Camping

Camping

Out of the 13 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park seven require a reservation and are almost impossible to camp in without one. Most of the campgrounds book up 5 months in advance on the day tickets become available and lines for first-come, first-served openings often form as early as 2AM and fill by Noon. That’s not to say that there aren’t the rare exceptions when you can get a first-come, first-served reservation without spending half the night in a folding lawn chair, I know, I’ve done it. But, you stand a whole lot better chance of not having your wife swear at you and give you the cold shoulder if you get a reservation online before you head into the park.

Campground Reservations: Read this VERY carefully

Reservations are required to camp in Yosemite March 15 through November. Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 AM Pacific Time. Nearly all reservations for the summer months, May through September, and for holidays and popular weekends (Easter and Fathers Day) are filled minutes the first day they become available.

Plan ahead! Make sure your clock is set properly. Make sure you have access to your computer. Make sure the phone is off and you have no distractions. Practice clicking weeks in advance. Let your primal energies flow. Become one with the internet and your computer. You want to be so fast filling out the form and clicking the button you beat everyone else. When you’re ready visit www.recreation.gov.

Here’s a tip. There are a few steps you can complete before the registration begins so head over a little before 7 AM and get those taken care of. Then get in position and start clicking as soon as 7 AM rolls around.

Remember, you snooze you lose.

Below is a list showing the dates campground reservations become available. Study it. Learn it. There’ll be a test later.

Arrival date First day
to make reservations
(7 am PT)
March 15 through April 14   November 15
April 15 through May 14 December 15
May 15 through June 14 January 15
June 15 through July 14 February 15
July 15 through August 14 March 15
August 15 through September 14 April 15
September 15 through October 14 May 15
October 15 through November 14 June 15
November 15 through December 14 July 15
Wawona Group site only:
December 15 through January 14
January 15 through February 14
February 15 through March 14
August 15
September 15
October 15

How to make a reservation

Visit www.recreation.gov (recommended) or call 877–444–6777 (or 877–833–6777 for TDD, or 518–885–3639 from outside the US & Canada).

Reservations are not available by mail. Reservations are only available by phone between the hours of:

7 AM to 7 PM Pacific time (November through February)
7 AM to 9 PM Pacific time (March through October)

You may only make two reservations per phone call or website visit (you can call again or start over again to make additional reservations).

If you’re unable to get a campground reservation, you may want to try a first-come, first-served campground.

From: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/nrcamping.htm

Camping without a Reservation

The most popular campgrounds in Yosemite, namely those in the Valley, require reservations but there are some campgrounds that work on a first-come, first-served basis. That means you walk up and stand in line and hope they have tickets. Many do. I’m very spontaneous and I’ve been able to score Tuolumne Meadows camping at 4 PM on a Saturday night.

Camp 4 (Yosemite Valley) (no RVs/trailers)
Bridalveil Creek (RVs up to 35 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)
Tamarack Flat (not recommended for RVs/trailers)
White Wolf (RVs up to 27 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)
Yosemite Creek (not recommended for RVs/trailers)
Porcupine Flat (limited space for RVs up to 24 feet/trailers up to 20 feet)
Tuolumne Meadows (RVs and trailers up to 35 feet)

October through April (approximately)
From fall through early spring, it’s also popular to find campsites at one of the reservation campgrounds or at Wawona and Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds, which operate on a first-come, first-served basis from October through April. You can also double-check the reservations website to check for any last-minute availability.

May through September (approximately)
During the early summer months (May and June) very few first-come, first-served campsites are available until the Tioga Road and Glacier Point roads open and the snow melts in the campgrounds and makes them usable.

In order to have a reasonable chance of finding a campsite from spring through fall, you should arrive at the campground of your choice by Noon on weekdays and by about 6AM on weekends. Since Camp 4 is the only first-come, first-served campground in the Valley it usually fills by 9 AM and gets a lot of overflow from car campers who can’t find a spot at the other Valley campgrounds. Tuolumne Meadows Campground is the other popular overflow campground for those who can’t get spaces in Yosemite Valley and typically fills by 8:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Like I said though, it’s entirely possible to get a good spot at Tuolumne Meadows late in the afternoon on a weekend. It’s worth asking.

For daily campground availability information call the recorded message line at 209–372–0266.

If all else fails, you can try to find a campsite outside of Yosemite National Park (see map below). I know during the summer months campgrounds outside Yosemite are just as full and it can be near impossible to find a spot as they are all in areas as equally beautiful. We’ve had to drive 80 miles away before we found a campsite before.


View Larger Map

If you can’t find a campsite don’t try to sleep in your car along side the road or in the hotel parking lot or in Camp 4’s parking lot. Within Yosemite National Park, you may not sleep in your car or RV except in a campsite that you’re registered to stay in. If you’re in Tuolumne Meadows and need a place to bed down and don’t mind sleeping in your car there are some campgrounds at the foot of Tioga Pass ran by Mono County. They’re less then beautiful in the daylight but at night they’re better than a ticket for sleeping in your car. There are nice campgrounds there too but they’re usually full before the Yosemite campgrounds. They’re more expensive but if you want to stay for a couple of days they might be worth the effort. Aspen is my favorite.

More Information

Camp 4 (Yosemite Valley) (no RVs/trailers)
Bridalveil Creek (RVs up to 35 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)
Tamarack Flat (not recommended for RVs/trailers)
White Wolf (RVs up to 27 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)
Yosemite Creek (not recommended for RVs/trailers)
Porcupine Flat (limited space for RVs up to 24 feet/trailers up to 20 feet)
Tuolumne Meadows (RVs and trailers up to 35 feet)
www.recreation.gov


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