10 Breathtaking Free Camping Spots Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has been a popular travel destination since John Muir, “The Father of National Parks”, helped establish it in 1906.

Due to it’s popularity, RV camping in Yosemite can be difficult. It’s expensive, crowded, and requires you to make a reservation up to six months in advance.

Fortunately, there’s a better option for your Yosemite camping trip: dispersed camping outside the park! It’s free, less crowded, and only offers first come, first served campsites.

This means you can save money and keep your RV trip itinerary flexible. 

There’s a surprising number of dispersed camping options around Yosemite. So, we searched the internet for the best ones.

While compiling our list we looked for campsites with the best amenities, the closest proximity to Yosemite, and the most options for outdoor activities.

Using these criteria, we found the top 10 free campsites near Yosemite! In order to make your trip easier and more stress-free, we also compiled our recommended camping checklist, as well some tips and tricks for your RV road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Let’s get started!

To 10 Free Camping Spots Near Yosemite

Yosemite RV Camping Trip Checklist

One of the most difficult parts to any RV trip is planning beforehand. A checklist of things to bring on your camping trip can save you from some serious stress.

There’s nothing worse than driving into the middle of nowhere and forgetting something important—like the marshmallow skewers.

Suddenly, you go from having the ability to make S’mores to a completely ruined, skewer-less camping trip.

Don’t get caught with your pants down, we’ve included a list of the most important Yosemite camping items: 

  • Electricity: Either a gas generator or a solar grid to help power your electronics. The ability to run a generator is another advantage of dispersed camping outside Yosemite. There aren’t any options for electricity inside the park, and they have strict generator rules for their campsites. That’s not the case in many of the free dispersed camping options on this list.
  • Fill up your fresh water tank: You’re going to need to clean dishes, shower, and run your toilet. Make sure you have a full tank before you leave.
  • Empty black/grey water tanks: If you’re dispersed camping, you’re unlikely to find a dump station close-by. Eliminate the need for one by emptying your tanks beforehand.
  • Firewood: Camping, even RV camping, isn’t the same without a good ol’ fashioned fire. Check the fire regulations before your trip, and determine if you can have one. If there’s no fire bans than collect your wood from a local source to stop the spread of invasive species.
  • Camping chair: Whether you want to lounge under your RV’s awning, or sit by a campfire, you’re going to want to be comfortable. Bring a chair.
  • Cooking supplies: Plates, utensils, pots, pans, and a spatula. Oh, and if your RV lacks an in-house stove, bring a portable one.
  • Can and bottle openers: Few things are as hopeless as having a can of delicious food, and having no way of opening. Same thing goes for cold bottled beers.
  • Trash bags: The outdoors mantra says: “Leave no trace”. Bring a trash bag and take everything you bring with you back out to be properly disposed of.
  • Propane: Most RVs have a propane powered refrigerator or, at the very least, a propane stove. Bring enough propane for your camping trip.
  • First-aid kit: You should already have one in your RV. Keep it well-stocked.
  • Bear Resistant Cannister (Or a rope and a bag): You can buy a bear cannister, or learn how to use a rope and bag to keep your food from the prying paws of a bear.

Yosemite Camping Tips And Tricks 

Yosemite National Park has a lot to offer. It’s almost 1200 square miles in size, which means you’ll likely need to visit multiple times if you want to see it all.

Furthermore, it’s popularity has led officials to increase regulations in the park.

These regulations are in place to curb things like pollution, over-crowdedness, and wildlife preservation as well as improving visitor safety. 

It’s important that you know some tips and tricks before visiting so you can maximize your Yosemite RV camping experience.

Here’s the top tips and tricks for for camping in Yosemite National Parkwe compiled from our personal experiences: 

Secure Your Food

Yosemite’s enormous visitor center and crowded parking lots can make you forget that you’re in the wild. And if the wilderness is known for one thing it’s the wild animals that live there.

They want your food. Even a stick of gum can drive a bear to rip your vehicle’s interior to shreds.

Always secure your food in a bear canister or hang it from a tree branch. It’ll keep you, and the animals, safe. 

No Pets Allowed

All hiking trails in Yosemite prohibit pets, except for service animals. That means you will need to leave the pets at home if you plan on hiking.

Or, securely lock your RV with your pet inside and leave enough water and food to last them the day.

If you want someone to keep an eye on your dog while you’re gone you can leave them at the dog kennel nearest to Yosemite National Park—The Yosemite Valley Stable

Check Fire Regulations

California might be Smoky the Bear’s biggest disappointment. Forest fires in the state are at an all time high in the summer.

