Can You Sleep in Your Car in Yosemite?

People have different reasons for sleeping in their cars. If this is something you enjoy doing, then you should go ahead and take advantage of every opportunity, including when you visit Yosemite. While at it, you want to do it right so you don’t get in trouble.

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite? Sleeping in vehicles is not permitted in Yosemite along the side of the road or at the Visitor’s Parking, the Trailhead Parking, or at the Backpacker’s Campground. It’s allowed to sleep in cars in 12 out of 13 campsites in Yosemite, but only if the vehicle is registered to stay in any of these campsites.

In this article, I have compiled details of everything you need to know in order to sleep comfortably in your car in Yosemite. In this article, I have compiled details of places to check out and places to avoid in order to sleep comfortably in your car in Yosemite. What if you sleep in the wrong place? I have also pointed out possible consequences.

Where to Sleep in your Car in Yosemite

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite
Photo by Chris Wronski

While sleeping in your car is possible inside the Yosemite National Park, it’s only allowed in specific areas. The management offers several campsites around the park where you can park your car or RV and sleep in it.

There are 13 camping grounds in the park. Check out the complete guide to camping in Yosemite. Of these, you can park your car and sleep in 12 of the sites. The sites are divided depending on their location from the Yosemite Valley.

Here is a quick look at the specific sites where sleeping in a car is allowed:

Campgrounds in Yosemite Valley:

  • Upper Pines
  • Lower Pines
  • North Pines

Campgrounds South of Yosemite Valley:

  • Wawona
  • Bridalveil Creek

Campgrounds North of Yosemite Valley:

  • Hodgdon Meadow
  • Carne Flat
  • Tamarack Flat
  • White Wolf
  • Yosemite Creek
  • Porcupine Creek
  • Porcupine Flat
  • Tuolumne Meadows

Related: A Complete US National Park List

What Type of Vehicles are Allowed in Yosemite?

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite

In Yosemite National Park the roads are clearly marked and well maintained. This makes it easier for you to drive from one campsite to the other. As such, almost any vehicle can pass through the roads. 

There is a condition though, your car should not damage or interfere with the park’s vegetation or animals. What this means is that you cannot drive off the road at any time. For this reason, vehicles meant for off-road use are not allowed in the park. These include sand, swamp, and dune buggies. 

Some off-road vehicles like jeeps and SUVs are allowed as long as they stay on the roads and designated campsites. RVs (recreational vehicles) and trailers are also allowed in some campsites. 

Notably, individual campsites have specifications on the maximum length of trailer or RV allowed on its grounds. The maximum length for trailers ranges from 24 ft to 35 ft, while that of RVs is between 27 ft and 40 ft. 

Lastly, you can also access the park in a saloon car but for practical reasons, I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? Remember this is a park with dirt roads- you need a vehicle with enough ground clearance to drive comfortably.

Conditions for Sleeping in your Car in Yosemite

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite

Now that there are campsites where you can sleep in your car in Yosemite, does this mean that you can just show up at the campsite and choose a parking spot? Of course not. There are conditions set to ensure that the camps are not overcrowded. 

The rules also allow for fair use of camping facilities such as water, bathrooms, and parking spaces. Also, the park caters to persons with disabilities and as such, there is a need to reserve some of the facilities in specific campgrounds. 

Here are some of the main conditions:

1. You must Pay the Daily Camping Fee

There is a daily fee paid to the management for an overnight stay in Yosemite. Whether you sleep in your car or a tent, you will be expected to pay this fee. At the time of publishing, the fee ranges from $12 to $26 per person per night.

Typically, the charge is $26. Priority is offered on a first-come-first-served basis. The fee is the same all year long and is inclusive of pets that may accompany you on the camping trip.

2. You have to Make Reservations

Not all Yosemite campsites are open throughout the year. Depending on the weather, some sites are inaccessible. Especially from April through October. At the same time, every campsite has a specific number of people who can stay at any given time. For example, Lower Pines campground only caters for 60 people.

Even on the first-come-first-served basis, the park receives many visitors and it is possible not to get a spot. Additionally, the opening and closing dates are not the same for all the campgrounds. To avoid the inconvenience of not getting a spot for your car, you should call ahead and make a reservation.

Where in Yosemite should you not Sleep in your Car?

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite

As I mentioned earlier, there’s only one out of the 13 camping grounds in which you cannot sleep in your car. That is camp 4. Besides this campsite, there are other areas in Yosemite where you should not sleep in your car. Take a look below

Camp 4

Camp 4 is located inside the Yosemite Valley section of the park. It is a walk-in campground, meaning that you don’t have to make a reservation. No vehicles are allowed inside the campgrounds. That said, parking is available adjacent to the camping ground. When you register for camping, you get a free parking permit. 

Camp 4 is one of the few campgrounds in Yosemite that are open all year. Due to its popularity with most campers, it is really difficult to get a spot.  

From Mid-September through Mid-May, the camp operates on a daily first-come-first-served basis. However, from Mid-May through September, campsites are only available by lottery, one day in advance. And by the way, pets are not allowed in Camp 4.

Visitor’s Parking

This parking is available by reservation for visitors who plan to tour the Yosemite Valley during the day. The parking is free but you will be charged a service fee of $1.50 per reservation.

That said, the parking space is available to you for a day and from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm only- meaning no overnight parking and definitely, no sleeping in your car.

Along the Side of the Road

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite? If your idea involves pulling up along the side of the road in Yosemite and coming back later to sleep, then the answer is no. You are not even allowed to park on the roadside.

Trailhead Parking

Overnight parking is allowed at Curry Village and Trailhead Parking southeast of Curry village. Just in case you need to return to your car after dark, there are food lockers at both parking areas where you can store your food. Nevertheless, though overnight parking is allowed, sleeping in your car is not allowed here.

Backpackers Campgrounds

These camping grounds are available for holders of the wilderness permits. These permits are for backpackers who want to stay overnight in the Yosemite wilderness. At backpackers campground, they can spend a night before or after their wilderness trips. Here, you don’t need further reservations besides the wilderness permit.

As the name (backpackers) suggests, there are no provisions for parking cars or any other vehicles. You are required to park at the designated overnight parking areas and walk to the campgrounds.

What would Happen if you are Caught Sleeping in your Car?

Can you sleep in your car in Yosemite
Photo by faungg’s photos

So far it’s clear that sleeping in your car in Yosemite is possible. We have also established that there are conditions and designated campsites where sleeping in your car is allowed. The question becomes, what if you are caught disregarding these rules?

Yosemite National Park is patrolled by park rangers who offer help to visitors as well as ensure that laws are followed. As such, if you end up sleeping in your car at the wrong place, you can expect a knock and a flashlight on your window.

What follows depends on the officer and your explanation.

Typically, you should expect a ticket for which you will pay a fine. In most cases though, you will be directed to head to a designated campsite with a warning. So how good are you at getting out of tight situations? This may make the difference between getting off with a warning and getting fined.

That said, the officers are usually soft on you if you are caught napping on the side of the road. However, if you are caught off the road and further into the park, you may face more strict measures. For example, if you are operating an off-road vehicle outside the designated areas, you could be fined a maximum of $5,000

If paying hefty fines doesn’t scare you, please know that this park has many dangerous wild animals including black bears and bobcats- you are better off sleeping in your car inside the campgrounds where you will feel safer, even when you need to leave your car.

Final Words

Have you realized that the places in which you can sleep in your car in Yosemite are more than the places where it’s not allowed? Whether you choose to sleep in your car or not, you’ll have an amazing time in Yosemite.

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