A creatively decorated RV follows a tour bus on the way to Yosemite. Photo by Steve Rhodes.
George asks: “I’m heading to Yosemite in mid-May and, in doing research, came across your blog. I’m hoping you might share your thoughts concerning the following.
I’m a backpacker with a knee problem so my trip is compromised (day hikes, but no backpacking) but, I think, still worth taking. I feel more discouraged about camping options in the Park than about my knee! I’d prefer not to be neighbor to an RV and yet it seems the non-RV campsites aren’t open until July. Can you offer any suggestions?”
Thanks for the email, George. I completely understand your dilemma. Most RVers are great but all too often there’s that one bad egg who likes to run his generator constantly and the continual slamming of doors and he goes in and out constantly. Not really the way I want to see the wilderness.
If you’re dead set on camping in Yosemite but not next to an RV and you can lug your gear a little ways you might try Camp 4. It’s open all year but is a first come, first served campground (no reservations) used by climbers. Unfortunately if you’re trying to avoid noise you might be better served camping next to the RV. Climbers can be a rowdy, energetic bunch or they can be as quiet as a field mouse.
Camp 4 offers great camping in Yosemite for walk-in campers. The campground is on the National Register of Historic Places for having played host to the many climbers who shaped modern rock climbing. Photo by Mark Cato.
If you don’t mind camping outside of Yosemite Valley and the park there are some BLM operated campgrounds at Briceburg (12 miles or so down Highway 140 between Mariposa and the park) that can be stunningly beautiful in spring. They’re accessed by crossing an old suspension bridge and driving down an access road. They’re set in riparian oak woodland on the bank of the Merced River. The area is abundant with wildflowers in May and the Willow Placer campground doesn’t offer RV camping. It’s all short walk in camp sites Campsites are developed and nice. We camped there with our son one Easter when he was 2.
Wildflowers offer a beautiful show to anyone traveling or staying along the Merced River between Briceburg and Yosemite National Park. Photo by Dale Carlson.
The drawback is that being on the bank of the Merced in spring means the river can be VERY high. Especially with this years snow pack. Not sure how that’s going to play out yet but we’re hoping we don’t have a sudden heat spell that melts a lot at once.