If you are trying to go to Yosemite during the summer months, often times you will have a hard time finding cheap accommodations INSIDE the park. During the summer, Yosemite hotels and lodging are very limited and quite expensive (often $200-$500 as of 2012). Most lodgings are fully booked 3-6 months in advance. Most last minutes traveler often have to stay outside the park and do the 45min – 1 hr drive to the Valley; and it is still not cheap ($180-$300). There are a few good options that we would like to share below. The 1st is the Tent Lodging such as Curry Village, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and White Wolf Lodge. The 2nd option is to pitch your own tents and camp in one of the campgrounds (Bridalveil is a top pick).
Located in the Yosemite Valley floor and close to the Trailheads, Curry Village is the little village that that actually has a real little village feels. It is the largest lodging area in Yosemite Valley, includes 18 hotel rooms, 56 cabins with bath, 319 canvas tents and 91 tent cabins. The canvas tents are the cheapest accommodation you can find in Yosemite ($80-$126/night as of 2012). The canvas tents come with basic bed & mattress, towels, a lamp, a chair, a shelf, and a safe. Food storage is outside the tent. Share baths and restrooms are available throughout the village. The bathrooms are all clean and equipped with all necessities (no hair dryer).
There are a grocery store, souvenir shop, burger shop, pizza, bar, Peet’s coffee, and a buffet restaurant. Foods here are very decent quality and good price ($6.50 burger, $15 buffet), not expensive as one would imagine. There is no private cooking allowed at Curry Village. There is a huge lounge with free wifi (slow during prime time 6-9 pm) and an outdoor amphitheatre with activities to keep your kids entertained. There is also a large pool. It has its own recreation and tour center, which allow you to do anything you want in the Valley. Bike rental seems to be the most popular activity ($11/hr or $31.50/day).
Curry Village is very convenient. It often gets filled up 3 months in advance, so book early. Booking can be done online through many internet sites. (Bring ear plugs as the walls are very thin and you can hear the people walking and talking in the tent next to you).
White Wolf Lodge and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
The tent accommodations at both are similar to that at Curry Village, but much smaller in numbers and don’t have the village feels. Because they are both further away from the valley floor, they are sometime not fully booked during the summer months. They are great options and are both close to some beautiful vista and hiking trails that often overlooked by tourists but are absolutely stunning. No cooking is allowed in both. If Curry Village is fully booked try your luck here. Both lodges ranges from $80-$126/night and can be reserved online through many websites.
White Wolf Lodge is located off Tioga Road about 45 mins from the Valley and is a popular base for day hikes to Lukens and Harden Lakes. There are 4 cabins with baths and 24 canvas cabins that share a central bath. Each tent cabin is equipped with beds and linens, wood burning stove and wood. There is no electricity. Breakfast and dinner are served daily and lunch is available at the adjacent small retail outlet.
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge is at 8575 ft and is located off Tioga Road about 1 1/4hrs from the Valley. It boasts 69 tent cabins that accommodate up to four people, and comes fully equipped with beds and linens, candles for lighting, a wood burning stove and wood. There is no electricity in the cabins. Shower and restroom facilities are located in the center of camp.. Breakfast and dinner are served daily in a central dinning tent beside the Tuolumne River. Because it is very high in elevation, it can be cold at night during the summer months (bring warm clothing).
Camp (Pitch your own tents) - Top Picks are Bridalveil Creek, White Wolf, Tuolumne Meadows
Most people who never camp and sleep in tents may be against it or think it is a hassle. For a short trip, it is extremely easy and tents can be bought at any sporting goods store for as low as $30. All you need is a tent, some water/food, flashlights, matches and firewood! It is a lot of fun, you can grill the marshmallow, make your own campfire, and the night sky is amazing. Once you camp, you may not want to pay for those hotels in Yosemite again!
Yosemite has several campgrounds, some with potable water, and ranges $5-$20/night. Some campgrounds are 1st come 1st serve and some requires reservation. During the summer months, campgrounds located on Yosemite Valley floor (Upper/Lower/North Pines and Camp 4) are almost always fully booked. Upper/Lower/North Pines need reservation, while Camp 4 is 1st come 1st serves (but always full). You are then left with the campgrounds North or South of the Valley, which some has good attractions nearby and some do not. These North/South campgrounds are almost always available during the summer even on a 1st come 1st serve basis, so they are great alternatives if you can’t get reservation in Yosemite Valley floor.
After visiting most of the North/South campgrounds, our 3 top picks would be Bridalveil Creek, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds due to its proximity to great vista and hiking trails. All 3 has potable water and flushing toilets, all 1st come 1st serve (except for Tuolumne which is 50% reserved). They are at high elevation, so warm clothing is a must (45-55 degrees in summer nights). Bridalveil would be our top choice because it is close to Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome (both great for sunset and daytime view of Yosemite), and also close to many great hiking trails. Why stay at a place that is so far away from great attractions? Choose your campground wisely.
Each camp site is equipped with a fire pit, a picnic table, a food storage locker, and 1 or 2 parking spots for your car/trailer. Full cooking is allowed on the campground. Firewood available at any grocery store in Yosemite Valley or at any gas station in the park for about $8.75 a box. There are several restrooms on the campground. It is wise to pick a site close to it the restrooms so you don’t have to walk far in the dark at night. Showers are only available in Yosemite Valley at Curry Village and House Keeping Camp (showers are not available elsewhere). Most campgrounds have no electricity. Some campgrounds are far from grocery stores, so be prepared. Bring a flashlight, firewood, matches, lighting fluid, tents, sleeping bags, warm clothing, food, water, and you are good to go!
As mentioned earlier, most campgrounds outside Yosemite Valley floor are available on a 1st come 1st serve basis during the busy summer months. If you want to be sure and get a reservation, campground that requires reservation can be reserved at CLICK HERE. A chart that provides an overview of all the Yosemite campground/price can be found at CLICK HERE.