How to get a campsite reservation in Yosemite during peak seasons

When it comes to camping in Yosemite during the spring and summer there is no let’s just head to the valley and see if there is anything available. My family and friends have been camping in the Upper Pines Campground every summer for almost a decade. Each year as we log on to book a reservation the fear of not getting a campsite for our annual vacation has us chomping our nails with anxiety. Here are a few things that we have learned over the years to help you plan your camping vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Here is the challenge: Reservations become available to book at 7am Pacific time six months before your planned camping time and are all reserved by 7:05am Pacific time. So how on earth are you supposed to get a site? Here are my best tips…

  1. Get up early! We get up and get online 30 minutes before the sites become available. This gives us time to make sure that all of the things we need to make a reservation are available to us and we are not fumbling for things at the last moment.
  2. Get on the fastest internet connection you can. In this game micro seconds matter! There are thousands of people trying for hundreds of spots. Make every click count!
  3. Don’t bother with the phone. The reservation agents use the same system that you would to book it online. why add a middle man to slow you down?
  4. Enlist the help of your friends. Every year we have four people trying for one or two sites. There have been years where we didn’t get a single site and other years where we ended up with three. It only costs 10 dollars to cancel a reservation. I feel that is a small price to pay to ensure that we get our vacation spot.
  5. Be logged in to recreaction.gov ahead of time. If you don’t do this you could lose your spot when you have to log in. There is only a limited time you have to pay before it put the site back out to be booked. This has happened to me! The worst is to get a campsite and then lose it because you have to log in. Or worse re-log in don’t think that you can log in the night before and be okay. The website will log you out automatically after a certain amount of time and you won’t know this until you try to book a reservation.
  6.  Be ready to book your first choice right a 7am but don’t put all of your hopes in that campsite. Here is what I do… I try for my favorite spot (wouldn’t you like to know which one that is). If I don’t get it as quick as I can I jump to the campground map and grab whatever is left as quickly as possible. Don’t think! just go you don’t have time to be choosey at this point.
  7. Okay it is now 7:10 am and your emotionally spent and you didn’t get a spot should you just give up and cry into you coffee? Well, not yet. There is still one thing you can do get a campsite. This last tip is just about pure determination and not your speed on the computer. Because campers into Yosemite Valley are forced to book 6 months ahead of time the campgrounds get a lot of cancellations over time. So, if you are willing to call the reservation center every day for six months you still might have a chance to make your dream camping trip in Yosemite a reality.

I hope that this helps you get a spot this summer in Yosemite. If you have any other tips or tricks I would love to hear them. Drop me an email at preparedidiot@gmail.com. If this blog post was in any way helpful to you look for me every June in the Upper Pines Campground I would love to meet you!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my children’s book The Story of Elmer in Yosemite to read around the campfire. It is about a Yosemite legend that dates back as far as the 1930’s .Thin_book_03

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