Road trip season! Load up everything you’ll need to camp in your RV – your home on wheels is a favorite when it comes to Yosemite lodging – and head out to explore the countryside and our amazing national parks. There’s nothing like the confidence of being fully contained so that you can stop when you want to stop, go when you want to go, and let your worries melt away in the bright California sun. So, grab the wheel, turn up your personal soundtrack for adventure and discovery, and head toward Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite is a must-visit destination on any California road trip and Yosemite camping is truly a special treat. Catch that first glimpse of the Yosemite Valley as you come through the tunnel at the famous Tunnel View on Highway 41. Follow the dancing waters of the Merced River up out of the canyon until you must lean forward to be able to see the tops of towering El Capitan through your front windshield. Roll down the window to breathe in the fresh pine-scented mountain air and prepare to be wowed at Yosemite’s iconic scenery, its vast forests, and majestic granite cliffs.
Just one day in paradise will leave you aching for more, so plan to park your RV in the area for several nights (or a week) to explore all this place has to offer. Here is what you need to know about Yosemite RV camping in beautiful Mariposa County.
Winning an RV camping spot in Yosemite Valley can be very difficult, particularly in the peak seasons, as the number of available sites is very limited. But don’t be despair! There are many fantastic alternative RV campgrounds outside of the park.
In Yosemite National Park, RV Camping is only allowed in designated campsites. That means no pulling over by the side of the road or parking overnight in parking lots. If you want to stay inside the park, you’ll need to get an official campsite. Unfortunately, due to high demand, this can be a challenging process.
During the summer Yosemite RV camping becomes difficult due to the high demand. There are so many people interested in visiting Yosemite that once campsites become available the campgrounds will fill within minutes. You’ll have to be quick to click to get one.
Campground reservation blocks become available on the 15th, five months before the stay-date. For example, reservations for June 15 – July 14 become available on February 15 each year.
If you are planning to visit in the warm months and missed the campground reservation start dates, check for RV camping near Yosemite.
There are no electric, water or sewer hook-ups in Yosemite. Yosemite RV campgrounds have potable water and toilet facilities.
A dump station (with freshwater) is available at Upper Pines Campground all year. Additional dump stations (and freshwater sources) are also available at Wawona Campground and Tuolumne Meadows Campground during the summer.
You can use a generator during a limited number of hours. They are only allowed from 7 – 9 a.m., noon – 2 p.m., and 5-7 p.m. Because RV and tent sites are intermingled, these hours minimize impact on tent campers and are strictly enforced.
Most Yosemite campgrounds include some campsites appropriate for smaller RVs. If your RV is shorter than 27 feet, or your trailer is shorter than 24 feet, you can try to get reservations at any of the following Yosemite RV campgrounds. (If your RV or trailer is larger than this, see RV & Trailer Size Restrictions below):
Tight turns and insufficient maneuvering space within Yosemite National Park RV camping areas limit the maximum size allowed. These are not pull-through sites, so the different length restrictions for RVs and trailers are based on space available to maneuver into position with a given turning radius. Because RV trailers are more difficult to back up, they have different size restrictions than RVs.
The maximum size for an RV in Yosemite Valley is 40 feet. Unfortunately, there are only 8 sites that will accommodate RVs that large, and they are only open spring through fall. There are six sites in Lower Pines and two in North Pines.
All RV campgrounds have spaces for 35-foot RVs except for White Wolf where the limit is 27 feet.
The maximum size for a trailer is 35 feet, and these trailers only have space in Lower Pines, North Pines, Wawona, Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows.
In addition to the above, 30-foot trailers also fit at Hodgdon Meadow.
24-foot and smaller trailers are welcome in all Yosemite RV campgrounds.
No one will be standing at the campground entrance with a tape measure. If you can get your RV or trailer fully onto the parking pad of the site and out of traffic, you’ll be fine. However, if you reserve a site that is too small for your set-up and can’t make it fit, there won’t be options to move to a different site. You may be required to leave the park entirely to find something appropriate.
Big RVs and trailers are difficult to maneuver on Yosemite’s winding roads outside of the campgrounds as well and will encounter additional restrictions. The maximum vehicle size for most roads is 45 feet. Also:
With several tunnels on the way in and out of Yosemite Valley, vehicles taller than 10 feet 2 inches (3 m) high should also make sure that you know the vehicle restrictions for various roads in Yosemite.
If you are planning to tow a trailer over Tioga Road, crossing the Sierra through Tuolumne Meadows, be aware of the very steep and winding incline on the eastern side of the range. Parts of the road are an eight-percent grade, and that is going to challenge the towing capacity of your system and your brakes. Watch for overheating. If you do break down, it may be several hours before help arrives. Take it slow and use the pull-outs by the side of the road to let faster traffic pass you.
If like most people, you didn’t manage to get the perfect site five months ahead of time there are still some first-come, first-served Yosemite RV camping options available. These will also fill up early from spring through fall and during winter holidays. However, if you can arrive early in the morning during the warmer months it may be possible to get into:
Fortunately, in-park campgrounds aren’t your only option. RV camping near Yosemite tend to have more availability. You’ll also be able to find options for hookups and pull-through sites so that you don’t have to back up and maneuver your RV in tight quarters.
