Yosemite National Park is located in California’s picturesque Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite is best known for its natural beauty and features beautiful valleys, mountains, waterfalls, lush forests, and hidden swimming holes. Better yet, Yosemite offers a long list of adventure-filled activities. On a trip to Yosemite, you’ll be able to rock climb, hike, raft, fish, kayak, horse ride and stargaze.
To discover why it’s one of my favorite parks in the world and to start planning your own trip to go camping in Yosemite, simply continue reading to learn everything that you need to know about Yosemite National Park.
- Yosemite was declared a national park on the 1st of October, 1890.
- Each year over 4 million tourists from around the world visit Yosemite.
- Yosemite was the first United States park to hire a park guardian. In 1864 Galen Clark was hired to educate visitors about Yosemite and the important issue of conservation.
- It was once protected by Buffalo Soldiers. African American soldiers who were assigned to patrol the park in 1899.
- In the last two weeks of February, it’s sometimes possible to spot the Horsetail Fall, which is a waterfall, glowing. Thanks to an optical illusion which is caused by the sun setting in such a way that it reflects onto the waterfall and makes it appear as if it’s glowing.
- Yosemite is considered the birthplace of rock climbing as a competitive sport.
- There are currently 13 official campgrounds within Yosemite National Park (you can read more about reservations visiting this link).
While it does snow in Yosemite, winter in Yosemite isn’t as cold as you may think. The average daytime temperature in winter ranges from 48-53 degrees Fahrenheit. At night the average temperature ranges from 27-30 degrees Fahrenheit.
As it snows heavily in winter, I recommend traveling with snow chains for your tires. As it’s not unusual for officials to make snow chains mandatory.
During spring the temperature reaches 58-73 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. While at night the average temperature falls to 33-44 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Summer, temperatures routinely skyrocket to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. While the average temperature during summer is a more comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, at night the temperature can plummet to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. So ensure to pack a warm sleeping bag, a long-sleeved jacket and a long pair of trousers. On the odd occasion, I’d resort to wearing jeans, when the sun went down.
Also, be prepared for the occasional thunderstorm. Most of which take place in the afternoons at high elevation.
During fall cold days can reach a low of between 32-50 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average high is usually between 57-84 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall in Yosemite is generally quite a temperature. So if you visit during the fall you’ll still be able to take part in a wide variety of adventurous activities.
Best Time of Year to go Camping in Yosemite
The best time of year to explore Yosemite is during spring, which takes place between March and May. Spring is the ideal time to camp in Yosemite National Park as its waterfalls are at their peak flow and the park’s wildflowers bloom in Spring. As an added bonus, you won’t have to contend with the peak season crowds, which flock to Yosemite in Summer.
However, it’s still worth visiting Yosemite in summer as some areas of the park aren’t open to the public until summer. As there is still snowfall in some parts of the park during spring.
The Best Places to go Camping in Yosemite
If you’re looking for a unique camping experience, book a few night’s accommodations at Autocamp Yosemite. As you’ll be able to go glamping, in a luxury airstream trailer. Each airstream trailer offers wood flooring, a luxury bathroom, a comfortable bed and local designer branded toiletries.
Alternatively, Autocamp Yosemite also offers luxurious, modern cabins, which feature the comforts of home. Each cabin includes air-conditioning and central heating, a queen-sized bed, a dining table and chairs, a flat-screen TV, a plush futon sofa, a spa shower, and a full kitchen. Better yet, if you book a cabin you’ll also get access to your own private outdoor table and chairs, a barbecue and a fire pit.
White Wolf Campground
White Wolf Campground is located in the northern section of Yosemite National Park. Unlike many campgrounds in Yosemite, it’s located directly off the main road, so if you don’t have an SUV, you won’t have any trouble getting to White Wolf Campground.
White Wolf Campground is open from early July to early September and offers 74 camping sites. Many of which can comfortably accommodate an RV. If you book a campsite you’ll have your own fire pit, picnic table, and food locker. As well as access to a bathroom. However, in order to enjoy a hot shower, you’ll need to walk or drive to a nearby shower bock.
North Pines Campground
North Pines Campground is set in a pine forest and is nestled against a powerful river. If you’re looking for a campground which is fairly quiet and is located within walking distance of scenic hiking trails, you’ll love camping at North Pines Campground. Especially as its 82 campsites are well spaced out. So you won’t have to listen to other campers’ music or late-night parties.
