Thinking about a Yosemite National Park camping trip? What are you waiting for?
Perhaps the greatest charm that Yosemite National Park has is the uniqueness of its geologic features. There is no other place on earth where you can see so many gigantic granite rock formations carved into dramatic shapes by glaciation. And right in the middle of it all is a beautiful valley where numerous waterfalls flow into two rivers. The park is definitely a must-see.
About Yosemite National Park: Quick Facts
- The park was established on October 1, 1890.
- Yosemite National Park is located close to the city of Mariposa, California.
- Close to 4 million people come to see the national park every year.
- Yosemite covers 1,200 square miles of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Yosemite Valley is where you can find the world’s largest exposed granite monolith: El Capitan.
- The name Yosemite (yohhe’meti, “they are killers”) is said to have been used by the Miwok, a Native American tribe, to call the Ahwahneechee, the local tribe which the former considered violent.
- Five hundred Sequioa trees, considered the world’s largest living things, can be found in Yosemite National Park.
- The mountains in the park continue to grow at the rate of 1 foot per millennium.
- Because of the great number of rock formations, Yosemite is a rock climber’s paradise.
- Wildlife in the park include black bears, bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, coyotes, mountain lions, and golden eagles.
- In addition to the popular Giant Sequioas, the California Black Oak, Dog Wood, and Mariposa Lily are part of Yosemite’s fauna.
Preparing for a Yosemite National Park Camping Trip
It is always a good idea to go Yosemite camping. However there are several things you need to be ready for as you plan the activity. The park occupies a large area with many different terrain and elevations as well as a great number of wildlife, most of which are protected. Read and learn as much as you can about the rules and regulations in the park. It’s always best to be prepared and here are some things you need to.
The weather in the park can vary greatly because of its sheer size and the many elevations. As a result, the conditions in Yosemite Valley can be different from those in the Half Dome. It is important to note that the elevation can be as low as 2,000 feet and as high as 13,000. If you are going on a Yosemite camping trip and want to know what the conditions will be like, then check out the weather forecast on the campground of your choice.
You can make and receive calls as well as connect to mobile data (3G and 4G) in some sections of Yosemite Valley. The same is true with Tuolumne Meadows although the data connection is slower (EDGE). All these are made possible by AT&T. Verizon also provides voice and data services in the eastern part of Yosemite Valley while it’s 3G and voice at Crane Flat. Voice calls can also be made at El Portal, Tuolumne and Wawona Meadows but data service may not be that fast.
Yosemite camping will surely be a fun activity because you are spoilt for choice when it comes to campgrounds; you have 13 to choose from. Some of them are reservable while others have a first-come, first-served policy. Peak season starts April until October so make reservations as early as you can. Even first-come, first-served camping areas are filled early every day during that period.
Bears and Food
With around 400 bears in the park, visitors are warned against feeding these wild animals. Recently, it had become evident that the bears have become conditioned to eating the food that we eat. This behavior has proved to be more dangerous to both man and beast. The bears become more aggressive to the point where they have to be killed to protect humans. Due to the increasing and alarming frequency of incidents, the park has become very strict with food storage. Anyone caught violating the federal law on storing food properly will have their food or car impounded, camping permit revoked or worse pay a fine as much as $5,000.
Pets are allowed in Yosemite National Park but only in the developed areas, bike paths, sidewalks, paved roads and all campgrounds with the exception of group campsites and Camp 4. Your pet must be on a leash and has to be attended to. Click here to know more.