The closest RV Camping near Yosemite Valley is Indian Flat Campground along Highway 140, ‘The All-Weather Highway’. Located in El Portal, Indian Flat is less than 10 minutes from the Arch Rock Entrance Station to Yosemite and just 30 minutes from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Though slightly longer than taking Highway 120 from the San Francisco Bay Area, Highway 140 has more RV-friendly driving and takes almost the same amount of time. Plus, the lower elevation makes this route especially convenient during cooler weather when there is a chance of snow. Along with 25 tent sites and two cabins with kitchenettes, Indian Flat has 25 RV sites. All RV sites have water and sewer, and a small number have full hookups. Guests are welcome to swim in the lodge pool next door.
The Summerdale Campground is the closest RV camping near Yosemite and is next to the park boundary along Highway 41 – only 1.5 miles from the entrance gate – in the Sierra National Forest. The maximum vehicle length is 25 feet, and the campground has water, picnic tables, grills, campfire rings and vault toilets, but no hookups.
Although it’s just under an hour to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, you will be at major Yosemite attractions like the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in only 3 minutes. In addition to easy access to Yosemite, you’ll find excellent fishing nearby in Big Creek.
Reservations are required at least three days before arrival, and there is a two-night minimum stay on weekends and a three-night minimum stay over holidays.
RV campsites at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds
Arranged amid lawns, and shade trees, the Mariposa County Fairgrounds is great for RV camping near Yosemite and the fairgrounds have RV camping spaces for individuals and groups of any size. The sites have water and electric hookups, and conveniently located dump stations. There is a centrally located picnic area, and a friendly caretaker lives on-site. Individual camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis using a self-registration system on-site, making this a great option for more spontaneous trips. (Reservations are required for groups.) Be sure to check out this option if you are planning to travel into the park via Highway 140.
You can fit any size RV or slideout at Yosemite Ridge Resort. This convenient campground is located along Highway 120 in the town of Buck Meadows, only 12 miles from the west entrance gate to Yosemite. The RV sites have full hookups, and satellite TV along with plenty of shade and mountain views. There is also a gas station and store on-premises for any last-minute needs. Plus, if you decide that you want to spread out, you’ll also find cozy cabins and cottages available for rent at the resort.
Campsites at the Westlake Campground
Yosemite Westlake Campground and RV Park provides 24 full-hookup RV spots 24 miles from Yosemite National Park’s west entrance along Highway 120. Close to 3 lakes (within a 15-mile radius), 2 river rafting companies, 4-wheel drive trails, horseback riding, and more. If you’re looking for supplies or don’t feel like cooking, you’ll find a small market and café within a mile, as well as other services in Greeley Hill.
For those up for a more rustic experience, there are also several more primitive campgrounds where you can spend the night in your RV. McCabe Flat and Railroad Flat campgrounds are on Bureau of Land Management land, located along the Merced River. Turn west at the Briceburg Visitor’s Center and cross the bridge. These roads are not recommended for RVs more than 18 feet long for a reason. However, if you can make your way to the campgrounds, you’ll find a quiet and inexpensive camping experience. There is no water at the campground, but you can fill up at the Briceburg Bridge.
Lakeside campsites at Bagby Campground on Lake McClure
Further from Yosemite National Park but perfect for a path-less-traveled adventure, check out some of the camping along Lake McClure and Lake McSwain. These campgrounds feature lake access, lots of water-based recreation, plenty of fishing opportunities and water-electric hookups. Barrett Cove Camping and Recreation even provides easy access to Exchequer Mountain Bike Park with bike-only trails overlooking Lake McClure.
Find more general information about these lake recreation areas on the way to Yosemite.
In the other direction from Highway 140, you can also find the Jerseydale Campground. This is a free campground with minimal services about 1h and 15 minutes from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.
Finally, if you don’t have an RV already, but would love the experience of staying in one, make a reservation at Autocamp Yosemite. At Autocamp Yosemite, you’ll enjoy custom Airstreams with spa-inspired bathrooms along with access to a variety of high-end amenities like the mid-century modern Signature Clubhouse, complimentary coffee and tea, a freshwater pond and pool, and heated outdoor furniture so you can stay warm and cozy while enjoying the fresh air. Autocamp is one of the most comfortable ways to enjoy Yosemite RV camping! A convenient daily YARTS shuttle takes you straight into Yosemite National Park leaving you free to enjoy the scenery while someone else does the driving, and the shops and dining options in the historic town of Mariposa are only a few minutes away.
Grab a sled, or just a warm coat and enjoy some snow sliding fun at Goat Meadow Snow Play Area. Just outside Yosemite on Highway 41, this is an excellent area for sledding, snow angels, XC skiing, snowshoeing and more.
Just because its winter doesn’t mean you can’t explore the breath-taking scenery at Yosemite National Park and Mariposa County.
From the remote high country to the sun-baked shores of Lake McClure, there’s a landmark for everyone in Yosemite Mariposa, and no matter what you discover the response is universal: hey, what’s that?