YosemiteFilter: No Reservations.
March 26, 2014 8:49 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are FINALLY planning on visiting Yosemite in June. We would be driving in from the Bay Area, and didn't make any campsite reservations. The NPS says there are very few openings at the first-come-first-served site(s) in June. Where should we stay at Yosemite to get the best experience? Sparkly nature's majesty-flakes and more questions inside.

We'll be with a small group of friends (no kids) who are all pretty experienced campers and hikers.

- Given our lack of official campsite reservation, what is the best "base camp" we could find to get the most out of Yosemite? Preferably one cabin/campsite where we can return to each night while going on marvelous hikes each day?

- Or should we get up at the crack of dawn to *try* to finagle a space in that first-come-first-serve campsite?

- Curry Village has openings. I've read meh reviews of it. Will it put a damper on our enjoyment of the park because of noise/general proximity to large groups of people?

Other details: We want moderate hiking, no Half Dome this time, just great views and waterfalls.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oops, forgot to add, we'd probably be going mid-week for 2-3 days.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:50 PM on March 26, 2014


If you can't find any camping-in-a-tent sites, I would recommend renting a condo from Scenic Wonders in Yosemite West.

It won't be camping, but it's inside the park, about a 15 minute drive to the valley proper. I've stayed in a house up there three times, and it's quite nice. Haven't tried the condos yet, however.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:28 PM on March 26, 2014

Without reservation, in June, backpack camping is your best choice.

Our school lets out about mid-June so if you are visiting early June, maybe you might be able to snatch a campsite midweek. Camp 4 is the most well-known walk-in campsite, mostly with the climber crowd.

If you want to avoid crowd, stay away from the Valley Floor, but it is popular because of it's views and convenience though. Head south to Wawona and check out Mariposa Grove or further west to Tuolumne Meadow instead to avoid crowd.

Curry Village can be a zoo at high season.

Panorama Trail is a good 1-day hike, but with that name, the trail is fairly exposed. So on a hot day, make sure you carry plenty of water and have a way to filter if need to.
Mist Trail then Nevada trail will take you to visit two of the most popular water falls in Yosemite.
Yosemite Falls is a good 1-day hike too.
posted by gloturtle at 9:31 PM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: Unless you're dead set on staying in the valley, there are other campgrounds strung out along Tioga Road that have first-come/first-serve sections, but also might not be fully booked mid-week. You can always drive into the valley.
posted by LionIndex at 9:56 PM on March 26, 2014

For campsites strung out along Tioga Road, check to see if the campsites are open first before you head out. It most likely will be open since our snow fall is so dismal this year, Tioga Road just might be open by May.
posted by gloturtle at 10:02 PM on March 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone so far. Our budget is in the tent camping/cheap cabin range, not in the condo range.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:15 PM on March 26, 2014

I stayed at a super-cute rustic hostel called the Yosemite Bug a few years back. It was about a 30 or 40 minute drive into the park, which was a bit of a drag, but it was a nice scenic road. I remember it having a fireplace and a cat and tasty hippie-ish food, and being peaceful and quiet and warm, with beautiful skies.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:36 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If Tioga Rd is open, midweek I would be confident about getting there at 9-10am and finding a place at White Wolf or Porcupine Flat. Tuolumne Meadows is amazing, but it's about 45min from the valley floor in a car and so it's a different Yosemite experience. You might get a Curry reservation to be safe, but that's up to you. I've never stayed there.
posted by rhizome at 11:17 PM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: I would use Curry as a base and drive to the trailhead if it's just a day hike you want - Curry village is centrally located and yes there will be a ton of people. Yosemite is odd in that it has easy drive-in campsites but really hard [though fun] backpacking sites.

For less people, per rhizome above I would go to White Wolf or Porcupine Flat. Be prepared for weather - I got snowed on, in August, staying at White Wolf.

Great views and waterfalls will find you with a lot of people. "Park Statistics Yosemite National Park, in 2012, received 4 million visitors." I spent a night on Half-Dome, which is bigger on top than it looks in pictures, with probably one hundred other people - and a fucking giant rodent that stole my food.
posted by vapidave at 1:37 AM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: If you're lucky, you may arrive just as they're opening Tioga Rd for the summer, or at least some of the high country campgrounds. This is what happened to us, thirty years ago, but back then it was early July & the previous winter had set a record for snow pack. (You can't make reservations for campgrounds if you don't know if they'll be open). We had frost the first night.
posted by mr vino at 5:11 AM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: I would stay on Tioga road. There are some amazing hikes out of there and also check out the Eastern Sierras -- Mono Lake, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes.

My favorite hike is Little Lakes Valley -- you start off above 10,000' and have awesome views of the high Sierra with relatively little effort. It is in the John Muir Wilderness area south and east of Yosemite. Yosemite Valley is awesome and worth visiting, but I love the high Sierra and it is worth seeing that too :).
posted by elmay at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2014

You might also consider Bridalveil Creek on the Glacier Point side of the valley. It's a much shorter drive to the valley than from Tioga Road, but I don't know how available the campsites are.

Good luck!
posted by cnc at 10:30 AM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: Curry will have a ton of people, as others have noted, but I think it's not so bad. (However, I have never slept there overnight.) I too am a backpacking/wilderness/get-away-from-the-crowds type, and I expected to hate the hecticness of Yosemite Valley in the summer. Instead, I found it charming. The buildings in the Valley have a rusticness to them, and sitting around in Curry Village, I felt as if I were some 19th-century tableau of 'the masses enjoying nature,' or something. I think you could do worse than to sleep at Curry and then go on day-hikes during the day.

A less crowded idea would be to try to get a campsite at Ostrander Lake. It's very beautiful, with swimming in the lake, and there's a not-too-difficult five or six-mile hike in. I went with a group of about 8 friends, the year before last. There are day hikes you can go on, directly from the campsite area.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2014

Came in to rec Yosemite Bug, I'm localish and that's where we usually stay.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:41 PM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: We went in August with no reservations and got a first-come first-served spot in the park by camping at Bass lake recreation (http://basslakeca.com - just outside the park so you can reserve a site in advance here) on the first night and getting up early to head into the park. This might require you leaving a day earlier, but it would be a much shorter drive than coming all the way from the bay area.
posted by piyushnz at 10:34 PM on March 27, 2014

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