Your RV trip to the legendary Yosemite National Park

Your RV trip to the legendary Yosemite National Park

There is something magical about the Yosemite National Park. It is one of those places that you should visit at least once in your life. It is not about the clean and fresh mountain air or the aura of its majestic mountains and beautiful scenery, but something more intangible.
Once you go there, you feel one with nature. There are three groves of giant living sequoia trees, and some of them have been around for more than 1,000 years! And that is just the start of the mystique of Yosemite National Park.  Let us take a journey through time and check out the history of this park: 

The History of Yosemite National Park in California

The park is located in the Sierra Nevada in California. Yosemite's overall landscape is the direct interactions between its bedrock and surrounding glaciers millions of years ago. One of the park's unique aspects happens to be its distinct rock formations mostly made up of granite.  It won't be wrong to say that the park's  granite formations are amongst the most recognizable natural phenomena in the world.

Apart from granite, there is plenty of igneous rock-strewn across the park. This type of rock was created from lava flows from the time when molten rock used to flow under the ground's surface. So, taking in the vista from your campsite basically means peering through to the very beginning of time itself. 

It’s relevant to note that National Park Yosemite is more than just rock and other geological features. It is much more.  From its magnificent canyons to its breath-taking waterfalls to its pristine lakes. Not to mention its awe-inspiring rock formations that consist of peaks, cliffs, domes and mountains. A trip there creates memories that last a lifetime.

Early Inhabitants of This park

The  eponymously named Yosemite Valley was home to the Ahwahneechee native people for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers. The Ahwahneechee tribe was present when the first European settlers encountered them in the 1800s. It is because of this tribe that Yosemite Valley is named. It was called "Ahwahnee," and it subsequently became "Yosemite" because of the settlers' mispronunciation.

During the California Gold Rush in 1851, the valley was cleared by the United States Army in the Mariposa Wars. The Native Americans were eventually relocated to a reservation, thus leading to the settler’s population rise.
Currently, three to four million people visit Yosemite each year to share in the wonder and natural beauty of the land.

Early Pioneers

Until the mid-1800s, Yosemite Valley was thought impassable, and the first confirmed non-Native American visitor reached the valley in 1849, merely two years before the full-blown conflict with the native tribes.

Once the tribe was relocated, European tourists began to trickle into the valley. Many of these pioneers were early photographers and artists who sought to capture the beauty of wilderness. After them came journalists who wrote extensive articles detailing the majesty of the Yosemite valley, thus increasing the interest of Americans in this great treasure.

Pioneer Village Tourist Attraction

Galen Clark is widely considered one of the first settlers to establish a permanent presence in the Yosemite NP area. Clark almost single-handedly created a pioneer village. The Village was made up of many rustic cabins, a ranch in the valley and a hotel for the tourists. 

This ‘Pioneer Village’ is one of the park’s historical landmarks, and its oldest buildings have been well preserved for tourists and posterity. 

Even then, Mr. Clark saw the potential of this wondrous location and the dire need to preserve wilderness for future generations. He pushed the government to declare Yosemite Valley a National Park.

The Transformation of the Yosemite Valley into a National Park

The increasing number of settlers and tourists to the park brought damage and destruction to the Park’s natural environment. Many luminaries of the era wrote and published letters expressing their concerns in newspapers. 

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was convinced about the dangers and threats to this pristine environment. He went and signed the ‘The Yosemite Grant’ bill that gave the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the state of California. However, this was not enough, and settlers continued to wreak havoc across this beautiful land.

The Yosemite Act of 1890 was passed, keeping in check the gravity of the situation to protect the trees, minerals, and all  other natural formations of the national park. 

Though great, this act didn’t go far as the park's area only encompassed the land outside the valley and the Sequoia Grove. Due to jurisdictional issues, there were many poaching incidents and other harmful practices within the park. Finally, the nature-loving Theodore Roosevelt passed a bill in 1906 that made all of Yosemite the undisputed property of the United States government, to be run and preserved under the protection and stewardship of the Federal government.

Getting to Yosemite Park 

While this majestic park may have been off the beaten tracks in the early 19th century, this is no longer the case. Let us check the different routes through which you will travel to Yosemite national park. 

Your most direct route to the valley is either through the Big Oak Flat Entrance or the Arch Rock Entrance, which is located close to, but southeast of Big Oak Flat. If you want to enter through Big Oak Flat Entrance, take I-580 east and then  I-205 east all the way to Highway 120 to the east via Manteca, California.

Since Yosemite lies deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, visiting the park requires driving on mountain roads. It is important to understand that any vehicles longer than 45 feet are not allowed on the roads leading into the Yosemite park Valley. If your RV is longer than 45 feet, it will be a good idea to park outside the park and take public transportation. You can confirm this information from any Yosemite tourist guide. 

If you are a skilled RV driver, you can drive to the park as long as your vehicle is under 45 feet. In case you are not confident maneuvering a rig or scared of heights, it will be a good idea to avoid Hwy. 120 through Groveland due to its winding turns and steep grade.

If that is not the case, you wouldn’t want to miss Groveland. This is an attractive little town situated close to the national park with shops and restaurants. The town is located about 24 miles from the Big Oak Flat Entrance of the park. It’s the largest town in-between the entrance and Sonora, Calif. It is also a good place to stay if you can’t find accommodation in Yosemite NP. 

Here you will shop for essentials before driving to the park. You will also enjoy wine tasting at the historic Hotel Charlotte.

