36 Hours of Vanlife in Yosemite National Park - Native Campervans

36 Hours of Vanlife in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite campervan

You’re ready to take another adventure, but you only have a weekend to do it? Well, who said a van trip had to be a long endeavor? You can get the same vanlife experience as a multi-week trip, in an action-packed 36 hours! We’re here to show you the ropes and how to get the most out of your Yosemite campervan trip. This time we’re heading to explore one of the greatest wonders of the world, Yosemite National Park. Buckle up, pack the essentials and let’s hit the road!


Using a Campervan in Yosemite National Park

First things first, let’s scope out the most ideal camp spot that gives us the most central access to the park.  A few of our favorites include:

 Lower Pines or Upper Pines

These sites are situated in the heart of Yosemite Valley with easy access to Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan. The Sierra Nevadas rise up to surround campers from all sides. You’ll see waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs, valleys, meadows, sequoias, and more. Take in all this beautiful park has to offer. Not only that, but a shuttle is available to take you from these campsites all over the park.

These campgrounds offer flush toilets, drinking water, an amphitheater, picnic tables, and much more. Campsites have all the modern amenities you need and are spacious enough to feel like you don’t have any neighbors!

You’ll have access to some of Yosemite’s best trails like Mirror Lake, the Half-Dome trail, and other trailheads in the area. The Merced River is also within walking distance if you’re a water rat like we are!

Make sure to grab a reservation at least five months in advance for Lower Pines or put your name in the hat for the lottery at Upper Pines! They’re the best campsites in all of Yosemite so they go quickly, don’t miss your opportunity to do vanlife in these amazing spots! 

A Yosemite campervan trip is one you need to plan in advance. Passes are required to enter the park for peak season and there are no first come first serve campground options in the park. To make the most of your 36 hours we highly recommend scheduling ahead.

Since you’re the ultimate campervan traveler, we’re going to assume that you got a spot at Lower Pines or won the Upper Pines lottery. Now that you’ve got your campsite reserved let’s hit the ground running!

Day 1 – We’re in Yosemite, Baby!

If you’re coming from one of the Native Campervans locations, we know you’ve had some serious road time. Once you make it to your campsite, let’s explore a little to stretch your legs! After all, a little hike around a nice lake never hurt anybody!

 Mirror Lake Loop is an easy-to-moderate 2-to-5-mile loop around a pristine mountain lake with views of the sought-after half-dome. The trailhead is a short walk from your campground and the perfect way to get acquainted with your surroundings. Once you’ve had a chance to reset from the drive, head back to camp and enjoy that weekend in the woods feeling. Time to leave the stress of your 9-5 life behind you and breathe in deep to fill your lungs with that fresh mountain air.

 Have some dinner and relax under the stars. Don’t stay up too late we’ve got a lot to do tomorrow!

Yosemite in Campervan

Day 2 – Let’s Freaking Go Explore Yosemite National Park

If you planned your trip in advance, then maybe you scored a coveted permit to hike the Half-Dome trail. The Half-Dome is Yosemite’s famous trail, gaining 5,000 feet in elevation. This trail is a hard 14 to 16 miles and a 10+ hour experience. If you’re doing Half-Dome prepare to be totally wiped! Though the hike may take it out of you, the views and experience are worth it! Make sure to fill up on an amazing breakfast before heading out! We have some great recipes for you.

 If you didn’t get a permit for Half-Dome, no worries! Yosemite has so much to offer its explorers. Other popular hikes in the area include Valley Loop Trail, Yosemite Falls Trail, Four Mile Trail, and Snow Creek Trail.

 If you’re looking for low mileage and an easy to moderate hike, we’d suggest Valley Loop Trail or Yosemite Falls Trail. The Columbia Rock off-shoot of Yosemite Falls Trail is two miles round trip and starts from the Camp 4 area. On this trail, you’ll get to see startling views of the Yosemite Valley.

 Valley Loop Trail is another great option with the half loop coming in at 7.21 miles. This trail allows you to walk along the old wagon trails, which goes across the Merced River and end at Yosemite Village. Though the half loop is 7.21 miles, the trail is relatively level and won’t present too much challenge.

 For our experienced hikers and our friends who want to put serious miles on their hiking shoes, we suggest checking out Snow Creek Trail.

 The Snow Creek Trail comes in at 9.4 miles with 2,700 ft of elevation gain. It’s no joke since you’ll be climbing from the valley floor to the canyon rim. You’ll head around the edge of Mirror Lake before climbing out of the Tenaya Canyon. Eventually, you’ll be greeted by views of Half Dome, Quarter Domes, and Cloud Rest. This trail is not for the faint of heart!

Luckily the campervan can take you anywhere you need to go in Yosemite, so there are so many options to choose from!

Day 2, (Option  2) – Hiking’s not for you, so what else can you do?

 Hiking isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! Yosemite offers mountain biking, river floating, rafting, and tours galore!

Into mountain biking? Yosemite offers four trails: Valley Loop North, Valley Loop South, Bennettsville Ghost Town Trail, and the Yosemite Bike Path.  These trails make up a total of 29 miles of mountain biking fun in the NP! If you send it, you could probably hit them all! 

Are you looking to do some R+R in a body of water? Yosemite’s got you covered. You can spend the day swimming in one of the many lakes or rivers that make up the park. Swimming, paddleboarding, or kayaking in the Merced River is a popular option for many! Park yourself on the sandy banks and enjoy your “toes in the sand” afternoon. No need to go extreme if you’re not feeling up for it!

 If you are looking for something extreme, rafting on the South Fork of the Merced River offers plenty of excitement! Choose from a number of outfitters that will take you, your friends, or your family down the river in style.

 Interested in education? Hitch a ride on the Tuolumne Meadows Hikers Bus. This is an all-day tour to Tuolumne Meadows and back. Two-hour tours of the valley floor are also available!

 No matter where you take your campervan in the park, Yosemite has options for anyone and everyone! Birdwatchers, Mountain Climbers, and Stargazers alike will find something to do in this otherworldly park.

Inside a campervan

Day 3 – A successful 36 Campervan hours in Yosemite!

 You did it, you successfully explored Yosemite National Park in a campervan. Before you head home take one last hike, one last swim, and one last breath of crisp mountain air. When you’re ready, hit the road back home, and take some time to reminisce on the perfect weekend trip to one of the world’s greatest wonders. It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.

Tag us on social media (@nativecampervans) to let us know what adventure you chose!

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