Yosemite National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, has a rich history and cultural significance, as well as unique natural features that have contributed to its iconic status. The park was first inhabited by indigenous peoples, including the Ahwahneechee tribe, who called the area “Ahwahnee,” meaning “large-mouthed country” or “place of the gaping mouth.” They had a deep spiritual connection with the land and considered it sacred.
In the mid-19th century, European-American settlers began exploring and settling in the Yosemite area. The indigenous people greeted these visitors with open arms as they recognized their intentions were not to exploit the land but rather to safeguard and protect it. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, establishing Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as protected areas, making it the first time land was set aside for preservation and public use. This marked the beginning of the national park system.
Yosemite National Park attracts more than four million visitors annually in the present day. Glaciers played a significant role in shaping the landscape, carving out the iconic granite cliffs, domes, and U-shaped valleys. Yosemite Valley, with its towering cliffs like El Capitan, reaching a staggering height of nearly 4,000 feet, and Half Dome, which was formed by glacial erosion. The park is also home to impressive waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America.
Yosemite National Park experiences a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Summers are typically pleasant, with temperatures averaging around 70-80°F (21-27°C) during the day. However, temperatures can vary, and it is essential to be prepared for both hot and cold weather. Winters bring snowfall and freezing temperatures, creating beautiful snowy landscapes. RV renters should pack appropriate clothing and gear for varying weather conditions.
RV renters visiting Yosemite National Park can enjoy a wide range of activities. The park offers numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs. Popular hikes include the Mist Trail, which leads to the spectacular Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the Panorama Trail, providing breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley. RV renters can also go rock climbing, fishing, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.
Yosemite National Park offers several RV-friendly campgrounds, with varying amenities and facilities. The park has 13 campgrounds that accommodate RVs. Most campgrounds provide picnic tables, fire rings, and restrooms, but RVers should check individual campground details for specific amenities. Some campgrounds require reservations, which are highly recommended, especially during peak season
Speaking of the peak season, summer (June to August) is the busiest time in Yosemite National Park. The park sees a high number of visitors during this time, with crowded campgrounds and limited parking availability. Spring and fall offer more moderate temperatures and fewer crowds, making them great alternatives for RV renters looking to avoid peak season congestion.
Tioga Road, which is the continuation of Highway 120 within the park, is currently inaccessible due to snowy conditions. The closure is a result of winter impacts, and we anticipate reopening the road by the conclusion of July.
Anticipate significant traffic congestion, including lengthy wait times at park entrances and heavy traffic, especially in Yosemite Valley. To minimize delays, it is advisable to arrive before 8 a.m. and remain parked. For real-time updates, send a text message with the keyword YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.
Yosemite Valley and other lower areas of Yosemite are expected to experience temperatures exceeding 100°F during the upcoming weekend. It is advisable to refrain from engaging in strenuous activities during the afternoon, ensure an ample water supply, consume salty snacks, and seek shade for resting.
Anticipate intermittent episodes of reduced air quality and visibility, primarily in the Yosemite Valley region, especially during the evening to morning hours, as a result of the Pika Fire.
Rivers and streams may be rapid, cold, and unsafe. Avoid rocks near rivers because the wet rock is especially slippery. he majority of drowning victims did not plan to go into the water.
There are various options for reaching the park. Traveling by road is a common choice, although it can be lengthy, especially when departing from major cities. It typically takes around four to five hours to drive from Reno, Sacramento, or San Francisco, and approximately six to eight hours from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or San Diego. It’s advisable to allocate additional travel time and plan accordingly as the traffic can be heavy during peak months, and certain roads may be closed in off-peak months.
Yosemite National Park has four main entrances: the Arch Rock Entrance (Highway 140), the South Entrance (Highway 41), the Big Oak Flat Entrance (Highway 120), and the Tioga Pass Entrance (Highway 120, usually open from late spring to early fall). Each entrance has its own characteristics and scenic routes.
Roads leading to Yosemite National Park pass through hilly terrain and are thus twisting and steep in several places. This is why for visitors renting a camper van or RV, it’s essential to consider the size of the rig because it could be difficult for inexperienced drivers to operate a big rig in certain places.
In Yosemite Valley, the maximum vehicle length is 40 feet, and the maximum combined length (vehicle and towed unit) is 40 feet as well. This includes any trailers or towed vehicles. It’s important to note that some campgrounds may have additional restrictions on RV sizes, so it’s advisable to check individual campground details and reservations.
