RV Camping in Yosemite National Park

Proclaimed California’s first state park by Abe Lincoln, and then designated America’s first National Park in 1890, Yosemite is probably the most famous park in the world. As a result, the park receives over four million visitors a year! Some say it is being loved to death. The traffic jams in Yosemite Valley are infamous during summer months. But, there is good reason people travel here from all over the world.

Yosemite National Park is beautiful! Its natural wonders dazzle the eyes, lift the spirits and soothe tired and harried souls. It is a place of soaring mountains, high waterfalls, pure meadows, massive granite domes and dense pine forests. A place where life simply makes sense, and being alive is graciously appreciated.

Deep concern for Yosemite’s environs, coupled with the severe flooding of 1997 have underscored the need for implementing the National Park Services General management Plan. Amid much controversy and haggling, some form of these conservation measures should be announced soon. Most all agrees that something must be done to ease the congestion and pollution in Yosemite Valley. Many visitors, however, are now confused as to the parks status and restrictions that are in effect.

For answers to many of these questions Yosemitepark.net provides an excellent FAQ page. The Park Service encourages visitors to use the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle to get about the park. Also, the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides an alternative mode of transit into Yosemite Valley from nearby communities. Bus fare is comparable to the cost of driving a private vehicle into the park.

About the Park

Yosemite National Park is located in Central California about 120 miles east of San Francisco. It is open all year. There are four national forests surrounding the park: the Stanislaus, to the west, the Sierra, to its southwest, the Toiyabe, on the northeast and the Inyo NF on its southeastern boundary. Yosemite has four entry portals.

California Highway 41 leads to the southern entrance from Fresno, while Ca. Highway 140 runs from Merced and Mariposa to the southwestern entrance at Arch Rock. From Manteca, California, south of Stockton, Ca., Highway 120 provides access from the west at the Big Oak Flat Entrance. From Lee Vining, Ca. and U.S. 395, Ca., Highway 120 travels over the Tioga Pass (elev. 9,941 feet) to Yosemite’s only eastern portal. Tioga is the highest vehicle pass in California–and closed due to snow from fall to late spring.

Galen Clark, an early pioneer and Yosemite settler called Yosemite the “Grandest of all God’s Temples.” The naturalist John Muir agreed strongly with Galen and helped to persuade Theodore Roosevelt to make this treasure a national park. Ranging from 2,000 to over 13,000 feet, Yosemite National Park is the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The park covers some 1,190 square miles, contains three groves of giant sequoias, the highest waterfall in North America and second highest in the world (Yosemite Falls)—and a half-mile deep valley that enthralls the world. Yosemite Valley is the most visited area, yet represents only 1% of the park. 94.5% of Yosemite is designated wilderness area.

Yosemite is actually five separate areaswithin one park. Besides beautiful Yosemite Valley, there is Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias; Glacier Point, with its awe-inspiring views; Crane Flat, near the Tuolumne and Merced Groves of sequoias; and the Tuolumne Meadows area. The large meadow offers fantastic vistas of Yosemite’s granite domes and majestic mountain peaks. A drive through the park on the Tioga road is itself a wonderful adventure.

Park Recreation and Activities

A thorough review of the many things to do and see within Yosemite National Park is simply beyond the scope of this article. To be sure, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers will find their special interest available in this fabulous park. If walking and hiking is your cup of tea, there are 840 miles of hiking trails. The Yosemite Wilderness Area offers special treats for backpackers and backcountry enjoyment.

Sightseeing is, of course, the most popular activity. For hiking, fishing, birding and tours, the Yosemite Guides Companyprovides experienced professional help to visitors. The park has eight miles of bikeways, eighteen miles of rapids for paddling and fishing is pretty good in the Merced and Tuolumne Rivers. If you are into rock climbing, Yosemite is a great place to be.

Yosemite is a very large park and there is much to do and sights to be seen outside famous Yosemite Valley. Most visitors never get to the other park areas. Not all of Yosemite’s wonders are located in the Valley, so avoid the crowds by experiencing the other park areas.

Park Campgrounds and Facilities

Due to the park’s popularity and its convoluted batch of rules and restrictions, a camping trip to Yosemite requires some advance planning. There are first-come, first-served campgrounds, but most of the better ones require reservations. It is best to be well informed and have up to date camping information before leaving home.

Some campgrounds do not allow pets, some have seven day maximum stay limits, some are walk-in only and so forth. There are no hookups in Yosemite National Park. Dump stations are available in Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds.

Showers and other facilities are available in the Valley and at Tuolumne Meadows (See the camping information Web site of Yosemite.org for details.). Visit the National Park Reservation System Web site for reservations and excellent information on individual campgrounds.

Area Private RV Parks

There are a few private RV Parks near Yosemite’s portals. The Yosemite Pines RV Park is located about 45 miles west of the Big Oak Flat Entrance, near Groveland, Ca. It is a full service park with 198-sites and many great amenities. Also, the Indian Flat RV Park (50-sites) is just west of Big Oak Flat in El Portal, Ca.

About 20 miles south of Yosemite, on Ca. Highway 41, north of Oakhurst, the High Sierra RV and Mobile Parkhas 102-sites. It offers full hookups, showers and restaurants nearby. East of Yosemite and about a mile north of Ca. Highway 120 (on US 395), Mono Vista RV Park (no Web site) has a small 32-site, full service campground. Besides the private RV parks, the national forests around Yosemite have a number of nice campgrounds.

I have had the good fortune to twice visit Yosemite National Park. All the volumes written on it do not describe the parks enchanting wonders and awesome beauty. However, I also found the park to be uncomfortably crowded with visitors and tourists. I have not been back in many years because of this. The park is much bigger than its famous Valley however, and I just might try camping outside Yosemite Valley. Yosemite’s magic beckons me to return!