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“Quieter, more pristine camping alternative to Yosemite for summer visit”

Ranked #3,589 of 8,712 things to do in California
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Owner description: National forest area extending 165 miles along the California/Nevada border and includes 1.9 million acres of lakes, meadows, winding streams, and rugged Sierra Nevada peaks with elevations ranging from 4,000 to 14,495 feet.
Cincinnati, Ohio
Level Contributor
22 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“Quieter, more pristine camping alternative to Yosemite for summer visit”
Reviewed 5 August 2014

My family and I camped in Junction campground for three nights in July just off Tioga Road in Inyo, less than a quarter mile from Tioga Lake, less than 2 miles from the eastern Yosemite entrance. Site # 9 was amazing - shaded by trees during the day, set atop a small hill about 50 ft from the parking area with the latrine nearby at the bottom of the hill. Elevation is around 9000 feet, so daytime temperatures were mid to upper 80's and dry, but nightime temperatures dipped to low 40's / upper 30's. Tioga Pass and this area of Inyo N.F. and the eastern Sierras is truly amazing, a quiet serene escape from the summer masses inside Yosemite.

We first spent the night at Lakeview Lodge in nearby Lee Vining. I drove into Yosemite to Tuolumne Meadows campground, got in the first-come/first-serve camping line at about 9AM, and was eventually 10th on the waiting list for a campsite. I was told that all of the first-come/first-serve campsites had been taken and to come back at 2PM with the possibility that more campsites would be available if enough people checked out after 11AM. I ventured around Tuolumne campground to scope things out - campsites were very close, and being July it was VERY dense and noisy with people.

A little discouraged, I drove back out of Yosemite toward Lee Vining and decided to check on the availability of campsites within Inyo NF between Yosemite and Lee Vining. To my knowledge, all or most of the Inyo NF campsites are first-come/first-serve, so I drove into Junction campground looking for open sites. After finding #9 open, I immediately set up the tent to claim the site and spoke to the camp host to make our reservation official. The gentleman was extremely kind and helpful.

We were so pleased with the location and campsite in Junction that I didn't go back to Tuolomne Meadows at 2PM to see if they had a site available for me. The only "drawback", for some, could be that Junction and the rest of the Inyo NF campgrounds in the area did not have running water or conventional toilets, just pit latrines. Not particularly ideal for an RV or those who absolutely need modern amenities when camping. Also, it was roughly a 1 hour drive to go visit Yosemite Valley....a little inconvenient, but a relief to leave at the end of the day. I would definitely visit Tioga Pass and camp in Inyo NF again.

Visited July 2014
5 Thank Stephen M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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21 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Portuguese first
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English first
los angeles
Level Contributor
378 reviews
171 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 130 helpful votes
“Inyo Craters”
Reviewed 17 July 2014

We took the brief hike to the Inyo Craters through the forest to see the beautiful site. It was really pretty and had some water still in it. We left at about 5PM and it only took about 30 minutes. There are really nice paths to walk on and scenery is lovely. There are a lot of pine cones that are large and pretty if you'd like a souvenir. My 17 month old was able to do the hike so it's not a difficult challenge for the most part.

Visited July 2014
Thank amanda42
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Angeles, California
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Big Pine Creek Campground”
Reviewed 12 July 2013

My wife and I spent 5 nights at Big Pine Creek Campground in July 2013 and we loved it there!
The only thing that we hoped to have read in the reviews before we got there was about the steep hill we had to climb for 5 miles in addition to a hairpin corner that we need to maneuver at 15 mph. We have a 27ft travel trailer behind our Suburban and it worked very hard to climb the mountain. We had a hard time going there and on the way back. Make sure the tires and breaks of your car and trailer are at the best shape when you go there.
The campground is located right by the creek and we could hear the soothing sound of the stream through out the day and night. This may be a concern for some but we like it. There are lots of trees that provide shade but not all sites have it. There are sites that also have their own "private" fishing and swim area. The temperature went up to 90's and went down to 60's at night. Even though it was 100 degree at Big Pine, we were very comfortable at 3000 ft higher altitude. For the tech savvy people - beware, there is no cellphone service much less internet connection! A great way to get away and enjoy nature!
We hiked to the First and Second Lakes while we stayed there. It took us about 3 and half hours to get there because we are not experienced hikers, but we strongly recommend the day trip to anybody who likes adventures. We recommend to bring plenty of water, take it easy during the hike up. The view that awaits is spectacular!
Another important thing to consider is your allergies. Make sure you have prepped your body with antihistamine before going up and maintain it while there.
Over all, this is one of the best campgrounds we have stayed so far and we will definitely go back.

Visited July 2013
5 Thank jdimstrsan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lake Forest, California
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Big Pine Creek Campground”
Reviewed 13 July 2012

We camped at Big Pine Creek Campground for 4 nights and where camping with several other families who booked this beautiful location. It's not a Yosemite but, it has everything a camper is looking for a good time. We had our 5 year old and 7 year old and they enjoyed the trip. My son caught two fish at the Trout Pond with his spiderman fishing pole which made his day. They have hiking trails which we only did about a mile of since we had small kids but the short hike had a nice bridge with a small waterfall. I saw pictures of area going two hour into the hike and go further if I didn't have kids to see the amazing view. They have 1 shower at the general store you can use which has $4. They don't have flushing toilet's but vault toilets but they where clean. Each campsite has a fire ring, table and bear box for food storage. We didn't see any bears or deer. Also, nobody got bit so, no mosquito's. Some of the site are in full sun so if you book a sunny site bring an easy-up for shade. Don't forget fishing pools. Bike would be nice too for the kids, you can't go far but within the campground they would enjoy them. The creek was fun for water play but cold and you need water shoes to walk around.

Visited July 2012
11 Thank jammenn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Aliso Viejo, California
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“BIg Pine Creek....I love you”
Reviewed 22 November 2011

We stayed at Big Pine Creek in the middle of may 2011, this was our first time up at big pine creek and is now my new favorite spot. First off the place is ABSOLUTELY AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL! I found my self constantly stopping with my jaw dropped at the surroundings. There was still snow on the mountains, pine cones flood the ground and the sound of running water fills the air.

When we arrived we didn't get there until about 12 at night so it was completely black and we were the only people in the camp ground. We didn't get to actually observe our spot but set up anyway, it was pretty spooky considering we literally could not see in front of us. When we woke up in the morning we could not believe our surroundings, it looked like the label on an arrowhead water bottle! We picked the best camp spot in the whole place, right next to a bridge and a great fishing spot. All these camp spots were right next to a running stream stocked with fish where we got to fish non stop. This is the type of area I wish I could build a cabin and visit once a month. The area along with the streams has several lakes to fish at that are a few miles hiking. At the moment this is my favorite area to camp! Cant wait to return.

Visited May 2011
11 Thank Enfinite5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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