What's the best Yosemite camp ground for a group of 8 first time visitors?
February 24, 2009 11:28 PM   Subscribe

What's the best Yosemite camp ground for a group of 8 first time visitors? We want to do some day hikes, and we want to visit as many of the "must see" places as possible. We plan on going around the middle of August for 3-4 nights.

We're looking for the following things:

1) As close to Yosemite Valley (and all the iconic spots) as possible

2) Tent camping, or some of those semi-permanent tents like at Camp Curry


3) Not a bunch of sites jammed together, like (as far as I can tell)* Camp Curry

4) Showers and running water would be nice, but not a requirement.

1 and 3 have the biggest priority.

I know that having a secluded campsite in the valley with a view of Half Dome in the middle of August with hot showers and flush toilets probably isn't going to happen. But, I'd like to hear from the MeFi Mind on the best place to camp.
posted by sideshow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We plan on going around the middle of August for 3-4 nights

oh, man. That time of year you want to be as far from the valley floor as possible. The waterfalls will probably be pretty wispy by then -- this is just a guess since I'm no Y expert or anything.

If you've got 4 nights then I highly, highly recommend doing a hiking loop, like this guy. 8 people can carry a LOT of stuff for a pretty deluxe 4-day trek.

Little Yosemite Valley Camp above Nevada Falls would be a good Night 1 place to get acclimated. If your group is in pretty good shape from there you can either blow a day summitting Half Dome, or you can just move on to scenic spaces.
posted by troy at 1:28 AM on February 25, 2009

Sorry, but all of the campgrounds in Yosemite Valley (or the park in general) are of the whole-bunch-of-sites-close-together variety, unless you get a backcountry permit and go off into the wilderness. The park sees entirely too much traffic to be otherwise. It is also incredibly hard to get campgrounds in peak season. The only way to be sure is to make reservations as soon as the reservations system opens up for the dates that you want.

Another thing to think about is that the temperature on the floor of the valley in August is very often oppressively hot. That, combined with the amusement-park-like crowds you'll come across, I would recommend staying and hiking around Tuolumne Meadows instead. It's over 4000 feet higher in elevation and the temperatures are far more tolerable in August. Yosemite Valley is awe-inspiring and definitely worth seeing, but it's within a short drive of Tuolumne; you can see it without having to actually stay there.

For what it's worth, I spend just about every weekend in Yosemite National Park during the parts of the year when the park is warm and dry enough to climb in.
posted by strangecargo at 1:48 AM on February 25, 2009

Seconding strangecargo, Yosemite is one of the absolute most popular places for everybody to visit in America, or at least California.

#3 is impossible without going backcountry. Even all the "outer" campgrounds along Tioga Rd are high-density and packed first-come first-served. Tuolumne is similar, but you have the meadow and Lembert Dome and all kinds of hiking right there so you don't have to drive to get someplace neat.

In fact, my first time at Y was only 5 or 6 years ago, we stayed in Tuolumne and just did a drive into the valley one morning, had lunch at the Ahwahnee and saw the sights before going back to relax at the camp and do our hiking there. Sure there might be some gripes about not hanging out in the shadow of Half Dome all day long, but it really sounds better than it is. It's a madhouse.
posted by rhizome at 3:37 AM on February 25, 2009

Yeah, not to add to the discouragement, but I'm in Yosemite about once a year since I was like 5 or something, and experience has taught that late summer = crowded and hot. If you can move your time considerably, look to that, but if its not flexible, look to the backcountry option - although at least 1-2 of your group should have some experience in it, there's a lot of little details you won't think of that could leave you pretty high and dry (sometimes literally) if none of you has done it before.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:59 AM on February 25, 2009

I was going to suggest Tuolumne as well, for all of the reasons above. I'd imagine there might be similar options on the Wawona side, but we always come through Tioga.

The campgrounds are going to be in the "jammed together" style you've seen in most of our national parks, if by that you mean the next sites tent is usually within a stones throw. That's just how they do it. Here's the Tuolumne site plan.

Some of the campgrounds in the north section of Yosemite on the way to Toulomne from the valley floor are first-come first-served so you can try for those but since you'd be driving down to the valley floor at that point anyway, you might as well shoot for a reservation at Tuolmne, as it has running water and the smaller campgrounds tend to piggyback on it for services (e.g. the general store.) 50% of Toulumne is available for reservation.

More here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:31 AM on February 25, 2009

I was also going to suggest Tuolomne. I haven't stayed at the other campgrounds, but when we stayed there it wasn't too bad. We went and looked at the campgrounds down in the valley and those are the ones that I think you want to avoid. At Tuolomne you can get a campsite at the edge if you come early and then it's not that bad.
posted by jefeweiss at 7:08 AM on February 25, 2009

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