Before It's Too Late: Yosemite's Top Camps

Staff Writer
Reserve now, or you'll be out in the cold come prime camping season

When people plan overnights to Yosemite National Park, they don’t imagine sleeping in some roadside motel dozens of miles away. Unfortunately, if you don’t plan ahead and book soon, that's exactly what can happen. The campgrounds in Yosemite Valley fill up quickly in the high season. In 2010, 142,864 people stayed overnight in the park.

If you’d like to fall asleep in your tent to the smell of campfires and wake up to Yosemite’s granite peaks bathed in early-morning light, you’ve got to make reservations now. Seriously. Keep in mind there's a 30-night camping limit in the park during the calendar year. From May 1-September 15, however, there is a 14-night camping limit, and only seven of those nights can be in the valley or Wawona.

A few of the park’s most popular campsites are listed below. They all offer potable water and flushing toilets, however you’ll need to head over to Curry Village or Housekeeping Camp for a shower.

Camp 4
Open: All Year
Reservations: First come, first served
Daily Fee: $5
Sites: 35
Pets Allowed: No
Water: Tap
RVs Allowed: No

Camp 4 is a climber’s paradise, with many boulders in the immediate area. In fact, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the role it played in developing rock climbing as a sport. If you’re not into climbing, however, it’s a good idea to stay elsewhere—or at least prepare for some rowdy nights.

Each campsite has a fire pit, picnic table and four shared lockers.

Lower Pines Campground
Open: March 27-October 28
Reservations: Yes
Daily fee: $20
Sites: 60
Pets Allowed: Yes
Water: Tap
RVs Allowed: Yes

If you have a larger group of people, shoot for campsites Db12, Db13 and Bb11, which can each host from seven to 12 people (it will cost you an extra $10 for the larger group). Several sites at this camp are also wheelchair-accessible.

Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table and food locker.

North Pines Campground
Open: April 3-November 4
Reservations: Yes
Daily Fee: $20
Sites: 81
Pets Allowed: Yes
Water: Tap
RVs Allowed: Yes

Each site has a fire ring, picnic table and food locker, and three of the sites are wheelchair accessible.  Reservations for this site are available up to five months in advance.