What to Pack for a Yosemite National Park Camping Trip
- Tent skates
- Easy up
- Sleeping bag
- Air mattress
- Pump for air mattress
- Sleeping pad/self-inflating mattress
- Water container/jug (2-3 gallon minimum)
- Fuel for stove
- Trash bags
- Dutch oven
- Oven mitt
- Can opener
- Aluminum foil
- Paper towels
- Dishwashing soap
- Dirty dish bucket
- Cutting board
- Folding table
- Ziplock bags
- Coolers (1 for food, 1 for Beverages)
- Olive oil/cooking oil
- Coffee pot/percolator
- Coffee cups
- Camp kitchen
- Shaving cream
- Toilet paper
- Additional lenses
- Backup batteries
- DC/AC converter to charge batteries
- Additional memory
- Video camera
- External hard drive
- Flash equipment
- Remote camera trigger
- Lens cleaning kit
- Gas for lantern
- Extra mantles
- Extra batteries
- Lantern hanger
- Baby wipes
- Family radios
- Pocket knife
- Bungee cords
- Canteen/water bottle/Camelback
- Toys for kids
- Small shovel
- Bug repellant
- Camp chairs
- Reading material
- Newspaper (for firestarter)
- Trail guides/hiking guides
- Jiffy pop
- Hershey bars/Graham crackers/chocolate bars
- AC converter extension cord
- Tent light
- Glow sticks
- Tent repair kit
- Trail mix/snacks
- Hiking poles
- Hiking boots/shoes
- Rain gear
- Swim suit
- Water shoes/flipflops/Tevas
List courtesy of campingatyosemite.com
What to Do in Yosemite National Park
Now that you’ve prepared and packed for your trip, it’s time to explore some of Yosemite National Park’s beautiful sights. Here are some of our favorites, along with highly recommended activities.
1. Glacier Point
Glacier Point is considered one of the best and most comprehensive lookouts in the park. It’s also one of the highest points, featuring views of Yosemite landmarks like the Half Dome or the floor of Yosemite Valley. Unlike many points in Yosemite, Glacier Point is accessible via roadway, allowing drivers to forego a difficult climb. This is particularly fortunate if you’re traveling with young children who would otherwise be unable to enjoy a scenic, high-altitude view of the Yosemite Valley. (Via usnews.com)
2. Yosemite Falls
Discover the highest waterfall in North America – and the sixth largest in the world: Yosemite Falls. At 2,424 feet, the waterfall is a major attraction in the park, located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It’s best viewed in late spring when snowmelt flows most vigorously. (Via travelchannel.com)
3. Half Dome
Though its origins are mythical, there’s no doubt that Half Dome is Yosemite’s most distinctive natural monument. It is 87 million years old and has a 93% vertical grade – the sheerest cliff in North America. Climbers come from around the world to grapple with its legendary north face, but good hikers can reach its summit via a 17-mile round-trip trail from Yosemite Valley. The trail gains 4900ft in elevation and has cable handrails for the last 200yd. The hike can be done in one day, but is more enjoyable if you break it up by camping along the way (Little Yosemite Valley is the most popular spot). (Via lonelyplanet.com)
4. Tenaya Lake
Tenaya Lake is a magnificent High Sierra lake surrounded by granite domes, lodgepole forests, and Yosemite’s vast wilderness. It is the largest lake in Yosemite’s front-country. Because of its remarkable scenic qualities, its inviting blue water, and its proximity to Tioga Road, Tenaya Lake is one of the most popular destinations for summer visitors in Yosemite. (Via dogtrekker.com)
5. Mariposa Grove
Walk among giants in Wawona at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. At the grove, you have two choices for exploring: a narrated, open-air tram tour or a meandering, self-guided hike. Unless you’re completely pooped, the hiking option is a more intimate experience. The massive, 209-foot-tall Grizzly Giant is an easy 0.8-mile hike from the parking area, and the Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree is a moderate 1.5-mile hike past the Giant. (Via sunset.com)
6. Crane Flat
Crane Flat is a pleasant forest and meadow area located 16 miles (30 minutes) from Yosemite Valley. Nearby are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves of Giant Sequoias, which are only accessible by foot. Crane Flat is accessible by car all year. A snow play area is open during winter. (Via nps.gov)
7. Hetch Hetchy Valley
The Hetch Hetchy Valley is one of Yosemite’s hidden jewels. Formed millions of years ago by water and glacial erosion, this stunning valley (half the size of Yosemite Valley) was described by naturalist John Muir as “a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” Hetch Hetchy has always been overshadowed by its twin sister, Yosemite Valley. We like it that way since the Hetch Hetchy area remains a serene and uncrowded oasis. Visitors are constantly surprised and impressed by the beauty of Hetch Hetchy. (Via evergreenlodge.com)
8. Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp
