The decision on where to spend the nights at Yosemite depends on your preference, budget, and your planning skills. You can find very inexpensive tent cabins or you can go all the way and stay at the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel (Majestic Yosemite Hotel). You can rough it at a campground or go on a backpacking trip through the wilderness.
Whatever you decide to do, you will need to plan way ahead. All hotels, lodges, and campsites are booked many months ahead of time. Some of the more popular ones are booked 12 months in advance.
<In my opinion, the best lodge for the value is Yosemite Lodge at the Fall (Yosemite Valley Lodge). It is located right on the valley floor next to Yosemite Fall. It is a large complex with about 240 rooms, a swimming pool, a food court, a restaurant, shops, bicycle rentals, and many other amenities. Rooms will run you around $200 per night depending on the season.
The main drawback is that there is no air conditioning in the rooms and if you want WiFi for your gadgets you will need to go to the main lobby.
Rooms will run you around $200 per night depending on the season.
Tip: It is almost impossible to find a room at the Yosemite Lodge. You have to plan your trip 12 months in advance and you have to keep trying to book the room daily until you get lucky. Best time to try is 7 am every day and you will be trying for an arrival date 12 months in the future. Visit Yosemite Reservations to try to find your room.
Another good choice is Half Dome Village (Curry Village). This area sits right under Glacier Point and near the Mist Trail in the Valley. It has regular motel rooms, cabins, and tent cabins. The motel rooms have A/C and private bathrooms.
Like the Valley Lodge, it also has a food court, restaurants, and activities center. Many of the Yosemite activities like rafting and biking can be booked here.
If you decide you want to live it up at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, expect to pay close to $500 per night – there is always a room available at this price.
If you prefer to stay outside of Yosemite, book your lodging on Expedia.com!
During my 2012 visit, I did not plan 12 months in advance so I was not able to find reservations anywhere at Yosemite Valley. I did not want to stay outside of the valley either, so I opted for the only remaining option: Camping.
Important Warning: This is Bear country. It is almost guaranteed you will encounter a bear during your visit. So to make it a peaceful encounter, you must follow certain rules. First, make sure you totally empty your vehicle. No trash, no gum packets, nothing that may have a smell should be left in the car. And at camp you must put all your food and drinks in special metal lockers – no exceptions. If you don’t, you will come face to face with a hungry bear who is trying to break into your car or tent to find the nice smelly stuff. Close to Camp-4 you will see an old SUV with the door ripped open as a reminder of what bears can and did do.
There are a few campgrounds set aside for walk-ins (no reservations). During the summer months, those camps fill up very quickly. So when I drove into the first campground to check availability I knew I might get stranded. As a backup plan, I booked a room in a motel outside the park boundaries. Thankfully I did not need to use it.
See "No Reservations Camping" for a list of such campgrounds.
The first camp I went to did not have any spots, but they called other camps for me and found a spot at Camp 4. I did not know it at the time, but I really lucked out on finding this spot. Camp 4 is a tent-only camp right next to Yosemite Lodge – which also means right next to Yosemite Fall.
The camp is very basic - it does have bathrooms but no showers. I parked my SUV in the dirt parking lot and had to carry and drag my camping equipment to the campsite. I had to make several trips to get all my stuff. I was really exhausted by the time I was settled in.
Since this camp is so close to Yosemite Lodge (Yosemite Valley Lodge), I was able to walk or bike there for a swim in the nice Olympic pool, get a shower or dine at the food court. They also have Wi-Fi service in the lobby. You have to purchase a 24-hour pass if you want to connect your device.
Tip: Due to a 2016 concessionaire switch, many iconic places at Yosemite have new names. Here are a few important ones:
Curry Village is now – Half Dome Village
Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is now – Yosemite Valley Lodge
Badger Pass Ski Area is now – Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area
Ahwahnee Hotel is now - Majestic Yosemite Hotel
The Wawona Hotel is now – Big Trees Lodge