storyteller camper van in Yosemite

Everything You Need to Know about Yosemite RV Camping

The unparalleled beauty of Yosemite National Park has been a magnet for nature lovers and adventurers for decades. Pioneered by early conservationists and subsequently swathed in protective legislation, Yosemite’s glistening waterfalls, ancient sequoias, and vast wilderness have become a sanctuary for all who seek wonder in the great outdoors. Among the myriad ways to experience the grandeur of this iconic park, camping in a camper van stands out as a unique and immersive way to connect with nature while enjoying the comforts of home. Join us as we explore Yosemite RV Camping.

For RV enthusiasts and those just setting out on their first motorhome escapade, the idea of cruising into the heart of Yosemite’s wilderness is as thrilling as it is daunting. As one of the top Places to enjoy camping, we’ll take you through every aspect of planning the perfect camping trip in Yosemite, from selecting the optimal time to visit to ensuring your experience is both enjoyable and ecologically responsible.

man packing for Yosemite RV camping

Planning Your Trip

Before hitting the road, diligent planning can ensure your Yosemite venture is smooth and enjoyable. Opting for the right time to visit, securing those elusive RV camping spots, and packing the essentials are crucial steps in turning this trip into a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Choosing the Right Time to Visit

Yosemite enjoys a varied climate with four distinct seasons, each offering a unique perspective on the park’s wonders. While summer is the peak RV camping season, with warmer weather and clear skies ideal for exploring, it also means crowds and scarce camping availability. For those who relish tranquility and the serene charm of winter, the landscape transforms into a snow-covered realm perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Before scheduling your trip, review and understand weather conditions, so you can select the best camper van for your trip and activities. And remember, if you have questions, the GoCamp team can provide direction to ensure you have the right type of vehicle.

Reserving RV Camping Spots in Advance

Due to its popularity, especially during summer, securing a campsite within the park can be fiercely competitive. The National Park Service’s (NPS) reservation system opens six months in advance, and it’s recommended to book your RV spot the moment the window opens to avoid disappointment. In this post, we’ll uncover some of the best camping locations, so you have options and can decide what’s best for you.

Yosemite’s RV Campsite Amenities

Yosemite RV camping provides essential facilities to make your stay comfortable. These include picnic tables, fire pits, and shared restroom facilities with running water and flush toilets. Many campgrounds also offer the convenience of a dump station for waste disposal.

Packing Essentials for an RV Camping Trip

While the allure of an RV trip is the convenience of having a fully-equipped mobile abode, Yosemite’s remote location and dynamic weather dictate a thoughtful packing list. Stock up on food, water, and camping essentials, but also prepare for cooler evenings, sudden weather changes, and any specific activities you plan to engage in.

When you rent a GoCamp camper van, your camping essentials will be included, so you don’t have to worry about things like dishes, bedding, towels, utensils, camp chairs, and much more. Our Hop In and Go promise makes camping easy.

Yosemite RV camping with bikes

Navigating Yosemite in an RV

Once inside the park, understanding Yosemite’s unique RV regulations and restrictions is critical. 

Understanding the Park’s RV Regulations and Restrictions

Yosemite is dedicated to preserving its natural wonders, and this means strict regulations for all vehicles. Familiarize yourself with the NPS guidelines for RVs, including length and vehicle-specific restrictions, to avoid any complications upon entry.

Luckily, camper vans make it easy to park and maneuver in tighter spaces, so you don’t have to worry about not having enough room to enjoy. Camper vans are shorter than RVs, giving you lots of flexibility throughout your trip.

Tips for Driving and Parking an RV in the Park

Yosemite RV camping includes roads that can present steep grades, tight turns, and the occasional low-clearance underpass, demanding a cautious approach to driving large vehicles. Practice safe driving habits and be mindful of other road users. Once at your destination, be patient when navigating the sometimes-crowded parking areas and respect designated spaces for RVs.

Remember, if you need 4×4 accommodations, make certain to select a camper van that provides this. 

Yosemite RV camping campgrounds

Top RV Campgrounds in Yosemite

Upper Pines Campground

Located in the heart of Yosemite Valley, Upper Pines offers easy access to many of the park’s most famous landmarks. Situated close to the Merced River, this well-shaded campground provides stunning views of Half Dome, especially at sunset. It accommodates RVs up to 35 feet in length and is a short shuttle ride away from the bustling activity of Yosemite Village.

Wawona Campground

For a quieter experience, the Wawona Campground is an excellent choice. The south fork of the Merced River meanders near this site, offering a peaceful setting with abundant wildlife. Wawona is a bit further from the valley’s activities, making it a tranquil escape for couples and families alike. RVs up to 35 feet are allowed here, and the historical charm of the nearby Wawona Hotel and Golf Course adds cultural appeal to the natural escape.

Lower Pines Campground

Just down the road from Upper Pines, Lower Pines is another popular spot in the Yosemite Valley. It’s slightly more secluded and quieter, but still provides those stunning valley sunset views. With the Merced River within earshot, it’s a favorite for those who love to fall asleep to the sound of flowing water. Lower Pines accommodates RVs up to 40 feet and is within walking distance to the valley’s attractions.

