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Yosemite Camping Visitors Guide: 13 Campgrounds, 5 Hikes, Attractions

Planning a camping trip to Yosemite National Park? In this huge guide, you’ll learn about Yosemite camping, attractions, campgrounds, hiking, when to visit, weather, and much more. Plus, lots of photos and videos.

Yosemite camping

Table of Contents

Yosemite Camping (Visitors Guide)

Guide to 13 Yosemite Campgrounds

Yosemite is a great place to visit, especially for campers. You have the choice between staying the night in an onsite campground or one close to the entrance of the park.

When you camp in Yosemite, you can save yourself the hassle of paying the entrance fee each time you want to visit and stay close to El Capitan and other top sites. If you like the idea of coming and going whenever you want, you might prefer an off-site campground.

Most of the campgrounds in and near the park offer amenities for tent and RV campers.

Map of Yosemite National Park

Okay, let’s get started with the best campgrounds in Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park Camping

7 Campgrounds Inside Yosemite National Park

Upper Pines Campground

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 238
  • Elevation: 4,000 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, online
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: Tap water, dump station, restrooms, flush toilets
  • Services: Some accessible bathrooms, fire rings, picnic tables, food lockers, accessible sites, some accessible/extended picnic tables
  • Accessible sites: Yes, 10
  • Distance from Groveland: 50 miles
  • More info: Upper Pines Campground

Yosemite National Park groups together the Upper Pines Campground with the Lower Pines and North Pines Campgrounds. The Upper Pines Campground is one of the best in the park.

It is open all year and has more than 230 sites available, including sites for RVs and trailers of up to 35 and 24 feet in length.

You can burn wood fires between the hours of 5 pm and 10 pm during the season that stretches from May to September and during other hours the rest of the year.

The campground has no restrictions on charcoal fires and welcomes visitors who bring their dogs. Each site can accommodate up to six guests.

Camp 4

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 36
  • Elevation: 4,000 feet
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $6 per person
  • Features: Tent only camping, free parking available, close to a dump station and showers, many shared spaces
  • Services: Fire pits, picnic tables, four lockers that campers can share with each other, close to clean drinking water and restrooms
  • Accessible sites: No
  • Distance from Groveland: 47 miles
  • More info: Camp 4

Camp 4 is one of several locations in Yosemite on the National Register of Historic Places. It was and remains a popular choice for rock climbers because of its proximity to top climbing spots.

During the busy season, you need to check in and secure a spot with a park ranger on duty. The ranger will give you a parking permit and let you choose from the available sites.

In the late fall through the early spring, you can check in on your own as there aren’t any rangers on hand. Camp 4 is close to shopping and showers in the Yosemite Valley Lodge and Half Dome Valley.

Hodgdon Meadow Campground

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 105
  • Elevation: 4,900 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, only from April 8 – October 1
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: Tent and RV spots, group sites available, close to a nearby dump station, pets allowed
  • Services: Food lockers, picnic tables, fire rings, close to drinking water and flush toilets
  • Accessible sites: No
  • Distance from Groveland: 25 miles
  • More info: Hodgdon Meadow Campground

The Hodgdon Meadow Campground is a popular spot in the park for those who love wildflowers. It’s just a short walk from the meadow of the same name, which has hundreds of flowers.

Four food lockers inside the campground let you keep your food safe from the wild animals in the park, and each spot features both a picnic table and fire ring.

Though the campground doesn’t have a dump station, there is one close by as are restrooms with clean drinking water and flush toilets. You’ll also find that you’re close to Crane Flat and its grocery store and the shops in Yosemite Valley.

Here’s how to keep your food cold while camping.

Porcupine Flat Campground

  • Dates: July – October 15
  • Number of Sites: 52
  • Elevation: 8,100 feet
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $12
  • Features: Close to two dump stations, some accessible spots available, recommended for tent campers only
  • Services: Picnic tables, fire rings, food storage lockers, close to grocery stores and restrooms with running water and showers
  • Accessible sites: Yes, 4
  • Distance from Groveland: 30 miles
  • More info: Porcupine Flat Campground

One of the quietest and peaceful spots to camp in Yosemite is at the Porcupine Flat Campground. Though it sits at an elevation of 8,100 feet, it has four campsites reserved for those with disabilities.

You can use the water found in a nearby stream, though you’ll need to either treat it with iodine or boil it before drinking the water. The campground is close to several bathrooms with hot showers and clean drinking water.

