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13 best campgrounds in Yosemite National Park

We've ranked the best campgrounds at Yosemite National Park, listed the amenities and told you when to snag a reservation.

Erika Mailman
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Erika Mailman
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Camping is the best way to immerse yourself in a national park. But it can be hard to decide which campground you should stay at in Yosemite. Thankfully, with 13 different campgrounds (as well as a selection of backcountry areas which require a separate wilderness permit), you can choose the one that will make your trip unforgettable. A valley campground ranger once told us White Wolf and Tamarack Flat were her favorites – but really, you can’t go wrong in this beautiful park. 

There are some things you should take into account when deciding which campgrounds in Yosemite are best for you. Some sites aren’t accessible for disabled people, and some require you to treat, filter or boil creek water. If you’re bent on taking a shower, stay at one of the Pines campgrounds so you can walk to Curry Village, where the pool’s showerhouse is the only place you can hose yourself down. Take note of elevations in the descriptions; you might get short of breath at some of the higher campgrounds and wish you had brought an inhaler.

Some campgrounds are currently closed for renovations, and some only open in mid- to late-summer depending on snowload (such as Tamarack Flat, White Wolf and Yosemite Creek), which also means that certain roads in Yosemite will also be closed. If you want to bring your pet, avoid Camp 4, the only one where pets aren’t allowed. Not all campgrounds have RV parking, and only three campgrounds allows horses. All of them will have metal bear boxes to store your food and you MUST use them. Bears will break into your car or tent if you leave any food inside. And they’ll have fun doing it, too.

Finally, you must make a reservation in advance – this is the first year that there isn’t any first-come, first-serve during summer months – and read campground information carefully because each differs in what they offer. 

Otherwise, read on for the best campgrounds in Yosemite National Park. 

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Yosemite

Best campgrounds at Yosemite National Park

Just to confuse you, there are three campgrounds with ‘Pines’ in the name; we think Lower Pines is the best because it’s the smallest with just 73 sites. The three Pines campgrounds are all near the Merced River in Yosemite Valley where most of Yosemite’s most dramatic wonders can be seen including views of Half Dome and El Cap. Also, they are close to Curry Village and the showers. The amphitheater within walking distance usually hosts nighttime ranger presentations, but programming is temporarily on hold for Summer 2022. 

Amenities: flush toilets seasonally, cell reception seasonally, amphitheater seasonally

This is the largest of the Pines campgrounds with 240 sites, and it's crowded enough to draw comparisons to a city. It may surprise you to know that Yosemite Village, which you can walk or bike to from the campground, actually has a population count (1,065 in the 2010 census), a post office, fire station, grocery store, and many of the amenities of a regular town. Like the other two Pines campgrounds, it sits at 4,000 feet and can be accessed from all park roads and is on the free shuttle route.

Amenities: toilets, cell reception

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This campground is the medium-sized one of the Pines and Goldilocks would probably say it was just right. Feel free to build a campfire (wood or charcoal—but wood is only allowed in the evenings in summer, while charcoal can be used anytime). This campground sits between the Merced River and Tenaya Creek, giving you a little more waterfront access. Plus, you get to use the cute stone Clark’s Bridge to get to it. New this year, a lottery system was piloted for North Pines reservations to address complaints about a perceived unfair reservation system for this popular campground.

Amenities: flush toilets seasonally, cell reception seasonally

White Wolf is an hour’s drive from the valley, sits at 8,000 feet, and offers a more bucolic experience (with no visitor services nearby). The campground is in the forest off Tioga Road, between Tuolumne Meadows and Crane Flat. You’ll have easy access to trailheads leading to Lukens Lake (a beautiful tree-lined lake), Harden Lake and other wilderness treks. The 74-tent sites (no RVs here) are near two stretches of a seasonal creek for wading and cooling off or just hearing the water rush by. Note that this campground has no ADA access.

Amenities: flush toilets seasonally, cell reception seasonally, amphitheater seasonally 

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Hardcore camper alert! There is no potable water at this campground, so you must learn the joyful (really!) art of filtering, boiling or treating with iodine the water that you take from the creek. Seriously, there is pleasure in knowing you can outwit the bacteria in your drink. To reach this site, you must drive five miles of rough road off the Tioga Road, an hour from the valley. The camp is at 7,700 feet, and there is no flushing with what are nicely called “vault toilets.”