Lesser-Known Camping Spots at Yosemite

Tuolumne Meadows

The high country’s Tuolumne Meadows offers a different type of Yosemite RV camping and perspective of the park. This area is a haven for hikers and those seeking peace and quiet in the mountains. The RV campground here accommodates larger vehicles and provides access to a network of alpine trails, picturesque lakes, and summer wildflowers.

Porcupine Flat

Tucked away from the bustle of the valley, Porcupine Flat offers a calm alternative. Its location on Tioga Road makes it a convenient stopover for those entering the park from the east. Although it’s more rustic and spartan, the campground is surrounded by dense forest and meadows, creating a serene camping experience.

Half Dome at Yosemite

Must-Visit Attractions

Yosemite Valley

A mere eight miles wide and conducting 95% of the park’s visitors, Yosemite Valley is the quintessential heart of Yosemite. Framed by distinct monoliths like El Capitan and Half Dome, this portion of the park boasts some of the most iconic landmarks, meadows that lead the eye to towering waterfalls in the spring, and the Merced River gently curving through the valley.

The attractions here are endless, with the Valley View offering a postcard-perfect view of the Merced River with El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall in the background. Inspiration Point provides an excellent vista of the valley, especially at sunrise when the alpenglow casts a rosy hue over the granite peaks.

Glacier Point

For those seeking a comprehensive view while Yosemite RV camping, Glacier Point is a must-visit. A short drive from the valley floor takes you to this vantage point that allows for panoramic views of Yosemite’s iconic landmarks. Stand in awe as you take in the sheer drop of 3,214 feet to the valley floor and marvel at the grandiosity of Half Dome, Nevada Fall, and Vernal Fall. Hiking enthusiasts can challenge themselves with the 8.5-mile trek along the Four-Mile Trail, which offers an incredible ascent or descent, depending on your starting point.

In winter, Glacier Point becomes a winter wonderland, accessible only by cross-country skis or snowshoes. The quiet beauty of the snow-clad landscape transforms the vistas, offering a unique and serene experience.

Half Dome

Half Dome—its very name holds awe and adventure. This iconic granite monolith is the quintessential symbol of Yosemite National Park, gracing photographs and paintings that adorn walls around the world. A strenuous trek, the Half Dome hike is a rite of passage for many park visitors. The trail ventures through a varied landscape of pine forests, lush meadows, and arid granite expanses before rising to the famed sub-dome and steel cables that lead to the summit.

The Cables Route isn’t for the faint of heart, so if you plan to conquer Half Dome, be sure to secure the necessary permits and be mindful of weather conditions. For a less heart-pounding experience, take a guided tour, where seasoned experts can lead the way and provide invaluable insight into the geological and historical significance of Half Dome.

El Capitan

If Half Dome is the king of the valley, El Capitan is its steadfast knight. This monumental granite cliff, rising more than 3,000 feet from the valley floor, is cherished by rock climbers worldwide. El Cap’s vertical face presents a challenge that has drawn pioneers in the sport and, now, crowds of onlookers each spring to witness the ascent of the awe-inspiring Dawn Wall or the gravity-defying Free Solo.

Even if you’re not a climber, a walk or bike ride in the El Capitan Meadow offers some of the finest views. The meadow glows in the twilight, a serene foreground to El Cap’s daunting face as it catches the alpenglow at sunset.

Yosemite Falls

The epitome of a pristine cascade, the Yosemite Falls is North America’s highest waterfall and a sight to behold. It’s like a white ribbon unfurled from the top of sheer granite cliffs, dropping in three sections for a total of 2,425 feet, ensuring that you can hear its thunderous roar from most points of the valley. In spring, when snowmelt fuels the falls, rainbows and abundant spray add to the spectacle.

To get the best views of the falls, start at the Lower Yosemite Fall trail, a leisurely loop that provides close-up views of the falls from the base. If you’re up for more, hike the Upper Yosemite Fall trail to reach the top, alighting in meadows like the monolithic wonder of Eagle Peak.

Mariposa Grove

The Mariposa Grove is home to some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet—Giant Sequoias. These ancient sentinels of the Sierra Nevada stand as testimony of time’s passage and nature’s resilience. The park’s most famous—The Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree—invite visitors to connect with the past and the present simultaneously.

Wander the trails and boardwalks that weave among these giants, guiding you through the forest with reverence. The park is now home to a state-of-the-art visitor center, where you can learn about the natural and cultural significance of these awe-inspiring trees, ensuring a visit that’s as educational as it is majestic.

The Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls

For those looking for a hike that combines incredible waterfalls and breathtaking vistas, the Mist Trail delivers a one-two punch that’s hard to beat. The trail begins somewhat innocuously in Happy Isles, a popular spot that’s home to various wildlife and birdlife. But the trail quickly becomes steep and climbs alongside the Merced River, offering numerous vantage points of the powerful falls.

