"Best" has different meanings when camping in Yosemite National Park. There are places that are best for being close to the sights and sounds of the park. There are campgrounds best for a little privacy and breathtaking views. Then there's Camp 4, which is best for parties and rock climbers. Camping in Yosemite is one of the best ways to experience the park. There are 13 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park with 1,445 total campsites. Roughly 1,000 campsites can be reserved in advance. The rest are first-come, first-served. During peak season (June, July, August) Yosemite camping can be challenging because campgrounds in the park fill up fast. Finding a campsite can also be challenging on weekends in May and September. If you want to camp in Yosemite, try to reserve a campsite as far in advance as possible.
Yosemite Valley: Best Central Location
Three Pines campgrounds reserves nearly 400 campsites. Located in central Yosemite Valley, Upper, Lower, and North Pines are the park's most popular campgrounds. Shuttle service and walking trails take campers to Yosemite Village, Curry Village and the major Park falls: Yosemite, Bridal, Nevada and Vernal. All three campgrounds require reservations.
North Pines: 81 sites
Lower Pines: 60 sites
Upper Pines: 238 sites
Yosemite Valley: Best Funky Campground
Featured prominently in Nevada Barr's Yosemite-based novel, "High Country," Camp 4 is one of the rare campgrounds on the National Register of Historic Places. Although there are no restrictions on who can claim one of the 35 first-come first-setup campsites, this is base camp for Yosemite rock climbers and youthful energy abounds day and night.
Camp 4 rests close to the base of El Capitan, a "bucket list" challenge for rock climbers.
Northside Road west of Yosemite Lodge
Tuolumne Meadows Campground
At the top of Tioga Pass, more than 300 campsites are sitting on the Tuolumne River before it plunges into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Tuolumne Meadows Campground places campers within short hikes of a westward view of Yosemite Valley, several domes, lakes, and the Range of Light.
A full-facility campsite close to Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows takes reservations for half the campsites and leaves the remainder for first come first setup. The campground has tap water, showers and flush toilets.
Best "Rooms With A View" Campgrounds
Off the Tioga Pass Road, Tamarack Creek and Yosemite Creek put you on top of both the Valley and two of its major waterfalls: Yosemite Fall and Tamarack Fall. The two rustic campgrounds have vault toilets and require drinking water to be drawn from the adjoining creeks. Purification or boiling is required for safety.
Trails leading from the campgrounds take hikers down the cliffs, a more than 4,000-foot drop from campsite to valley floor. Neither site requires reservations.
Tamarack Flat: 52 sites
Tamarack Flat Road east of Crane Flat
Yosemite Creek: 40 sites
Yosemite Creek Road halfway between Olmsted Point and Crane Flat
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Village, CA 95389
For privacy, unparalleled views and clear sky views, the six High Sierra campgrounds is the choice. These are backpacking destinations over rugged trails requiring intermediate and expert skill ratings. Reservations are mandatory along with wilderness permits. Trekking to one of these sites--all on creeks, rivers or lakes--is a lifetime memory.
Yosemite National Park
PO Box 545
Yosemite, CA, 95389