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Yosemite National Park Camper Van Rental

Yosemite National Park Camper Van Rentals

Yosemite National Park is celebrated for its phenomenal concentration of towering sequoia trees, cascading waterfalls, and jaw-dropping granite cliffs. Found in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, the park serves as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the area’s raw, natural beauty. Whether you choose to make the strenuous climb up Half Dome or prefer to take in the scenery from Tunnel View, you’re guaranteed to be mystified by all that Yosemite has to offer.

In addition to its spectacular scenery, Yosemite’s proximity to two prominent metropolitan cities makes it one of the most popular national parks in the United States. The park’s vast wilderness is only a 4-hour drive away from San Francisco and about 5 to 6 hours from Los Angeles. Both routes offer scenic drives and intriguing detours, making Yosemite one of California’s top road trip destinations.

To begin planning your trip, use this Yosemite National Park guide as your go-to resource for where to camp, what to see, and the best ways to prepare for your camper van adventure!

Why Rent a Camper Van for a Trip to Yosemite?

A camper van is the perfect way to explore all that Yosemite has to offer. Unlike a traditional RV, renting a camper van will provide you with maximized flexibility, and, therefore freedom to explore more remote areas of the park. Our compact vehicles allow you to veer off course and plan as you go, rather than being limited to only areas that are reachable by a large RV.

Yosemite’s steep mountain roads and narrow pathways are much easier to maneuver from a camper van, giving you the opportunity to get off the beaten path whenever you choose. Plus, a typical RV would have a much harder time finding available parking spaces at Yosemite’s popular trailheads. 

One of the biggest benefits of a camper van is that they’re designed to be self-contained. Not only does this minimize your impact on the environment, but it also increases your flexibility. Unlike a traditional RV, you won’t need to waste time searching for a campground that offers sewer or electric hookups. Considering how difficult it can be to find available campsites in Yosemite, this extra hurdle would be extremely stressful.

For added mobility, convenience, and freedom while you venture through Yosemite’s breathtaking terrain, a camper van rental is absolutely the way to go!

Sunrise in Yosemite National Park

Preparing for a Trip to Yosemite National Park

Traversing through Yosemite’s awe-inspiring terrain calls for proper preparation, planning, and a few safety precautions. To ensure that your Yosemite road trip goes off without a hitch, these are our best tips to keep in mind:

Campground Reservations and Permits

During peak season, campgrounds in Yosemite are notorious for filling up immediately. Many sites can be reserved up to 5 months in advance, so try to book your campground as early as possible. 

Planning ahead is also critical for several of Yosemite’s hikes which require permits, including the popular Half Dome trail. Permits are obtained through a lottery system, so you’ll want to begin applying early to improve your chances of being selected.

Packing the Essentials

Before hitting the road, make sure you’ve packed any gear and supplies that you’ll need during your adventure. The nights can get chilly even in the summer, so grab a bedding kit from our available add-ons, as well as a kitchen kit so you have everything you need for meal prepping at your campsite. 

Outside of Yosemite Valley, the park offers very few dining options, so be sure to stock up on food and water before reaching Yosemite. Non-perishable food and quick, easy meals that can be made at your campsite are key. It’s also important to remember that you’ll be camping in bear country, so bear-proof containers are essential.

To account for unpredictable weather in Yosemite, always pack base layers, as well as a rain jacket. It’s also a good idea to prepare for unexpected situations by having a first-aid kit, whistle, and flashlight available in your camper van. 

Navigation Tools

Cell reception is minimal in many areas of the park, so be sure to grab a paper map of Yosemite when you arrive. This will come in handy when you’re trying to reach more remote areas, or searching for your next campsite. Having a physical Yosemite guide book is also a great tool to have on hand to better understand the layout of the park, including lesser known trails.

Planning Your Route

San Francisco and Los Angeles are the two most common starting points for a Yosemite National Park road trip. You really can’t go wrong with either route, although the drive from San Francisco is a bit shorter. 

Driving to Yosemite from San Francisco

From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, enjoy a scenic drive through California’s Central Valley. On the way, break up the drive with a pit stop at the historic Gold Rush town of Mariposa, or take in mesmerizing views from the Merced River Canyon.

Driving to Yosemite from Los Angeles

The drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite will reward you with an ever-changing landscape, taking you through the San Joaquin Valley and straight to the jaw-dropping scenery of the Sierra Nevada mountains. To discover a different side of California that feels a world away from LA, take a short detour to some of the charming, small towns along the foothills.

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

Must-See Sights, Events, and Places in Yosemite 

A trip to Yosemite grants visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the wilderness, with countless cascading waterfalls, looming sequoia trees, and jaw-dropping, granite cliffs to explore. Deciding which sights to visit first can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite Yosemite landmarks to help get you started:

Yosemite Valley

This glacial valley is an obligatory stop in Yosemite, as it holds many of the park’s most impressive waterfalls, sights, and hikes. Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll or a high-endurance trek, there are endless trails to choose from.

