Yosemite Valley
Yosemite isn’t the only park in California that has been impacted by an influx of visitors. (Photo: Aniket Deole/Unsplash)

It’s Nearly Impossible to Get a Campsite in Yosemite

Reservations at California's national and state parks are more competitive than ever. Here's how to increase your chances of scoring a spot this summer.

Yosemite Valley

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Campers hoping to spend a few nights in California’s Yosemite Valley this summer will have another chance to secure a campsite on February 15 when the park opens up its next cycle of reservations for June 15 to July 14. But the possibility of even half the hopeful applicants making the cut is slim. 

Last month all 12,888 openings from May 15 to June 14 sold out within a few minutes, leaving about 7,000 expectant campers in need of new summer plans. Of the nearly 11,000 applicants that requested a reservation on January 15, less than 34 percent secured a spot.

With 748,436 acres home to 13 campgrounds, 800 hiking trails, and some of the best rock climbing in the world, it’s no wonder why one of our nation’s first established parks is the sixth most visited. While Yosemite Valley also offers some campsites on a first come, first served basis, these spots typically fill up by 12 P.M. every day. Bookings at Camp 4, located in the heart of the Valley and considered the the birthplace of rock climbing, are even more competitive from late May through early September, since spaces can only be booked a day in advance through an in-person lottery. 

To increase your chances for a site in Yosemite Valley, book online instead of calling; create a Recreation.gov account and log in before the inventory is released; have alternative dates ready if your first choice gets snapped up; and get everyone you know (and everyone they know) to hit “book” once the clock strikes 7 A.M. PST on February 15. 

Yosemite isn’t the only park in California that has been impacted by an influx of visitors. The competition is similarly fierce when it comes to reserving campsites at California’s state parks. The California Department of Recreation’s rolling-window reservations are available six months in advance, so if you want to secure a reservation for summer, do it soon.

According to Gloria Sandoval, deputy director of the California Department of Recreation, more than 67 million people visit the state’s parks each year, with more than 6.5 million coming to camp. But with approximately 13,000 campsites available, it’s impossible for most to get a spot. “Due to high demand, reservations for popular locations such as coastal beaches and campgrounds or cabins in the redwoods can be booked months in advance,” Sandoval said. These include the cabins at Steep Ravine in Mount Tamalpais State Park on the Bay Area’s Marin coast, beachfront sites at Doheny State Beach in Orange County’s Dana Point, and the campgrounds along Monterey Bay. “We recommend visitors to search for camping opportunities within inland park units,” adds Sandoval. 

To book a reservation at one of California’s state parks, visit the California Department of Parks website or ReserveCalifornia. To book camping reservations in Yosemite Valley, head to Recreation.gov.

Lead Photo: Aniket Deole/Unsplash