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Camping Outside Yosemite National Park

Top Yosemite National Park Free Camping Spots

Hartley Springs – Free Camping Outside Yosemite National Park

We want to not only give you a great look at the Yosemite National Park free camping spots but everything that is available to you in the park. We give you the best places to visit, things to do, packing lists and hiking options.

There are many reasons to make you visit Yosemite National Park. First of all, this park is one of the formidable natural landscapes in California US which is roughly 1200 square miles. The park has a lot of stunning features that you can enjoy anytime you go there. There are plenty of towering waterfalls, cliff faces, unique rock formations, millennia-old Sequoia trees, wildlife, lakes, and glaciers that are just fascinating for you to see.

However, most of the activities that you do in the park are within Yosemite Valley which is only 8-square miles. In this valley, you will find famous landmarks such as El Capitan and Half Dome and excellent hiking trails which make your trip worth it. You can find fun through hiking, rock climbing, skiing, horse riding, and many more activities. These are enough reasons for you to explore the park and be among the 4 million visitors annually.

The park can be expensive so we suggest you take a look at all of the Yosemite National Park free camping spots in our post. You will find that these Yosemite National Park free camping spots are located all around the park and it is much cheaper to stay outside and drive 10 to 15 miles than paying the park fees.

Campgrounds Inside Yosemite National Park

You wont be right in Yosemite Valley, but this is your next best bet.

  • White Wolf: Great campground located on Highway 120 west of Tioga Pass. Higher altitude makes for nice, cool evenings.
  • Tamarack Flat: The tight, windy road weeds out the full-size RV crew. Closer to the valley than other non-valley sites. This is an Escape favorite.
  • Yosemite Creek on Highway 120: One lane road that goes for several miles, meaning few to no RVs, which means awesome. Drive slow, take your time, and thank us later.
  • Bridalveil Creek: Located on Glacier Point Road, this is a truly spectacular non-valley campground. It has plenty of sites and makes a great jump off point for several epic hikes.
  • Tuolumne Meadows: Most people think this is a reservation-only campground, but it also has some first-come sites. Get there early if youre dead set on staying there.

Merced River Canyon Camping

Roll out your tent down by the river in the Merced River Canyon at Campgrounds like McCabe Flat, Railroad Flat, Dirt Flat, or here at Willow Placer Campground.

Just upstream from Lakes McClure and McSwain is the beautiful wild and scenic Merced River and the steep canyon that towers around the clear, cool river. The canyon is a transportation hub for the region as its home to Highway 140, the all-weather highway, which leads to Yosemites western entrance.

The canyon itself is full of recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, swimming, whitewater rafting and kayaking. One of the lesser-known resources in the area is camping. The stretch of river is managed by different agencies including the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests and, further downstream, the Bureau of Land Management.

Popular landing spots close to the water at elevations ranging from about 1,200 to 1,600 feet include McCabe Flat Campground, which is a two-mile drive on a dirt road from the Merced River Visitor Center on Highway 140 and is known for its large, sandy beach. Continue on this same road another two miles to Willow Placer Campground with 8 walk-in sites. Another mile brings you to the end of the line at Railroad Flat Campground. In addition to swimming, fishing and rafting, Railroad Flat is the starting point for great riverside hiking trails. Dirt Flat Campground, located near El Portal, is a peaceful walk-in camp close to the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Merced River.

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Yosemite National Park Camping Guide

Yosemite National Park Camping Guide

Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park are operated by the National Park Service. There are 13 campgrounds in the park. They are: Lower Pines, North Pines, Upper Pines and Sunnyside Walk-in, Bridalveil Creek, Crane Flat, Hodgdon Meadow, Porcupine Flat, Tamarack Flat, Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, White Wolf and Yosemite Creek.

There is a 30 day camping limit within Yosemite National Park in any calendar year.

Camping Reservations

Visitors to Yosemite will be able to make campground and tour reservations again beginning 15 Mar 2000.

Reservations are also required at Group Camps in Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows, Hodgdon Meadow, and Bridalveil Creek.

Reservations for Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows campsites can be made up to five months in advance starting on the 15th of the month. To make reservations for the summer season, you will need to call on the 15th. The phone lines will be busy so you need to keep trying and expect delays.

Sites at Upper Pines campground in Yosemite Valley will continue to be available on a first come, first served basis until the new reservation system is on line. Group Camp, Upper and Lower River campgrounds, and a portion of Lower Pines campgrounds in Yosemite Valley were destroyed by flooding in January 1997. Plans are underway to rebuild the majority of these campsites in Yosemite Valley.

Check in/check out time for Yosemite Valley campgrounds is 10:00 am.

Additional Camping Information

Stock Usage

What To Pack For Your Visit To The Yosemite National Park

Guide to Camping in Yosemite National Park

In Yosemite National Park, the terrain is rough and the temperatures keep on changing. Due to these conditions and the activities that you plan to undertake in the park, it is good to carry some of the following things as you head there:

Water shoes: These are essential when you are planning on activities such as river rafting and canoeing in rivers and waterfalls.