Yosemite Valley is also where you’ll find El Capitan, perhaps one of the most iconic sites within the park. This granite rock formation stands at more than 3,000 vertical feet, and is one of Yosemite National Park’s top attractions for climbers. 

Not far from El Capitan, a 0.5-mile, round trip trail will lead you to Bridalveil Fall, one of Yosemite’s most spectacular waterfalls. Flowing down 620 feet, this mesmerizing sight is known for its unique mist caused by strong gusts of wind.

Before moving on to other areas of the park, be sure to stop at Tunnel View, one of Yosemite’s most-visited overlooks. Take in unparalleled views of some of the park’s most prominent landmarks and sights. Sunset is an especially great time to visit, as the park’s granite walls are draped in vivid orange hues.

Mariposa Grove

Marvel at the grandeur of Yosemite’s looming sequoia trees as you wander through Mariposa Grove, where over 500 sequoias can be found. Most are over 2,000 years old, with the Grizzly Giant being the oldest, as well as the second largest tree in Yosemite. Stroll along the grove’s convenient boardwalk, or hop on one of the many trails that allow for an even closer look at these beautiful giants.

Glacier Point

For one of Yosemite’s most astounding viewpoints, head to Glacier Point, a hugely popular overlook. Reached by a breathtaking road with several other scenic viewpoints, this striking vantage point will reward you with awe-inspiring views of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, and the High Sierra. 

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows is a tranquil oasis within Yosemite, located at a high elevation of 8,600 feet. Enjoy the gentle stream of the Tuolumne River, picnic in the expansive meadow, or take a relaxing walk along one of the many easy trails in the area. This serene atmosphere is also ideal for spotting wildlife, as a variety of birds, deer, and marmots are known for traipsing through the vast meadow. 

Camping in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite contains 10 campsites that are suitable for camper vans, several of which have restrooms and potable tap water. However, the only showers in the park are located at the Curry Village pool, where you will need to pay a small fee to use their facilities.

From April through October, all of the campsites require advanced reservations. While some of the sites can only be booked 2 weeks ahead of time, many can be reserved up to 5 months before your trip. During the high season, all campgrounds fill up incredibly quickly, so we recommend trying to book your site as early as possible. 

During the winter, Hodgdon Meadow and Wawona become first come, first served- although they tend to fill up very quickly, especially on weekends. In Yosemite Valley, Upper Pines is also open year-round, and your chances of finding an available reservation are much greater during the off-season. 

Regardless of where you camp, be sure to respect Yosemite’s land and wildlife by adhering to Leave No Trace principles. Keep any food in bear-proof containers, do not get too close to any wild animals, leave your campsite as you found it, and use the provided fire rings.

Van on the road in Yosemite National Park

When is the Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park?

Every season in Yosemite offers a completely different experience, and the month you choose to visit will greatly affect your trip. As a year-round destination, there’s no wrong time to visit, and the ideal season really comes down to what sort of outdoor adventure you’re looking for and how well you deal with crowds!

Summer

Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point, and other areas of Yosemite’s high country are ideal in the summertime. The warm temperatures are perfect for embracing Yosemite’s outdoor activities, like rock climbing, hiking, and camping. However, the peak-season, summer crowds can make popular areas of the park a bit less serene. Plus, campgrounds fill up incredibly fast in the summer, so you’ll need to plan ahead and book your sites far in advance.

Spring

While areas of the high country may be off-limits due to heavy snowfall, the rest of the park is magical during the spring. Wildflowers are in full bloom, the weather is quite comfortable, and it’s a perfect time for spotting wildlife. Plus, the melting snow makes the cascading waterfalls, like Bridalveil Fall, even more majestic during the spring

Fall

Fall is an ideal time to visit Yosemite if you’re looking for fewer crowds, cooler temperatures, and vivid foliage. Autumn conditions are excellent for exploring Yosemite’s hiking trails, and you’ll have a much easier time finding an available campsite for your camper van.

Winter

If you don’t mind bundling up, winter can be a spectacular time to visit Yosemite. The park becomes a tranquil, winter-wonderland under a blanket of snow, and crowds are usually quite minimal. Winter sports enthusiasts will find plenty of activities to fill their time, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Keep in mind that the Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Road are usually closed for the season due to snow.

Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for Your Trip to Yosemite 

Yosemite’s spectacular landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and breathtaking hikes are some of the most impressive in all of the United States. Exploring with an Escape Campervan is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the park’s natural wonders while having everything you need right at your fingertips. All that’s left is to get your hiking boots ready, pack your Yosemite National Park guide, and reserve your camper van!

Book My Yosemite National Park Trip!

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