Nelder Grove Campground
If you’re always looking for a bargain, you’ll love Nelder Grove Campground. A free campground that is located close to the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park. Nelder Grove Campground offers tent sites and RV sites and features a few campsites on the edge of a rippling stream.
Just be warned that it doesn’t feature hot showers although it does offer a porta-potty. However, for a free campground, you can’t really complain as the campground itself is in a beautiful, remote location.
Redinger Campground is another free campground which is conveniently located next to Yosemite. Redinger Campground is located in the Sierra National Forrest and is popular amongst fishermen and women. As it’s possible to catch fish for your dinner at Redinger Campground. If you’re interested it offers free campsites for tents, vans, and RVs.
Upper Pines Campground
Upper Pines Campground is conveniently located in the heart of Yosemite Valley and is 4,000 feet above sea level. Due to its central location, it makes the perfect base to visit Yosemite’s waterfalls, valleys, and meadows. Better yet, Upper Pines Campground is open all year round.
As one of the three largest campgrounds in Yosemite National Park is offers a wide variety of on-site features and amenities. Examples of which include flushing toilets, clean drinking water, car parks, and paved roads.
As an added bonus, you can walk from Upper Pines Campground to Curry Village. Where you’ll find a handy general store, a theater, and an activities desk. So if you’d like to book a horse trek or a guided rock climbing tour, it’s well worth visiting the activities desk at Curry Village.
There are over a dozen private yurts that are owned by private individuals, which you can hire on sites such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor. So if stargazing from a luxurious appeal to you, make sure to browse the yurts which are available during your chosen travel dates.
Things to do in Yosemite While Camping
Explore Yosemite’s Hiking Trails
Yosemite National Park boasts over 750 miles of trails. When I visited Yosemite, I spent a week trying to complete as many hikes as I could and I often had to stop and mentally pinch myself, as Yosemite’s natural beauty took my breath away on several occasions.
It’s well worth packing a portable charger for your smartphone, in your day pack, to ensure that you never run out of battery, to take photos on your hikes. So that you’ll be able to show your friends and family members the magic of Yosemite National Park.
Some of the hiking trails which you should add to your trip itinerary include the El Capitan Trail, the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail and the Yosemite Falls Trailhead.
Spend an Evening Stargazing
As Yosemite is miles away from the nearest city, the night sky is less polluted and you’ll have no trouble making out different stars and constellations.
Make the Most of Yosemite’s World-Class Rock Climbing Areas
Yosemite is considered one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations. However, if you’re a beginner, I highly recommend booking a guided rock climbing tour aimed at beginners. In order to avoid taking on a climb, that’s too challenging for your skill level.
If you’re interested in the Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service, which was founded in 1969, is located within Yosemite National Park. It offers rock climbing lessons, group hikes and private, guided rock climbing trips and equipment rental.
Hike to Yosemite Falls
While Yosemite offers numerous majestic waterfalls, Yosemite Falls in the tallest waterfall in Yosemite and features a spectacular 2,425-foot drop. To see Yosemite Falls at its peak, make sure to visit Yosemite during spring.
While I was in awe of Yosemite Falls, I also recommend hiking to Snow Creek Falls, Sentinel Falls, Staircase Falls, and Ribbon Falls. All of which are uniquely beautiful.
Rent a Raft to Explore Merced River
You’ll be able to rent a raft for a couple of hours, in order to explore Merced River. Alternatively, you can use your own kayak to explore the river. If rafting doesn’t sound like your type of adventure, depending on the time of year in which you visit Yosemite, you may be permitted to fish on Merced River.
Take a Walk Through Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is a 7.5-mile glacial valley which is 3000-3,500 deep and which is surrounded by steep mountains. It’s definitely well worth taking a walk through Yosemite Valley, during your camping trip. As the views are stunning!
While most tourists visit Yosemite in spring or summer, if you visit the park in winter, you’ll be able to take part in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. If you’re not a strong skier, don’t worry as cross country skiing is a lot easier than regular skiing as you’ll be able to lock your skis into the path which you’d like to follow.