Glen Aulin is one of the easiest camps to hike to as the trail from Soda Springs follows the Tuolumne River and its meadows most of the way. The camp is set alongside the 80 ft. high White Cascade and its lovely pool. Campers enjoy catching the sunset from a nearby promontory with a view of Mt. Conness. Located in a geological wonderland, Glen Aulin offers a great view down the Tuolumne River and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. A popular daytrip down to Waterwheel Falls passes through this unique granite canyon with California Fall & LeConte Fall along the way. (Via yosemitepark.com)
9. El Capitan
3,000 vertical feet of sheer rock granite, El Capitan is a beacon for visitors, a muse for photographers and one of the world’s ultimate challenges for climbers, Best time to see it? Any day of the year. Best view? Inspiration Point by foot. Tunnel View by car. Most knock-your-socks-off, one-of-a-kind El Capitan moment? During the last two weeks of February when conditions align perfectly and the setting sun turns the waters of Ribbon Falls into a dancing fire of light. (Via yosemiteexperience.com)
10. Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is at the center of most visitor activity in Yosemite National Park. The Merced River flows across the Valley’s flat floor at an elevation (altitude) of 4,000 feet (1220m) above sea level. The Valley floor includes oak and mixed-conifer woodlands and numerous meadows, inhabited by diverse wildlife. The Valley is surrounded by steep, almost vertical, granite cliffs, including the El Capitan monolith, Glacier Point, and Half Dome. Major waterfalls tumble into the Valley, the most prominent of which are Yosemite, Bridalveil, and, less easily seen from below, Vernal, Nevada, and Illilouette. The falls reach their maximum flow in late spring and drop significantly in flow as the season progresses. (Via jrabold.net)
11. Rafting in the Merced River Canyon
Rafting along the canyon lets you take in the park from a whole different perspective. During spring, the most rough-and-tumble time of year, the rafting will be at Levels 3 and 4, only suitable for older kids and the more adventurous. As the snow runs out in summertime, the difficulty gets knocked down to Levels 2 and 3, which pretty much everyone can get a thrill out of. (Via parenting.com)
Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most scenic and spectacular hikes in the world. Visitors travel from all corners of the world every year to marvel at the waterfalls and hike the famous trails. With over 800 miles of trails you are sure to keep yourself busy. Most visitors head straight for Yosemite Valley, but there are many great hikes in Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows and the Hetch Hetchy as well. Some of the most popular hikes include hiking Half Dome, the Mist Trail, The Panorama Trail, and Upper Yosemite Falls. (Via everytrail.com)
The Yosemite Zipline and Adventure Ranch, located in Mariposa, offers horseback riding, ziplining on six different courses, aerial ropes courses, roping lessons, gold-panning and more. (Via yosemite.com)
14. Rock Climbing
Yosemite is much more than a valley with 3000-foot rock walls and incredible climbing. It is an outlet for the energies of the world’s most passionate and adventurous people. Yosemite inspires the souls of climbers and non-climbers to reach for something beyond themselves and to travel to a place, physical and mental, where they have never been before. Few climbers can resist Yosemite; nearly every climber who has the opportunity to get to Yosemite manages to make the trip. (Via supertopo.com)
15. Scenic Drive
The Tioga Road is the most popular drive in Yosemite National Park. Approximately 48 miles in length, it is the highest route in the region, peaking at 9,945 feet at Tioga Pass. Tioga Road winds past dramatic peaks, grassy meadows, and clear-water creeks, and offers travelers glimpses of the park’s abundant wildlife. Detours lead to other Yosemite attractions, including White Wolf, Siesta Lake, and the Red Fir Forest. (Via nationalgeographic.com)
Yosemite National Park and Mariposa County offer visitors almost 1,500 campsites in its multiple campgrounds. If you’re planning to camp, be sure to secure an authorized spot because camping is allowed only in designated campsites. Camping is an extraordinarily popular way of spending the night in the Yosemite and Mariposa area. For those campgrounds inside the park, do not expect to find a site without a reservation from April through September. If you have no reservations, it is best to try the campsites outside the park. (Via yosemiteexperience.com)
Want to know more about Yosemite National Park? Check out the video below!
Did we miss anything in our Yosemite National Park camping guide? Let us know in the comments!
Still want more adventure? Check out our National Park Series and learn all about our country’s great parks.