Which Campground in Yosemite Is the Best

Yosemite National Park is famous among tourists and locals for many reasons. It provides a good view of waterfalls and giant sequoia trees and is renowned for the Grizzly Giant. Because of this, every campground in Yosemite is a favorite. As it provides goers with a different camping experience. There are 13 campgrounds and a total of 1,445 campsites in the park.

The good thing is, you can reserve a stay in 1,000 of the campsites in advance. The rest are first-come, first-served. The park also has backcountry campgrounds and High Sierra Camps. So, they require a wilderness permit. They offer a Housekeeping Camp. So you have a Yosemite experience without a tent setup.

Now, you might be asking which campground in Yosemite is the best. The short answer is it depends. You have various campsite choices. Otherwise, it all boils down to your preferences. If you want to know which campground in Yosemite is best for you, keep reading.

Which Pines Campground Is Best in Yosemite?

There are several Pines Campgrounds in Yosemite. But arguably the best in the Upper Pines campground. Continue reading if you want to know why.

Upper Pines

The Upper Pines is situated near the Yosemite Valley’s Merced River. The Yosemite Valley is the park’s central location, where tourists can view some of Yosemite’s most famous sceneries. This campground is accessible from all park roads. You can reach it wherever you’re coming from. It’s also elevated at 4,000 feet.

Another good thing about the Upper Pines is it’s near many services and trailheads in the Valley. The campground is also near food and grocery stores. Not only that, but it’s also included in the free shuttle’s route. The Upper Pines has 240 campsites and is the most popular one in Yosemite.

Aside from these, there are also lots of activities you can do near the campground. Besides camping, you can go biking, fishing, hiking, and climbing. There’s a horseback riding site near the campground, too! Swimming is also an option in the Upper Pines, while snow sports are the favorite during Winter.

Now, if we’re talking camping essentials, you don’t have to worry. The campground is pet-friendly and allows campfires. So you get the best camping experience. Besides, the Upper Pines campground has various camping essentials and amenities, including:

  • Fire ring
  • Food-locker
  • Picnic table
  • Potable water
  • Toilet

Another good thing about the Upper Pines is that it operates all year round and has spaces for RVs. What you need to remember about the Upper Pines is that it gets full and quickly. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have a neighbor nestled next to you, giving you little to no privacy.

Where Should I Stay in an RV in Yosemite?

Visiting Yosemite with an RV is one way to enjoy its vast environment. Additionally, the park allows RVs and trailers in most of its campgrounds. The downside to this is from March through October, campers in RVs need to plan ahead. Especially with reservations. Also, keep in mind that sleeping overnight in your RV is not allowed outside campgrounds.

Now, where should you stay if you have an RV? A quick answer for this: It depends. Below are things to know and follow when you consider staying in an RV.

Check your RV’s length.

Most campgrounds in Yosemite accommodate RVs, yet rules differ when it comes to length. Here are the campgrounds and the list of RV length requirements in Yosemite:

  • North Pines and Lower Pines: up to 40 feet in length, but with only six sites available for maximum length
  • Upper Pines: up to 35 feet in length
  • Wawona and Bridalveil Creek: up to 35 feet in length
  • Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, and Tuolumne Meadows: up to 35 feet in length
  • White Wolf Campground: up to 27 feet in length

Check for facilities.

You can’t find hookups everywhere in the park. But all campgrounds provide water spigots and flush toilets. There are also only three dump stations: One in Upper Pines. The rest are near the Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds. The station at Upper Pines can be accessed all year round, while the rest are open in the summer. Generators are also limited and are only allowed for use at the following times:

  • 7 am to 9 am
  • 12 pm to 2 pm
  • 5 pm to 7 pm

Make a reservation.

As mentioned, camping in Yosemite is a popular activity, so reservations are a must. You can make your reservation five months in advance through the Recreation.gov website. And you can create one at a time for the Pines campgrounds. Then Wawona, Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds.

Best Yosemite Campgrounds for Families

Going to the Yosemite National Park with your family is another way to enjoy the beauty of the park. But, you might get overwhelmed because of the campground choices you have if you’re going with your kids.

The key here is to stay where you have easy access to Yosemite’s leading site, so you don’t have to drive, park, or take a shuttle. This means that you should camp in Yosemite Valley. This way, you’re free and flexible when it comes to experiencing the best of each campground in Yosemite with your family.

Now, if you’re bringing your kids, the most family-friendly campgrounds are in North Pines, Upper Pines, and Lower Pines. From these campgrounds, you can bike or walk to Yosemite Fall Valley Visitors Center and Mirror Lake. For older kids, you can also go to Bridalveil Falls. 

More so, Camp 4 gives you better access to the Yosemite Falls and the Visitors Center. However, keep in mind that Camp 4 doesn’t allow reservations, and it’s located along the main road.

Upper Pines is the largest campground in the Yosemite Valley. Thus, it’s likely to have many open slots, so it’s worth checking Upper Pines first. Also, keep in mind that North Pines and Lower Pines close down in the spring because of flooding.

With this, ensure that you get a reservation once you’ve finalized your trip. This way, you can ensure that the slots aren’t sold out and that you can access the campground.

Where Can I Camp for Free in Yosemite?

While camping in Yosemite is a majestic experience, it can be expensive and complicated. Fortunately, some alternatives are accessible and easier to manage. Here are some free campsites near Yosemite that you can visit if you don’t have the budget yet.

1. Lumsden Campground in Yosemite

Lumsden Campground is located next to the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River and is surrounded by pine and oak forests. It’s a drive-in campground with low elevation. Open all year round on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Lumsden Campground in Yosemite has a picnic table, campfire pit, and a grill. They also offer vault toilets for campers. But, the campground doesn’t have drinking water, so it’s best to bring your own.

2. Cherry Valley Campground in Yosemite

Near the largest lake in Stanislaus National Forest, have another campground to explore. The Cherry Valley Campground offers many campground activities, and it’s open all year round. You can try hiking, fishing, and swimming facilities for campers. The campground also allows camping around the lake. But you should be at least 100 feet from the high watermark.

If you’re planning to light a campfire, the Cherry Valley isn’t a good option, as campfires require a permit. It’s also a “Pack it in, pack it out” campground.

3. Jerseydale Campground in Yosemite

The Jerseydale Campground is a lightly used campground that’s situated amid cedar and pine trees. It’s near the Yosemite National Park with ten vast campsites, which accommodate RVs and trailers. The campground also has various amenities, including fire rings, picnic tables, and potable water.

Also, it’s famous because it’s horse-friendly and has horse hitching posts. Definitely an equestrian-friendly hiking campground. Besides these, the campsites are elevated in good spots. But, the good sites for tents aren’t everywhere. There are trees for hammock camping that are widely available.

4. Glass Creek Campground in Yosemite

Another campground near Yosemite is the Glass Creek Campground. Located near Mammoth Lakes, this campground boasts 66 campsites that are free and spacious. While RV hookups aren’t available, its grounds can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 45 feet in length. 

The campground has several camping essentials like fire rings, picnic tables, bear boxes, and vault and pit toilets. You can also get a fantastic view of the Owens River and the Obsidian Dome through the campground. The downside to Glass Creek is its very dynamic nature, so it’s not for you if you’re camping for solitude.

Final Thoughts

Camping in and near Yosemite has become a tradition for most families in the United States. Not only does it give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It also allows you to spend time with your family. With this, booking a trip to a campground in Yosemite can be the best trip you’ll experience. Just remember to come prepared and look for the best campground for you.