Camping in National Parks, especially in Yosemite National Park, is like camping in a bit of paradise with Mother Nature. The stars that watch from above, the trees that whisper stories, the animals that keep us company, all of it brings about a sense of peace and wonder, along with frustration and stress.
What? Yep, our National Parks are quite popular and quite often host more people than they can sleep. This causes a lot of frustration and stress when it comes to camping reservations. If you have any plans to visit Yosemite National Park in the future, we’ve got the secrets you need to know when it comes time to making your Yosemite camping reservations.
About Yosemite National Park
Located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and known for its giant sequoia trees and glacial beauty, Yosemite became a National Park in 1890.
The biological diversity at Yosemite National Park is quite astounding with over 400 vertebrate species and over 1,000 plant species. Combine that with its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and iconic landmarks such as Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, to name just a few. It’s easy to see why Yosemite camping reservations are hard to come by.
Camping in Yosemite National Park
Camping in Yosemite National Park doesn’t have to be a difficult task if you take the time to get to know the campgrounds and the requirements and rules for camping here. Be sure to check out our ultimate list of places for Yosemite National Park camping.
While there are many campgrounds that can accommodate both RVs and tents, not every campground can. Each campground will have different limitations on tents and RV and trailer sizes. Be sure to read the site details prior to making your Yosemite camping reservations.
The maximum total number of days for Yosemite camping is 30 per year. Between May 1 and September 15, the limit for one stay is seven days in Yosemite Valley and 14 days elsewhere. The maximum number of people per Yosemite camping site is six people (including children) and two vehicles.
Reservable Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park
There are several campgrounds in Yosemite National Park that require reservations. For example, from March 15 through November, you need a camping reservation for drive-in campgrounds in Yosemite Valley.
You also need them for a few campgrounds outside of the valley for summer through fall. These campgrounds include Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Wawona, and part of Tuolumne Meadows.
Yosemite Camping Reservations In Yosemite Valley
Pines Campgrounds – Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines
- Location: Yosemite Valley, near Curry Village, at 4,000 ft elevation
- Upper Pines Accommodations: all year, 238 sites space for tents, RVs up to 35 feet, and trailers up to 24 feet
- Lower Pines Accommodations: April – October, 60 sites with space for tents, RVs up to 40 feet, and trailers up to 35 feet
- North Pines Accommodations: March – October, 81 sites with space for tents, RVs up to 40 feet, and trailers up to 35 feet
- Price: $26/night
- Location: Yosemite Valley, near Yosemite Valley Lodge, at 4,000 ft elevation
- Accommodations: open all year, 36 shared walk-in sites for tents only (sleeping in vehicles is not allowed). Late May through early September campsites are available only by daily lottery, one day in advance, via recreation.gov beginning May 22 and lasting through September 15. The lottery is open from midnight to 4 pm Pacific time each day, with results notifications soon thereafter.
- Price: There is a non-refundable lottery fee of $10 per application (up to 12 people). The camping fee (only charged with a successful lottery application) is $6 per person per night.
Yosemite Camping Reservations South of Yosemite Valley
- Location: On the Wawona Road, one mile north of Wawona, at 4,000 ft elevation
- Accommodations: Loop A all year, Loops B and C April – September, 93 sites with space for RVs and trailers up to 35 feet
- Price: $26/night
Yosemite Camping Reservations North of Yosemite Valley
- Location: Off the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120). About 45 minutes northwest of Yosemite Valley and adjacent to the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, at 4,900 ft
- Accommodations: all year, tent or RV sites: 105 sites with space for RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 27 feet
- Price: $26/night
- Location: On the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) just west of Crane Flat. About 30 minutes northwest of Yosemite Valley, at 6,200 ft elevation
- Accommodations: July-mid October, 166 sites with space for tents, RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 27 feet
- Price: $26/night
- Location: On the Tioga Road at Tuolumne Meadows, about 1.5 hours northeast of Yosemite Valley, at 8,600 feet elevation
- Accommodations: July- late September, 304 sites with space for tents, RVs and trailers up to 35 feet
- Price: $26/night
Camping In The Valley Vs Camping North or South of the Valley
Anywhere you choose to camp will be the best place to camp because you are camping in Yosemite National Park with all of its rugged beauty.
The main differences between camping in the valley or outside of the valley are few. If you are camping outside of the valley, you will find higher elevations, cooler temperatures, and more solitude north or south of the valley.
Secrets for Making Yosemite Camping Reservations
Plan Ahead by 5 Months
Reservations open on the 15th of the month, 5 months prior to arrival. Here’s an example to help you figure that one out. If you want to camp between July 15 and August 14, count back five months from the beginning of that period (not from the date you want to camp). You can start reserving for any date between July 15 and August 14 on March 15.