RVs and camper vans can generally access most areas within the park, including campgrounds and scenic points of interest. However, it’s important to be aware of height restrictions and narrow roads in certain areas. The Tioga Road, for example, has sections with tight turns and low-clearance bridges, which may limit access for larger RVs. It’s recommended to plan the route carefully and check for any road advisories or restrictions before traveling.
In Yosemite National Park, there are designated RV parking areas in some campgrounds and specific locations. The Half Dome Village Day Use Park and a parking area located west of Yosemite Valley Lodge offer designated spaces for class A and B vehicles. Smaller RVs can also utilize the day-use parking area in Yosemite Village. However, availability can be limited, so it’s advisable to make reservations in advance. Additionally, if you plan to park your RV overnight, it must be done in a designated campsite. Therefore, it is advisable to camp with your RV within the park and explore the park using alternative transportation methods like shuttles or bicycles is recommended to avoid parking limitations and traffic congestion.
Yosemite National Park offers convenient public transportation options for visitors. The Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System (YARTS) provides access to the park from Merced, Fresno, Mammoth Lakes, and Sonora. Inside the park, there are two free shuttle services: the Yosemite Valley shuttle operates year-round, while the El Capitan Shuttle runs during the busy season. Additional intermittent shuttle services, such as the Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle and the popular Glacier Park tour, offer transportation to specific areas of the park. These shuttle services alleviate traffic and allow visitors to conveniently explore Yosemite’s attractions and natural beauty. Additionally, there are numerous walking paths and hiking trails available. For the most accurate information, it’s advisable to check the park’s website or consult with park authorities.
Typically open from July through September. Situated at an elevation of 8,600 feet in the picturesque Tuolumne Meadows area, that offers a substantial size, with a total of 304 sites, of which only half can be reserved in advance. This campground offers a more remote and peaceful camping experience. It provides access to breathtaking views of meadows, granite domes, alpine lakes, various hiking trails, and the Tuolumne River. Amenities at Tuolumne Meadows Campground usually include picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and potable water. Showers and a grocery store are conveniently located nearby. As long as they are restrained and supervised at all times, dogs and cats are welcome. This campground allows RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length.
Located near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, Wawona Campground is known for its beautiful surroundings and proximity to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The pet-friendly Wawona Campground remains open throughout the year and can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. This campground offers a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by towering trees. Amenities typically include picnic tables, fire rings, food storage lockers, flush toilets, and potable water. During the summer season, visitors can utilize the dump station located at the Pioneer Gift and Grocery Shop.
The three campgrounds in Yosemite National Park—North Pines, Lower Pines, and Upper Pines—each offer unique camping experiences. North Pines Campground provides a serene atmosphere with around 81 sites and allows pets, while Lower Pines Campground offers picturesque surroundings near the Merced River with approximately 60 sites and pet-friendly policies. Upper Pines Campground is the largest, offering around 238 sites and allowing pets year-round, with some sites available during winter. RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length are generally permitted at North Pines and Lower Pines, while Upper Pines allows vehicles up to 35 feet. Some sites even feature super-sized lockers and have provisions for handicap accessibility. Additionally, Upper Pines Campground includes a dump station, while Lower Pines Campground offers three double campsites. Showers and a grocery store can be found near both campgrounds.
Crane Flat Campground offers visitors a serene and immersive camping experience that is located in Yosemite National Park. The campground typically offers 166 sites for visitors to enjoy. It is generally open from July until mid-October. The campground can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length and trailers up to 27 feet. Each site is equipped with amenities such as a food locker, picnic table, and a fire ring featuring a grill. For the convenience of campers, a dump station can be found approximately half an hour away in Yosemite Valley. Crane Flat Campground is typically pet-friendly, allowing pets on leashes. However, it’s essential to always adhere to the park’s pet regulations, which include supervising and cleaning up after pets to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Situated near the popular Bridalveil Fall, Bridalveil Creek Campground offers a serene and scenic camping experience. Bridalveil Creek Campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning that arriving early is essential to secure a camping spot. However, reservations are mandatory for equestrian and group sites. The campground offers two group sites and three equestrian sites for those with specific needs. Typically offers 110 campsites. It is located in a beautiful forested area and provides a peaceful atmosphere. During the summer season, there are two nearby dump stations available for campers’ convenience, whereas, in winter, only one dump station remains operational. Additionally, campers can find shower facilities and a grocery store conveniently located nearby. Amenities at this campground often include picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and potable water. Bridalveil Creek Campground is typically open from summer to early fall and permits pets on leashes. RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length are generally allowed.
