The Best Place to Camp in Yosemite National Park
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Yosemite National Park is a magical outdoor icon which boasts the famous climbing meccas of El Capitan and Half Dome as well as an array of awe-inspiring vistas, breath-taking waterfalls, sheer drops, towering sequoias, glacial steps.
If you love climbing, hiking, walking, trail running, and water activities and granite mountains drive you crazy, this is the national park for you.
Located in beautiful Mariposa County, California, it’s a fantastic outdoor destination at any time of year and offers a great selection of campgrounds to suit every traveler’s tastes, desired level of comfort and needs.
So, which of the many Yosemite National Park campgrounds should you stay at when you’re coming to enjoy the outdoors?
We’ve narrowed the selection around to our favorites so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying your trip. Keep reading to find out more.
1. Camp 4 Campground
Walk in the footsteps of famous climber and hikers like Bev Johnson, John Long, John Yablonski, and John Bachar and stay at the most famous campsite in Yosemite National Park: Camp 4.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this campground is legendary among climbers and hikers. This is mainly because of its awesome location right at the heart of Yosemite Valley near Yosemite Falls and the fact that it’s super close to El Capitan and the hiking trails.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous place; perfectly calm and surrounded by huge towering pine trees.
The campground itself is tiny and only offers 35 sites on a first-come-first-served basis, although you can book (and should!) at least six months in advance for camping trips between April and November.
You’ll need to register with the ranger to stay here, you can’t bring your pets and you’ll have to leave your car at a nearby parking lot.
Despite the size, you do get a decent range of facilities including a bathroom with drinking water and flushing toilets, a fire pit, picnic tables, and four shared food lockers. There are also showers and grocery stores nearby.
Find out more about Camp 4 here.
2. North Pines Campground
Along with Upper Pines and Lower Pines, the popular North Pines campground provides one of the best reservation campgrounds in the Yosemite Valley.
Open from March to October, it’s situated at 4000 feet of elevation and near Half Dome Village at the far end of the valley. Because the best hiking trails and climbing spots are close by, it’s the perfect spot to lay your head whether you’re camping or in your RV.
Nestled under towering trees like California black oak, Ponderosa pine, Incense-cedar, White Fir, and Whiteleaf Manzanita, next to awe-inspiring granite cliffs and wonderfully calm and quiet and right, this place boasts some of the best campground views in all of Yosemite National Park.
The facilities here are pretty good too, including flushing toilets, drinking water, a picnic table, a fire ring, and a food storage locker.
The free shuttle bus also stops here so you can enjoy easy access to other parts of the national park, including grocery stores and main sites.
Remember to book your place at least six months in advance if you hope to stay here because this place fills up early. Tip: Grab a spot by the flowing Merced river for the best views.
Find out more about North Pines Campground here.
3. Upper Pines
Upper Pines is the biggest of the camping grounds in Yosemite Valley but it doesn’t feel big at all. Well organized with plenty of shade and sun and some great views, it’s open all year and offers a ton of facilities including flushing toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, fire ring, food storage, and even paved roads.
Located at 4000 feet, the sites themselves are quite open so if you like your privacy this might not be the place for you. Having said that, it’s very easy to walk to the trails from here and the shuttle bus can whisk you away to anywhere that’s not within walking distance so it can be worth the trade-off.
Again, we recommend you reserve your spot, especially between March and November when the campground starts to fill up.
RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 24 feet are also welcome here.
Find out more about Upper Pines Campground here.
4. Lower Pines Campground
If you’d love to camp next to a great flowing river and gaze at the stars, Lower Pines could be the ideal campground for you.
With some truly fantastic views and sat at an elevation of 4000 feet, you’ll find yourself surrounded by California black oak, Ponderosa pine, Incense-cedar, and many other stunning trees which offer just the right balance of sun and shade.
Open between March and November and offering 60 sites, you can bring your RV or your trailer if you don’t fancy spending a night under canvas but make sure you reserve in advance.
Some of the sites themselves are more open and some are more private but choose carefully- the river has been known to flood on several occasions!
Find out more about Lower Pines Campground here.
5. Wawona Campground
Located next to the South Fork of the Merced River, this campground is about an hour drive from Yosemite Valley and near the south entrance on Highway 41.
Although it’s not in the Yosemite Valley itself, it’s a great alternative when the valley campsites are sold out and you’ll be well-placed for local attractions like Mariposa Grove and the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.
Open all year, it offers 93 sites which are available on a first-come-first-served basis, although you need to reserve between April and October. They can also accommodate tents, RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length and even offer two-horse sites!
You’ll also get a fire ring, picnic table, food locker and easy access to a bathroom with flushing toilets and drinking water.
Find out more about Wawona Campground here.
6. Summerdale Campground
This privately-run campground offers sites scattered across a meadow, surrounded by trees and right next to the Big Creek river. What better place to camp when you’re visiting the Yosemite Valley?
It’s located along the Highway 41 corridor and boasts some absolutely stunning scenery including those famous Sequoia trees, epic mountain scenery, and everything else you could want to enjoy the great outdoors.
With just 30 sites, the facilities include vault toilets, water is available, and pets are very welcome too. There’s plenty going on nearby too- you can fish for rainbow trout or spot beavers in the creek, hike the nearby Lewis Creek trail or explore the Miami Motorcycle trails.
Find out more about Summerdale Campground here.
7. Hodgdon Meadow Campground
We love the Hodgdon Meadow Campground because it’s perfect for families and groups who are coming to Yosemite National Park.
Just 25 minutes away from the valley but within the park itself, this campsite is in a great location near the Big Oak Flat entrance and close to a gas station and convenience store.
Get the season right and you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful wildflowers and Red fir, Incense-cedar, Ponderosa pine, and Lodgepole pine trees to help fill up your senses and welcome you into the natural world.
The sites themselves are on the small side and they can be uneven in places so choose carefully. If you can, find a place away from the entrance and you’ll enjoy more peace and quiet. At 105 sites, this place can get busy, especially during the peak months between April and October.
You’ll also enjoy a great range of facilities here including flushing toilets, drinking water, a picnic table, a fire ring, and a food storage locker, plus the roads and parking spots are also paved for maximum comfort. Cars and RVs are welcome. Again, book your spot to guarantee your place.
Find out more about Hodgdon Meadow Campground here.
8. Yosemite Creek Campground
Those who prefer a more back-to-basics, primitive approach to camping will love this stunning campground. Five miles off the Tioga Road and hiking distance to Yosemite Falls, this place is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s a bit of a drive to get here but it’s very much worth it!
Right next to the creek itself and at 8000 feet of elevation, it can get quite cold here at night so make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing and remember to include drinking water too as there’s no drinking water here.
The campground itself is medium-sized, offering 75 sites on a first come first served basis and the facilities are basic including a fire ring, picnic table, and food locker here though to add a touch of comfort.
Be aware that fallen trees and other similar events can force the campground to close and this campground is only open from June to September, and RVs and trailers are not accepted.
Find out more about Yosemite Creek Campground here.
Yosemite National Park is a beautiful park where you can get out into the wilderness, reconnect with nature and camp surrounded by awe-inspiring granite cliffs, towering trees, and rushing rivers.
Which of these wonderful camping grounds will you stay on YOUR trip?
Learn more about 13 Best National Parks for Camping and Hiking.