When planning ahead, this also means that you need to know what you need from your site and which campgrounds meet those needs.
Electrical, water, and sewer hookups are not available in Yosemite. Dump stations (with freshwater) are available at Upper Pines Campground (all year), near Wawona Campground (summer only), and near Tuolumne Meadows Campground (summer only).
According to the National Park Service, “In Yosemite Valley, the maximum RV length is 40 feet and maximum trailer length is 35 feet, however, only a total of 8 sites of this size are available (six sites in Lower Pines and two in North Pines, which are open spring through fall)”.
Many more sites exist in Yosemite Valley and elsewhere in Yosemite that can take RVs up to 35 feet or trailers up to 24 feet.”
Be Flexible in Your Schedule
It’s easier to get a site during the week than on the weekends, and during the off-season than in the summer, especially in the Valley. So be open to flexible dates and campgrounds, knowing which sites will meet all your needs within each campground.
Remember, if you are lucky enough to score a Yosemite camping reservation, it’s because you took the time to plan ahead of time and you were flexible with your time.
Have More Than 1 Person Making Reservations If Possible
Remember back in the old days when you tried to score the best seats available for the concert of the year? How many friends did you have helping you get those tickets? A lot, right? Well, now it’s time to work just as hard to score the best campsite in Yosemite. Just as in your concert-going days, you need your friends to help you score.
Plus, you can only make two reservations per phone call or online transaction, so if you need more, find a friend to help. This boosts your chance at getting a site and actually scoring some highly sought after Yosemite camping reservations.
Be Ready to Reserve at Exactly 7 am PT the Day the Campsites Open
There’s no dilly-dallying around when it comes time for a chance at Yosemite camping reservations. You have to move fast and be ready if you want to secure your spot.
This means being signed in, having your campsite selected and ready to go before 7 am PT. You can reserve online for your convenience, but don’t forget there’s always the good old fashioned way, too – the telephone.
Use Multiple Tabs to Book Multiple Campsites for the Best Chance at Getting a Site
Now is the time to access all of your computer tricks. Be savvy, be quick, and be smart. Open up all the tabs for all the campgrounds that have the sites you need. Don’t just pick one campground and one site.
Remember, a previous tip was to be flexible. This also means being flexible with the site and campground you want. Having a few choices available, with each of them open on multiple tabs on your computer will increase your chances of that ultimate Yosemite camping reservation. Again, all of this needs to be ready before 7 am PT.
There Are Always First Come First Serve Sites
If all else fails, you can try to first come first served sites. There are about 400 Yosemite camping sites available in the summer on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning there are no reservations needed.
A bonus for trying your luck at these campgrounds? Many of them are priced much cheaper than the reservable sites.
During the off-season, winter, only half of the 500 Yosemite camping sites that are open then require reservations, so your chances of getting a first come first served site are a bit better than because they fill up fast and early from spring through the fall. Here are some tips on getting a first come first served camping site at Yosemite.
Get There Early
Arriving by noon on weekdays and mid-morning on weekends from spring through fall, could get you access to a site, but better yet, you might want to arrive by 9:00 or earlier, an hour before checkout time.
Know the Tips and Tricks of Each Campground
A few campgrounds, such as Camp 4 and Tuolumne Meadows, have their own special quirks for getting a first come first served site. Both of these campgrounds are staffed.
Camp 4 is staffed from spring to fall and Tuolumne Meadows is staffed its entire season of July through September. Because of this, you need to follow registration instructions specific to each site. For this and any other information on campgrounds and camping reservations, be sure to visit the National Park service’s website.
First Come First Served Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park
- Camp 4: no RVs/trailers; from late May through early September, space at Camp 4 is available only by online daily lottery one day in advance.
- Bridalveil Creek: RVs up to 35 feet/trailers up to 24 feet
- Tamarack Flat: not recommended for RVs/trailers
- White Wolf: RVs up to 27 feet/trailers up to 24 feet
- Yosemite Creek: not recommended for RVs/trailers
- Porcupine Flat: not recommended for RVs/trailers
- Tuolumne Meadows: RVs and trailers up to 35 feet; 50% of sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis
- Wawona: RVs and trailers up to 35 feet; October through March Loop A
- Hodgdon Meadow: tent and RV sites, RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 27 feet; mid-October – mid-April
Yosemite Camping Reservations: The Best Score
There hasn’t been this much excitement with trying to score the best seats in the house since you were a teenager trying to get front row seats to Motley Crue.
The key to the best score now with Yosemite camping reservations is the same as back then: be patient, be flexible, know what you want, use your friends, and have several options available. With all these tips, tricks, and tools of the trade, you’ll be sure to make the best score with your Yosemite camping reservations.