There are numerous camping opportunities both within and surrounding Yosemite National Park. Brief descriptions of individual campgrounds follow.
Note: When camping in this area, proper food storage (bear-proof canisters or lockers) is required for the sake of the black bears in the parks, as well as for your safety. See local bulletin boards for instructions.
Inside the Park
First, the bad news: Yosemite Valley lost half of its roughly 800 campsites during a flood in early 1997. The lost campsites will eventually be replaced somewhere outside of the Merced's flood plain, but no one knows exactly when or where this will happen. Therefore, campsite reservations are a really good idea. Reservations are accepted beginning on the 15th of each month and can be made up to 5 months in advance; make your reservations (tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov) as soon as possible, especially for sites in the valley. Unless noted otherwise, pets are accepted in all of the following campgrounds. Additional campground information is available by touch-tone phone at tel. 209/372-0200.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in the park, whether you decide to use an established campsite or pick out your own camping area. No wilderness camping is allowed in the valley.
The busiest campgrounds in the park are in Yosemite Valley. All four of the following campgrounds are in the valley and have flush toilets and access to the showers nearby at Camp Curry. Upper Pines Campground is pretty and shady, but you won't find peace and quiet here in the summer. Parking is available, or you can take the shuttle bus to stop no. 15 or 19. Lower Pines Campground is wide open, with lots of shade but limited privacy. Still, it's a nice place with clean bathrooms, and it's bordered on the north by a picturesque meadow. Parking is available, or take the shuttle bus to stop no. 19. North Pines Campground is beautifully situated beneath a grove of pine trees that offers lots of shade but little privacy. The campground is near the river, roughly a mile from Mirror Lake. Parking is available, or take the shuttle bus to stop no. 18. Reservations are required for Upper, Lower, and North Pines campgrounds. Camp 4 (also called Sunnyside Walk-In) has tent sites only. It's a small campground that's become a magnet for hikers and climbers taking off on or returning from trips. It's situated behind Yosemite Lodge, near the trail head for Yosemite Falls, and close to rocks frequently used by novice rock climbers. Pets are not permitted. Parking is available about 150 feet away, or take the shuttle bus to stop no. 7.
Elsewhere in the park, Bridalveil Creek Campground, at Glacier Point, is set along Bridalveil Creek, which flows to Bridalveil Fall -- a beauty of a waterfall, especially after a snowy winter or wet spring. Located near stunning Glacier Point, and featuring flush toilets, this campground is away from the valley crowds but still within a moderate drive to the valley sights. The campground can accommodate some pack animals; call for information. Take CA 41 (from either direction) to Glacier Point Road. The campground is about 8 miles down the road.
Several campgrounds are located in the vicinity of the Big Oak Flat Entrance, roughly 20 to 25 miles from Yosemite Valley. Hodgdon Meadow Campground, which has RV and tent sites, including some walk-in sites, requires reservations May through September but is first come, first served the rest of the year. It has flush toilets and is located about 1 mile inside the entrance along North Crane Creek and near the Tuolumne River's South Fork. The Big Trees are 3 miles southeast. Crane Flat Campground, a large, pleasant campground with flush toilets, is located on Big Oak Flat Road near the Tioga Road turnoff. Tamarack Flat Campground is a bit off the beaten path and, therefore, more secluded than most, which means fewer folks rest their heads here. Equidistant from Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows, it has pit toilets, does not allow pets, and is not suitable for large RVs or trailers. Take Tioga Road east from Big Oak Flat Road about 3 miles and turn right onto the access road. The campground is another 3 miles down the road.
Options in the White Wolf area include Porcupine Flat Campground, which offers lots of shade, shrubs, and trees, although facilities are pretty much limited to pit toilets. You have a chance of finding a spot here if you're in a pinch. Pets are not permitted. It's located near Yosemite Creek along Tioga Road, 16 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows and 38 miles east of Yosemite Valley. White Wolf Campground, secluded in a forest, is a generally delightful campground where you might want to spend several days. It has flush toilets and offers easy access to nearby hiking, with trails that lead to several lakes, including Grant Lake and Lukens Lake. On the down side, mosquitoes make their presence felt here in summer. From Big Oak Flat Road, turn east onto Tioga Road, drive 15 miles to White Wolf Road, and turn left. The road dead-ends at the campground.
Among Yosemite's other camping opportunities is Tuolumne Meadows Campground, the biggest in the park and, amazingly, often the least crowded. Its location in the high country makes it a good spot from which to head off with a backpack. The site is also near the Tuolumne River, making it a smart choice for anglers. In addition to standard RV/tent sites, the campground has 25 walk-in spaces for backpackers and eight group sites; half of the sites require reservations. There are flush toilets, and showers are available (for a fee) at nearby Tuolumne Lodge. From Big Oak Flat Road, head east on Tioga Road for about 45 miles to Tuolumne Meadows.
Wawona Campground, which requires reservations May through September (but is open year-round), has flush toilets and can accommodate pack animals; call for information. There's not much seclusion here, but the location, shaded beneath towering trees, is beautiful. The campground is near the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and is also close to the Merced River, which offers some of the better fishing in the park. The campground is about 1 mile north of Wawona. Yosemite Creek Campground, in a pretty setting along Yosemite Creek, has pit toilets and little else in terms of facilities, but sometimes has sites available when the park's other campgrounds are full. From Big Oak Flat Road, head east on Tioga Road for about 30 miles and turn right on the access road. The campground is 5 miles down the road.
