The website provides detailed descriptions of the campsites available for the dates you select. Luckily, I was visiting midweek in late September, when most families would have their children back in school. Even so, the pickings for a site available three consecutive nights were limited. I chose a shaded campsite in the Lower Pines campground and paid online by credit card. About a week after reserving, I received a confirmation via mail from the Park Service. The mailing provided the campground rules, including several warnings about bears.
Upon arrival, I checked in with the ranger on duty who directed me to my campsite. True to its description, it was shaded by several pine trees. Vistas of Half Dome and North Dome from the campground entrance were awesome.
My tent site included an area for parking, ample space for two tents, a picnic table and fire ring. It also provided a bear box where food could be safely stowed. (Bears have been known to break into cars for food, and coolers are no challenge for them at all.) Bears aren't the only wildlife that might covet your food. Mule deer sometimes visit the campgrounds in late afternoon, and ravens seem to show up for breakfast every morning.
Yosemite Valley is convenient for car campers in that it offers two stores (at Camp Curry and Yosemite Village) where you can buy food and other supplies. Use the valley shuttle bus and you don't even need to move your car after you park at the campsite.
Although the September days are warm, the evenings and early mornings can be brisk. However, the Park Service only allows campfires in the evening, so bring along a stove if you plan to cook a hot breakfast. Because the valley offers several reasonably priced restaurants, you can get away without cooking at all if you choose.
The campground has flush toilets and running water positioned throughout, but no showers. To shower, hop on the bus to Camp Curry. The website states that they charge for showers, but I wasn't charged anything.
My site was $18 per night, fairly steep for a bare campsite, but a bargain when you consider the scenery that you wake up to. Plus, it's much cheaper than shelling out $300 a night for a room at the park's luxury hotel, the Ahwahnee. (I recommend a walk through the hotel's public areas, even if you aren't staying there.) The park also offers mid-range accommodations at the motel-like Yosemite Lodge and the cabins of Camp Curry.
by Adventures With Adam
New York, New York
July 15, 2004
From journal Adventures in Yosemite National Park