Binoculars to see rock climbers and bears

Waterproof, breathable, strong, and hard-soled hiking boots for maneuvering through the rough granite trails.

A rain jacket to protect you from afternoon storms and the freezing temperatures after the rain.

Enough drinking water to keep yourself hydrated throughout your exploration.

A sun hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from sunburns.

Plastic bags for carrying toilet paper since you are not allowed to bury toilet paper in Yosemite National park.

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Peaceful Setting & Family Fun

Our serene environment makes it easy to relax however you choose. Located directly on the scenic Fresno River, both RVers and tent campers interested in camping Yosemite will love our tidy campsites. Enjoy fishing, a refreshing dip in the pristine water, or the soothing sounds of the falls.

Come experience a great Yosemite camping adventure just a short drive from the scenic wonders of Yosemite National Park Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite & Bridal Veil Falls, the Mist Trail and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Plus, we’re just 8 miles from beautiful Bass Lake.

Come see why so many of our guests return year after year… or stay for good in our cozy RV park near Yosemite!

What Is The Weather Like In The Yosemite Valley

Yosemite National Park is large and it covers 1,200 square miles. It is located in Sierra, Nevada. Just to give you an idea of what you are dealing with is that the elevations range from 2,000 feet to 13,000 feet. It gets most of its precipitation from October to May and 75% occurs between November and March. From November through May, there is snow throughout the Yosemite area. During any storm in the winter, there can be rain or snow or both. This should help you to know what types of clothing you will need to pack for your trip. You always want to be able to stay as warm as possible whenever you are traveling.

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Upper Pines Campground Yosemite National Park Free Camping Spots Alternative

Out of the three campgrounds located in the Yosemite Valley, this campground is the largest since it has 238 campsites. The large pines and cedars in this campground provide you with a mix of sun and shade. Upper Pines Campground has sites that are smaller than those in North Pine Campground but is open year-round.

Vernal Falls Is A Back Trail That Has A Length Of 64 Kilometers And An Elevation Gain Of 390 Meters The Difficulty Level Of Vernal Falls Trail Is Hence Rated As Moderate This Trail Is Located Near Yosemite Valley And It Features A Waterfall The Trail Is Best Used Between May And November Primarily For Hiking Nature Trips And Walking 7 Four Mile Trail

BEST Campground Near YOSEMITE National Park

Four Mile is a back trail where you cover a distance of 14.8 kilometers in approximately 6 hours and gain an elevation of 1101 meters. Thus the trail is rated as hard and only experienced adventurers are recommended. Four Mile Trail is located near Yosemite Valley and it features a waterfall. It is best used between April and November mainly for hiking and running.

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Tips For Renting A Cabin In Yosemite

Renting a cabin or lodge in Yosemite is the ultimate way to enjoy a Yosemite adventure. Cabins are available year-round and offer private bedrooms, private bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchens, central heat/AC and parking. Traditional camping amenities, such as a fire pits and outdoor grills, provide a timeless outdoorsy feel. Families with children and teens can enjoy a day hiking in the park, before returning home to a cozy cabin with television, Wi-Fi, and board games.

Unlike campsites that only sleep up to six visitors, most cabins and lodges accommodate eight to twelve visitors. Pet friendly options are available as well. With a wide variety of properties available, it is easy to choose the perfect rental home to match any traveling style.

Whispering Pines

Whispering Pines is a rustic, one bedroom, one bathroom, cabin in the woods stocked with modern amenities. It is perfect for couples, friends, or small families. Whispering Pines is pet-friendly and is located only a short walking distance from the Merced River. This cabin truly feels like a camping adventure, while also offering creature comforts such as a satellite TV and propane BBQ.

Along the River

Research Trail Difficulty Level

Yosemite has a trail for everyone however, certain trails arent for everyone. They range from easy level difficulty to strenuous level difficulty.

Make sure you understand your physical ability before embarking on any hike.

Failing to do so could lead to a miserable day, or worse, injury or death. Heres some of the difficulty levels for the three most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park:

1. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

  • Difficulty level: EasyLength
  • Length : 14 miles
  • Length : 12 hours

You can see that the more difficult trails are usually longer and take more time. For information on other trails visit HERE.

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Upper Chiquito Dispersed Camping

This secret spot is pretty far off the highway. A long forest road will take you into the backcountry of California.

Its a largely unspoiled wilderness with a higher chance of seeing wild animals and flourishing flora

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center?

  • 72 miles, or roughly 2 hour and 15 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Do you like camping off the beaten path? This is the RV camping site for you!

It offers a number of outdoor activities in the back-country, including: fishing in wet years, horseback riding, ATV trails, and hiking.

At night, its distance from any major cities provides RV campers with a clear night sky. Its a great place for large group camping.

Finally, the road leading to this camping option is one of the most gorgeous scenic routes in the state: Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.