Due to this fact, fires are often prohibited. Check the Yosemite National Park page to learn more about current fire bans. 

Enter The Permit Lottery In March For The Half-Dome Hike

In my opinion the trail to Half-Dome is one of the best hikes in Yosemite.

It’s challenging, offers the most breath-taking views of the valley, and provides intimate contact with the region’s wildlife.

It’s such a great hike that everyone wants to do it. Unfortunately, certain areas of the trail sit atop narrow paths with tall cliff faces on either side.

In order to improve safety, the National Park service limits the number of people allowed on the hike—only 300 a day. 

You need to enter their permit lottery in order to have a chance at being one of those people. The application period runs from March 1st to March 30th.

Applicants will notified by mid-April if they’ve won. After that you just need to show up on your assigned day with your permit in hand. For more information on the permit lottery visit HERE.

Research Trail Difficulty Level 

Yosemite has a trail for everyone; however, certain trails aren’t for everyone. They range from easy level difficulty to strenuous level difficulty.

Make sure you understand your physical ability before embarking on any hike.

Failing to do so could lead to a miserable day, or worse, injury or death. Here’s some of the difficulty levels for the three most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park:

1. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

  • Difficulty level: EasyLength 
  • (Distance): 2 miles round-trip
  • Length (Time): 2-3 hours

2. Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall

  • Difficulty level: Moderate 
  • Length (Distance): Full hike—7.2 miles
  • Length (Time): 5-6 hours

3. Half-Dome Trail

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Length (Distance): 14 miles
  • Length (Time): 12 hours

You can see that the more difficult trails are usually longer and take more time. For information on other trails visit HERE.

Ditch The RV, Take The Shuttle 

Parking for RVs is limited inside Yosemite National Park, especially at trailheads.

You should leave your RV at the larger visitor center parking lot, and use the free Yosemite Valley shuttle to get around. Show up to the park before 9am to beat the lines.

If you want to leave your RV outside the park you can find Greyhound and Amtrack services that take you into the park.

Tickets for these services could run out early so make reservations ahead of time.

10 Best Options For Free Camping With Unforgettable Views Near The Yosemite

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here’s our top 10 FREE, first come, first serve campsites near Yosemite.

1. Travertine Hot Springs Dispersed Camping

Travertine Hot Springs Dispersed Camping

Imagine yourself after a long day of hiking in Yosemite National Park. You’re exhausted and sore. A hot bath sounds amazing but your RV only has a shower.

Fret no more! This camping location offers a hot spring that you can bathe in.

Soak in it while you gaze at the breathtaking, mountainous terrain surrounding it. And it’s all FREE!

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 100 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Hot Springs that you can bathe in—need I say more?! This place has remained hidden from mainstream travelers.

Thus, you might find yourself enjoying a hot bath in quiet solitude. I recommend doing it at night so you can gaze at a beautiful, starry night sky above you.

Park on the nearby road which is considered BLM land, and thus free to use for RV camping. 

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Maximum RV length reported: Any length
  • Number of sites: NA
  • Amenities: Hot springs

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days
  • No fires allowed
  • No littering, or dumping. Pack it in and pack it out
  • Human waste needs to be buried 6-8 inches deep

For more information on camping in Travertine Hot Springs Campground visit HERE.

2. Hartley Springs Campground

Hartley Springs Campground

It’s located between June Mountain and Obsidian Dome in the Inyo National Forest.

The pine forested campsite sits at 8400 feet. Nearby RV campers can access the tributaries of the Owens River.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 90 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Birdwatchers and wildlife lovers rejoice! The area surrounding this campsite contains the headwaters to the Owens River.

This fertile landscape hosts a diverse plant and animal community. You can hike one of the nearby trailheads and capture tons of beautiful pictures.

Nearby June Lake offers all the usual water activities associated with enormous lakes.

The surrounding mountains will give you a marvelous backdrop as you swim, kayak, or fish.

Finish your day by gazing at the stars. This campsite’s high elevation puts you at the front door step of the cosmos!

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV length reported: 27 feet
  • Number of sites: 25
  • Amenities: Picnic Tables

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite
  • Closed in the winter
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree.
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online.
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering. Pack it in, pack it out.

For more information on camping in Hartley Springs Campground visit HERE.

3. Upper Virginia Campground

Upper Virginia Campground

This primitive campsite puts you far away from any form of modern civilization.

