Camping Alternatives to Yosemite National Park

Oct 14, 2022 | Campgrounds

Camping Alternatives to Yosemite National Park

Here’s where to go and where to camp if you’re looking for a less crowded alternative to Yosemite National Park.

By Kerri Cox

Yosemite National Park. | Photo: Kerri Cox

A visit to Yosemite National Park includes grand vistas and hiking trails, but it might also come with throngs of visitors, wildfire dangers, and hard-to-get reservations during peak season. While no other park is exactly like Yosemite, other destinations offer big trees, big mountains, and big adventures.

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More than 3 million visitors pass through Yosemite’s entrance gates each year, with as many as 500,000 coming per month during the peak summer season. Yosemite’s parking lots, trails, and other facilities can get crowded. This area has also been hit by wildfires, causing travelers to look for alternatives, sometimes at the spur of the moment. 

Some travelers love Yosemite so much, they want to replicate the experience elsewhere. Alternative camping destinations can be found in the immediate region surrounding Yosemite—or all the way across the country, depending on what exactly you’re seeking.

Here are just a few camping alternatives to consider if you want to experience landscapes and adventures like those found in Yosemite.

a scenic hillside with wildflowers near a lake with snowy mountains in the background
Kings Canyon National Park. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Camping Alternatives to Yosemite National Park in the Surrounding Region 

If you’re in the Yosemite area and looking for similar landscapes and fewer people, head to Kings Canyon National Park or the nearby national forests. 

The beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains inspired naturalist John Muir to spend much of his adult life exploring the region. If the Sierra Nevada have stolen your heart as they did Muir’s, there are other locations to explore, outside of Yosemite.

Kings Canyon is adjacent to Sequoia National Park, which attracts twice as many visitors. The sequoia trees don’t stop at the park border, however; in fact, Kings Canyon is home to the largest grove of remaining sequoias. The Kings Canyon, which gives the park its name, is deeper than the Grand Canyon. 

Several national forests surround Yosemite, including Sierra National Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, and Inyo National Forest, which cover almost 4 million combined acres. Jewel-tone lakes, scenic rivers, and epic views of the Sierra Nevada abound, with scenery rivaling the beauty of Yosemite. 

Yosemite Camping Alternative With Big Trees

Yosemite’s giant sequoias are among the biggest trees in the world, but did you know that they aren’t the tallest? That distinction goes to the redwood. While sequoias are tall and wide, they top out at 300 feet; redwoods can grow taller than 350 feet. These cloud reachers are primarily found along the Oregon and Northern California coasts.

A driving tour can take you through old-growth coastal redwood forests, with many charming small towns and expansive beaches to explore along the way. Worthwhile stops in Oregon include the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and Alfred A. Loeb State Park. In California, popular spots include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park.

a small strip of road in the desert leading to red rock formations
Zion National Park. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Yosemite Camping Alternative for Big Adventures 

Yosemite offers access to camping, hiking, horseback riding, climbing, rafting, and so much more on an impressive scale. But there are other national parks where adventure-lovers can get their fix. Zion National Park is just one that combines epic landscapes with outdoor recreation.

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Located in Southwest Utah, Zion National Park is known for its multi-colored landscape, with red cliff walls, the deep-blue waters of the Virgin River, pops of green foliage, and rainbow-hued sunsets. Take a river trip, go canyoneering, or hike The Narrows—considered by many to be a bucket-list-worthy experience.

Like Yosemite, Zion’s three National Park Service campgrounds earn high reviews for their scenery and access. Outside of the park, camping is found on public lands and at private RV parks surrounding Zion. It’s also a highly-visited national park, so plan your trip in the shoulder seasons or off-season. 

Camping Alternative to Yosemite with Big Mountains

There are a tantalizing number of alternatives to Yosemite if you’re looking to visit the mountains. Rocky Mountain National Park is accessible, thanks to its midland location. Mount Rainier National Park is a stunning option in the Pacific Northwest. But for a next-level experience, Glacier National Park has behemoth mountains, turquoise lakes, and an unforgettable scenic drive, Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

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Plus, the unique geology and location preserves 26 glaciers. Like Yosemite, it can attract more than 3 million visitors per year, so Glacier isn’t a crowd-free destination. However, it’s worth giving up the elbow room.

a campground with an rv parked on gravel overlooking the mountains
Mama Gertie’s Hideaway Campground. | Photo: Wherearedaveanddar

Yosemite Camping Alternative in the Eastern U.S.

If Yosemite is simply too far from your home base, consider a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stretching across North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Mountains cover a lot of ground, meaning there are many hubs to explore. 

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Drive the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, take a rafting tour on one of the many area rivers, or enjoy panoramic views from the top of Mount Pisgah. Popular hubs for touring the Blue Ridge Mountains include Asheville, North Carolina, and Luray, Virginia.

Yosemite National Park can’t be replicated, but these destinations may allow you to enjoy a taste of Yosemite outside of the park’s boundaries.