Yosemite National Park, California

Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know

Yosemite National Park is one of California’s crown jewels with people from around the world coming to visit. The camping is unparalleled, but even non-campers come to enjoy its beautiful lodges and the valley’s mystique. In fact, it’s one of the most popular parks in the country, averaging about 4 million every single year—and most of them spend the majority of the time in seven square miles of Yosemite Valley.

Two famous mountains in particular are striking in Yosemite: Half Dome and El Capitan. That, along with a wide variety of other recreational opportunities and a wealth of other natural beauty, make Yosemite a must-stop place for an RV vacation. You can easily spend your entire vacation in Yosemite and not see anything twice—especially if you venture outside of the valley.

Why Visit Yosemite National Park in Your Rented RV?

There are five different vegetation zones inside Yosemite National Park, which means it varies immensely in different places. The valley alone is awe-inspiring, with its massive granite cliffs, lush meadows, and huge waterfalls. Outside the valley you’ll find other interesting sights, like the 500 giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, and numerous museums and other historical buildings that date back to the park’s founding and even earlier.

Hiking

Yes, this sounds absurd, but: there are more than 800 miles of hiking trails in Yosemite National Park. There are several primary sections that the park divides its trails into: Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Wawona and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Hetch Hetchy, Crane Flat/White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows.

The trails range from easy and accessible and under half a mile in length, to around 14 miles and very strenuous. One of the most popular, Half Dome Trail requires a permit between Memorial Day and Columbus Day and is limited to 300 hikers a day. It’s a strenuous climb with a technical cable course, but also one of the most rewarding hikes in the National Park system. There are also numerous backpacking opportunities that get you even deeper into the national park, letting you see what many visitors never do.

There are numerous books dedicated to Yosemite’s hiking trails—if you want to dedicate your vacation to hiking, it’s recommended that you pick one up. You can also check Yosemite’s official site for more information. 

Fishing

Yosemite National Park is laden with mountain streams, rivers, and lakes. The lakes and reservoirs are open for fishing year-round, while the rivers and streams are open from April to November. All fishing requires you to have a valid California fishing license.

In many areas of the park, fishing is limited to barbless hooks and artificial baits. This is actually perfect for fly fishing, which is a very popular pastime in the area. Be mindful of daily limits, as well. Rainbow trout, for example, are catch-and-release only in Yosemite Valley and El Portal. Brown trout, brook trout, and smallmouth bass, bluegill, and many other fish species are in the lakes and streams and can grow to very nice sizes. 

Rock Climbing

With both El Capitan and Half Dome, rock climbing is a major tourist attraction in Yosemite National Valley. Granted, with many granite bluffs and cliffs, there are many locations throughout the park that are popular destinations for climbers. From the shorter boulders at the bottoms of these massive summits to halfway up the face of the rock, you’ll see climbers everywhere there isn’t snow.

If you’re not an experienced climber, many of these summits may be too aggressive for you. That said, many organizations and clubs in the area offer classes and training in climbing. If you’re coming specifically to climb (who could blame you?) make sure that you’re following all of the rules and regulations of the park so that you’ll have a safe, fun, and memorable time.

Mariposa Grove & Giant Sequoias

Yosemite National Park isn’t just the valley with its grand granite cliffs and lush meadows. There are also several stands of Giant Sequoia trees in the park. The largest grove in the park is Mariposa Grove, near the southern entrance. There are smaller groves in Tuolumne and Merced.

Getting to Mariposa usually requires an hour-and-fifteen-minute shuttle ride from the welcome center. Once there, there are numerous trails you can enjoy that range from easy to strenuous in difficulty. These trees are ancient, and also some of the best-known landmarks in the park. Look for Tunnel Tree and Dead Giant.

Scenic Drives

There’s an entire guide dedicated to driving through Yosemite. Every road that exists in the park could be considered a “scenic” drive, and you can meander your way from start to finish from any number of different routes. There are also lovely overlooks and pull offs along many of these stops that are perfect for photo ops.

