Camping in National Parks is different than camping in a state park or national forest. There are specific rules and cautions that must be followed, especially if the park is in bear country. If you are headed to Yosemite for the first time, these 10 tips for camping in Yosemite will make your trip easier to plan and enjoy!
- Be Bear Aware when packing! When you arrive at the park, a park ranger will give you all the safety information you need to keep yourself and the bears safe. But knowing what to expect before you arrive will make your trip so much easier!
EVERYTHING except your clothing, tent, gear, and firewood will need to be stored in a bear box. That chapstick you keep in the center console? Yep. Those wet wipes you store in the pocket behind the drivers seat? Yep. The eye drops you carry in your pocket? Uh huh.
When you are packing, group like-items that will need to go in the bear box together. Clean out your car (get all those stale fries out from under the carseats!) and make sure you know exactly where everything that needs to be stored properly is going to be. When you arrive at the park, all you have to do is move your packed items over to the bear box. No searching or repacking necessary!
I usually have a soft case for toiletries, an easily accessible bag for items we grab often (chapstick, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, etc.), a cooler with cold food items, and a tote for cooking supplies and non-perishable food items.
2. Don’t expect privacy. If you are camping in Yosemite, especially Yosemite Valley, you will be surrounded by a lot of people. The campsites are close together and unless you are camping in the off season, it will be crowded. But crowds are part of the Yosemite experience! Embrace it, make friends, and if you want to escape the crowds, do the long and difficult hikes. 🙂
3. Plan to get wet. The magic of Yosemite Valley is created by the many waterfalls that spill over the cliff edges. Because of that, many of the hikes go to or near waterfalls. Even if the weather is clear and dry, you will get wet in the falls! The gear you need will depend on the season. If it is summer and warm, you may not want any rain gear and welcome a little sprinkle! If it is spring or fall and rain is likely with cooler temperatures, a rain jacket and rain pants are a must for hiking comfort.
4. Plan hikes ahead of time. If you want to hike while camping in Yosemite (we highly recommend it!), plan a few hikes in advance. Know how long and difficult they are and what gear you will need to complete them. This ensures you will make the most of every minute you have in the beautiful park. We love Falcon Guides for planning hikes and Yosemite National Park actually has a great YouTube channel that details some of the hikes.
5. Pack a camera! Even if it’s just your phone, make sure you have enough memory to take some pictures! Yosemite is one of the most breathtaking places we have been too, we were snapping pictures left and right.
6. Cellphone service. There are areas of the park with good cell phone service if you need to make a call, check on things at home, or share you adventure with your friends on social media. We traveled to Yosemite without our kids and it was really nice to be able to check on things at home while we were in the park!
7. Prepare for elevation change. The elevation of Yosemite Valley is about 4500 ft, and obviously that is going to increase as you hike up to waterfalls or mountain tops. If you are from an area of low elevation, take the elevation increase into consideration when camping in Yosemite. It can pack a punch if you’re not use to it!
8. Plan around construction and road closures. Often, National Parks will have areas that are under construction and not open to the public. Make sure you check that all the places within the park you’d like to visit are accessible and open. The season you’re traveling to the park in will also determine how you can enter the park and if any roads are going to be closed.
9. Shuttle buses. Yosemite National Park is really easy to travel around because they have shuttle buses! These are very nice if you are planning hikes that start in one location and end in a different location. The shuttle buses are a great way to get back to your car, campsite, or to a different destination!
10. Remember you are still in the wilderness. Even though there are a lot of people in the park, be as vigilant as you would be if you were in the backcountry. Be smart about hiking in bear country, food storage, cleaning up trash, and respecting the wild that makes camping in Yosemite amazing.