Porcupine Flat allows guests to travel with their dogs but requires that they keep their pets leashed. You can have any number of tents on a spot but can only have six people in your group.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground

  • Dates: July – September
  • Number of Sites: 304
  • Elevation: 8,600 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, online
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: Tent and RV sites, can accommodate RVs of 35 feet in length, close to bathrooms with flush toilets and clean drinking water, group site available, dump station
  • Services: Groceries and showers nearby, some accessible sites with wheelchair accessible picnic tables, picnic tables, fire pits/rings, pets permitted, food lockers
  • Accessible sites: Yes, 7
  • Distance from Groveland: 48 miles
  • More info: Tuolumne Meadows Campground

With more than 300 sites available, the Tuolumne Meadows Campground is a great choice for many visitors. It has seven accessible sites that come with picnic tables that extend to fit under wheelchairs. Wheelchairs can also easily get over the paved roads in the campground.

There is both a Loop B and a Loop C with accessible sites available. The campground has a group site that can accommodate up to 30 people, but all other sites have a limit of six guests.

Each site is close to the showers in Yosemite Valley and a grocery store that sells firewood and other supplies.

Bridalveil Creek Campground

  • Dates: August 1 – September 23
  • Number of Sites: 110
  • Elevation: 7,200
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $18
  • Features: Clean tap water, sites that can accommodate RVs of 35 feet and trailers of 24 feet, some group sites, equine sites available
  • Services: Fire rings, picnic tables, six food lockers, access to flushing toilets and showers, close to a dump station and grocery store
  • Accessible sites: No
  • Distance from Groveland: 50 miles
  • More info: Bridalveil Creek Campground

Located deeper inside the park, the Bridalveil Creek Campground puts you close to both Glacier Point and Bridalveil Falls.

This campground is a little quieter than most of the others in the park. It does not have any accessible sites. It does have sites that can accommodate both camper trailers and RVs as well as tents.

Though you don’t need a reservation to camp here, you can reserve one of the group sites up to five months in advance of your trip.

There are several group sites that charge $50 per night for your whole group and equine spots that cost $30 per night.

Wawona Campground

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 93
  • Elevation: 4,000 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, only during the busy season from April 8 – October 1
  • Cost per night: $26
  • Features: One group site available, some accessible sites, equine camping allowed, dump station, close to restrooms with flush toilets and tap water
  • Services: Picnic tables, food storage lockers, fire rings, close to showers and grocery stores, charcoal and wood fires allowed, dogs permitted on leashes
  • Accessible sites: Yes, 2
  • Distance from Groveland: 68 miles
  • More info: Wawona Campground

Thanks to the nearby golf course, Wawona ranks as one of the top places to stay in Yosemite.

That golf course is just one of the attractions that you’ll find near the Wawona Campground though. It’s also close to Half Dome Village in Yosemite Valley, which offers showers with hot water and a grocery store that sells all the supplies necessary for a fun camping trip.

You only need to make reservations for the campground if you plan on staying from April through the end of September.

Loop A and the group site are open year round, but sites in Loop B and Loop C as well as the equine sites are only open from April through October.

Walk through sequoia Yosemite

6 Campgrounds Outside of Yosemite National Park

Sweetwater Campground

  • Dates: May – September
  • Number of Sites: Unknown
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $16 during the off-season, $22 during the busy season
  • Features: Running water during the busy season, vault toilets, accessible toilets, close to Stanislaus National Forest activities and attractions
  • Services: Picnic tables, portable water, clean bathrooms, fire rings with grates
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: 4 miles
  • More info: Sweetwater Campground

Located just four miles from Groveland, the Sweetwater Campground is in the heart of Stanislaus National Forest. It opens in May each year and closes in September but allows for winter camping from October through April.

Most of the amenities for campers are limited during the winter season though. If you visit during the busy season, you’ll find accessible restrooms and clean drinking water that you can use in the park.

This campground puts you close to the hiking trails and the other activities in the forest. You can reach Yosemite Lake and other nearby attractions and cities via Highway 120.

Dimond O Campground

  • Dates: April 26 – October 13
  • Number of Sites: 38
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes, online and over the phone
  • Cost per night: $26 for single sites, $52 for double sites
  • Features: Located inside Stanislaus National Forest, vault toilets, portable drinking water, water fountains, paved roads
  • Services: Firewood for sale, river trail, access to Yosemite National Park, accessible toilets, fire pits, picnic tables, grills
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: 8 miles
  • More info: Diamond O Campground

Also located in Stanislaus National Forest, the Dimond O Campground is a top choice for those in need of an accessible campground.

