Best Campsites in Yosemite National Park

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Complete Guide to the Best Campsites in Yosemite National Park; Frontcountry, Backcountry, and Lodging

Yosemite National Park has 13 popular campgrounds, all of which are on a reservation system from April through October. Camping in Yosemite National Park is a remarkable experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes of one of America’s most iconic national parks. With a variety of campgrounds to choose from, each offering its own unique atmosphere and proximity to famous landmarks, camping in Yosemite is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. 

Camping in Yosemite offers access to a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, fishing, bird watching, and photography. The park’s extensive trail network caters to all skill levels, from leisurely walks to challenging backcountry routes. Discover more about the 10 best hikes in Yosemite National Park! Overall, camping in Yosemite National Park is an opportunity to connect with nature, witness breathtaking vistas, and create lasting memories in one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the world.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley & Upper Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Valley & Upper Yosemite Falls, Photo by Mike McBey

Yosemite Valley is the heart of Yosemite National Park and is renowned for its awe-inspiring natural beauty, iconic landmarks, and diverse ecosystems. There are 4 campgrounds located in Yosemite Valley. Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines all require advanced reservations that are extremely difficult to acquire. Campground reservations are released five months in advance on the 15th of each month. Camp 4 is the only first-come, first serve campground in Yosemite Valley. These campgrounds in Yosemite Valley offer a range of amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, and access to potable water. They are all close to the stunning natural wonders that Yosemite Valley is famous for, including Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and more.

CampgroundOpenReserveFeeSitesAccessible SitesWater
Upper PinesAll year5 months ahead on 15th$3623810Tap
Lower PinesApr 24–Oct 165 months ahead on 15th$36605Tap
North PinesApr 17–Oct 30Lottery or 5 months ahead on 15th$36815Tap
Camp 4All year1 week ahead for May 21–Sep 30$10/

South of Yosemite Valley

Sunset view of Wawona Dome from the Longview cabin
Sunset view of Wawona Dome, Photo by bgwashburn

There are 2 campgrounds south of Yosemite Valley – Wawona and Bridalveil Creek. The Wawona Campground is located along the South Fork Merced River close to historic Wawona. The majestic Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is just a short drive away and the Yosemite History Center is in nearby Wawona where you can see some of the park’s oldest structures. Bridalveil Creek Campground is located along the Glacier Point Road near Bridalveil Creek and is surrounded by a beautiful forest of red fir and lodgepole pine. 

CampgroundOpenReserveFeeSitesAccessible SitesWater
WawonaAll year5 months ahead on 15th for Apr 10 – Oct 23$36932Tap
Bridalveil CreekJuly – Sep 42 months ahead on 15th$361100Tap

North of Yosemite Valley

Rippled Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite 2016
Rippled Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Photo by Don Graham

7 seasonal campgrounds are available north of Yosemite Valley. Camping north of Yosemite Valley offers a different perspective of the park’s beauty and provides access to less crowded areas while still being within reach of Yosemite’s iconic features. The northern part of the park features campgrounds that are situated in higher elevations, alpine meadows, and near pristine lakes, providing a unique and tranquil camping experience. Tuolumne Meadows Campground is Yosemite’s largest, and is located along the Tioga Road, with some areas located close to the Tuolumne River. Currently under a major rehabilitation project, Tuolumne Meadows is closed until 2025. 

CampgroundOpenReserveFeeSitesAccessible SitesWater
Hodgdon MeadowAll year5 months ahead on 15th for Apr 10 – Oct 23$361050Tap
Crane FlatAug – Oct 302 months ahead on 15th$361518Tap
Tamarack FlatJune – Oct 152 weeks ahead$24525Creek/filter
White WolfJuly – Sep 52 weeks ahead$30740Tap
Yosemite CreekJuly – Sep 42 weeks ahead$24752Creek/filter
Porcupine FlatJuly – Oct 152 weeks ahead$20524Creek/filter
Tuolumne MeadowsClosed until 2024/2025Closed until 2024/2025$263047Tap

Lodging in Yosemite National Park

The Ahwahnee at dusk, Photo by NPS

Lodging options in Yosemite National Park range from simple tent cabins at the High Sierra Camps to deluxe rooms at The Ahwahnee. The four choices for lodging in Yosemite Valley are: The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village, and Housekeeping Camp. The Ahwahnee shines as Yosemite National Park’s distinctive upscale hotel and was specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point. Learn more or book a reservation at Yosemite Hospitality.