Amenities: vault toilets

Close to the historic Wawona area of the park, this campground is 45 minutes from the valley. You’ll be on the South Fork of the Merced River at 4,000 feet elevation, a quick drive to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. You’ll also be close to the Pioneer History Center that provides a chance to see some of the park’s earliest structures, such as a Chinese laundry and a covered bridge (take a ride through it on a horse-drawn wagon). There’s a market and a visitor’s center with a display of Victorian artist Thomas Hill’s work at Wawona.

Amenities: flush toilets, cell reception, amphitheater seasonally, horses allowed

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Not the most creative name, but this Yosemite Valley campground does have an innovative reservation system. From May 20 to September 30, 2022, campsites are only available via lottery, one day in advance, which opens at midnight and ends at 4 pm with results emailed soon after. The best part: you can apply for up to seven nights. The worst part: a 10 percent success rate. The other worst part: a nonrefundable $10 fee. If you win a spot, you’ll be at the base of granite cliffs close to Yosemite Falls and close to everything in the valley.

Amenities: flush toilets, cell reception, tents only

This is a campground near the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park, located along Big Oak Flat Road. It sits at 4,900 feet and is about 45 minutes drive to Yosemite Valley. There is a gas station at Crane Flat with some convenience store items. A short drive from the campground brings you to trailheads for the Merced Grove and the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. Note that this campground has no ADA access for wheelchair users.

Amenities: flush toilets, cell reception

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Another bare bones campgrounds where you will be responsible for treating your own water scooped from Tamarack Creek. The campground is in the forest, three miles off the Tioga Road, just east of Crane Flat where a gas station provides gas and some minimal items to go. It’s a 45 minutes drive to Yosemite Valley and sits at 6,300 feet. The campground is not recommended for RVs and trailers which will find it hard to access.

Amenities: vault toilets, tents only

Note: closed until 2024 or 2025 for rehabilitation

Yosemite’s largest campground with 304 drive-in campsites, seven group sites, four horse sites, and 21 backpacker sites, Tuolumne Meadows is on the Tioga Road, with some areas close to the Tuolumne River. Sitting at 8,000 feet and only open seasonally, it's a great place to embark on hikes to lakes and prominent views. It’s 1.5 hours from the valley but close to a small store, grill, and post office. When open, it serves more than 150,000 visitors annually.

Amenities: flush toilets seasonally, cell reception seasonally, amphitheater seasonally, horses allowed

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Note: closed until 2023 for rehabilitation

Located just west of Crane Flat and its helpful gas station and mart, and 30 minutes from the valley, this campground sits at 6,200 feet. It’s close to trailheads for Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. It was built in the 1960s and originally was intended to have six different loop roads but only five were completed. Those roads are currently being rebuilt, and some single campsites will be merged to make double sites, allowing up to 12 people to camp together.

Amenities: flush toilets, cell reception seasonally, amphitheater seasonally

Note: closed until 2023 for water system rehabilitation

This is the only campground along Glacier Point Road (which is also closed for the duration) near Bridalveil Creek, and it’s surrounded by a lush forest of red fir and lodgepole pine. It sits at 7,200 feet and 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley. Glacier Point is seven miles away and offers spectacular views overlooking the valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the high country. Although there are no nearby services, you have access to a lot of hiking trails on Glacier Point Road. There are three campground loops and a horse camp here.

Amenities: flush toilets seasonally, no designated disabled access campsites, horses allowed

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Note: closed until further notice

Yes, this campground is named for the yellow-haired porcupines that live in Yosemite. Porcupine Flat was once covered by glaciers which left only a small amounts of soil atop the rock. Thus, trees are short-rooted and can often fall, creating food for the bark-eating mammals. The campground itself is off the Tioga Road, an hour from the valley and 30 minutes from Tuolumne Meadows. It’s at 8,100 feet and close to the Porcupine Creek Trailhead. No visitor services are nearby. This is one of the campgrounds where you must make creek water drinkable yourself. Intimidated? This article helps explain how to do it.

Amenities: vault toilets, tents only

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