Not only are the water fountains accessible, but most of the sites are too. The paved roads through the campground make it easy for those in wheelchairs to get around too.

You can make a reservation online through the forest’s website or over the phone. A reservation is helpful because the campground fills up quickly in the summer.

It has a trail that leads you directly to the river and a second trail that connects to Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite. You can also drive between the park and the forest.

Cherry Valley Campground

  • Dates: May – September
  • Number of Sites: 46
  • Elevation: 4,921 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, online or over the phone
  • Cost per night: $24 for single sites, $48 for double sites
  • Features: Paved roads, clean drinking water, portable water, pets allowed, vault toilets, double sites for families and groups
  • Services: Inside Stanislaus National Forest, within walking distance of Cherry Lake, fishing spots, non electric sites
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: 37 miles
  • More info: Cherry Valley Campground

The Cherry Valley Campground makes it easy for you to enjoy all the fun of both Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Located inside the national forest, it is close to Cherry Lake, which offers some of the best fishing spots in the region.

The lake allows visitors to bring both motorized and non-motorized boats onto the water. You can make arrangements to go windsurfing or water skiing, and swimming is also allowed in the lake.

A trailhead located just outside of the campground leads you directly to Cherry Lake. You will also find trailheads that identify trails to wilderness areas in Yosemite and other lakes in the area.

Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 150+
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes, online
  • Cost per night: $22-$48 for tent sites, $39-$71 for premium RV sites
  • Features: Full hookups, basic sites for tent campers, dump stations, back-in and pull-through sites available, cabin rentals, wagon and trailer rentals, restrooms, showers
  • Services: Volleyball court, animal petting farm, playground, onsite store, clubhouse, swimming pool
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: Within city limits
  • More info: Yosemite Pines RV Resort

The ultimate place to stay outside of Yosemite is at the Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging. This campground makes it easy to enjoy the fresh air without bringing all your equipment from home because you can rent a cabin, wagon or a trailer.

Some of these RV gadgets will make camping even easier.

Both standard tent sites and full hookup RV sites are available, and you can choose from pull-through and back-in sites. This campground offers a number of amenities too, including a clubhouse that you can rent for special events and a pool.

It even has a petting farm with alpacas that love the attention they get from guests.

Family Camp at Yosemite

  • Dates: April 26 – September 19
  • Number of Sites: 65 tents
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes, online
  • Cost per night: $400 per family
  • Features: Tents and equipment provided, meals supplied, clean drinking water, accessible tents, cots and other furniture provided, showers, restrooms
  • Services: Horseback riding, talent shows, daily activities, fishing, onsite daycare, arts and crafts classes
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: Within city limits
  • More info: Family Camp at Yosemite

One of the more unique Yosemite camping opportunities is the one offered by the Family Camp at Yosemite. Operated by the San Jose Parks Foundation, this campground is only open a few months out of the year.

While the price charged per night is high, the cost gives your entire family the chance to participate in daily activities. Your price also includes the cost of a fully equipped tent that you can use during your stay.

The campground offers programs for those who love horseback riding and fishing. You should make your reservation as soon as possible because spots begin filling up as early as February each year.

Thinking about doing a little fishing? Here are some must have fishing gear.

49er RV Ranch

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 77
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes, online
  • Cost per night: $40 for group sites, $49 for individual sites
  • Features: Full hookups, discounts for members of AAA and other organizations, extended stay rates available, group sites available, cable television, free WiFi
  • Services: Showers, restrooms, meeting rooms available, country store onsite, propane sold onsite, dogs allowed, coupons offered online
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Groveland: 31 miles
  • More info: 49er RV Ranch

If you want to get away from it all but still stay close to Yosemite, consider the 49ers RV Ranch. Conveniently located in Columbia, this RV park offers full hookups on all its sites that let you connect to water, electric and sewer lines.

You can use both 30 and 50 amp hookups and get free access to WiFi and cable television in your RV. The campground offers 24/7 security to help guests feel safe and a country store that sells propane and other supplies.

If you are a senior, belong to certain organizations or work in a public service position, you qualify for a discount. The campground offers some online discounts and packages for extended stay travelers too.

Yosemite attractions

Looking for a little something for that camper in your life? Check out our guide to 71 Perfect Camping Gifts

5 Local Attractions in Yosemite National Park

With all the hiking trails and fishing/swimming spots in the park, you can have the best vacation of your life without ever once stepping foot outside of Yosemite.