  • The Ahwahnee (Yosemite Valley) – Crown jewel of national park lodging, built in the 1920’s with stunning views, exceptional architecture and unsurpassed service.
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge (Yosemite Valley)  – Perfect for families and large groups, and ideally situated near Yosemite Falls
  • Curry Village (Yosemite Valley)  – The famed canvas tent cabins have been welcoming travelers to Yosemite since 1899
  • Housekeeping Camp (Yosemite Valley)  – Housekeeping Camp features three-sided concrete structures with canvas roofs and privacy curtains. 
  • Wawona Hotel (Wawona) – Authentic Victorian architecture with charming verandas and lush surroundings
  • Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (Tioga Road) – Tent cabins perched in a flower-filled meadow and convenient to spectacular hiking trails
  • High Sierra Camps (Tioga Road) – The series of five camps are spaced 6 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail—perfect for keeping your backpack light, and enjoying the tent cabins and meals at each camp.

Backpacking in Yosemite National Park

Almost 95% of Yosemite is designated Wilderness, offering endless opportunities for adventure, solitude, and connection. In order to protect these wild places and provide an outstanding hiking experience, wilderness permits are required for all overnight trips. Recommended backpacking routes include: 

John Muir Trail to Tuolumne
Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite
Tuolumne Meadows, Photo by Mike McBey
  • Distance: 22 miles (35.4 km) one way
  • Elevation Gain: 5,900 feet (1,800 m)
  • Trailhead: Happy Isles

This hike follows the John Muir Trail from its beginning at Happy Isles to Tuolumne Meadows. Along the way, the trail passes Vernal and Nevada Falls, then below the south face of Half Dome, through Sunrise Meadow, and beside Cathedral Peak before descending to Tuolumne Meadows.

John Muir Trail to Yosemite Valley
Cathedral Peak
Cathedral Peak, Photo by Dawn Endico
  • Distance: 22 miles (35.4 km) one way
  • Elevation Gain: 1750 feet (535 m)
  • Trailhead: Cathedral Lakes

One of the most famous hikes in the world, this classic trek on the John Muir Trail is popular for both its incredible scenery and generally declining elevation. Hiking in reverse requires climbing more than 5,600 feet, but start in Tuolumne Meadows and this beautiful walk is mostly downhill. Pass Cathedral Lakes along the way. 

Clouds Rest
Yosemite Valley, as seen from Cloud’s Rest, Photo by Paxson Woelber
  • Distance: 14 miles (22.5 km) round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet (700 m)
  • Trailhead: Sunrise Lakes

Leaving from Tenaya Lake, this route ascends through forests towards Sunrise Lakes but continues on to the summit of Clouds Rest. From the summit, there are views of the High Country, Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley.

Young Lakes
Young Lakes
Young Lakes, Photo by Doug Letterman
  • Distance: 13.6 miles (21.9 km) round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1300 feet (400 m)
  • Trailhead: Young Lakes via Dog Lake or Glen Aulin

This chain of three lakes is north of Tuloumne Meadows and provides wide panoramic views of the Cathedral Range. The trail to the lakes goes through alpine meadows and forests. The official trail ends at the first lake situated below Ragged Peak, but a well-used informal trail continues to the second and third lakes.

High Sierra Camp Loop
High Sierra Trail
High Sierra Trail, Photo by Mitch Barrie
  • Distance: 48.2 miles (77.6 km) loop
  • Elevation Gain: 6,450 feet (1,970 m)
  • Trailhead: Various possibilities

The High Sierra Camp loop follows trails linking Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang, Merced Lake, Sunrise, May Lake, and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. The hike travels through a range of alpine environments including meadows, forests, and passes. This is a long loop that visits the most popular areas of Yosemite’s high country.

Ten Lakes to Tenaya Lake
Ten Lakes, Yosemite National Park, California
Ten Lakes, Photo by Cale Green
  • Distance: 20.4 miles / 32.8 km one way
  • Elevation Gain: 4350 feet / 1325 M
  • Trailhead: Ten Lakes

This hike goes through the scenic Ten Lakes Basin, hooks around Tuolumne Peak, and ends at Tenaya Lake (the reverse is also possible, starting at Sunrise Lakes trailhead). Hikers travel through old forests, over panoramic passes, and into the quiet South Fork of Cathedral Creek. There are views of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, the northern mountains of Yosemite, and Tuolumne Meadows.

Near Yosemite National Park

Both the Sierra National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest surround Yosemite National Park and offer dispersed camping opportunities. These forests have a number of areas where visitors can camp outside of established campgrounds, often following specific guidelines. Hotel options are limited within a 2 hour drive of Yosemite Valley. The nearest large metro area is Modesto, CA – 2.5 hours west of the valley. 

Featured Image: Yosemite National Park, Photo by Matthew Dillon

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:

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