Yosemite National Park may be closed right now, but that doesn't mean you can't dream about your next night under the stars.

By Skye Sherman
April 09, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Yosemite National Park is beloved for its stark High Sierra beauty punctuated by gushing waterfalls and massive, ancient sequoia trees, especially the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant. Understandably, camping here offers an experience unlike any other.

Unfortunately, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Yosemite National Park is temporarily closed to the public. The National Park Service stated, “Yosemite National Park has modified operations at the request of the local health department. Yosemite National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice.”

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But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend your quarantine planning your next adventure in the great outdoors.

Nightly fees vary across the 13 different Yosemite campgrounds, and only a few are open all year long. There are also backcountry campgrounds at Little Yosemite Valley plus five High Sierra Camps, which require securing a wilderness permit in advance, as they’re not part of the campground reservation system. Not committed to roughing it? You can opt to stay at Housekeeping Camp for the full camping experience, minus having to set up a tent. (It’s also the only place other than Curry Village where showers are available.)

The options available for camping in Yosemite may leave your head spinning, so read on for our picks of the best places to camp in Yosemite National Park.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground

With 304 tent and RV sites, Tuolumne Meadows Campground is the largest in Yosemite National Park. Located at 8,600 feet, where the Tuolumne River separates into the Dana Fork and Lyell Fork, it’s popular among campers for its many amenities — a restaurant, general store, gas station, post office, mountaineering school, and visitor center are nearby — as well as its close proximity to Elizabeth Lake, Lyell Canyon, and various other peaks, lakes, domes, and hikes. Plus, the John Muir Trail begins in the campground, and your chances of spotting a black bear are pretty high.

Bridalveil Creek Campground

Bridalveil Creek Campground is the only campground on Glacier Point Road, and it places campers near the scenic Glacier Point lookout, which offers impressive views over some of the highlights of Yosemite Valley, like Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the mind-blowing high country. It’s also an ideal location for adventurers who want to use the campground as a staging area for hikes and day trips, as many trailheads are located nearby, including the Sentinel Dome to Taft Point Loop, Mono Meadow, Pohono, and Panorama Trails. Bridalveil Creek Campground has 110 tent or RV sites, two group sites, and three horse sites; each comes with a fire ring, picnic table, drinking water, flushing toilets, and a food locker to protect Yosemite’s bears (and visitors).

Camp 4

Camp 4, the only campground in Yosemite National Park where RVs and trailers are not permitted, is especially popular among rock climbers. It became the unofficial hangout for those interested in the sport in the mid-1900s, with many setting up camp and staying for months on end. According to the National Park Service, “Camp 4 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its nationally significant role in the development of rock climbing as a sport.” The 11-acre campground is located near Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley Lodge, at 4,000 feet of elevation. There are 36 shared walk-in sites, all for tents only, so Camp 4 is typically in high demand. In the spring and fall, wishful campers have to register with a ranger starting at 8:30 a.m., but in the winter, Camp 4 is run on a self-registration system. There’s even a boulder located at the campground, which climbers love to practice on.

Wawona Campground

If you want to stay as close as possible to Mariposa Grove, home of the famous Grizzly Giant sequoia tree, Wawona Campground is your best bet. It’s open all year, and each of the three campsite loops at Wawona Campground are located on the South Fork Merced River. There are 93 sites for tents or RVs, and each contains a fire ring, picnic table, and food locker, with a location near a bathroom with drinking water and flushing toilets. Wawona Campground is a bit more secluded than campgrounds located in Yosemite Valley, so head here for a more remote getaway.

Upper Pines Campground

Situated at 4,400 feet, Upper Pines Campground is one of the most popular in Yosemite Valley, thanks to its large size (there are 238 sites with space for tents, RVs up to 35 feet, and trailers up to 24 feet) and killer views. You can spot Yosemite highlights like Half Dome and El Capitan from Upper Pines, and its location near Curry Village means there are plenty of amenities available for a comfortable stay. Plus, the campground is open year-round.

Porcupine Flat Campground

Located on a quiet stretch of Porcupine Creek, Porcupine Flat Campground is one of the more remote camping options in Yosemite National Park. There are few conveniences available (for example, you’ll have to bring your own water, or plan to boil creek water to drink), but the first-come, first-served site offers campers easy access to Yosemite highlights like Tenaya Lake, Olmsted Point, and Tuolumne Meadows, as well as many miles of trails. Located on Tioga Road (Highway 120) about one hour and 15 minutes north of Yosemite Valley, Porcupine Flat Campground sits at 8,100 feet and is typically open only July through October. RVs and trailers are not recommended.