That does not mean that you need to spend your entire trip inside the park though. There are some great locations within driving distance of the park that you might want to visit on your vacation. These attractions are on both the east and west side of the park.

You can easily find a few attractions worth a visit on your way to Yosemite National Park and on your trip back home.

1. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

  • Type of attraction: State park
  • Distance from Sonora: 4 miles
  • Cost: $10 to $15 for train tickets
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Take a 45 mile train ride, see filming spots from movies and television shows, visit the interpretive museum
  • More info: Railtown 1897 

Back to the Future III” and “Petticoat Junction” are just a couple of the shows and movies that were filmed at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

This park can make you feel as though you just stepped back in time because it includes so many artifacts from the 1890s. It’s home to a train that takes visitors on a 45-mile long journey around the park.

Kids five and under can ride for free, but the park charges $10 per ticket for kids over five and $15 for each adult. The park also has a steam shop that repairs trains and an interpretive museum.

2. Children’s Museum of the Sierra

  • Type of attraction: Museum
  • Distance from Sonora: 82 miles
  • Cost: $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, free for kids two and under
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Interactive displays that teach about the history of the park, costumed characters, arts and crafts classes
  • More info: Children’s Museum of the Sierra

An easy way to prepare your kids for what they’ll see in Yosemite is with a trip to the Children’s Museum of the Sierra.

Founded by parents who wanted kids to love the park as much as adults do, it now has more than 4,000 square feet of exhibits and fun things to do with children. You might see Smokey, the famous bear wandering through the museum on certain days. Arts and crafts classes are offered for kids and their parents.

The museum also has interactive displays on the history of the park and Yosemite Valley.

3. Sequoia National Park

  • Type of attraction: National park
  • Distance from Sonora: 188 miles
  • Cost: $20 per person/$35 per vehicle
  • Skill level: Easy to hard
  • What you’ll see/do: Sequoia groves, hiking, ranger programs, rock climbing, guided tours, horseback riding, fishing
  • More info: Sequoia National Park

Though Sequoia National Park is 188 miles from Sonora, don’t let that distance keep you from visiting. The Grand Majestic Mountain Loop is a paved road that lets you easily travel from Yosemite to this national park and others in the region.

When you reach the entrance, you can park your car and pay for an individual pass or pay one fee to bring in your car and your whole family. Some of the things you can do in the park include horseback riding, fishing, swimming and hiking.

You can also go on guided tours with rangers and sign up for the other special programs offered almost every day.

4. Bodie State Historic Park

  • Type of attraction: State park/ghost town
  • Distance from Sonora: 215 miles
  • Cost: $5 for kids, $8 for adults, free for kids under three
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Ghost town, guided tours, Stamp Mills tour
  • More info: Bodie State Historic Park

While Bodie State Historic Park is more than 200 miles from Sonora, it has a convenient location for travelers coming from the east to Yosemite.

This is one of the only ghost towns in the state that is still intact. Owned and operated by the state, the park has a number of buildings that date back to the Gold Rush days.

You can pay a small fee for a brochure that gives you the history of each building, or you can sign up for a guided tour of those buildings.

The park is also home to the Stamps Mill, which is one of the oldest mills of its type in California.

5. Ansel Adams Gallery

  • Type of attraction: Gallery, camera walks, fine print tours, films and exhibits.
  • Distance from Sonora: 74 miles
  • Cost: Varies
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: See work created by Adams on display, buy souvenirs, take photography classes
  • More info: Ansel Adams Gallery

Ansel Adams was one of the leading wildlife photographers in the world and took quite a few pictures in Yosemite.

The Ansel Adams Gallery named after him has a great location close to both the park and the city of Sonora.

You can tour the gallery for free and see some of his original pieces on display. The gallery offers reproductions of his work for sale and offers pieces to fit all budgets.

For an additional fee, you can also take photography classes from professionals and take some wildlife photos with your own camera too.

Want to improve your photography? This free, 13 lesson guide to DSLR Basics for Travel Photography will help.

Yosemite hiking

5 Best Yosemite Hikes

When you think about your upcoming Yosemite camping trip, you might focus on where you want to set up your tent or RV and where you can pick up supplies in the park.

It’s also important that you think about what you can do after you finish setting up. Yosemite is home to so many hiking trails that you may want to come back each year just to try a new one.

