It’s every outdoor person’s dream to set up camp at the Yosemite National Park. For some families, camping here is a tradition, a yearly event that requires early planning. Part of preparing for your trip is to know how far in advance you can book Yosemite camping. You need to note regulations, especially camping ground reservation rules, that apply to all campgrounds.
You should make a reservation at least five months in advance before your preferred date.
Yosemite is vast, with 13 camping grounds, each one with amazing views, features, and directives. Seven of the campgrounds in Yosemite National Park require visitors to make a reservation. The rest of the campgrounds are on a first-come, first-serve basis, but these are usually full before noon.
But that’s not all. There are certain reservation rules that all visitors must follow. To get the best chance of securing a camping schedule, you must follow these reservation rules—especially the time and the dates you need to contact the park office. Read on for the latest reservation regulations here.
How Soon Can You Book Camping at the Yosemite National Park?
Reservations have to be made at least five months before the date that you plan to go camping. This rule applies to seven of the 13 popular camping sites in Yosemite National Park. The rest are on a first-come and first-serve basis. Starting May 21, you also need a reservation to drive into the Yosemite National Park area.
Areas where reservation is a requirement:
- Upper Pines Campground is open but is only at a reduced capacity, and you must make a reservation beforehand.
- Lower Pines Campground accepts visitors until October 25, 2021, but only at a reduced capacity. You also need a reservation to camp here.
- North Pines Campground is open up to November 1, 2021, but only at a reduced capacity. You must make a reservation if you wish to camp here.
- Camp 4 is still unknown when it will start accepting visitors. You need to make a reservation, and you must be available a day in advance via lottery. Camp 4 was once a shared camping ground, but each site will be provided for a group with up to 6 members.
- Bridalveil Creek Campground is open but in a reduced capacity. You must reserve a slot to use this campsite.
- Wawona Campground will start accepting visitors on June 15, 2021, but at a reduced capacity. The site only allows RVs with trailers as there are no toilets on this campsite. Be sure to reserve early.
- Tuolumne Meadows Campground will open its gates on July 15, 2021, at a reduced capacity. You need a reservation to camp here.
Take note that showers are not available in various campsites at the Yosemite National Park this year. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, park regulations change even without prior notice. Therefore, it’s best to get to know these new regulations before going.
What Are The Reservation Rules For Different Camping Grounds at Yosemite?
Car campgrounds at Yosemite Valley are the most common areas where visitors camp out. But due to new regulations, reservations are needed from summer through the fall season. Campsites at Hodgdon Meadow, Wawona, Crane Flat, and half of the Tuolumne Meadows also follow this rule.
Reservations are open in blocks of a month at a time, and you need to reserve up to 5 months. Also, reservations are entertained every 15th of every month at 7 AM PST. If you want to make a reservation, do so early as most of the reservations for May through September are filled up once these become available.
Consider this table to guide you on your reservation dates:
|Planned Camping Date||When to Make a Reservation (7 AM PST)|
|January 15 to February 14||September 15|
|February 15 to March 14||October 15|
|March 15 to April 14||November 15|
|April 15 to May 14||December 15|
|May 15 to June 14||January 15|
|June 15 to July 14||February 15|
|July 15 to August 14||March 15|
|August 15 to September 14||April 15|
|September 15 to October 14||May 15|
|October 15 to November 14||June 15|
|November 15 to December 14||July 15|
|December 15 to January 14||August 15|
The National Park Service recommends the following tips to improve your reservation chances:
- Start the reservation process by going to the recreation.gov site.
- Complete the initial reservation process before 7 AM PST.
- Set your clock accurately days before the reservation date.
- Read FAQs about the Yosemite National Park camping reservations online.
- If you want to reserve a spot at Camp 4, you must join the daily lottery at least a day in advance.
How to Make a Reservation at Yosemite Campgrounds?
There are two ways to make a reservation at the Yosemite National Park camping grounds:
- Through the website www.recreation.gov.
The above link is a recommended option. You don’t just use this site for making reservations, but also to learn more about different amazing campsites in the country. You may also get tips and important details about any activity in each park. The site provides information about passes, entrance fees, camping, and day-use rules, activities, and driving directions.
- Call the park office.
Operators are standing by to receive reservations through 877/444-6777, 877/833-6777 (TDD), or 518/885-3639 if you’re located outside the US or from Canada.
You are allowed to make only two reservations for every website visit or every call. If you need to make additional reservations, you may call or start again. Most of the time, reservations are full the minute they open. If this happens, you may try campgrounds with a first-come, first-serve regulation. However, this process is not available this year (2021) because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Always check for any cancellations by calling. It is one of the most common ways visitors can secure a camping slot. Cancellations happen frequently. If you’re persistent and patient in checking, you may surprisingly find a slot after a cancellation.
If you get a message from www.recreation.gov saying that the “reservations are not yet released,” this means that there are currently no more reservations until seven days in advance.
Search nightly and check every camping ground. Start from spring to fall, from campsites like Upper Pines, North Pines, Lower Pines, Hodgdon Meadow, and Wawona. The most common times people cancel are during June or July.
Aside from the mentioned campsites, there are other camping grounds outside the Yosemite National Park at www.recreation.gov. Usually, these areas are not too far away and have awesome views and landscapes as well.
What Are Good Tips When Camping at Yosemite?
Yosemite visitors need to follow certain rules, especially when they want to camp in for the night. Here are important things to consider:
- You can sleep inside your vehicle (car or RV) only when you’re at a campsite. Do not park your vehicle in a parking space or at the roadside and sleep.
- You can find lodging at the Yosemite Hospitality. Book at the Yosemite Hospitality website months before as much as possible. If the site is fully booked, check it every morning in case there are cancellations.
- Other private room options are also available near and around Yosemite. Try Foresta and Wawona or Yosemite West, or you can check Highways 41, 150, 120 west, or 120 east for other accommodations.
- You must secure a wilderness permit if you want to go on a backpacking activity at the Yosemite National Park. Almost 95 percent of the park is wilderness, and registering as a backpacker helps make it easier to locate you in case of any emergency.
- If you plan to go hiking, backpacking, or rock climbing during your visit, check if the trails are open or closed. Some trails are changed even without prior notice. Hikers are also advised to observe proper distancing when doing the activity.
Give others room while on a parking lot or trail. Provide at least 6 feet distance, and make sure to wear a cloth mask or cover on your mouth and nose.
- Eating in camping is allowed as well as in many areas in the park. There are picnic areas for daytime visitors where there are benches and tables where you can prepare and eat food. In some areas, open hearths are available so you can cook your food as well.
- Beware of animals that are attracted to the smell of food. It would help if you never approached or fed these animals. Bears are also common, and these animals can be persistent. Be aware of how to repel bears and how to protect your food and supplies from these animals.
- There are different park passes for visitors. Each pass has corresponding rules and fees, so be sure to check the details.
- If you’re reserved a slot in a camping ground for day use, you cannot remain in the area until night time.
Yosemite National Park offers the best camping experience from May onwards. But if you prefer another month or season to camp out, be sure to check campsite availability and book your slots early. And if you’re unsure about making a reservation, call their park office or check their website.