In fact, you’ll find yourself in the largest national forest in the lower 48—Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Nearby Virginia Creek offers an opportunity to relax by the water.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • About 100 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

The surrounding mountain peaks offer plenty of hiking opportunities. Each one features spectacular views of the region.

In case you’d rather be by the water, nearby Mono Lake, provides water sports galore. You can swim, boat, and fish in this massive lake. 

The night sky is beautiful here. Due to it’s high elevation and distance from large amounts of artificial light, you can see plenty of stars. Bring the telescope, or just stretch a blanket outside to stargaze.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV length reported: 25 feet
  • Number of sites: 15
  • Amenities: vaulted toilets, bear lockers, campfire rings

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 28 total days in the forest a year.
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree.
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online.
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering, or dumping.

For more information on camping in Upper Virginia Campground visit HERE.

4. Deadman Creek Campground (Upper And Lower)

Deadman Creek Campground

We included both Upper and Lower Deadman Creek campgrounds because of their proximity to one another.

Positioned at an elevation of over 7000 ft, these campgrounds offer gorgeous views of Inyo National Forest.

Deadman Creek skirts the edges of both, hence their names. Beautiful pine forests drench the area in fragrant scents and glorious shade.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 94 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

This first come, first serve campsite receives fewer visitors than most of the other campsites on this list. It’ll allow you to keep your trip itinerary flexible.

Plus, you can show up a little later in the day and still find a spot.  You’ll love this RV camping option for it’s outdoor activities.

It’s proximity to Deadman Creek makes it a popular basecamp for fishing, you can hike to nearby Obsidian Dome, and adventure along the OHV/ATV trails in the Lookout Mountain area. There’s something for everyone!

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV length reported: 45 feet
  • Number of sites: 30
  • Amenities: Picnic Tables, Bear lockers

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 28 total days in the forest a year.
  • Closed in the winter
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree.
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online.
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering. Pack out what you pack in.

For more information on camping in Deadman Creek Campgrounds visit HERE.

5. Redinger Campground

Redinger Campground

Redinger Campground can be found in Sierra National Forest. This beautiful forest slopes all the way to the border of Yosemite National Park.

It’s giant sequoia groves make for one of the most unique forests on the planet. The campsite is open year-round.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 69 miles, or roughly 2 hours of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Ever wanted to know what it would feel like to RV camp on the set of Jurassic Park? Well, now you can!

This campsite is positioned among some of the most unique trees on the planet—giant sequoias!

These magnificent flora heavy-weights can reach a towering 325 feet, and can survive up to 3400 years.

The ferns growing alongside these behemoths will transport you back in time to a period when everything was enormous.

The area also provides some incredible, recreational activities for RV owners. These include, biking, fishing, off-roading, hiking, motorcycle trails, and more.

But that’s not all folks! The road leading to this camping option is one of the most gorgeous scenic routes in the state: Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Maximum RV length reported: 25ft
  • Number of sites: NA
  • Amenities: vault toilets, drinking water

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 21 days in a given ranger district
  • Max people per site: 6
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree
  • Campfire permits required. You can pick one up at the Ranger Station
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering, or dumping
  • Human waste needs to be buried 6-8 inches deep

For more information on camping in Redinger Campground visit HERE.

6. Sagehen Meadows Campground

sagehen meadows

Positioned at an elevation of over 8000 ft, this campground offers beautiful views of Inyo National Forest. It’s a short drive to nearby Mono Lake.

The air here smells like butterscotch due to the Jefferey Pines in this area. Scratch and sniff their bark if you don’t believe me!

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 100 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Nearby Mono Lake gives RV campers the opportunity to enjoy some of their favorite water activities.

You can fish, swim, kayak, and even go sailboarding. If you need a break from the water you can climb to the summit of nearby Sagehen peak. 

This is a great campsite due to it’s isolation. You’ll find less people here than most of the other campsites on this list. It’s perfect if you want a private place to RV camp.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV length reported: 25 feet
  • Number of sites: 10
  • Amenities: Picnic Tables

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 28 total days in the forest a year.
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree.
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online.
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering. Pack out what you pack in.

For more information on camping in Sagehen Meadows Campground visit HERE.

7. Big Springs Campground

Big Springs Campground

There are 26 campsites at this pine forest campground. It’s located east of Yosemite National Park between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake. This campground is closed in the winter.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 94 miles, or roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

This camping option is great for outdoor recreation of all kinds.