While some hikes cover 10 miles or more and are best for those with years of experience, you’ll also find trails suitable for novices and those who left their hiking boots at home.

1. Bridalveil Fall Trail

  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Skill Level: Easy
  • Features: Paved trail, parking lot, low grade, restrooms
  • What You’ll See: Bridalveil Fall, wild animals, flowers

Highway 41 becomes Wawona Road inside the park. You can follow this road to reach the trailhead for the Bridalveil Fall Trail.

This trailhead is close to a parking lot that can hold the cars of all hikers. You’ll also find a restroom that you can use before jumping on the trail. As one of the easiest hikes in Yosemite, this trail is suitable for young kids.

If you head to the trail via Southside Drive, you can pick it up in a different spot and add 0.25 miles. Neither trail is accessible though because it has a low grade.

Bridalveil Fall Yosemite

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

2. John Muir Trail

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Skill Level: Moderate
  • Features: Muddy spots, crosses several creeks and other bodies of water, circles back to the start
  • What You’ll See: Lyell Canyon, Ireland Creek, Rafferty Creek, Twin Bridges

The John Muir Trail connects northern and southern California with other locations around the Sierra Nevada region. This trail also partially runs through Yosemite.

It takes around four hours to complete the trail, which runs for eight full miles. You’ll want to make sure you have good hiking boots or shoes on because parts of the trail are quite muddy and difficult to walk through. The trail crosses multiple creeks and has a bridge spanning Rafferty Creek.

Park officials tell visitors that they should always remain on the track, even in those muddy spots to prevent accidents.

It’s always a good idea to have hiking footwear that handles wet conditions.

3. Tuolumne Grove & Nature Trail

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Skill Level: Moderate
  • Features: Large sign marks the trailhead, connects to Hodgdon Meadow, reaches an elevation of 500 feet
  • What You’ll See: Sequoia trees, meadows, a small bridge, wildflowers

Measuring 2.5 miles in length, this is the trail you’ll want to take to get close to the sequoias in the park. Those trees rise hundreds of feet in the air.

You can hop on the trail near Tunnel Tree, which has a large sign that marks the beginning. It moves in a loop through the trees and circles back around to return you to the start.

If you want to extend your hike, you can remain on the main road. This will help you reach Hodgdon Meadow in 4.5 miles.

4. Poopenaut Valley

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Skill Level: Difficult
  • Features: Turn off located on the main road, easy to find, clear signs along the trail
  • What You’ll See: O’Shaughnessy Dam, Tuolumne River, wildflowers, wild animals

To reach this trail, you need to hop in your car and head to the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. You will see a small turn off area located on the side of the road, which takes you directly to the trail.

It takes around two hours to hike the three-mile trail, though it can take longer if you stop to sightsee along the way.

The trail runs directly into the Tuolumne River, which has the dam more than 1,200 feet below. As the elevation of this trail is high, it’s best for more experienced hikers who can handle the lack of oxygen.

5. Wawona Meadow Loop

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Skill Level: Easy
  • Features: Leashed dogs allowed, paved and unpaved portions, close to the Wawona Golf Course
  • What You’ll See: Wildflowers, nature, Big Trees Lodge, Wawona Golf Course

Conveniently located near the Wawona Golf Course and Big Trees Lodge, the Wawona Meadow Loop is one of the easiest trails found in the park.

At 3.5 miles long, it features both paved and unpaved areas that you can easily access on your own or with kids. The tufted poppy, spider lupine and snow plant are just a few of the wildflowers that you’ll see on your trip.

To get to the trail, you can head to the golf course and walk across the greens as you follow the signs. The trail moves through the Wawona Meadow and offers the best views of the flowers in the park.

Horsetail Fall sunset Yosemite

Sunset at Horsetail Fall

Yosemite Weather: Best Time to Visit

Yosemite National Park offers a wide range of things to do and see on your camping trip. As you plan your trip, you may want to think about the weather and the conditions found in each season.

Even though the park is in California, snow is quite common in the winter. That snow can easily rise to your knees or even higher, making it difficult to hike and get through the park.

You can learn about the best time to visit Yosemite and the weather conditions in the park as well as winter camping options.

A detailed map will make hiking and driving more fun (and less stressful).

Best time to visit Yosemite National Park

Summer is the busiest season for Yosemite National Park.

Do you remember when your parents gathered everyone into the car and headed off on a family vacation? Families today often do the same, heading to Yosemite during the summer.

The end of August and the beginning of September is a good time to visit because you can still experience the warm weather and sunshine without thousands of other people.

