Yosemite National Park is a vast 3,027-kilometer natural and recreational area located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. People, who come to visit usually ask, can you camp anywhere in Yosemite or set up a tent in the park? The answers depend on where you are at the park. Yosemite has designated campgrounds and campsites during the day or overnight. You can’t just camp anywhere in Yosemite.
There are Camping Zones and No Camping Zones in Yosemite National Park. One of which is the Little Yosemite Valley Compound. It’s where camping is allowed within the Half Dome and the Little Yosemite Valley. Camping is allowed in the wilderness, but it has to be around two miles from the Little Yosemite Valley campground. There’s no camping at the top of the Half Dome or along the Lost Lake.
Whether you’re new to camping in Yosemite or a frequent visitor, check national park regulations as these change without notice. Read on to know the latest regulations and tips to help you fully experience the Yosemite camping experience.
Where to Camp in Yosemite?
Yosemite National Park has the most stunning views and unbelievable natural scenery. Park authorities limit areas where people can camp out or engage in various outdoor activities to preserve these natural wonders. Remember the following when camping out in Yosemite:
- Little Yosemite Valley Campground – the Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley area is one of the most popular camping grounds.
- Moraine Dome – this is a granite dome found in the northern part of Little Yosemite Valley.
- Beyond the Half Dome or John Muir Trail junction
- Backpackers camping area near the areas of Glen Aulin, Merced Lake, and May Lake.
- Vogelsang High Sierra Campsite
- Four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Hetch Hetchy.
No matter what campsite you plan to settle, it has to be one air mile from any park road. There are minimum legal distances for campsites for every trail. You should check these out before you create your camping plans. A PDF of the trailhead map is available at the National Parks Service website.
Meanwhile, some areas of the park are off-limits to any camping activity. These places on the list are no-camping zones because these may be dangerous or used as wildlife preserves and watersheds.
- Parker Pass Creek watershed
- Gaylor Creek watershed
- Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River watershed
- Budd Creek watershed
- Lukens Lake
- Half Dome’s top area
Any area that’s within 100-feet from a trail is also a no-camping zone. You should not camp near a flowing stream, river, or any body of water unless these are selected as campsites or camping grounds.
You may set up camp within 100 feet from a stream, river, or any body of water as long as there is a well-established campsite in the area. Places located below the high water lines of Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor are also no-camping sites.
When is The Best Time to Camp in Yosemite?
The best time to set up camp in Yosemite is when the park is open and accessible but is not very crowded. Take note that there are many trails and roads inside the national park. Most of these are closed during most of the year because of heavy snowfall.
In Yosemite, snowfall starts in October and will eventually be too much to handle by November. Snow will remain a threat until March, but the park won’t be open until May. Park authorities need to wait until weather and road conditions have improved before they declare the park safe and ready. Because of this, Yosemite may take until June to open.
Considering these times, you must plan your visit and camping activities very carefully. Please take note that all visitors are eyeing the same months to visit the park. The park’s busiest times are during the summer months, where road traffic, packed campsites, and expensive hotel accommodations are expected.
It’s best to camp at Yosemite before the crowds come during the last weeks of May and September. Veteran campers prefer to set up their tents or RVs at Yosemite during the final weeks of May and June. This is the best time to check out the waterfalls because of the newly melted ice.
If you prefer to camp in Yosemite and hike to different areas, visit the park in September. This is when the air is cooler and, thus, perfect for hiking and exploring. But if you want affordable accommodations and fewer people at the campsites, visit Yosemite during wintertime.
Where Are The Best Campsites in Yosemite Located?
Finding the best spot to camp in Yosemite is always a challenge. There are just so many awesome natural sights, landscapes, and water features you should not miss. Find the best campsite this year with the eight best Yosemite National Park camping grounds for summer camping activities.
1. Big Springs Campground
This campsite is best for vans, RVs, trailers, and tent campers. It is a favorite camping site because of its size, and it’s near a clear creek. This is a free campsite where you can access clean bathrooms and toilets. Big Springs is a quiet campsite with a stunning view.
2. Buttermilk Road
This campsite is perfect for camping van riders. The views before you reach the campsite and at the area are just breathtaking! And despite the rough, hard-to-access road before you reach the site, cell phone reception is strong.
3. Glass Creek Campground
This camping ground is for RVs, tents, and vans and is located inside Inyo National Forest near Yosemite. This campsite comes with complete amenities, including picnic tables, toilets, and fire pits. The camping ground is also great for ATV or UTV riding.
4. Glass Flow Road
This campsite is designed for vans and tents. This is easy to access for vans and cars with good cell phone service. However, there are no amenities at this site, but you’re near many attractions and near the park entrance.
5. Green Creek Road
This campsite is for vans, tents, small RVs, and mini trailers. This campsite is next to a creek and stunning woodland views. You may camp near the creek or deeper into the forest to get a feel of the wilderness. There is no cell service in the area.
6. Lower Deadman Campground
This campsite is for RVs, vans, tents, and large motorhomes. This is another breathtaking Creekside camping ground where you can reconnect with nature. Only a few campers visit this site, so you’ll enjoy peace and quiet.
7. Nelder Grove Campground
This campground is for RVs, tents, vans, and trailers. This campsite is located in the southern part of the park next to a clear stream. It is secluded but has good amenities like toilets, benches, parking areas, and more.
8. Redinger Campground
This campsite is best for vans, tents, and smaller RVs. This is a free camping ground that’s far from tourists and campers. You’ll enjoy a stunning view plus, you won’t be too far from a toilet. There is a wonderful fishing area in Redinger Campground, so be sure to bring your gear.
What Are Important Things to Bring When You Camp at Yosemite?
Almost all free campsites at Yosemite don’t offer any camping services like toilets, water, electricity, and waste collection. This is why you must plan your trip well, about a few weeks before you plan to visit Yosemite.
- Bring many containers of water for drinking, washing, and bathing.
- Use a portable battery or a small generator. It’s not advisable to use solar power in the area as there are a lot of trees.
- Stock up on food depending on how many days you plan to stay. There are grocery stores located near the park, so this won’t be a problem.
- Stock up on medicines, emergency kits, wound care items, and a sewing kit.
- Bring trash bags to take your trash with you.
- Bring portable toilets in case the campsite you will visit does not offer vault toilets or portable toilets. If you’re traveling with an RV, make sure that the tank is empty.
- Bring your camping stove like a propane-powered camping stove to cook your food. You cannot set up fires unless there is a fire pit at the camping site.
- Bring camping chairs and tables.
Camping in Yosemite is an all-American tradition passed on to generations of families. If you plan to visit Yosemite soon, it’s best to plan, get to know park regulations, and book early. Booking is available all year round, but slots are filled quickly, so you must always check for new ones daily.
Yosemite National Park prohibits pets, mechanized forms of transportation (strollers and bikes), and other motorized equipment. If you plan to fish, secure a wilderness permit before you head to the camping area.