The Camp 4 campground is the only first come first serve campground in Yosemite Valley. It offers 35 walk-in only tent sites that can accommodate up to six people. It is open year round and you can expect it to be almost full throughout most of the year with the exception of winter.
This campground is unique in that it is a shared campground and sites are filled on a per person basis. Because of this, Camp 4 has a very communal feel to it much like staying at a hostel. Many people appreciate this community camp vibe and it is not unusual to make new friends during your stay.
Camp 4 is listed with the National Register of Historic Places “for it’s significant association with the history of modern rock climbing in America”.
Camp 4 is especially popular with rock climbers and you will probably see them practicing on boulders nearby. In fact, much of the history of modern climbing has passed through this very campground!
Yosemite Guide Books
What to expect staying at the Camp 4 Campground
This is a popular campground with the rock climbing community and with international travelers on a budget. Campers here generally are quiet and respectful preferring to go to bed early and get up early. This means the campground is usually quite peaceful. In saying that, we have been here during peak season and for the 4th of July holidays and this campground was a little chaotic with a lot more families staying and loud children running around late into the night. However, peak season is generally quite chaotic in Yosemite anyway.
Campsites are located very close to each other and share picnic tables. You will more than likely share a meal or conversation with your neighbors during your stay. This is part of the charm of camping at the Camp 4 campground. The campground is situated among tall pine tree’s and in the shade. The ground is bare dirt with no grass.
Bear Lockers to store food
Facilities and attractions at the Camp 4 campground
Camp 4 has restrooms with flushing toilets and a sink to wash dishes in. There are no shower or laundry facilities. The park shuttle bus stops right in front of the entrance to the campground which is very convenient so you do not have to drive around once you arrive. This is especially handy in summer when traffic is bumper to bumper.
The general store which is open until 10pm is two stops away and within walking distance. The closest park attraction is Yosemite Falls and the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls begins right behind the Camp 4 campground.
Securing a Site at Camp 4
Camp 4 is the only first come first serve campground in the park. It is also in high demand between May and October therefore securing a site can be tough! To register for a site, campers must line up in front of the campground kiosk and wait for a ranger to assign you a campsite. Campers are registered individually so each member of your party must be present. Each site can be assigned to six people. Groups may be split or combined to fill each site.
The ranger usually arrives somewhere between 8 and 8:30 am but most hopeful campers start lining up around 5 am (if not lined up from the night before). It is crucial you get in the line as early as possible to maximize your chances of scoring a site here. Most campers pack up and leave soon after breakfast but check out is actually at noon so don’t lose hope if you haven’t been given a site early in the morning. If you can avoid visiting on the weekend it will increase your chances of getting a campsite.
Tips for Camp 4
Bring cash - no credit or debit cards accepted for payment of campground fees
Sites are $6 per person
Bring a flashlight
There are no showers - you can shower at Housekeeping Camp for a small fee
Sleeping in your vehicle is prohibited
This is a walk-in campground and the car parking lot is a short distance away
When you register for a site, you can pay/stay for the maximum number of nights allowed (seven nights)
Bring your blanket or sleeping bag with you while you wait in line to register
In winter Camp 4 runs on a self-registration system
Fill up on gas before you get to Yosemite National Park - gas is expensive in Yosemite Valley
Having a Back Up Plan
Campgrounds in Yosemite fill up quickly including the Camp 4 campground. This is especially true between May and October. If you are not able to secure a site at Camp 4 you have a few options. First, you can check the other campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. However the chances of getting a site can be slim during summer as previously mentioned.
You can also take your chances at Camp 4 and wait to see if you can grab a site for the following day. This involves either waiting in line all night to increase your chances (many campers do this) or wait in your vehicle and line up very early in the morning. Be aware sleeping in your car is prohibited in Yosemite National Park therefore if you do fall asleep you may be woken up by a ranger tapping on your window.
You could look into camping at other campgrounds in Yosemite National Park which are not located in the valley itself. These include Bridalveil Creek, Wawona, Crane Flat, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Flat and White Wolf. It is important to note these campgrounds are quite a lengthy drive (at least 45 minutes) from Yosemite Valley but do provide more solitude and are still in just as spectacular settings.
There are also other public & private campgrounds located just outside of Yosemite such as those at Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite Lakes, Pine Mountain Lake and Yosemite Pines Resort. Otherwise, you may just have to bite the bullet and stay at one of Yosemite’s hotels or look into lodging options outside of the park.