Kai writes in:
I have a friend visiting soon and we wish to visit Yosemite during the first weekend of August. We’re looking to camp and I know it’s busy during summer, the problem is it seems like all the campgrounds are fully booked, but that’ll be the only time available as my friend will only be here for a short while. I have not been to Yosemite before so I’m having problem finding information about it and have no idea what to do. I’ve also seen first come first serve camp grounds, but what are the chances of getting them?
Well Kai, I wouldn’t count on getting one of the First Come, First Served sites in the Valley. I’ve seen people sitting in lawn chairs waiting for people to leave just to get a site. But, I’ve also seen people walk up and get one at 5 in the afternoon with no problem. There’s really no way to tell what it’ll be like. Sometimes people will feel like going climbing or just be passing through and decide to stop.
Your best bet is to try to get a reservation still. Sometimes people cancel or change plans and the spots open up again. Alternatively try finding a spot at one of the campgrounds outside the Valley. While the Valley seems to hold the most draw for people many of us agree the higher elevation camps are much nicer in the summer. Crowds are less, there’s less noise and pollution, usually it’s cooler on hot days and sunsets are gorgeous. The Valley is only a short drive if you want to do dayhikes.
Campgrounds you don’t need a reservation for are: Camp 4 (Yosemite Valley), Bridalveil Creek (Glacier Point Road), and on the Tioga Road (Highway 120): Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Flat, and Tuolumne Meadows. I’m going to recommend you try Tuolumne Meadows as it’s the biggest and I’ve had luck getting sites there late in the afternoon on a Friday.
Good luck and hope you have a great trip.