One of the most famous roads in Yosemite is Tioga Road. It stretches 46 miles and runs from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. Several stops along the way include Olmstead Point where you can see Half Dome and Clouds Rest, and Tenaya Lake—the largest natural lake in Yosemite.

Campgrounds and RV Parks for Yosemite National Park

There are 10 total campgrounds that can accommodate RVs and trailers in Yosemite National Park. It’s worth mentioning, however, that utility hookups (electric, water, or sewer) are not available anywhere throughout the park. Some dump stations can be found at specific campgrounds, but otherwise, camping in Yosemite means “roughing it,” as far as your RV is concerned. That said, the opportunities afforded by camping inside the park more than make up for any little inconvenience.

Upper Pines Campground

There are 13 campsites inside Yosemite, and most of them can accommodate RVs (up to a length limit). Upper Pines Campground inside Yosemite has plenty of room for RVs, but you won’t find any utility hookups here (or anywhere in the park, for that matter). There is, however, a dump station at Upper Pines, making it sought after. It fits RVs up to 35 feet. It’s also—like nearly every other campsite inside the park—extremely popular and often booked solid from April until September. If you’re planning a trip, make a reservation early.  

Bass Lake at Yosemite

Beauty is in no shortage at Bass Lake at Yosemite. An RV resort through and through, you’ll find full utility hookups here, letting you take advantage of all the beautiful things your RV offers. Beyond that, you’ll find free Wi-Fi and a swimming pool to help pass some down time. A game room for kids can keep them busy while you enjoy the adult lounge and fireplace, and a quick stop at the café for coffee is the perfect start to your morning.

Yosemite Lakes RV Resort

Just five miles outside the west gate of the park, Yosemite Lakes RV Resort is like a mini summer camp for the whole family. Enjoy full hookups in your RV, plus other amenities. Expect things like shower facilities, shuffleboard, hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and more. The south fork of the Tuolumne River runs through the area, where you can swim, fish, and even pan for gold.

Yosemite Pines

Just 22 miles outside the west gate, Yosemite Pines offers you a western stay you’ll never forget. Not only are there full utility hookups, there’s also a large swimming pool and a massive play area with bocce courts, volleyball, horseshoes, and more. And here too, you can pan for gold in their Sluice Box. There’s even a petting zoo and barbecue area.

Yosemite Westlake

For a smaller, quieter kind of camping experience, look to Yosemite Westlake. With just 24 spots with full hookups and 24 miles away from the west gate, you’ll battle less traffic on the daily, and be able to enjoy some peace and quiet when you’re outside the park and trying to relax. The site offers Wi-Fi, plus clean shower and toilet facilities. A nearby market and restaurants also make this a prime camping location.

Places to Eat Near Yosemite National Park, California

Being such a tourist draw every year, you know you’ll find good grub in Yosemite National Park. All the hiking and rock climbing will be sure to raise a serious hunger in you. So, if you’re not feeling up to making dinner inside your RV’s kitchen (you’re on vacation, give yourself a break) then you’ll gladly enjoy one of the many restaurants in or around the park.

Dining at Yosemite National Park

There are several full-service restaurants inside the park. These range from cafeteria/food court style places that are great for a family of eaters with different taste, to a pizza place, to burger and sandwich joints. There’s even upscale dining available for those who are after a particularly memorable dining experience.

Dining outside of Yosemite National Park

With numerous mountain lodges around, plus a few quaint small towns, there’s lots of good food to be had. Buffet style breakfasts are popular at many lodge dining rooms. You’ll find family pizza places and hole-in-the-wall diners that serve incredible burgers and fries. Custom sandwiches and fancy coffee drinks can be had easily. And if a nice, cold beer is calling your name after a long day’s hike, you’ll find several pub style restaurants and a few craft breweries in the area as well.

Yosemite and its surroundings have plenty to offer its visitors. Saloons, cafés, casual and fine dining are all on the table for you, so it’s simply a matter of what you’re craving. No matter which way you go, you’re bound to have a great meal with an even better view.

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