If you don’t mind the cold and the snow, winter is a good time to visit too.

Avoid the crowds in Yosemite

The easiest way to avoid the crowds in Yosemite is with a visit during the shoulder season.

Travel experts use the busy season to describe the most popular time of the year and the term off-season to describe the less busy season.

Shoulder season falls somewhere in the middle. July and August are the most popular time to visit, but this can lead to large crowds and thousands of people trying to get to the same spots as you.

To avoid the crowds, plan your trip for the spring or fall.

Best weather in Yosemite

Temperatures in Yosemite can vary quite a bit due to the sheer size of the park. It might be warm enough for shorts inside the park and so cold on the top of a mountain that you need a coat.

The average temperature ranges from 28 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 to 11 degrees Celsius) in the winter to 57 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 32 degrees Celsius) in the summer.

When to see wildlife in Yosemite

If you want to see wildlife such as birds and deer, the best time to visit Yosemite is in the spring.

Many of the animals in the park hibernate in the winter. They begin nesting and building their homes in the late spring and practically disappear until April. When you visit from the middle of April through the end of October, you can see a number of wild animals.

Does Yosemite have bears?

Yes. There are approximately 300 to 500 bears in Yosemite.

If you see a bear in Yosemite, it will be an American black bear. There are no known brown or grizzly bears in the park. The last known sighting of a grizzly was in the early 1920’s (and it was shot/killed).

Despite their name, most black bears in Yosemite aren’t black. Most are brown, even blond or reddish brown.

Here’s how to keep bears away while camping.

Most trails open in April/May

Most of the trails in Yosemite close for the winter and don’t open again until April. If the season runs longer though, you may find that you can’t access some of your favorite trails until May.

You should use the NPS website to check on the status of each trail before your trip. The site lets you know which trails and campgrounds are open and closed.

Winter camping in Yosemite

Only four of the campgrounds in Yosemite remain open during the winter season, including Camp 4 and the Upper Pines Campground. Camp 4 only allows you to spend the night in a tent and bans all recreational vehicles.

You’ll also find huts set aside for cross country skiers to use in winter. Yosemite also has several lodges that stay open during the cold season.

Thinking about winter camping? Check out our Sub-Zero Winter Camping Guide. And here are some tips to stay warm and safe. And here are some great winter tent options.

Yosemite Waterfalls

Yosemite National Park FAQ

As you dream about and plan your next Yosemite camping trip, you may have some questions about the park and what you can do there.

Whether this is your first ever visit or you’ve been there multiple times, I want to make sure that you have all the information you need. As you read through this section, you’ll find some of the common questions that travelers have and answers to those questions.

This information can help you decide what you want to do on your trip, what you should see during your visit and how much money and other things you should bring.

Where is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite is in the state of California (southwestern United States). It is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Is Yosemite a national park?

Yes. Yosemite is a national park with the official name of Yosemite National Park.

Several groups of ancient people and Native American tribes lived in the area, but tourists began flocking there during the 1850s.

The National Park Service took over the daily operations of the park in the early 1900s.

Why do they call it the Yosemite?

The name Yosemite came from the Miwok Native Americans who once lived in the area.

They used this name to describe a tribe that once lived there. The word means killer in that native language. Members of the Miwok tribe helped push the other tribe out of the region in the early 1850s.

What is Yosemite known for?

Yosemite is popular with tourists and nature lovers because of the geological features and attractions in the park.

El Capitan is just one of the attractions in the Yosemite Valley, which is also home to Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

It is also famous for its giant sequoia trees, Tunnel View, and Bridalveil Fall.

Visitors also enjoy hiking and walking along the park’s trails and camping.

What can you see in Yosemite in one day?

Even if you only have one day to spend in the park, you can still plan an itinerary that lets you hit some of the top spots.

In less than 24 hours, you can take a shuttle to explore the floor of Yosemite Valley and travel to Glacier Point.

There is also a 13-mile trail called the Valley Loop Trail that you can complete in a day.

What time does Yosemite park close?

One benefit to visiting Yosemite National Park is that it never closes.

The park is open 24 hours a day and every day of the year.

You do not need reservations, but you should check with the park to see if any of the entrances are closed due to weather and other problems.

What is the closest airport to Yosemite?

The closest airport to the park is the Fresno – Yosemite International Airport, which is roughly 65 miles away.

Merced Airport is 72 miles away and offers fewer flights through major carriers.