Outside the Park
Yosemite is surrounded by national forests that offer campgrounds comparable to the ones in the park, although often less developed and less crowded. There are also private campgrounds, which usually provide level sites, complete RV hookups, hot showers, coin-operated laundries, convenience stores, and other amenities.
West Along California 120 -- The following campgrounds, located along CA 120 west of the park, are all in the Stanislaus National Forest's Groveland Ranger District, 24545 CA 120, Groveland, CA 95321 (tel. 209/962-7825; www.fs.usda.gov/stanislaus/groveland). They all have vault toilets and can accommodate rigs up to 22 feet long.
Lumsden Campground is located along the Tuolumne River, on a scenic stretch between the Hetch Hetchy and Don Pedro reservoirs. The campground offers fishing in a primitive setting but can get unbelievably hot in the summer. From Groveland, take CA 120 about 9 miles east to Ferretti Road, turn left and drive about 1 mile to Lumsden Road, turn right at Lumsden Road, and travel about 5 miles on a steep, narrow dirt road to the campground. Lumsden Bridge Campground is about 1 1/2 miles past Lumsden Campground (on Lumsden Rd.). Set in a pine and oak forest along the Tuolumne River, it is a favorite of rafters because the location is close to some of the Tuolumne River's best (and most scenic) stretches of white water. South Fork Campground, also located along Lumsden Road near Lumsden and Lumsden Bridge campgrounds, is a pretty spot just off the Tuolumne River. It is recommended that trailers or vehicles with low ground clearance not be taken to any of the above three campgrounds.
The Pines Campground is located about 9 miles east of Groveland via CA 120, and although it's in a mixed conifer forest, it can get hot in the summer. Drinking water is available only in the summer. Lost Claim Campground, about 12 miles east of Groveland via CA 120, offers easy access on a paved road. There are some trees and the river is nearby. Drinking water is supplied by a hand pump. Trailers are not recommended. Sweetwater Campground, located 15 miles east of Groveland on CA 120, is a pretty option in a mixed conifer forest with shady sites, but it also gets hot in summer.
Along California 140 -- Jerseydale Campground, situated in the Sierra National Forest, 1600 Tollhouse Rd., Clovis, CA 93611-0532 (tel. 559/297-0706; www.fs.fed.us/r5/sierra), provides refuge from the crowds and makes a great base for exploring the area. There are vault toilets and hiking trails, and you can get to the Merced River via a nearby trail head. From Mariposa, drive about 12 miles northwest on CA 49 to Jerseydale Road, which leads to the campground and adjacent Jerseydale Ranger Station.
For those who want all the amenities of a top-notch commercial campground, a good choice is the Yosemite-Mariposa KOA, 6323 CA 140, Midpines, CA 95345 (tel. 800/562-9391 for reservations, or 209/966-2201; www.koa.com). Located 7 miles northeast of Mariposa and 23 miles from the park entrance, this camp has pines and oaks that shade many of the sites, a catch-and-release fishing pond, pedal boats (in the summer), a swimming pool, and a playground. There's also a convenience store and propane for sale. A kids' favorite is the train caboose containing video games. There are also a dozen camping cabins (you share the bathhouse with campers), with rates from $68 to $155.
Along California 41 -- Two Sierra National Forest campgrounds offer pleasant camping, with vault toilets, in a woodsy atmosphere along CA 41, southwest of Yosemite. Summerdale Campground is about a mile north of Fish Camp via CA 41, on the South Fork of the Merced River, and is often full by noon on Fridays; reservations are available through www.recreation.gov. Summit Campground, in the Chowchilla Mountains, about 5 miles west of Fish Camp via a Forest Service road, is a little campground that's often overlooked.
East Along California 120 -- The Inyo National Forest operates a number of small, attractive campgrounds along CA 120 east of the national park. These include Big Bend Campground, 7 miles west of Lee Vining via CA 120. Located on the eastern Sierra along Lee Vining Creek, this campground is sparse but breathtaking. It has flush toilets. Ellery Lake Campground, which also has flush toilets, is at scenic Ellery Lake, about 9 miles west of Lee Vining via CA 120. Junction Campground is near Ellery and Tioga lakes, with easy access to the Tioga Tarns Nature Trail. It has vault toilets and is 10 miles west of Lee Vining along CA 120.
At 10,000 feet, Saddlebag Lake Campground is the highest-elevation drive-to campground in the state. It's situated along Saddlebag Lake and near Lee Vining Creek. The campground is a beautiful place that's worth staying at and exploring for a while. It's also a great base for those who want to head out into the wilderness with a backpack. Flush toilets are available. From Lee Vining, drive 10 miles west on CA 120; then turn north on Saddlebag Lake Road and go about 2 miles to the campground. Tioga Lake Campground, another high-elevation campground, is a pretty place to camp and has flush toilets. From Lee Vining, drive 10 miles west on CA 120.
Information on these U.S. Forest Service campgrounds is available from the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, located on the west shore of Mono Lake (P.O. Box 429, Lee Vining, CA 93541; tel. 760/647-3044), and the Inyo National Forest, 351 Pacu Lane, Ste. 200, Bishop, CA 93514 (tel. 760/873-2400; www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.