This post is part of Just Ahead’s Yosemite Trip Planner—our guide to what you need to know to plan your trip to Yosemite National Park. Click here to see the complete series. And be sure to download our Just Ahead smartphone audio tour of Yosemite before you head to the park.
Camping under the stars in Yosemite sounds like a dream, and it is. However, it’s a dream shared by many others. Although the park has 13 campgrounds, many of them are seasonal, and most are in great demand. When it comes to deciding where to camp in Yosemite, the key is to plan ahead for campgrounds that take reservations, and to arrive early for campgrounds that don’t. The park’s most popular campgrounds take reservations through recreation.gov, but to nab a site in one of them, you need to think in terms of getting tickets for a big rock concert. Get on the website ready to start clicking promptly at 7 a.m. Pacific time on the 15th of the month, five months in advance of your month of arrival.
So what should you do if you arrive during a busy season with no reservations? If you have cell-phone reception, you can call the park’s campsite availability hotline at 209-372-0266. Most likely it will steer you to one of the campgrounds outside Yosemite Valley that has sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Best advice for getting one of those sites is to first verify that the campground is open (call the hotline or check with a ranger), and then to arrive by 8:30 or so in the morning. Sites generally fill up by noon, earlier on weekends. The one Valley campground that is first-come, first served is Camp Four. The same advice applies: Get there early.
All campgrounds accept RVs unless noted in the write-ups that follow. As for amenities, as a general rule, expect tables, fire pits, running water, toilets, and bearproof food lockers. Exceptions are noted below.
Naturally, Just Ahead points out all of these campgrounds as you drive through Yosemite.
Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
The Pines Campgrounds: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines, are what most people think of when they think of Yosemite camping: big spaces under tall pines with views of Half Dome and Glacier Point. The three campgrounds are adjacent to one another near Curry Village at the east end of Yosemite Valley. They have 379 sites altogether, and many will accommodate large RVs. Upper is open year-round; the others are open roughly from early spring through mid-fall. These campgrounds are especially suitable for families and people who enjoy a very social camping atmosphere. All sites can be reserved through recreation.gov.
Camp Four is a walk-in campground for tents only, but the sites are quite close to the parking area. Think car camping without your car right next to your tent. The campground is open year-round, with 35 sites. As we describe in our Best of Yosemite post, Camp Four is the center of Yosemite’s rock-climbing culture, and primarily populated by climbers.
South of Yosemite Valley
Bridalveil Creek Campground on Glacier Point Road has 110 sites, and because all of the sites are first-come, first-served, it’s often a good option when campgrounds in Yosemite Valley are full. The campground is near, though not directly on, Bridalveil Creek—the creek that tumbles over the rim of the Valley to become Bridalveil Fall. It’s open roughly mid-June to mid-September.
The southernmost campground in Yosemite, Wawona Campground stretches out along the South Fork of the Merced River, conveniently located near the Wawona store and Hotel. It’s open year-round, with its 93 sites reservable through recreation.gov from mid-April to mid-October. Sites are first-come, first-served the rest of the year.
Northwest of Yosemite Valley
Crane Flat Campground lies near the intersection of Big Oak Flat and Tioga Roads, making it convenient to both Yosemite Valley and the Tioga Road high country, and to the small convenience store at Crane Flat. It’s generally open from July through mid-October. Its 166 sites are reservable through recreation.gov.
Hodgdon Meadow is the first campground you come to if you enter the park from the northwest via State Route 120 and the Big Oak Flat entrance, making it a good home base for exploring Hetch Hetchy and the high country along Tioga Road. It’s open year-round, and its 105 sites are reservable through recreation.gov from roughly mid-April to mid-October.
North of Yosemite Valley Along Tioga Road
Tamarack Flat is the first campground you come to when driving Tioga Road from the west. It’s also a lower in elevation than other Tioga Road campgrounds, so it’s likely to open a bit earlier. Be aware that the campground is three miles off Tioga Road and is a primitive campground that’s not suitable for RVs, and where you have to get your drinking water from a stream and treat it. It has 52 sites, first-come, first-served.
White Wolf is a quiet campground located about a mile off Tioga Road, with 74 sites open mid-June to mid-September, available on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s nearly across the street from White Wolf Lodge, giving you the option of “dining in” if you wish.
Yosemite Creek lies in a hollow about five miles off Tioga Road. It’s another primitive campground that’s not suitable for RVs, and where you have to get your drinking water from a stream and treat it. It has 75 sites, first-come, first-served, and is generally open from early June to early September.
Located at about the midpoint of Tioga Road, Porcupine Flat has 52 first-come, first-served sites and is open from approximately July through mid-October. It can accommodate smaller RVs. Be aware that this is a primitive campground, and you have to draw your drinking water from a stream and treat it. Porcupine Flat is a quiet alternative to the much busier Tuolumne Meadows Campground, but only about 15 miles from the amenities of Tuolumne Meadows.
With 304 sites, Tuolumne Meadows is the largest campground along Tioga Road. Half the sites can be reserved through recreation.gov; the rest are first-come, first-served. It’s generally open from the end of May to the end of September. The campground is set in a great location for exploring Tuolumne Meadows and high-country hiking trails, and is near a store, dining room, and park visitor center.