  • Human waste needs to be buried 6-8 inches deep

For more information on camping in Upper Chiquito Campground visit HERE.

If you combine your Yosemite National Park trip with one of these free RV campsites its impossible for you to have a bad time.

If youve never visited tell us which of these campsites sounds the best. And if youve visited before let us know why you love Yosemite National Park!

Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson

Yosemite National Park Camping: What To Do When Campsites Are All Booked

Yosemite Creek Campground

Camping. Roughing it. Being one with nature.

Whatever you call it, we believe there is no better way to truly experience Yosemite National Park in all its beauty than a night or two spent out underneath the stars. Plus, according to research, spending time outdoors is the ultimate form of self-care. And who are we to argue with science?

Yosemite is home to more than 1,400 different campsites, a large majority of which can be reserved in advance. Thing is, the vast majority of our campsites require booking as far out as six months in advance, which means if youre hoping for a Yosemite camping adventure during this years peak season, you might need to consider some alternatives. Its OK. Weve got you covered.

The good news is, there are plenty of places to pick for your Plan B if camping isnt in the cards for you this summer at Yosemite.

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Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is a back trail that is 12.2 kilometers in length with an elevation gain of 985 meters and hence it is also rated as difficult. The trail features a waterfall and is mainly used for hiking. It takes you approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes round trip but it is recommended only for experienced adventurers.

Which Campgrounds In Yosemite Accommodate Rvs

There are 9 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park that can accommodate RVs and trailers. These campgrounds are North Pines, Lower Pines, Upper Pines, Crane Flat, Hodgdon Meadow, Wawona, Bridalveil Creek, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows.

Most sites will accommodate RVs up to 35 feet or trailers up to 24 feet. There are only 8 sites in the entire park that will accommodate a maximum RV length of 40 feet or a maximum trailer length of 35 feet and six of these are at Lower Pines. If you have a larger size rig, Lower Pines is most likely the best campground for you.

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Free Rv Camping Near Yosemite

Since there are limits on how long you can camp in Yosemite Valley each calendar year, free camping outside of the park is a good alternative for those looking to extend their stay. And you can save some money on your trip too. The free campsites mentioned here do not offer many amenities, yet they are lots of fun for those who enjoy boondocking.

Stanislaus National Forest

Located just outside of Yosemite National Park, the Stanislaus National Forest has simple campgrounds that do not require reservations. Lumsden Campground is a great place to start, and there are a few other free campgrounds along the forest route.

As with any boondocking site, you may want to walk the route on foot before bringing in your rig. This area is fine for small RVs, but larger RVs or large travel trailers may not be able to make it into this area.

Jerseydale Campground Near Oakhurst

Just 30 miles outside of Yosemite, Jerseydale Campground is open May through September for travelers in the area. This spot is popular with horse campers and RVs should not have a problem accessing the area.

The Best Free Camping In The Entire Usa

Winter Camping in Yosemite National Park

We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Heres our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.

If you havent tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! Simply enter your email below.

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The Best Yosemite Camping

High Sierra RV Park & Campground is nestled into the soaring oak and pine trees of beautiful Oakhurst, CA, just minutes from Yosemite National Park.

Unlike camping in Yosemite National Park, weve got full hook-ups , available Wi-Fi & cable TV service, and were close to town, with every convenience and service nearby. No RV? Check out our Cedar Cabins!

Plus, if you’ve ever tried to make a Yosemite camping reservation at a Yosemite Park campground, you’ll appreciate how much easier it is here at High Sierra!

First hour FREE, then nominal fees apply.See Rates Page for details.

Guide To Camping In Yosemite National Park

One of the most unforgettable experiences that you will ever have is camping at Yosemite National Park. although it was accessible in the mid-1800s, it was not officially a national Park until nearly the 1900s. It is well over 120 years old and receives nearly 4 million visitors every subsequent year.

What is unique about Yosemite is that you can go there multiple times and always find something new. It covers a total of over 760,000 acres of land, which includes waterfalls, hiking, rock climbing, and some of the best and most well-maintained campgrounds in the entire state of California.

Here are a few tips to consider if you are thinking about venturing over to Yosemite National Park, whether this will be your initial visit or a subsequent one.

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Best Time To Visit Yosemite National Park

The Best time to visit Yosemite National Park depends on a couple of things such as accessibility to most parts of the park, how busy or crowded the park is, and the type of activities you want to be involved in while in the park. Between May and September, the park is not crowded and most parts and trails are easily accessible hence it is the best time that you can visit the park. Between October and March, there is snow in Yosemite National Park and hence most of the roads and trails in the park are usually closed.

Due to the closure of some roads and trails in some seasons, the park becomes so crowded during the summer season and hence you have to book for accommodation earlier enough and also arrive early into the park so that you have a parking lot for yourself. The most suitable time to view waterfalls in Yosemite National Park is between late May and early June. If you need to bargain on accommodations, then visit the park during the winter season.

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