Vernal Falls, with its impressive 317-foot drop, is your first reward. Continue onward, and the trail takes you to the top of Nevada Falls, where a vast expanse of the valley and its surrounding peaks unfolds before you. Be prepared to get wet—it’s the mist after all—and bring extra layers, as the spray can make the steps slick.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a peaceful respite, a serene body of water that, on a calm day, reflects the immersive Half Dome like a crystalline mirror. The walk to the lake is suitable for all skill levels and offers an excellent opportunity for birdwatching and solitude. In late spring and early summer, water levels recede to reveal large sandy beaches dotted with sunbathers and swimmers.

The Mirror Lake Loop is a great addition to your Yosemite itinerary, especially if you’re seeking a walk that allows for contemplation and connection with the more tranquil side of Yosemite RV camping. Bring a picnic or simply bask in the mirrored view of one of Yosemite’s iconic landmarks.

Going for a hike while Yosemite RV camping

Must-Do Activities


Hiking in Yosemite is a highlight, no matter your skill level. From easy paths that lead to panoramic views, like the Cook’s Meadow Loop with views of Half Dome and Sentinel Bridge, to the more challenging trails, such as the Mist Trail that takes you up close to Vernal and Nevada Falls, there’s a trail for every hiker.

The Half Dome Trail is one of the most famous and strenuous hikes in the area, reaching an elevation gain of over 4,800 feet (1,460 m) and including a thrilling climb using cables. For those who desire a less crowded experience, the Pohono Trail offers a stunning view of the valley and various vantage points to capture the essence of Yosemite’s beauty.

Visiting Waterfalls

The park’s numerous waterfalls are at their peak in spring when the snowmelt feeds into the park’s rivers. Yosemite Falls is one of the highest in North America at 2,425 feet (739 m), consisting of Upper Yosemite Fall, the middle cascade, and Lower Yosemite Fall, which is both the most visible and accessible. During the summer, the falls dwindle, but in winter, Upper Yosemite Falls transforms into a wonderland with the formation of an ice cone at its base.

Vernal and Nevada Falls can be reached via the Mist Trail in the spring and summer, displaying cascading streams of water tumbling down the granite slopes. These falls not only provide a refreshing mist but also unparalleled photo opportunities. Experience the power of water up close as mist from Vernal Fall casts rainbows, creating a magical atmosphere.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

The impressive granite formations lure climbers from all over the world. El Capitan, with its sheer face, attracts the most seasoned climbers who attempt multi-day ascents. The Cathedral Spires and Sentinel Rock offer more challenging routes for intermediate climbers.

If you prefer a singular climbing experience, the Royal Arches is a classic adventure that leads to a remarkable arch high on the face of Washington Column. Yosemite is also famous for its bouldering, with the Camp 4 area being the birthplace of the modern sport and a training ground for some of the best climbers in history.

Wildlife Viewing

Yosemite RV camping allows you to get up close to diverse habitats and wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, mule deer, coyotes, and the elusive mountain lions that call the park their home. Birdwatchers will delight in the opportunity to observe over 250 species, including the peregrine falcon and the great gray owl.

For the best wildlife viewing, the Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona areas provide habitats rich in bird and animal life. Early morning and dusk are the best times for wildlife spotting, when animals are most active.

Enjoying Historic Sites and Museums

Yosemite’s history is rich and varied, from its indigenous people’s stories to the European settlement, through John Muir’s influence and the development of the National Park Service. The Pioneer Cemetery is a quiet place to reflect on the lives of those who shaped the park, while the Grant Grove Village provides insight into the life and work of the influential naturalist.

The Ansel Adams Gallery showcases the famed photographer’s work, capturing the spirit of the park through his lens. The Yosemite Museum in the Valley offers exhibits on the culture of the Miwok and Paiute people as well as temporary art displays.

woman enjoying Yosemite RV camping

Sustainable RV Camping Practices

Preserving Yosemite’s splendor is a responsibility we all share. For RV campers, adopting sustainable practices is a way to enjoy the park’s beauty while ensuring it thrives for future generations.

The Importance of Leaving No Trace

The principles of Leave No Trace are particularly salient in delicate ecosystems like those found in Yosemite. Be mindful of your impact, pack out what you pack in, and leave the terrain as you found it to help keep the park pristine.

Tips for Minimizing the Environmental Impact of RV Camping

Use RV facilities where available, conserve water and electricity, and opt for biodegradable products where possible. These simple choices can make a significant difference in the environmental footprint of your RV trip.

GoCamp offers many eco-friendly camper vans that allow you to enjoy modern conveniences using renewable energy. This makes Yosemite a great spot for long term camper van rentals.

Yosemite Can’t Be Missed

Yosemite RV camping offers a rare opportunity to meld the comforts of home with spectacular nature. It’s time to start planning, packing, and perhaps most importantly, dreaming of the experiences to come in one of the world’s most cherished wildernesses. Yosemite beckons not only with its towering peaks and pristine meadows but with the promise of an RV odyssey that will resonate with you long after you’ve turned off the ignition.

If you’re inspired to share your own Yosemite RV camping experiences or seek further insights into planning your trip, don’t hesitate to contact GoCamp or tag us at @gocamp_rentals . With each shared story and tip, the magic of our national parks continues to live on, renewing our love for the great outdoors and the cherished tradition of RV traveling. 

It’s time to book your camper van to Yosemite!