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Yosemite National Park Camping Beta

Updated: May 2, 2023

Camping in Yosemite can be a real nightmare. If you plan to arrive during the peak summer season and like most climbers have not reserved your camp site months in advance your maximum stay at Camp Four will likely be seven days. Park Rangers strictly enforce the 7 day rule. You can get around it if your lucky but this will envolve a constant game of cat and mouse with the Park Rangers. Freedom camping is basically not an option in the Valley. With the constant risk of a bear trashing your car for stored food or your illegal campsite, not to mention the fine and ejection from the park if caught your best option if to find an official camp site. If like us you are keen to avoide the chaos of the valley plus have somewhere to stay for a longer period of time, quite and peaceful close to the river without the crowds then check out Dirt Flat one of the National Forrest Service camp sites. It is situated just outside El Portal a short drive from the Valley and close to many of the great cragging destinations such as Cookie Cliff.

Officially you can only stay at the Forrest Service camp sites for two weeks but on the two occasions we have stayed at Dirt Flat we have stayed for as long as five weeks and never had any problems with the camp site hosts. Dirt Flat is a managed camp site with clean toilets, fire pits, large camp sites and BBQ tables. As of 2013 the total site was $20 USD per night for the total site and you can have upto six people. So if there are a few of you it works out to be a really cheap place to stay.

Dirt Flat is also close to Mariposa which has good supermarkets, laundry services and cheap meal options. Our favourite rest day hang out is Happy Burger Diner with free wifi and bottomless soda and coffee cups.

Looking for some free wifi when your camping and dont want to make the 30 mile drive to Mariposa? Just up the road from Dirt Flat is the El Portal Community Center. You can sit on a picnic table under a shady tree and waste away the day. There are also power outlets on the outside of the building which is a bonus. To find the Community Center when driving towards the park entrance turn left into El Portal Rd, after 100m at the T intersection turn right and the Community Center is next to the post office.

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