Yosemite National Park in California is famous for its giant sequoia trees, waterfalls, and massive granite cliffs, and it is home to black bears, deer, bobcats, and many more. It is an absolute must-visit for your USA road trip! It is essential to plan well ahead for your visit. There are no hookups inside the park, so you will not be able to connect your van to power or refill your water. However, there are a few main dump stations where you’ll be able to empty your holding tank. Reservations for campgrounds in the national park open 5 months in advance and fill up very quickly. We recommend booking as far in advance as possible. If you miss out on reservations, there are some campgrounds with first-come, first-served campsites, and privately run RV parks nearby.
The Pines Campgrounds (Upper Pines Campground, Lower Pines & North Pines)
This group of campgrounds, consisting of Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines, is located in Yosemite Valley, close to Curry Village and major trailheads, and it offers views of the iconic El Capitan and Half Dome granite cliffs. It is the ideal choice for your first visit to Yosemite. Having an unbeatable location also means these campgrounds are extremely popular and book out months in advance.
Upper Pines Campground is the largest of the three and the only one open year-round. With 238 campsites, it is not the place to go to get away from the crowds and can feel cramped at times. The campsites are bigger and more spaced at North Pines. This campground is generally quieter than Upper Pines and has scenic riverside sites as well as views of the granite cliffs. It is open from March to October, and like all campgrounds in Yosemite, you should book your campsite as soon as reservations open (5 months in advance).
The facilities at the campgrounds include flushing toilets and bathrooms with drinking water. There is a dump station at the entrance to Upper Pines. You can find showers and groceries in nearby Curry Village.
Tuolumne Meadows Campground
Tuolumne Meadows Campground is the biggest in Yosemite, with over 300 sites. It is located about 1.5 hrs drive from the valley and is generally much quieter than the Pines campgrounds. This campground is the perfect base from which to explore the high Sierra and ideal if you are after some spectacular hikes. There are beautiful views of the Tuluomne river, lakes, and nearby mountains, and several day hikes are accessible from this campground, ranging from easy to challenging. Lower Cathedral Lake is the most popular hike in the area.
The elevation here is 8,600ft, which makes it cold even throughout the summer. It is usually open from July to September. Half the campsites are available to reserve 5 months in advance, but the other half is on a first-come, first-served basis. If you choose to try this option, we recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Facilities include flushing toilets and bathrooms with drinking water. There is a dump station on the Tioga Road just west of the campground, and showers are available in the valley at Curry Village. There is also a small grocery store and a post office in Tuolumne Meadows.
Located near the south entrance to the park and about 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley, this is a good alternative if you can’t get a booking in the valley campgrounds or as the last stop before leaving the park. It is located by the Merced River, with larger campsites but still relatively close to each other. The trailhead to Chilnualna Falls is nearby. It is a challenging 8.4-mile day hike that will take you through cascades and three waterfalls. It has the upside of being a lot less crowded than the MistTrail, although less impressive.
For a less strenuous and family-friendly activity, visit the Pioneer Yosemite History Center to learn about Yosemite’s history and see historic buildings, some of which have been relocated from other parts of the park to be preserved. Loop A is open year-round. Loops B and C are usually open April to September. We highly recommend reservations at this campground during the summer, but there are campsites available on a first-come,first-served basis in the A loop (about 20 sites) from October to March.
Facilities include flushing toilets and bathrooms with drinking water. A dump station is available during the summer months only, and showers can ain the valley at Curry Village. There is also a small grocery store in Wawona.
White Wolf Campground
Located north of Yosemite Valley, and about a 1-hour drive, White Wolf Campground is ideal for those looking for day hikes further from the crowds. The 74, well-spaced campsites fell less crowded than other Yosemite campgrounds even when full. Several trails start from this campground, such as the trail to Lukens Lake, a moderate hike suitable for all skill levels, and those looking for a (cold) swim in the lake.
All campsites at this campground are first-come, first-served only, which makes it a good option if you can’t get reservations at other campsites. We recommend arriving as early as possible for a better chance of grabbing a spot. It is open from July to September.
Facilities include flushing toilets and bathrooms with drinking water. A dump station is available during the summer months near Tuolumne Meadows, and year-round in Upper Pines. Showers are available in the valley at Curry Village.
Indian Flat RV Park
This smaller, privately-run campground is located just 8 miles from the park’s entrance. Indian Flat RV Park is a good option if you are looking for more amenities than the campgrounds in the park offer, but is not as scenic. Some campsites have electricity and water hookups, and there are showers and sewage hookups on site. Merced River is right across the street for swimming and fishing. You can also get access to a pool, restaurant, and bar at the Lodge 5 min drive away, making it a great stop to refresh and relax after visiting the park and for families. There is a grocery shop nearby at El Portal. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance, which we recommend during peak season.
Bass Lake RV Park
Located 18 miles south of Yosemite National park and about 1.5 hours from the valley, this campground is for those looking for a little extra. Campsites here are more expensive than in the park but will make it up in convenience and comfort. Charge up before your Yosemite adventures or relax and recover after exploring with free Wifi, cable, and an outdoor pool. As well as being close to Yosemite, it is only 3 miles from the Bass Lake recreation area. This RV park has kitchens, as well as living and dining areas. Other amenities include full hookups, an outdoor pool, shuffleboard, horseshoes, food court, children’s playground, and a clubhouse. In the nearby town, you can find shops, restaurants, fuel, and boat rentals to enjoy Bass Lake and the recreation area.
Bridalveil Creek Campground
Located on Glacier Point Rd, and only 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley or Wawona, Bridalveil Creek is an incredible location to set up camp. With waterfall views, meadows, cliffs, and Bridalveil Creek running through the beauty of this campground is unmatched. Each campsite comes with a picnic table, fire ring, and a food locker. Flush toilets, potable water, and vault toilets are throughout the campground. There are no hookups here, so come prepared. Bridalveil, one of the best Yosemite campgrounds, is well-known for its location near popular hiking trails such as 4-Mile Trail, Panorama Trail, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, and Ostrander Lake.
Yosemite National Park is one of the most famous of the US National Parks, and staying at any of these campgrounds or RV Parks is sure to make for an excellent adventure. If you are struggling to reserve a campsite, you can also look into Hodgdon Meadow Campground, Crane Flat Campground, Yosemite RV Resort, or Yosemite Lakes RV Resort.
Bonus: When you book a campervan through Travellers Autobarn, you will receive a discount at any KOA in the US, including Yosemite Mariposa KOA.
Here are a few other articles you might find helpful.
A Beginners Guide to Yosemite National Park
San Francisco to Yosemite National Park
Ultimate National Parks Campervan Road Trip
Guide to the Best Campgrounds for Campervans in the USA
About the Author
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.