You can also fly into airports in California, including Oakland International, San Francisco International and San Jose International.

Where do I enter Yosemite?

You can enter the park through five different entrances.

There is one entrance on the eastern side of the park and four on the western side. The fourth entrance is close to the Fish Camp and a popular choice for those who want to fish or swim when they visit the park.

How many entrances does Yosemite National Park have?

With five parks to choose from, you can enter Yosemite from the west, south or east.

Each of the five entrance has a convenient location near major roads such as 395 and 41. You can pick up maps inside the park that show you how those roads connect or follow the posted signs.

Which Yosemite entrance is best?

The best entrances to Yosemite are those on the western and southern sides of the park.

Unless you feel comfortable driving through a desolate area, you’ll want to avoid the El Tioga Pass Entrance on the eastern side.

Many like the Big Oak Flat Entrance for the old west attractions nearby.

What should I bring to Yosemite?

Some of the top things to bring on a Yosemite vacation include sunscreen, LED flashlights or headlamps, clothing that dries quickly and your camping gear.

There are lots of ticks in the spring. Here’s how to repel them – and how to properly remove one.

Make sure that you pack a good pair of shoes that fit comfortably too. You’ll likely do more walking than you expected in and around the park.

Don’t forget about hydration – you’ll need significant water for hiking.

Is there cell service in Yosemite?

AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers will find that they have cell service in certain areas of the park.

Those service providers use cell towers built by local companies. As you travel further away from the shops and populated areas of the park, you’ll find that you have spotty reception or none at all.

Can you drive through Yosemite National Park?

You can drive through Yosemite when you follow certain routes such as the Yosemite Valley Loop. Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, El Portal Road and others wind through the park and valley too.

It’s important that you keep an eye on the posted signs to make sure that you stay on the main road.

What can you do in Yosemite National Park?

There is a wide range of things to do in Yosemite, including hiking and camping.

You can use the maps and signs in the park to find trails that run for less than a mile and those that cover more than 10 miles. Campers will find different types of sites and amenities too.

What should you not miss in Yosemite?

You should not miss Yosemite Falls when visiting the park because this is one of the world’s most beautiful hiking trails.

Many visitors also take time to see Half Dome and either hike up to the top of the dome or stick close to its base.

Glacier Point is also well worth a visit.

Best Yosemite hiking trails

Hiking Yosemite with Half Dome in the background

Where can I hike in Yosemite?

With multiple hiking trails, Yosemite makes it easy for you to find one that fits your fitness and skill levels.

Half Dome is quite popular and covers more than 15 miles and you reach an elevation of 4,800 feet. The Yosemite Falls Trail and Mist Trail are also popular with visitors.

How long is the hike to Yosemite Falls?

It runs for 7.2 miles from start to finish.

The Yosemite Falls Trail is the oldest one in the park. It dates back to the 1870s and winds its way up to the falls. This trail is best for those who have more experience and stronger hikers because it’s quite difficult.

Does the PCT go through Yosemite?

One of the trails that you’ll find in California is the Pacific Coast Trail, which connects Canada to Mexico through several American states.

A few parts of the trail pass through parts of Yosemite, including the Dorothy Lake Pass and Donahue Pass. You can exit the trail to spend more time in the park too.

Can you climb Half Dome without a permit?

Whether you want to spend a few hours hiking the Half Dome or the whole day, you must have a permit.

The NPS requires that you get a permit at least seven days before your trip. Only 300 visitors will receive permits each day, which includes both those hiking and those backpacking.

How tall is Lower Falls in Yosemite?

The Lower Falls in Yosemite, also called Lower Yosemite Fall, stands 320 feet tall.

You can hike further to reach the Upper Yosemite Fall, which measures 1,430 feet tall.

Between those two is an area called the Middle Cascades, which are 675 feet tall. You can also view most of the falls while standing on the ground.

Can you walk up El Capitan?

Yes, you can hike El Capitan.

El Capitan has a sheer rock face that makes it popular among climbers. You can view the mountain from the ground in El Capitan Meadow or the Tunnel View. You can also reach the summit with the climbing gear they use on the face.

How long is the hike to Glacier Point?

The Four Mile Trail is the most popular trail for visitors heading to Glacier Point. This trail has a lot where you can leave your car and a concession stand that is open in the summer.

Depending on your skill level, it can take less than an hour to more than two hours to reach Glacier Point.

Can you drive to Taft Point?

Though you cannot drive to Taft Point, you can drive to the parking lot close to the point.

