In the summer of 2015, my (now) boyfriend and I decided to plan a very last-minute hike up Half Dome. We finalized the decision to go about six weeks before our trip in the third week of September, therefore had missed the window of opportunity to reserve a valley campsite by about 5 months. The only available campgrounds in Yosemite were the ones outside the valley, and we decided to try out Crane Flat campground.
The Crane Flat Campground is about 19 miles outside Yosemite Valley off highway 120 - it takes around 35 minutes or so to travel by car from Yosemite Valley to Crane Flat. Crane Flat is a nice and peaceful campground surrounded by trees, and at the time was at less than half capacity. While camping in Yosemite Valley would have been more convenient for us on the day of our Half Dome hike, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the nearly empty Crane Flat campground.
The campsites in Crane Flat have bear bins, fire rings, and picnic tables. The toilets were plumbed but there are no showers available. I imagine Crane Flat fills up during the peak seasons, but the sites seem to be more spread out than the sites in the Valley. If you want to avoid camping in the Valley, Crane Flat or Wawona campgrounds are both great options!
We spent our first day doing easy hikes around the valley floor, swimming in the Merced River, and keeping our fingers crossed that we would win the lottery to hike Half Dome. We did, so we climbed it the next day.
We were exhausted the day after our Half Dome hike, so we decided not to drive to the Valley. We swam in Tenaya Lake which was still FREEZING in September, but it felt good as it was hot out. We drove past the Big Oak Flat Entrance and out to Groveland, where we had lunch and drinks at the Iron Door Saloon. The Iron Door Saloon is a family friendly restaurant and bar that is apparently the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. It’s a little tourist-trappy, but I’ve enjoyed it the couple times I’ve been there, and they have good burgers and drinks for cheap.
CAUTION: be extremely aware of bears while camping in Yosemite National Park! Each campsite in Crane Flat has a bear bin - USE YOUR BEAR BIN! Bears are known to break into cars to snack from coolers or any food or toiletries are left out. The bear bins are quite large, so coolers do fit inside - bears can still smell food in coolers inside of cars, and apparently recognize a cooler when they peak into your car windows. If you have to leave your cooler in the car, it is suggested that you cover it up with towels or gear to hide it from site. On the same note, do not leave any of your toiletries or snacks inside the tent with you. In general it seems that the rangers seem to have good control over the bears that have been tagged and are constantly monitored, but not all bears are tagged, and even the tagged bears will make their way into Yosemite campgrounds. Be smart and safe in bear country!
Fees: $26/night peak ($18/night non-peak)
Plumbed Toilets: Yes
Drinking Water: Yes
Picnic Table: Yes
Cooking Grate: Yes
Cell Service: No
Animal Bins/Food lockers: Yes
Amazing spacious campground, but no showers. Bummer.
Very comfortable, no showers. What would you expect in a campground in the a famous national park in the united states…..no showers. Some of the Europeans shower at the water filling station near the bathrooms. Spacious sites at least.
I camped here after arriving in Yosemite without a reservation. Which meant there were no campsites available in the valley, so up up up I went to Crane Flat and then on to the campground reservation building. All campsites in the park are handled through a few campground reservation offices. I was assigned site 433, which had a semi level spot to pitch my tent, but was next to the bathroom, which consisted of a circle of porta potties that were in need of servicing. This is a large spread out campground in the trees with five loops. It seemed that my loop was tent only, but it could have been luck of the draw as well. The big thing about the whole campground is that rangers said a team of bears had been hanging around and that it was imperative to put everything with any kind of scent in the bear boxes. In fact, when I came back after visiting the valley there was a “bear jam” near the entrance to the campground where a bear was grazing, and later when visiting with camping neighborhoods they said they saw a bear on the outskirts of the campground that morning. So, use the bee boxes!! If you want a shower you will have to head to the valley or outside the park. It was nice to be away from the crowds in the valley.
Beautiful area to camp, still far from the actual Valley but quiet enough to make day trips. Very dry dirt, like when you step there is a puff, so 1yr old was plenty dirty right away! Facilities are just bathrooms and water station. RV hookups and tent sites. Sites are close together and all around you. There is not enough coverage for true privacy. There were hammocks all over and I wished we had one. Bear boxes are large enough to cover all your food needs. Kids enjoyed it for their first trip and we even had a dear visit our campsite!
Beautiful tent camping above the Yosemite valley. Close enough to drive into the valley but far enough to not be surrounded by people at all times. Make sure to bring hammocks! Great trees to lounge in!
We have stayed at this campground almost every time we have visited Yosemite. It’s nearly impossible to get a site down on the valley floor, so staying at Crane Flat is the best chance to camp at night and drive into the valley every day for exploring. It’s about 30 minutes drive from the campground to the valley. Try to get sites in the 100 or 200 loop for the best experience and most flat surface.
We stayed one night here in early October after spending 4 nights camping right in Yosemite Valley. This campground is about 40 minutes from the valley and at a higher elevation (6200 feet). It was fairly quiet and wooded (some sites were more private than others). Toilets were clean, drinking water easily accessible. Our site was pretty big, but the parking area wasn't super level (we were in a campervan). This was a very convenient site for a stopover on our way out of Yosemite, we explored the Valley some more before settling in here for the night, and then in the morning headed out Tioga Road with a stop at the Tuolumne sequioia grove. Sites have bear boxes (use them to secure all of your food!!), fire rings (it was very chilly, we made good use of this at night and again in the morning over breakfast), and picnic tables. Crane Flat doesn't have the dramatic scenery of Yosemite Valley, and no hiking directly from the camping area, but it was a nice spot to camp for the night. Not a bad place to stay if you are exploring different areas of Yosemite, it is easy to drive out toward Tuolumne Meadows or head south to other areas of the park. Site was $26 for the night.
Crane Flat is a nice campground and a great option for visiting multiple areas of Yosemite National Park. It’s relatively quiet (as compared to the Valley) and in a good location to make Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows pretty accessible, half and hour and an hour each way respectively.
There are a couple of small trails around the campground, the one we walked on for just a bit left from the west edge of the 500 loop near sites 514 and 516. There is also a trail to Clark Range View (1.5 miles each way) which leaves from the entrance to the 400 loop.
We did see two different bears in our two days at this campground. One walked straight through the camp despite some very excitable people blowing off air horns. Keep your food packed up and kids within eye sight!
I have a love hate relationship with Yosemite because of the unbelievable beauty, but the throngs of people that clog the roads and act like the area is an amusement park and not a natural treasure to be protected. That being said, Crane Flat is a pretty good place from which to enjoy Yosemite as you are relatively close to everything without being in the chaos of the Valley.
Campground was just OK. Not much flat ground here. Quiet though.