At Yosemite National Park, many of the highlighted attractions are located in Yosemite Valley. So naturally, accommodations surrounding that area tend to fill up pretty quickly, especially during the summer.
There are a number of lodging options in Yosemite Valley: you can stay at hotels or cabins, go glamping (aka glamour camping, something I would love to experience someday), or – the option I chose because I love indulging in nature and the outdoors – camping.
It’s useful to take a look at the Yosemite Campgrounds Reservation website for details on how to go about securing a campsite (ex: Some campgrounds require reservations, some are first-come first-serve, and some are only open at certain times of the year). When I visited the park in October, it came after a last minute decision to go there instead of Sequoia National Park, so I was slightly frantic about figuring out where to stay. And after doing some research, I decided to take a shot at finding a spot at the Wawona Campground, which is located south of Yosemite Valley. Loop A at the campground is available on a first-come, first-serve basis from October through April, it’s about 45 minutes away from the valley, and it’s located right next to a river!
I’ll be honest – in the planning process, I tried to do what felt like excessive research on other possible campgrounds because I wanted to know exactly what to expect and which would be best. I went on Yelp to read about what previous visitors thought and even read up on the Hodgdon Meadow Campground, which is north of the valley.
But you know what? Trying to find out every little detail about where you’re going can be exhausting. I typically try not to dig up all information possible when setting a travel itinerary, but I guess it was different for me this time since everything came together so last minute. I’ve learned that it’s fine to not know everything and that it can actually work out better to leave room for surprises along the way.
Securing a campsite
The Wawona Campground has 93 campsites and before going, I called the park to speak with a ranger, who said the best chance of securing a campsite was to get there in the afternoon. My boyfriend and I arrived there during a weekday, which gave us a better shot than if we came on a Friday or Saturday. Even in October, campsites fill up quickly.
If you’re thinking about camping at Wawona, here’s a useful tip: arrive early.
Campsite checkout time is at noon, but some people will leave even before then. We got there around that time and were lucky enough to find a site occupied by a couple that was about to head out. It also doesn’t hurt to get there earlier because sometimes people will sit there and wait for people to leave.