Yosemite, Mesemite, Ussemite
March 24, 2009 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Where to stay when visiting Yosemite in May?

My lady and I are hoping to visit Yosemite for three or four days shortly after her graduation in May. Unfortunately, all of the campsites in the Valley are (predictably) booked by now. We want to find an alternate site that will allow us to drive into the park with as little hassle as possible, but we also want to stay somewhere nice. The internet has been very little help for this; every site we've visited that gives reviews is wildly uneven (half the reviews for each campground will give 5 stars, the other half will give 1 star).

I was hoping that the the hivemind could help me find a campground that was close to Yosemite, has available spots left to reserve, and that the MeFite answering can attest is a decent place to camp.

In case it matters: It'll be two people camping, using a tent.
posted by Parasite Unseen to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I always recommend the Yosemite Bug hostel. It's rustic - you can stay in tent cabins if you want - but very nice, friendly, inexpensive, with a community kind of feeling. Maybe a good backup if you don't find a place to pitch a tent. Moreover you could probably contact them and ask for a recommendation; I would trust them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:23 AM on March 24, 2009

oops, correct link
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:23 AM on March 24, 2009

Tuolumne Meadows is absolutely spectacular, and in the park, and it's maybe a 40 minute drive across the park from the valley, depending on the traffic. Did you consider checking there or other park sites?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:31 AM on March 24, 2009

Not an answer, but a suggestion for doing something in the park -- bring a bike, or rent a bike (which you can in the park), and tool around the valley. That way, you only have to park once in the morning. Everything in the valley is itself is reachable by bike, and it's all relatively flat. I'm blown away by people that don't do this, that try to drive and park everywhere. Truly a great way to see the park.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:40 AM on March 24, 2009

Just to elaborate on my evangelism of Eastern Yosemite, you can "do" the valley in a day, easy, on bikes, (don't skip going all the way to Mirror Lake) and leave a whole day for a long hike in Tuolumne or elsewhere if you so choose, and -- bonus! -- Eastern Yosemite is also really close to other amazing sights, like Bodie, Mono Lake, The Devil's Postpile and Rainbow Falls (which you can get right up in), down in the Mammoth Lakes Area. In 3 or 4 days, you can see all that stuff and camp too. AND! You can drive back down to LA on the 395 and walk around Manzanar, the old remains of the Japanese internment camp, finding fragments of 1940's era pop bottles and curlers and such in the earth.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:53 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's several first-come, first-served campsites in the park, worst case you could turn up at one of those early AM and grab a spot. I usually stay in a motel in Oakhurst and drive in from there. There are probably campgrounds in Sugar Pine or Fish Camp. El Portal has quicker access to the park, but it depends where you are approaching the park from. Oakhurst is convenient for me since I'm coming from SoCal.
posted by Joh at 9:55 AM on March 24, 2009

Seconding the Yosemite Bug. It's a "youth hostel," but you need not be a youth (I was 31) and it's fairly decent for a hostel. I was in one of the general rooms, which gave me a bunk in a room with about 8 bunk beds.

They have the standard hostel kitchen, so you can cook your own stuff, but - they also had a restaurant in the lodge as well, that even served WINE. It was only about a 20-minute drive from Yosemite, and I had a pretty easy time getting from the Yosemite Bug to the park proper -- very little traffic, a fairly easy straight drive, etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on March 24, 2009

Seconding Tuolumne Meadows. It's beautiful, campsites are nice and not too crowded even in the high season, and there's even a free shuttle to the Valley.

Cool Papa Bell has it right on bikes. By the time I got to Yosemite, I had biked all the way from Baltimore, so I was good and tired of my bike. But it was an excellent way to get around as we took a day to explore.

Def. check out Tioga Pass and Mono Lake, too.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:01 AM on March 24, 2009

Looking into specifics I can further recommend, when I was up there, we were staying in a cabin on Lake Mary, and I walked around the nearby Coldwater Campground, which seemed like a fine place to camp, kind of plain jane, maniucured sites, outbuildings, a lake where you can fish or boat, well-situated. Thing is, online, it's showing all booked for May but it was almost empty two yeas ago in June, so I suspect you'd want to get on the phone if you can for good info, or even just cross your fingers and try the several different campsties in the Mammoth Lakes area. I would be pretty confident you'd find one that was acceptable, if you, like me, don't mind being based a half hour outside the park on the East side. (Less touristy, more pretty, imo.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2009

Part of your problem is that most of the first-come, first-served campsites aren't open until June or July, which means you're stuck with the campsites open year-round. There's only one you could possibly get into with out a reservation and that's Camp 4, in the Valley. Although I also recommend staying outside of the park itself and taking the shuttle into the Valley proper.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:19 AM on March 24, 2009

The GF and I were just having this conversation. She's camped around nearby Bass Lake and said she thought it was a good alternative to the madness of the valley. This is a second-hand recommendation, so do with it what you will. (I tend to prefer USFS campgrounds over national park campgrounds, though, so thumbs-up there.)
posted by mudpuppie at 11:07 AM on March 24, 2009

If you're looking at fiercekitten's suggestion about Camp 4, you should be aware that it's a campground that is very popular with climbers. This may be your scene, in which case no worries - but this picture on Flickr might give you some insight into what it's like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tychay/18411538/

In any case, getting a walk-in spot might involve waiting in line all night. Camp 4 does have a culture of being open to squatting (or throwing your tent down in someone's site), which the rangers may or may not hassle you about.
posted by handful of rain at 11:08 AM on March 24, 2009

I'll third Toulumne Meadows - it's beautiful up there, and much less crowded than the Valley. (although cold at night, since you're at 7000 feet.) There's first-come, first-served campgrounds there - the spaces open up at noon, so get there around 11:30 or so to find something. Weekdays are easier than weekends. Personally, I'd avoid camping in the Valley - it's not exactly "roughing it"; lots of people and RVs and a restaurant and an ATM, etc.

Last time I went to Yosemite, we wound up camping outside the park on the east side near Lee Vining and Mono Lake, which worked out well. The sites were much larger and quieter, and Mono Lake is really cool. We drove back into the park for the day. The only catch is that if you're coming from San Francisco, you have to go through Tioga Pass, which is often closed until May. (you also go through here to get back into the park.)
posted by chbrooks at 11:29 AM on March 24, 2009

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