Yosemite National Park is one of the United States’ most prized outdoor attractions, with hundreds of tourists visiting each year. Home to stunning wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, camping within the park can allow you to be closer to nature.
While there are a variety of options to choose from, each one spectacular, some campgrounds are truly awe-inspiring. Here are eleven of the best campgrounds at Yosemite National Park.
Bringing you the ultimate outdoor experience nearly any time of the year.
The top 11 campgrounds at Yosemite are Thr Lower Pines Campgrounds, North Pines Campgrounds, Upper Pines Campgrounds, Camp 4, Curry Village Campgrounds, Tuolumne Meadows Campground, Bridalveil Creek Campgrounds, Wawona Campgrounds, Porcupine Flat, Whitewolf Campgrounds, and Yosemite Creek Campgrounds.
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Lower Pines Campgrounds
Lower Pines definitely claims the number one spot. It isn’t a large campground. With only sixty sites it is the smallest of the three Curry Village campgrounds. But it is far enough away from the resort that its atmosphere is secluded and pleasant.
Located on the banks of the Merced River and containing ample amounts of deciduous trees and pines, this campground is a natural oasis. Choose from either open and airy center campsites or more private campsites around the perimeter. There is plenty to explore nearby, and back at your site, you can’t beat the magical views of Half-Dome.
As this is one of the most popular campgrounds in the park, reservations must be made far in advance. It is open April – October but is occasionally closed in the spring due to flooding.
North Pines Campgrounds
Another one of the “pines” campgrounds, North Pines is a bit more woodsy. As the name suggests it has copious amounts of towering pine trees, in addition to rocky granite mountain faces and the nearby river.
It has 81 campsites, each within walking distance to some awesome hiking trails. Some campsites are more private than others, with those located away from the river being tightly packed.
This is another extremely popular campground. Open only from March/April through October, spots fill up quickly and are reserved far in advance.
Upper Pines Campgrounds
Rounding out the campgrounds in the Yosemite Valley is Upper Pines. This is the largest of the three with 238 campsites and is the second largest in Yosemite National Park. Thankfully, due to their ingenious loop design, you won’t feel like you are in a massive tourist campground.
Instead, you can get to know your neighbors in the open and airy campsites. Shaded by groups of pine trees and cedar trees. There are some hiking trailheads a short distance away, as well as spotty views of the nearby canyon rock faces.
Open year-round, you may have more luck reserving a spot. Sites are usually able to be reserved up to five months in advance.
If you are looking to do more than hiking, you may want to consider Camp 4. A rock-climbers dream, this campground was frequented by iconic rock climbers throughout the 1960s and 70s and still retains much of this climbing culture vibe.
Not only is it central to many popular climbing routes, including El Capitan, but it is also near Yosemite Falls. Dotted with massive pines, all the campsites are walk-in only. There are 35 tent sites in total.
This campground isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The sites are shared between six people. During the climbing season (mid-May to mid-September) you will have to win your right to camp via lottery, raffled off only a day or two prior to your desired night of stay. In the offseason, it is handled on a first come first serve basis, at times generating a long line queuing for registration.
Though it is unbeatable for climbers, keep in mind groups may be separated, pets aren’t allowed, and neither are cars, RVs, or trailers.
Curry Village Campgrounds
Searching for a more laid back experience? Rent a tent or a cabin at the Curry Village campground. 319 canvas tent cabins are located a short walk from showers and restrooms and surrounded by some breathtaking views. Each one does not have electricity or running water, but a few do provide propane heating for the colder months.
Rustic cabins, 70 to be exact, are another option. With their heat and electricity, they are a bit more upscale. 56 of these have running water and bathrooms. They also have daily housekeeping. Ideal for those who want to experience “glamping” in Yosemite National Park.
Tuolumne Meadows Campgrounds
The largest campground in Yosemite National Park, on the East Side of Tioga Pass, there are 304 tent and RV sites in Tuolumne Meadows. Not to mention, it is chock full of amenities, including a store, restaurant, post office, and mountaineering school. At 8,600 feet, it is an excellent place to set up base camp.
Nearby attractions include Elizabeth Lake, Lyell Canyon, the John Muir trailhead, and many other domes, rivers, peaks, and lakes.
It is closed throughout the winter when the Tioga Road is closed, and open around July through September. Reservation varies with some able to be reserved up to five months in advance and others operating on first-come, first-served. Keep in mind, due to its high elevations it can get pretty chilly at night, even in the summer!
Bridalveil Creek Campground
One of the 110 campsites at Bridalveil Creek is an ideal spot for you if you want jaw-dropping views and easy access to numerous hiking trails. Glacier Point Road leads to the iconic Glacier Point lookout, one of the most scenic spots in Yosemite National Park. From this vantage point, you can see Yosemite Falls, Half-Dome, and much of the high country.
Bridalveil Creek is the only campground located on Glacier Point Road. It not only providers campers with a straight shot to the lookout, but also easy access to numerous hiking trails like Sentinel Dome to Taft Point Loop and Panorama Trails.
You can stay at one of these tent or RV campsites July through September. Some campsites are first come first served while others allow reservations.
Though it is about an hour’s drive from the Yosemite Valley, Wawona Campground still has plenty to offer. It is about as near as you can camp to Mariposa Grove, where the stalwart Grizzly Giant sequoia tree lives. Aside from this, its location provides the perfect secluded getaway.
It resides on the South Fork Merced river and has campsites scattered throughout looming pine trees. Peaceful and spacious, loops B and C of the campground offer great privacy. Loop A is still nice, if more open. Loop A is available year-round while B and C are open spring through fall. 93 sites in total, accommodating tents, RVs or trailers can be reserved in advance.
Porcupine Flat Campgrounds
If seclusion is a must for your camping experience, check out Porcupine Flat. This campground has 52 sites, primarily for tents as trailers and RVs are not recommended. This campground is pretty remote and conveniences are little to none, as in you will have to bring in your own water or the tools to boil your water.
However, privacy and peace and quiet are second to none. The campground is nestled on a quiet part of Porcupine Creek. It is just over an hour from Yosemite Valley but very near to Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, and Olmsted Point; plus tons of hiking trails.
Open July through October, all campsites are first-come, first-served.
Whitewolf offers 148 campsites in a circular pattern surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains. The Seasonal Creek is another welcome feature of this peaceful campground. You can also enjoy the nearby Harden Lake or Lukens Lake. Being directly off the road this campground is easy to access.
At nearly 8000 feet elevation, you will be able to witness some truly amazing views. Keep in mind though those nighttime temperatures can get downright cold. Open to tents, trailers, and RVs in July through early September, you will have to show up and take your chances as all sites are first-come, first-served.
Yosemite Creek Campground
If you are willing to make the journey, you can visit quiet, peaceful, and secluded Yosemite Creek. Tents can be set up all along the campground’s namesake, Yosemite Creek. Campers can easily cool off in the creek, visit a swimming hole, or just escape the crowds.
You can wander through the trees or even climb some nearby rocks. It is less dusty than the other rustic campgrounds and often less busy. However, you must be up to navigating the sometimes treacherous road in order to get there.
All 75 sites are recommended only for tent camping and are first come first served. Though the campground is open July through September, if a tree falls across the road or there is flooding, this campground is prone to closing. Also, plan to boil all your water and to bathe in the creek.
A World of Opportunities
Yosemite National Park is like its own little world, an escape into nature and away from the daily grind. Any of the campgrounds located within the park have something to offer. Be it stunning views, amazing hikes, or even a bear sighting. There isn’t a bad spot within Yosemite, as John Muir put it “Nearly all the park is a profound solitude”.