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Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

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Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

I'm looking to do a week long camping trip in Yosemite this summer. I've been to the park once, about five years ago, so I'm somewhat familiar with it. I do have a few questions.

Basically, I want to tent camp for about a week, preferably in one spot. But I want a spot with plenty of stuff to do. I'd like to be able to day hike lots of trails, with some flatter trails for the older folks. Somewhere near water would be a bonus. Basic services will be fine. I like hot showers, but water and electric at the site are not essential. I prefer more wooded, private campsites, while realizing that may not happen in Yosemite.

I'm flying in, so I need a site that can be reserved in advance. I noticed that reservations are opening in about ten days for summer dates. I know there's a mad rush for reservations when the sites open. Any tips on getting a reservation?

Suggestions on where to camp and how best to reserve are appreciated.

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1. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

Not sure when you're planning on visiting. But if the height of summer season, my vote is Tuolumne meadows. It is a large campground. Small store and Grill and gas station nearby. Flat trail accessible for people who might not want to uphill hike, but within thirty minutes driving of a huge range of longer options. Cooler temps in July and August. Running water and bathrooms in the campground. No electricity in any park campgrounds. Half the campground is by reservation and it's the largest campground in the park so there are lots of spaces. Note, the roads in the campground require slow driving as they have some deep potholes.

You'll never really have a secluded camping area unless you backpack in Yosemite.

As far as reservations, five months in advance is what you aim for. On the day reservations open be online prior to 7 Pacific time and ready to go. Get familiar with the recreation.gov website prior to that day. If you miss the first window and everything appears sold out, stay online for another twenty to thirty minutes. Often many people snag more campsites than they need but don't actually purchase them all. If you can have more than one person online, it's a good idea.

Tuolumne meadows may not show on the reservation system for anything prior to July just or late June because of high elevation snow (that may not be here this year).

I would recommend going through the camping section of the park website as well. There's a map of where campgrounds are located and tentative opening dates.

Good luck!

Ah. Note that Tuolumne is a ninety minute drive from Yosemite valley and even farther from glacier point. But my experience has been these campgrounds quiet down faster compared to valley campgrounds.

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2. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

I also think that the Tuolumne Meadows campground is a great option. But if you're planning to visit in early summer (next week's reservation window is May 15 - Jun 14), then Tuolumne Meadows CG won't even be listed.

If you like to hike, I'd postpone your visit until later in the summer. Even if it's another low snow year (hope not, but it might be), visiting a bit later when the trails are firmed up and the mosquito population has decreased is a great idea.

Making reservations for Tuolumne Meadows CG is much easier than any other campground because it's not site specific. You just request "a tent site" and then you're assigned the site when you arrive at the ranger kiosk.

I think camping in two locations might be easier. If you spend a few nights in busy Yosemite Valley or maybe Crane Flat (30 minutes from Yosemite Valley) or Wawona (45 minutes from Yosemite Valley but 10 minutes from Mariposa Grove, on the South Fork of the Merced River) you can experience a few areas of the Park. And when you're in Tuolumne Meadows, you can just stay there!

Be sure to read the relevant Top Questions and Trip Ideas on the right side of the page. In particular, the Trip Reports from folks who have camped in Yosemite can help with your planning.

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3. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

Great info. As I remember Tuolumne Meadows is pretty close to Lake Tenaya? What kind of waterfalls or other specific sights are there to see in that area?

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4. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

It's about twenty minutes from tenaya Lake. Not so much in waterfalls out there, though you can do the long ish hike to Glen aulin from the meadows to see some. The lyell fork trail is a great meandering area that is flattish for the first section. More uphill stuff, consider Gaylor lakes, Mt Hoffman (or at least may Lake), Elizabeth lake, cathedral lakes, Lembert Dome, and just outside the park twenty lakes basin offers what can be a shorter hike that is flat, or you can do enjoy entire loop that is more moderately strenuous. High mountain peaks and beautiful lakes.

Yosemitehikes.com is a good website but searching for names of the hikes will give you some sense.

The waterfalls will be concentrated more in Yosemite valley. Honestly though the way this winter is shaping up so far, not sure how long the waterfall season will be.

Have fun!

Edited: 03 January 2014, 23:16
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5. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

"Honestly though the way this winter is shaping up so far, not sure how long the waterfall season will be. "

Is the length of the season based on winter snowfall?

Edited: 04 January 2014, 19:28
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6. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

Yes

The Merced River rafting season is also highly dependent on the snowpack. In 2013, I think it was pretty much done by July 4th, which is quite early.

Right now, at 25% normal snowpack, things are not looking good for a long waterfall season.

Edited: 04 January 2014, 20:15
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7. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

Waterfalls usually peak in late May, but the ephemeral falls (waterfalls that don't run all year) like Yosemite Falls will continue past that time. Observation wise, it seems like average snow years mean Yosemite Falls dries up in the middle of August or so. Last year and in previous dry years, it was gone by the end of July. So far this year, with only one major storm this winter, it's an even drier winter for California. That can change (pleeeassseeee change) but the long range forecasts aren't particularly promising at the moment. There's a bit of something on the long range forecast for next Tuesday...but it's not looking like it will pack much moisture in.

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8. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

That's definitely something we will consider. I've only been in May, and of course the waterfalls were running well then. It wouldn't be (quite) the same if they were dried up.

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9. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

I also recommend Tuolumne Meadows. You could always take a day down in the valley or even glacier point but there are lots of day hikes out of there. When you said "flat" for the elders I thought more options up at TM or if they are happy to circle the valley that is the only flat hike if you stay down there.

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10. Re: Where to tent camp for a week in Yosemite?

I really like the Tuolumne Meadows idea. My only concern is nighttime temperature for camping at that elevation, especially if we go in May. The NPS website says 10-20 degrees cooler there, compared to the Valley Floor. I'm showing about 45 as the average low for the Valley in May, so that could put night time temps in the 20s at Tuolumne Meadows. That's a tough sell to my wife who monitors her camping reservations closely for cold temps.

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