Located in the scenic high country of Yosemite National Park, White Wolf Campground offers a serene camping setting. It provides approximately 74 sites suitable for tents and small RVs. The campground is generally open from summer to early fall, depending on weather conditions. Amenities at White Wolf Campground include picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. RVs and trailers up to 27 feet in length are typically permitted. Pets are allowed on leashes, allowing campers to enjoy the outdoors with their furry companions.
Situated east of Yosemite Valley, Porcupine Flat Campground offers a peaceful camping experience in a picturesque setting. It typically offers around 52 sites suitable for tents and small RVs. The campground is generally open from summer to early fall, weather permitting. Amenities at Porcupine Flat Campground include picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. The maximum RV/trailer length allowed is 24 feet. Pets are allowed on leashes, allowing campers to explore the surrounding natural beauty with their pets by their side.
Private campgrounds such as Indian Flat RV Park and Yosemite Pines RV Resort offer additional camping options and amenities for RV renters. They provide full hookup sites, laundry facilities, swimming pools, and recreational activities such as petting zoo and sluice box gold panning. The majority of private RV campgrounds are situated in towns located towards the far western boundary of the park, such as Oakhurst and Groveland.
For a more adventurous experience, RV renters can consider backcountry camping in designated wilderness areas within Yosemite National Park. This involves obtaining permits and hiking or backpacking to remote locations for traditional tent camping. The park provides a comprehensive trailhead report that allows you to verify the availability of permits for your desired route. RVs are not typically accommodated in backcountry camping.
Located on Glacier Point Road, Badger Pass is a popular winter destination for RV campers who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. The area offers a variety of trails for all skill levels and stunning views of the park covered in snow. The ski resort offers a total of ten ski slopes and is equipped with five ski lifts. Before Yosemite’s bid for the 1932 Winter Olympics, winter sports weren’t particularly prominent in this area, as the Summer Games were held in Los Angeles during the same year. Alongside downhill skiing, visitors also have the opportunity to engage in activities such as snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing, and cross-country skiing, which add to the overall enjoyment of their winter experience.
Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park is a remarkable natural spectacle that occurs during mid to late February. Positioned on the eastern side of El Capitan, this waterfall captures the setting sun’s rays, creating the illusion of a “firefall.” The waterfall takes on vibrant orange and red hues, resembling flowing lava. Visitors gather near El Capitan Picnic Area or along the Merced River to witness this captivating event, but its occurrence is reliant on specific weather conditions and water flow. The “firefall” has become a popular attraction, drawing photographers and nature enthusiasts who aim to capture its beauty, adding to the allure of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.
The viewpoint is named after Frederick Law Olmsted, a prominent landscape architect who played a crucial role in the development and preservation of Yosemite. It is a picturesque viewpoint along Tioga Road. It offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding high country. Winter is an ideal time to visit because the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland with snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes. It is less crowded compared to the summer season, providing a more tranquil experience. The viewpoint is easily accessible, and it offers excellent photography opportunities. Visitors can engage in outdoor activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. However, it’s important to be prepared for cold weather conditions and check road and weather conditions before visiting. Overall, Olmsted Point in winter offers a serene and beautiful experience in Yosemite National Park.
The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite National Park offers a captivating exploration of the park’s cultural heritage. It was established by preservationist Ansel Franklin Hall in 1925 and was designed by architect Herbert Maier. It served as the pioneering model for future museums within the National Park system. The museum’s rustic architecture harmonizes seamlessly with its natural surroundings. It hosts a diverse range of rotating exhibits, showcasing the park’s history, people, and significant locations. These exhibits encompass a broad spectrum, from the Yosemite Renaissance 32 Art Exhibit to landscape paintings spanning the 19th and 20th centuries.