It’s proximity to Deadman Creek makes it a popular basecamp for fishing, you can hike to nearby Obsidian Dome, and adventure along the OHV/ATV trails in the Lookout Mountain area.

It also puts you smack dab in the middle of other must-see destinations like Mammoth Lakes and Sequoia National Park.

It’s a great RV camping spot if you plan on staying for a while, and want to see a lot.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV length reported: 40ft
  • Number of Campsites: 26
  • Amenities: A vault toilet and untreated water is available from river

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 28 total days in the forest a year.
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree.
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online.
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering. Pack out what you pack in.

For more information on camping in Big Springs Campground visit HERE.

8. Lumsden Campground

Lumsden Campground

This campground can be found in the beautiful Stanislaus National Forest. It’s surrounded by tall pines and situated next to the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River.

Check your RV length with the ranger station before attempting to stay here as some of the campsites are pretty small.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 46 miles, or roughly an hour and a half of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

I would recommend this campground to families. It’s one of the easier camping options on this list due to the number of amenities it supplies.

Plus, you can save space in your RV storage since there’s a picnic table and a campfire pit with a grill for cooking.

That means you can leave your tables, chairs, and portable stove at home. The area also provides some incredible, recreational activities for RV owners.

These include, biking, fishing, off-roading, hiking, river-rafting, and more. It’s also a fairly private campsite which means you can be as noisy or as quiet as you want.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Max RV Length Reported: Unknown
  • Number of Campsites: 10  
  • Closed in the Winter
  • Amenities: Picnic table, campfire pit with a grill, a vault toilet, and untreated water is available from river.

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 28 total days in the forest a year
  • Max People per Campsite: 6 people
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree
  • Campfire permits required. You can apply for one online
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees
  • Possibly inaccessible for larger RVs. Check with ranger station first
  • No littering, or dumping

For more information on camping in Lumsden Campground visit HERE.

9. Jerseydale Campground

Jerseydale Campground

Another opportunity to spot some Giant Sequoia groves.

This campground can be found near a fire station, and sits closer to Yosemite National Park than many of the other campsites on this list. 

It’s fairly close to the town of Jerseydale so if you need any supplies you can drive over there.

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 47 miles, or roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

A fire recently tore through this area causing some damage to the forest, but it’s begun to recover.

Due to it’s current appearance it’s been abandoned as destination by many campers. 

Don’t let that stop you! You can benefit from their snobbery by using it as an opportunity for a private camping area. 

This is a good place to go if you like the quiet. It also offers opportunities for hiking and stargazing.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Maximum RV length reported: 28ft
  • Number of sites: 10
  • Amenities: vault toilets, potable water, and hitching posts for horses

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 21 days in a given ranger district
  • Max people per site: 6
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree
  • Campfire permits required. You can pick one up at the Ranger Station
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering, or dumping
  • Human waste needs to be buried 6-8 inches deep

For more information on camping in Jerseydale Campground visit HERE.

10. Upper Chiquito Dispersed Camping

upper chiquito

This secret spot is pretty far off the highway. A long forest road will take you into the backcountry of California.

It’s a largely unspoiled wilderness with a higher chance of seeing wild animals and flourishing flora

How Far Is It From Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? 

  • 72 miles, or roughly 2 hour and 15 minutes of travel time.

Why Is It An Amazing Camping Option?

Do you like camping off the beaten path? This is the RV camping site for you!

It offers a number of outdoor activities in the back-country, including: fishing in wet years, horseback riding, ATV trails, and hiking. 

At night, it’s distance from any major cities provides RV campers with a clear night sky. It’s a great place for large group camping.

Finally, the road leading to this camping option is one of the most gorgeous scenic routes in the state: Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.

Location

RV Campsite Information

  • Maximum RV length reported: 20ft
  • Number of sites: 20
  • Amenities: Vault toilets, picnic table, metal fire ring, and trash service

Rules and Regulations

  • Max Stay: 14 Days at a campsite, and 21 days in a given ranger district
  • Max people per site: 6
  • Store food properly. Put in air-tight containers, or tie up in a tree
  • Campfire permits required. You can pick one up at the Ranger Station
  • Only collect firewood from dead and down trees.
  • No littering, or dumping
  • Human waste needs to be buried 6-8 inches deep

For more information on camping in Upper Chiquito Campground visit HERE.


If you combine your Yosemite National Park trip with one of these free RV campsites it’s impossible for you to have a bad time.

If you’ve never visited tell us which of these campsites sounds the best. And if you’ve visited before let us know why you love Yosemite National Park!

Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson

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