And of course, you may not want to  pass by stopping at ye olde ‘Iron Door Saloon.’ Iron Door Saloon is easily the oldest operating saloon in the State of California. It opened its doors in 1852. If you want to buy some medications, this town has pharmacies and banks with ATMs.

Parking Lots and Their Availability in the Yosemite Valley

There are plenty of parking spaces available at Yosemite Village, Half Dome Village, and along Yosemite Falls. If you prefer to park at Yosemite National Park, you need to be like the proverbial early bird. The influx of visitors means most parking spaces are snapped up early in the morning. If you find a parking space leave your vehicle there; it is unlikely you will find another spot, especially on weekends. 

The park has a free-of-charge shuttle service. You can take the shuttle or if you prefer you may hike to get around. One thing, don’t park off-road. The park administration is notorious for towing vehicles or issuing tickets. 

When all parking spaces in the Yosemite Valley are occupied, you will be directed to any one of the other parking areas close to the park. However, likely those too may be full. Plan well ahead.

RV Parks Availability

Many of Yosemite’s campgrounds can accommodate RVs. You may stay either at North Pines or Lower Pines campgrounds in the Yosemite Valley as long as your RV does not exceed 40 feet long. 

As of now, there are about six sites that allow a maximum of 45 feet length RVs that is to say make your reservations as early as possible.  If your RV is less than 35 feet long or shorter, there are sites in the Upper Pines area that will accommodate your RV. 

If  you elect to stay south of the Yosemite Valley, there are spaces that can accommodate your RV. The Wawona and Bridalveil Creek campgrounds allow rigs up to 35 feet in length. 

If you decide to camp north of the valley, you can use Crane Flat, Hodgdon Meadow, and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds. They can accommodate up to 35 feet long RVs, while the smaller White Wolf Campground can only take RVs 27 feet long or shorter.

RV Camping at Yosemite National Park

If your interest is to camp by Yosemite National Park, you will be spoiled by the choices offered. If you can't find space in the park's own campsites, you can opt for alternate sites and use the park's transport services to get you to your desired trail. 

It is important to remember that hookups are not available anywhere in the park. All the campgrounds are well equipped with water spigots and flush toilets. There are also three dump stations scattered amongst the RV parks.


The past few years have witnessed a steady increase in RV camping activities. Reservations are available at least five months in advance because camping at Yosemite National Park has become notoriously popular.  For instance, if you want to go camping on August 30, you will have to reserve by March 30. 

You have to be proactive since reservations typically close within minutes especially during peak seasons, sometimes within seconds of opening.

There is no need to fret if you don’t get that coveted reservation.  White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds are situated north of the Yosemite Valley. They operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so you won't have to reserve your RV parking spot.  For the best chance of snagging a good site, you should come early in the day.  Try and avoid holidays and weekends, particularly during the summer rush season.

Seasonal Activities in Yosemite Park
There are so many things to see in Yosemite National Park that you won't know where to start. From wildlife to events requiring tickets, Yosemite NP is a fun place all year round.

  • Summer
There are plenty of fun activities everyone can enjoy in summer. Summer is the peak season with the highest number of visitors. You can hike to the main waterfalls or walk on the majestic granite domes in the evening. You can experience thrill by floating down the Merced River in a raft or a kayak. You can also rent a bike and cruise the open boardwalk in the Yosemite Valley proper, or go rock climbing on the famous cliffs.

If you like trout fishing, then you simply must head over to Yosemite Park and fish in the lakes and water reservoirs. 

  • Spring
During the spring season, waterfalls and cascades are at their peak water volume, thanks to the recently melted snow. Some of the tallest waterfalls in the world are located here at Yosemite Park. You can enjoy the raging creeks by sitting back relaxing next to the water. White river rafting is a fun activity. Spring is also the  season when plants show off their flowers. Well, you can smell the roses this time..

  • Autumn
The fall season brings with it a whole riot of colors, including yellows, ochres and reds. This is the ideal time to visit the giant living sequoia trees and explore the ancient grove in all its majesty. Best of all, there are very few people around so you will commune with nature’s serenity..  

  • Winter
Skiing is one of the most popular activities in the winter season in Yosemite Park. For kids, there are opportunities for sledding and snow-tubing. Not to mention ice skating during daylight and stargazing in the clears of  winter nights.

Yosemite Park Checklist
Make sure that you have the following equipment with you when you visit the park:

  • Sturdy water shoes for splashing in creeks and waterfalls
  • Binoculars to watch the amazing vistas 
  • Sturdy boots for hiking on rock and granite
  • Rain jackets
  • Water tumblers
  • Sun hats, sunscreen and  sunglasses
  • Warm and cold clothing layers
  • A day pack with your meds, first aid kit, flashlights and snacks
  • A park map
  • Bug spray
  • Headlamps
  • Plastic trash bags

Important Apps for Travel Planning

  • Roadtrippers
The Roadtrippers app comes with a free base version and also a paid premium version. The free version of this app allows the RV traveler to create a route with seven waypoints at most. However, this might not be enough if you are a hardcore RV user. In this case, it is a good idea to use the paid version. It can help you save 150 waypoints and also collaborate on road trips with your family and friends.

  • AccuWeather
If you are traveling to Yosemite National park in California, it would be a good idea to download the Accuweather app. This way, you will always know at least a week in advance what the weather will be like at Yosemite NP, and plan your trip accordingly.


If you have an RV, Yosemite park should be a must-visit destination in your itinerary. If you don’t have an RV, MangoRV has RVs for rent. Book an RV at and visit Yosemite National Park for the adventures that bring lifelong memories. 

Featured image is this one with the trees.

Giant Sequoia Trees in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park.

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