John Muir Trail is a renowned long-distance hiking trail that spans approximately 211 miles (340 kilometers) through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, including sections that pass through Yosemite National Park. While typically associated with summer and fall hiking, some adventurous hikers may choose to visit during winter for a unique experience. Winter offers solitude and tranquility on the trail, showcasing stunning snowy landscapes and the park’s iconic landmarks. Hiking in winter presents challenges, but also rewards with wildlife sightings and increased permit availability. However, winter hiking requires proper preparation, gear, and experience. Overall, winter on the John Muir Trail provides a thrilling and serene adventure for experienced hikers seeking a unique and challenging experience.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a picturesque reservoir nestled within Yosemite National Park. This scenic water body is surrounded by towering granite cliffs and lush forests, creating a tranquil and serene atmosphere. The reservoir is known for its pristine blue waters, which are sourced from the Tuolumne River. RV campers can enjoy hiking along the reservoir’s edges, admiring the stunning vistas and capturing beautiful reflections on calm days. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir offers a quieter alternative to other crowded areas of the park, allowing for a peaceful and immersive experience in the natural splendor of Yosemite.
Mariposa Grove is a majestic and enchanting grove of giant sequoia trees located in Yosemite National Park. This grove is home to some of the largest living trees on Earth, including the iconic 2,000-year-old Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree. As visitors wander through the grove, they are greeted by towering sequoias that stand tall and proud, their massive trunks and sprawling branches creating a sense of awe and reverence. The peaceful ambiance of Mariposa Grove provides an opportunity for contemplation and appreciation of the ancient and awe-inspiring natural wonders that have stood for centuries.
Artists’ Point is a scenic viewpoint located in Yosemite National Park that offers a breathtaking panorama of the Yosemite Valley. From this vantage point, visitors are treated to an awe-inspiring vista that includes iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. The viewpoint provides an ideal spot for photographers, artists, and nature enthusiasts to capture the beauty of Yosemite’s dramatic granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and lush meadows. Artists’ Point allows visitors to witness the grandeur of nature’s masterpiece and serves as an inspiration for artistic interpretation and personal reflection.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel, is a historic and iconic hotel located in Yosemite National Park. Nestled amidst the park’s breathtaking natural surroundings, this architectural gem exudes elegance and grandeur. The hotel’s design combines rustic charm with luxurious amenities, featuring stunning stone façades, striking timber beams, and expansive windows that frame magnificent views of the surrounding landscape. Inside, the hotel boasts magnificent public spaces adorned with beautiful artwork and intricate details that reflect the heritage of Yosemite. Staying at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the park’s history and experience unparalleled comfort in an awe-inspiring setting.
Nevada Falls is a spectacular waterfall located in Yosemite National Park, offering a mesmerizing display of natural beauty and power. The falls cascade down a 594-foot drop into the Merced River at the western edge of the Little Yosemite Valley, providing an opportunity to spend a pleasant day engaging in water activities and observing the captivating wildlife. The view from the top of the falls reveals a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding valley and distant mountains. Nevada Falls is a testament to the raw and majestic forces of nature that captivate and inspire all who witness its awe-inspiring descent. Unlike many other areas in the park, there are no swimming restrictions, but it’s important to note that the water can be very cold during this time of year.
Vernal Falls is a majestic waterfall that tumbles down a towering granite cliff, creating a breathtaking display of natural beauty. The falls plunge a total of 317 feet (97 meters), resulting in a powerful and mesmerizing cascade of water. As the water crashes against the rocks and creates a misty spray, rainbows often form, adding to the enchanting atmosphere. Summer is the best time to visit, as the increased water flow creates a stunning and robust display of the falls. The accessible hiking trails, such as the Mist Trail, allow visitors to experience the refreshing mist and enjoy the lush surroundings. One of the finest viewpoints can be found slightly before reaching the one-mile mark on the renowned Vernal Fall Footbridge. In instances where water levels recede, certain foolhardy individuals may attempt to traverse the rocks.
Tenaya Lake is a stunning alpine lake in Yosemite National Park, surrounded by granite peaks. Its crystal-clear waters and picturesque shores make it a perfect spot for outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking, and hiking. The lake offers scenic hiking trails suitable for all skill levels, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Photography enthusiasts will find numerous opportunities to capture the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. Tenaya Lake is also an ideal destination for camping, allowing visitors to fully embrace the tranquility of the area and enjoy stargazing at night.
