Can You Sleep in Your Car at Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park is a known spot for people who like camping and want to experience nature. While some people enjoy camping in tents, others sleep in their cars for a variety of reasons. If this is something you’d enjoy doing, you should find where it’s allowed and take advantage of it. Of course, you don’t want to get in trouble. So, you have to know which locations you can sleep in your car at Yosemite. 

Now, if you’re asking if you can sleep in your car in Yosemite, the short answer is you can’t. Yosemite National Park doesn’t allow tourists to sleep in various locations. These include along roadsides, at the Trailhead Parking, Visitor’s Parking, and the Backpacker’s Campground. However, 12 campsites allow visitors to sleep in their cars, but only with vehicles registered in the campsites.

In today’s article, we’ll discuss some essential things about sleeping in your car at Yosemite National Park. We’ll also cover other camping questions you have to know about. So, if you’re planning to go to Yosemite National Park, keep reading.

Where Can You Sleep in Your Car in Yosemite?

As mentioned earlier, sleeping in your car is generally not allowed in Yosemite. Additionally, the Park allows visitors to sleep in their vehicles only in specific areas. There are 13 campgrounds here, 12 of which will enable you to park and sleep in your car at Yosemite.

If you’re wondering where you can sleep in your car near Yosemite Valley, here are some locations you should check out:

  • Upper, Lower, and North Pines
  • Wawona
  • Bridalveil Creek
  • Tamarack Flat
  • White Wolf
  • Yosemite Creek

Aside from this, it’s also crucial that you know what types of vehicles are allowed in Yosemite. While any car can pass through Yosemite’s roads, there are conditions that the Park has set. These include:

  • Your vehicle shouldn’t damage the Park’s vegetation and animals.
  • Driving off-road isn’t allowed, so vehicles for off-road use aren’t allowed. These include swamp, dune, and sand buggies.
  • Some off-road vehicles are allowed in the Park (SUVs and jeeps) but are required to stay on the roads. These vehicles, including trailers, are also needed to stay in designated campsites.
  • Following the car, length requirements are strictly required by the Park. Depending on the campsite, the maximum length for trailers is 35 feet, while RVs can be 40 feet.

Can I Camp Anywhere in Yosemite?

If you’re planning to camp just anywhere in Yosemite, chances are you’d be asked to leave the Park.

While there are many camping grounds in Yosemite, there are certain areas where camping is not permitted. These are the Park’s no camping zones, and they include the zone between Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley. If you’re planning for a camp in a dispersed Wilderness environment, you should be at least two miles beyond Little Yosemite.

Additionally, another no camping zone is the top of Half Dome or at Lost Lake. Aside from what’s been mentioned, camping is also not allowed in the following areas:

  • Lukens Lake
  • Budd Creek, Gaylor Creek, and Parker Pass Creek watersheds
  • Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River watershed

Where to Camp In Yosemite

Because of Yosemite’s popularity among tourists and locals, reservations are almost always filled up. With this, you might not be able to camp in Yosemite Park.

You don’t need to worry, for there are other campgrounds near Yosemite. If you can’t find a proper camping ground, here are some places you can check out for your camping trip.

Pine Lake Mountain

Pine Lake Mountain is a gated community just outside of Yosemite National Park. The community offers a lot of vacation rentals and rented campsites. What’s good about Pine Mountain is it gives you access to all of its facilities. These include their famous swimming hole and picnic grounds.

Yosemite Lakes

If you’re looking for a full-service campground, Yosemite Lakes is an excellent option for you. Besides the regular tent campsites, Yosemite Lakes offers accessible facilities. Including bunkhouse cabins and RV parking.

Another good thing here is it won’t leave you smelling like a forest fire. Yet, this might be a downside for people who like campfires, as Yosemite Lakes don’t allow them.

Stanislaus National Forest

Another option that you might want to look into is the Stanislaus National Forest. It’s not the option for you if you don’t like minimal amenities. Stanislaus only has porta-potty toilets with no showers. It also doesn’t have a potable water source, so it’s best to bring your own.