A trailhead located next to the parking lot marks the one-mile trail. This trail is more advanced than some of the others in the park and is best for those who have more hiking experience.

Can you swim at Yosemite?

Several outdoor swimming pools in the park let you swim close to some of the onsite lodges. You can also go swimming in the Merced River, though you should look out for currents and other hazards.

Yosemite bans swimming in certain areas, including the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and Dana Fork.

Can you swim in Tenaya Lake?

Tenaya Lake is a great place to cool off and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Swimming is available as long as Highway 120 remains open for the season because this is one of the only ways to reach the lake. The highway typically closes in the late fall and reopens in the spring.

Can you swim in Mirror Lake Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park allows swimming in Mirror Lake. The trails around the lake are suitable for all types of hikers and provide convenient access to the water.

This lake is relatively mild and doesn’t have the same strong currents that other bodies of water in the park do, which makes it suitable for kids and adults.

Can you canoe in Yosemite?

If you want to canoe in Yosemite, you should head to the Merced River. This river offers mild currents that are suitable for beginners and rapid currents that are best for more experienced visitors.

Tenaya Lake also allows canoes on the water. You can bring your own boats from home or rent canoes.

Can you swim in the Merced River?

Though you can swim in the Merced River, you should exercise caution because there aren’t any lifeguards on duty inside the park.

The river has some rougher and milder areas. It’s helpful to take a look at the currents before jumping in the river with your kids.

What state is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is in central California. It sits close to the Sierra Nevada region and borders both the Stanislaus National Forest and the Sierra National Forest.

Hikers may find that they wind up in one of those national forests when they hike too far in one direction when visiting the park.

Yosemite walk through tree

Camping at Yosemite National Park

Though you can go camping in Yosemite, you need to make sure that you pay attention to the opening and closing dates.

Most of the campgrounds in the park have specific operating hours. Many have amenities such as dump stations for RV travelers and tap water that provides visitors with clean drinking water.

There are also a few group campsites for those traveling with large groups and sites reserved for equine camping.

Use the following information and the specific campgrounds mentioned earlier in this article to help in picking a campground, packing and planning a Yosemite camping trip.

Vernal Falls Yosemite

Vernal Falls, Yosemite

Can you camp at Yosemite?

There are 13 campgrounds at Yosemite that you can choose from when spending a night or more in the park.

Though some campgrounds are open all year, others are only open as long as those areas are accessible. You can check with the park to see when each campground opens and if some closed due to weather conditions.

How much does it cost to camp at Yosemite?

The cost of camping in Yosemite starts at just $6 per person. That rate applies to group campsites.

Most of the campgrounds with more amenities charge $26 per night, but you’ll find some spots in the park where you can camp for only $12 per night. Most of the campgrounds let you bring your pets.

What is the best Yosemite campground?

Many travelers call the Upper Pines Campground the best campground in Yosemite. This is also the park’s largest campground and has more than 230 sites as well as 10 accessible sites.

Another super popular campground is Camp 4. Both Upper Pines and Camp 4 are covered at the beginning of the post.

Though the campground is typically open year round, it can close in the winter due to the snow and open again in the beginning or middle of April.

Do you need a permit to camp in Yosemite?

You do not need a permit to camp in Yosemite, and you do not need to make a reservation to enter the park either.

Six of the campgrounds in the park allow you to make reservations online to ensure that you have a spot when you arrive. The other campgrounds are first come, first serve and can fill up early in the day.

Does Yosemite allow dogs?

Though Yosemite allows dogs, you must follow all the rules and regulations for pet owners. Those rules require that you keep your dog on a leash and that you do not allow the animal into certain bodies of water or areas of the park.

Note: Camp 4 is the only campground in the park that does not allow dogs.

Does Yosemite have water?

Yosemite does have running water. Some of its campgrounds offer both showers and tap water, but a number of its campgrounds require that you get water from a nearby creek.

Before using that water to bathe or drink, you should boil it over the fire or use a water treatment product.

What is the best time to go to Yosemite?

Nearly everyone has a different idea as to when it’s the best time to visit Yosemite. The best time to visit can range from July and August for those who want to hike and rock climb to November and December for those who love the snow. Yosemite offers different things to do in each season.

Horsetail Fall Yosemite

Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

Hungry for more? Check out our guide to the best places to camp in the United States.

Your Turn

How are your Yosemite camping plans progressing? Have a question? Or maybe a tip to share? Join me in the comments!