Yosemite National Park offers exhilarating whitewater rafting experiences, with the Merced River being a popular spot for this adventure. Rafters can navigate the thrilling rapids and enjoy the rush of adrenaline amidst the stunning natural scenery. While experienced rafters have the option to venture on their own, many visitors choose to hire professional guides or outfitters who provide expertise and ensure a safe and enjoyable rafting experience. Early summer is regarded as the prime time for whitewater rafting in Yosemite, particularly during peak snowmelt. This period offers higher water levels and more challenging Class IV rapids. As the snowmelt subsides and the river levels decrease, the rapids transition to Class I or II, making it a more approachable experience for rafters of varying skill levels. RV renters should visit in the summer to enjoy optimal conditions for rafting and take advantage of the park’s amenities and services.
Summer is the best time to explore the high country of Yosemite, with numerous hiking trails open and accessible. RV campers can embark on adventures like hiking to Cathedral Lakes, exploring the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, or venturing along the John Muir Trail, immersing themselves in the stunning alpine scenery.
El Capitan is an iconic and renowned granite peak in Yosemite National Park. Unlike the smooth and rounded shape of Half Dome, El Capitan’s surface is rugged and craggy, showcasing the raw beauty of the natural rock formations. Situated in the northern part of Yosemite Valley, it is predominantly a summer attraction. One of the best viewpoints to marvel at the grandeur of El Capitan is Tunnel View, where visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of this legendary rock face.
For adventurous hikers and rock climbers, El Capitan offers thrilling opportunities. A hiking trail runs through Yosemite Valley, passing by the majestic Yosemite Falls, and leading to the summit of El Capitan. The mountain attracts numerous rock climbers who can be spotted scaling its imposing walls. Climbing routes like Sea of Dreams and Iron Hawk present formidable challenges, demanding strength and skill. While the average climb takes around four days, some speed-climbing teams have achieved remarkably faster ascents. In 2017, renowned free-climber Alex Honnold astounded the world by conquering El Capitan in just under four hours.
In spring, Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley becomes a reflective pool, mirroring the surrounding granite cliffs and trees. To reach the lake, take a 30-minute stroll through the woods. RV campers can hike the easy trail to Mirror Lake and enjoy the peaceful ambiance while marveling at the mirror-like surface. The area is also great for photography and wildlife spotting. Fishing is good here.
Located in the southern part of Yosemite, Wawona Meadow bursts with colorful wildflowers and majestic trees in the spring. The meadow is home to a variety of wildlife, making it a popular spot for birdwatching and wildlife photography. RV campers can enjoy a leisurely walk or a picnic while surrounded by a vibrant carpet of lupines, poppies, and other native flowers, all against the backdrop of towering pine trees.
Geocaching has become popular in Yosemite National Park, offering an adventurous treasure hunting experience. Participants use GPS devices to locate hidden caches, which are often waterproof containers with logbooks and small trinkets. Geocachers obtain coordinates from dedicated websites or apps and embark on a quest to find the caches. Upon discovery, they sign the logbook, leave a token, and take one if desired. Geocaching adds excitement and exploration to Yosemite, allowing visitors to uncover hidden gems while enjoying the park’s natural beauty.
Yosemite Falls is a towering and captivating waterfall in Yosemite National Park. With a total height of 2,425 feet (739 meters), it consists of three sections: Upper Falls, which drops 1,430 feet (436 meters), where the view is breathtaking and the sound is thunderous, requiring visitors to be prepared for the sensory experience. Middle Cascades, although often overlooked, are hidden treasures that many visitors miss. Accessing this area involves hiking along a slippery and perilous trail. Lower Falls, which descends 320 feet (98 meters), on the other hand, is the most popular and frequently visited section. It can be reached via a relatively easy one-mile loop. Spring and early summer are the best times to see the falls at their peak, but Yosemite Falls remains a stunning sight throughout the year. It is a must-visit destination to witness the natural grandeur of Yosemite National Park.
Half Dome is an iconic granite rock formation in Yosemite National Park. It stands at a height of 8,842 feet (2,691 meters) and is known for its distinctive shape. The sheer granite face rises nearly 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) from the valley floor. Hiking to the summit of Half Dome via the Half Dome Trail is a challenging but rewarding adventure that requires a permit. The final ascent involves climbing the famous Half Dome cables. Reaching the summit offers breathtaking panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains. Half Dome can also be admired from viewpoints such as Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome. Climbing the cables requires careful planning, physical fitness, and adherence to safety regulations. Half Dome is a symbol of the park’s natural beauty and offers an unforgettable experience for visitors.