Where Can I Camp for Free in Yosemite?

Now, aside from the easily filled-up reservations, camping in Yosemite also comes with a fee. If you don’t have the budget yet, there are other free options that you can go to. However, keep in mind that free usually means minimal services, so you have to thoroughly plan your trip.

If you want to know where you can camp for free near Yosemite, here are our recommendations.

Redinger Campground

Located south of Yosemite, the Redinger Campground is a free campsite known for its serene environment. It’s ideal for people who want to camp in tents and is also for those who travel with a van or small RVs. Additionally, this campground is also perfect for people who love stargazing.

Aside from this, the campground is also known for its fishing, so get your poles ready. Just keep in mind to check the guidelines to prepare the required permits if there are any.

Glass Creek Campground

If you’re a fan of traditional camping activities, you should check out Glass Creek Campground. The campground provides you with access to camping essentials, including fire rings and picnic tables. Additionally, the Park also has bear boxes, which you’ll need if you plan to go tent camping.

Not only that, but it’s also RV-friendly, so you can take a big rig on your camping trip! 

Nelder Grove Campground

Another campground near Yosemite that we recommend is Nelder Grove, located south of the Yosemite visitor center. It’s an ideal camping site for people who want to forget the hustle and bustle of the city. However, one downside to Nelder Grove is the need to scout it before your trip. This is especially helpful for those who would be bringing large trailers or motorhomes.

More so, the campground provides basic camping amenities as a porta-potty and multiple camping pull-offs.

Buttermilk Road

If you’re looking to camp where there are majestic views of your surroundings, Buttermilk Road is the place to be. It’s located south of the Yosemite visitor center and is ideal for people driving 4-by-4. Also, Buttermilk Road lets you perform your remote job. Because there’s strong cell connectivity in the area. The only downside of this campground, challenging road that most vehicles might be unable to access.

Despite this, the Buttermilk Road is still a campground worth spending time in, especially if you’re camping for the view.

How Hard Is It to Get a Campsite or Sleep in Your Car in Yosemite?

Like mentioned earlier, Yosemite is a popular tourist destination. Because of this, tons of people flock to the area every year, making reservations challenging. And while the Park offers a lot of campsites, reservations fill up within seconds. Due to this, making a reservation can be intimidating because of the competition. With nearly 2 million visitors yearly, missing out on a Yosemite is always a possibility.

However, these are things you can do if you want to experience camping in Yosemite. Here are some tips that you should follow if you’re planning a trip to Yosemite.

  • Remember the dates.

Probably the most crucial tip to reserving a camping spot in Yosemite is remembering the on-sale dates. Yosemite releases campsite reservations during every 15th date of the month. You can make a reservation at 7 AM Pacific Time (10 AM Eastern Time) during these days.

  • Make a booking online.

Of course, booking a trip online is quicker and more accessible. Not only that, but it also helps you increase your chances of getting a reservation. With this, having a high-speed internet connection and a working computer is essential. If you don’t have these, look for someone who does!

Be ready.

If you’re ready to make the reservation, the important thing is to be prepared for the on-sale date. Synchronize your clock to the Recreation.gov clock so you don’t miss any second of the on-sale time. You can also log in before the sale begins. Aside from these, try doing speed drills, so you get used to the adrenaline.

Don’t give up!

While not getting a spot is saddening, it doesn’t mean that you should give up on your Yosemite camping trip. If you’re having difficulties getting a spot, what you can do is reserve multiple sites, each for different dates. You can also use automated reservation scanners like Campnab, so you get notified when camping sites have openings.

Final Thoughts

Yosemite National Park gives you a camping experience of a lifetime. While sleeping in your car is generally not allowed, it’s best to do some research before your trip. Also, if you’re planning to visit anytime soon, keep these things in mind so your trip can go more smoothly. Additionally, ensure that you plan your trip thoroughly so you don’t struggle with unexpected issues.