There are a number of choices of accommodations in the Yosemite area; this page will discuss options for individuals wishing to camp inside the park. Please feel free to add your own expertise and advice to fellow travelers.

Camping requires a different type of reservation, and all the travel websites suggest making a campground reservation well in advance of your trip to Yosemite. A recent story on NPR reported that "Yosemite Valley has fewer than 500 campsites. Only a handful are saved for walk-ins. The rest sell out for the summer on the day reservations open."  Also, it appears that Yosemite might be revamping how they take and make reservations.  

The current system requires visitors to log onto the reservation website at 7 am on the reservation date and to quickly get campsite reservations.  For the busy summer season, all sites are reserved within a few minutes.  Luckily, plans change and cancellations happen.  Persistent campers who check the website often might get the reservable campground of their choice.

However, last-minute vacationers aren't out of options.  The park offers a few no-reservation campgrounds that are outlined on their website.   

Inside Yosemite Valley there's the bohemian Camp 4 on Northshore Drive on your way out of the valley.  The camp has a staffed reservation and information booth that will check you into a campsite.  The camp is highly prized location for backpackers and rock climbers, so spots go fast.  According to rangers, people start lining up in the wee hours each morning for spots that become available and most days the camp is full by 8 or 9 am.  Although adjacent to the base of El Capitan and walking/biking distance to all Yosemite Valley destinations, the camp is crowded and not recommend for family travelers.  Campers share sites, so be prepared to make friends.

There are several campgrounds available on a first-come first-served basis away from Yosemite Valley, but still inside the park.  Prices and availability vary throughout the year.  Be sure to get directions and ask which campgrounds are open at your entrance gate.  Most campgrounds fill up well before noon.  Here is the phone number for recorded updates on which First Come First Served campgrounds have availability:  209-372-0266   

All of these "developed" campsites have vault-style toilets, but no electricity, and some have no running water so be prepared to purify drinking water (or bring yours in).  Each site has a fire ring and picnic table.   Sometimes, campgrounds will be staffed with a designated 'hospitality camper' / camp host of sorts, but don't count on them being there or having any information.

To claim a campsite, arrive early and drive to the campground of your choice and grab an envelope from the "self check-in area" - this will be at the entrance to the campground next to an information board.  Payment instructions are on the envelope (Cash - exact change only).  There is a flap on the envelope that tears off and has a place for your name and the dates you are paying for.  You will see that other campers have these held down with a small rock on top of the sign post that marks each site.  Drive around the campground till you find an available site - one that is either empty, has no payment receipt or both.  Claim the spot by marking the site number down on your envelope and placing your payment receipt (the tear-off flap) on the sign post held down with a rock.  If there appear to be no empty sites, look for some campers that appear to be packing up and ask them if you can claim their spot.  Other campers are also a wealth of information should there be any confusion about where to park, how to pay, etc.

An Occupied Camp Site 

 

Here are the No-Reservation Camp Sites in Yosemite:

Bridalveil Creek (RVs up to 35 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)

Tamarack Flat (not recommended for RVs/trailers OR low profile cars) - This campground is located in the bottom of a gorge at the end of a three-mile dirt road off of Tioga road.  There is a bubbling steam that trickles through the campground and plenty of shade at the bottom of the gorge.  Despite the relative remoteness of the camp, sites are still fairly close together, so aim for a site on the edge of the campground to cut down on noisy neighbors. 

White Wolf (RVs up to 27 feet/trailers up to 24 feet)

Yosemite Creek (not recommended for RVs/trailers)

Porcupine Flat (limited space for RVs up to 24 feet/trailers up to 20 feet)

Tuolumne Meadows (RVs and trailers up to 35 feet)

 

Tips for Car-Camping in Yosemite:

If you're a budget traveler, or someone who thinks parks are for camping and communing with the outdoors, then camping Yosemite is just the adventure for you.  In addition to the high-sierra and trail camps, the 'Developed' campsites in Yosemite allow the novice camper to arrive in a sedan and still sleep in the great wilderness of the nation’s second oldest national park.  A mere $100 investment in nearby Fresno will get you a cheap tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag (or blankets) and a couple of camp chairs.  Add some hot dogs and marshmallows and you've got yourself an affordable adventure. 

Although the basic camping supplies will get you by, bear in mind that Yosemite is thousands of feet above sea level, so night-time temperatures can plummet even in summer - be sure to check the weather forecast before you go.  Also be sure to bring camp appropriate food and potable water (Do Not Drink From Mountain Streams).

There are no fire restrictions in Yosemite, but gathering firewood is prohibited in Yosemite Valley.  If you are camping outside the valley, you can gather downed and dead wood from the forest floor.  A small camp saw or hatchet will help you keep your firewood manageable.  Do not cut living trees.  Do not burn green (not dead and crunchy) wood - it will only smoke, smolder and annoy your neighbors.  You can buy fire wood for $5-8 a bundle in the towns surrounding Yosemite. 

Each campsite has a large steel "Bear Box" that's use is required by campers.  Keep all food in these lockers while you are in Yosemite.  Do not keep food in your tent or car whether you are at your campsite or not.  There are several signs and warnings throughout the park about this.  The reservation booth at Camp 4 has some awesome photos of what a bear will do to a car to get at nothing more than a candy bar wrapper.   

Bear Warning