There are numerous guided horse-riding treks that you can book during your upcoming camping trip. Some examples of professional stables that you may want to research include Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures, Yosemite Valley Stables, Big Tree Stables, and Tuolumne Stable.
While off-road cycling is strictly prohibited, you are allowed to cycle along the recreational path which is located in Yosemite Valley. So it could be worth packing your bike if you plan on visiting other parts of California before or after your Yosemite camping trip.
Drive To The Top Of Glacier Point
Glacier Point is one of the highest-rated lookout points within Yosemite and is 7,214 feet above sea level. It actually stands 3,200 feet above Half Dome, another popular lookout point. Once you drive to the top of Glacier Point you’ll enjoy incredible views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite Valley.
Visit Half Dome
Half Dome is a massive granite dome that boasts an elevation of approximately 2,684 feet. While Glacier Point offers a higher vantage point, it’s still well worth visiting Half Dome as it’s one of Yosemite’s most iconic natural landmarks.
Related: A Complete US National Park List
Secret Spots and Hidden Gems in Yosemite
Rancheria Falls is severely underrated and is a series of connected waterfalls which cascade down 300 meters into a beautiful reservoir. However, what makes Rancheria Falls extra special is that you’ll be treated to views of gorgeous snow-capped mountains as well as the falls. If you complete the Rancheria Falls trail in Spring you’ll also find the falls surrounded by thousands of delicate wildflowers.
You may be wondering why Rancheria Falls, isn’t as popular as many of the waterfalls which are located in Yosemite. This may be due to the fact that a return trip to Rancheria Falls and back to the main road is 13 miles long.
What could be better than finding a secret swimming hole, where you’ll be able to cool after a long, challenging hike? The Ledge is one of Yosemite’s best-kept secrets and is deep enough to dive into. Trust me you’ll cool off after diving straight into the deep blue water of the Ledge. If you’re curious the Ledge is named after the granite ledge which surrounds the natural swimming pool.
Yosemite Safety Tips
Select Hiking Trails which Match your Skill Level
Unfortunately, each year around 13-20 hikers lose their lives as a result of hiking tracks which are too advanced for their climbing level. As an example, two experienced climbers were killed when they tragically fell off the El Capitan track.
Avoid Black Bears, Mountain Lions, and Coyotes
As Yosemite is home to wild black bears and mountain lions, make sure that you’re always well aware of your surroundings, in order to avoid becoming the prey of a hungry black bear or mountain lion. Also, make an effort to avoid any coyotes which you may see in the distance.
To avoid running into wild predators, I often use binoculars to check the areas which I plan on hiking to, for potential predators. Such as black bears, mountain lions, and coyotes.
Don’t Feed the Squirrels
While you may be tempted to feed the cute squirrels which you spot on your camping trip, avoid doing so as they frequently bite campers and hikers, causing infection and a lot of pain.
Avoid Sleeping Directly on the Ground
In order to avoid contact with rodents and animal droppings which may carry diseases such as rabies and Lyme disease, make sure to avoid sleeping on the ground. Instead, sleep inside a tent or in a cot, hammock or sleeping bag.
Carry Insect Repellent
As mosquitos are commonplace in Yosemite, especially in August, during the height of summer, don’t travel to Yosemite, without packing insect repellent.
If Possible, Choose to Hike with Other Travelers
Even if you plan on traveling solo, it’s well worth teaming up with other travelers in order to go for lengthy or difficult hikes. As if you accidentally injure yourself, you’ll be able to rely on your hiking companions to help you get back to your campsite.
I personally recommend hiking with other travelers as I’ve been lucky enough to make friends from around the world, by organizing spontaneous group hikes on my travels.
Be Careful when you Walk Below Steep Cliffs
As rockfalls are commonplace in Yosemite, be sure to take extra care while walking below steep cliffs.
In my opinion, every individual should experience the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park, at least once in their lifetime. As the memories which I made exploring Yosemite, will stay with me for the rest of my life. In fact, I’m already daydreaming about my next trip to Yosemite.
So if you’re ready to get away with the pressures of modern-day life and your social media accounts, do yourself a huge favor and start planning your Yosemite camping adventure today. Especially if you love the sound of star gazing, hiking to majestic waterfalls, learning to rock climb and rafting down the Merced River.
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