With only 81 sites, most of which are large and well-spaced, it is generally quiet, and many sites offer privacy. Riverside sites are very scenic. This campground opens in April and closes in early November. Tents, RVs up to 40 feet in length, and trailers up to 35 feet are welcome here. Sites are reservable.

2 Upper Pines Campground

Upper Pines Campground
Upper Pines Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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With 238 campsites, Upper Pines Campground is the largest of the three campgrounds in the Yosemite Valley. Divided into a number of individual loops, this doesn't feel like a huge campground, and finding your way around is easy. Clumps of large pines and cedars provide a mix of shade and sun, and in between are views to the surrounding valley walls. Most sites are quite open and offer little privacy. You can easily walk from here to the start of several trailheads. Sites are smaller than those at North Pines Campground, and equipment lengths are restricted to 35 feet for RVs and 24 feet for trailers. This campground is open year-round, and sites are reservable.

3 Lower Pines Campground

Lower Pines Campground
Lower Pines Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Lower Pines is the smallest of the three campgrounds near Half Dome Village. With a mix of pines and deciduous trees, this is a very pleasant campground, with views in all directions. Sites in the center are quite open and exposed, with more private and well-treed sites along the edges. One side of the campground runs along the river. In the spring, the campground is prone to flooding, and sites in this area are sometimes closed due to flooding. If you have reserved a site along this side in May or June on a year when the river is high, your reservation may be cancelled, leaving you scrambling to find a place to stay at the last minute. This campground has 60 sites and is open from the end of March to the start of November. RVs up to 40 feet in length and trailers up to 35 feet are accepted. Sites are reservable.

4 Camp 4

Camp 4 is legendary among rock climbers. In the 1960s and 1970s, famous climbers camped out here throughout the climbing season, including such famous names as Royal Robbins and Warren Harding. The history of this particular campground is so important in the history of rock climbing that the campground is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, this campground is still closely associated with the climbing culture. Set in the heart of the Yosemite Valley, near Yosemite Falls, this campground has its own unique vibe, and it's not for everyone. Set among huge pine trees, the 35 tent sites are all walk-in only from the adjacent parking lot, and shared, with six people assigned per campsite. You register on a per person basis and camp with whoever is assigned to the campsite with you. If you are here with a group, you may be divided up. Pets are not allowed.

5 Tents and Cabins at Half Dome Village

Tents and Cabins at Half Dome Village
Tents and Cabins at Half Dome Village | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Although it's more expensive than bringing your own equipment and renting a campsite, you can rent canvas tent cabins or small, rustic cabins at Half Dome Village. The tents are closely spaced but are in a great location. Each tent cabin has a wooden floor, cot-style beds, light, and a propane heater available from fall until spring. They are fully outfitted with linens and blankets. Washrooms and showers are just a short walk away.

The rustic wooden cabins are outfitted in a similar fashion and do not have running water. Showers and washrooms are shared with the nearby tent campers. These cabins also come with daily housekeeping service. You can book this through the National Park Reservations Service.

6 Wawona Campground

Wawona Campground
Wawona Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located near the south entrance along Highway 41, on the road entering the park from the direction of Fresno, Wawona is almost an hour drive from Yosemite Valley, and longer if you run into traffic jams and congestion. However, if you can't secure camping in the valley, this is the next best alternative if you want a campsite you can reserve. The campground is set alongside the South Fork Merced River, and sites are spread out among pines. The elevation here is around 4,000 feet. Loop A, located closest to the campground entrance, is fairly open, and Loops B and C offer more privacy and a little nicer setting. Loop A is open all year-round, and Loops B and C are open seasonally from spring until fall. Reservations are required from April through September, but sites are first-come, first-served from October to April. The campground's 93 sites can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers up to 35 feet in length.

Nearby attractions include the Mariposa Grove, with a grove of giant sequoias, and the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.

7 Summerdale Campground

Summerdale Campground
Summerdale Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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About 1.5 miles outside the south entrance to the park on Highway 41 is the privately run Summerdale Campground. Sites are scattered around a central meadow and set among cottonwoods, cedars, and sugar pines. A river flows along one side of the campground. The ground offers 30 sites, vault toilets, and water is available. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Pets are welcome.

8 Indian Flat RV Park

Indian Flat RV Park
Indian Flat RV Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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On Highway 140, heading towards Merced, the privately run Indian Flat RV Park is a good option if you can't find a campsite in the park or are looking for more amenities. The park offers tent and RV sites, some with full hookups, and guests can access the outdoor pool at the neighboring lodge. Large, leafy trees provide plenty of shade and a woodsy atmosphere.

9 Hodgdon Meadow Campground

Hodgdon Meadow Campground
Hodgdon Meadow Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Hodgdon Meadow Campground is a little less than an hour's drive west of the heart of Yosemite Valley, off Highway 120, but still within the park. The main attraction of this campground is its convenience and year-round accessibility. Unfortunately, this area has been heavily affected by California's prolonged drought, and many trees have been removed. As a result, privacy and shade are lacking at most of the sites. Sites are fairly small, uneven, and the ground is fine dirt, making this a dusty place to camp. Spots near the entrance are the least desirable. The surrounding area has been fire affected.

Reservations can be made for mid-April to mid-October and can be booked up to five months in advance. Sites are first-come, first-served the rest of the year.

10 Tuolumne Meadows Campground

Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows
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If you are visiting the park in summer and interested in exploring the hikes and sites along the Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows Campground is a good choice. The elevation here is 8,600 feet, so even in summer, nights can be very cool. The Tioga Road is closed in winter, and this campground generally doesn't open until July and closes in September. The campground can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers up to 35 feet. The 304 sites are a mix of first-come, first-served and reservable. The campground has flush toilets and potable water but no hookups.

Camping Details

  • To try your luck getting a campsite at a first-come, first-served campground, arrive early in the day and have a backup plan.
  • If you don't have a reservation, you can check in at the Reservation Office in the Half Dome Village parking lot. It's best to arrive early in the day, preferably before 8 am. The park gives out sites that become available each day due to early checkouts and cancellations. They are all given out on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don't get a site in the morning, you can put your name on a list and return at a designated time around mid-afternoon to see if more have become available. A surprising number of sites do become available each day.
  • North, Upper, and Lower Pines Campgrounds are located at an elevation of 4,000 feet.
  • All campgrounds in the park, except Camp 4, are pet-friendly.
  • All campsites in the park come with a bear-resistant food storage locker, and campers are required to use them.

Where to Stay near Yosemite if You Can't Secure a Campsite

  • El Portal: Along Highway 140, not far from the park gates, and about 30 minutes from the main attractions of Yosemite Valley, is the small community of El Portal. This makes a good base for day tripping to the park. One of the best-value options here is the Yosemite Cedar Lodge, with suites that come with full kitchens and separate bedrooms.
  • Oakhurst: If you are coming from Fresno, along Highway 41, you can find some good accommodation around the town of Oakhurst. Two of the most popular hotels are the Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn and the Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites. Both of these are about a 1.5-hour drive from Yosemite Valley.
  • Highway 120 and Groveland: About 50 minutes west of the valley on Highway 120 is the Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite, with a large outdoor pool, restaurant, games room, and rooms or suites with balconies. For a more moderately priced option, continue on to Groveland and check out The Groveland Hotel.

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