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Fall RVing in Yosemite: 13 Things to Know Before You Go

Published on September 28th, 2023 by Chelsea Gonzales

We finally made it to the park, and fall RVing in Yosemite was just as magical as I had imagined. The Yosemite valley is absolutely stunning and so, so full of incredible trails, waterfalls, sequoia trees, and gorgeous views.

Everyone should visit this national park at least once in their lives. If they can manage camping in Yosemite National Park in the fall, that’s even better. 

That said, there are some things you should know if you are going to try fall RVing in Yosemite National Park during the autumn shoulder season months. In this article, I will give you my best tips and tricks for making sure your fall camping trip is one to remember. 

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Top 13 Need-to-Know Tips for Fall RVing in Yosemite National Park

First, I’ll share some of the most important things you should know about camping in Yosemite National Park in the fall specifically. These are seasonal tips that you’ll definitely want to take into consideration when planning your autumn adventure. 

1. Crowds Levels are Lower

One of the best things about camping in Yosemite National Park in the fall is that crowd levels are lower than in the summer months. This is great because fewer visitors means more peaceful hikes and fewer lines for activities like hiking Half Dome, or the Mirror Lake loop trail. That said, there are still plenty of people around, so you do still need to make camping reservations and plan to see some other hikers. 

2. The Daytime Weather is Gorgeous

Another thing we absolutely love about camping in Yosemite National Park in the autumn is the fact that the daytime weather is absolutely gorgeous. In the valley, this amazing weather lasts from September until early November and makes exploring the park wonderful. 

Man sitting on rock after hike while camping in Yosemite National Park

3. Nights are Chilly

While the days are nice and warm during the fall, the nights do get quite chilly. This is okay in an RV, as you’ll have your furnace to keep warm if needed. (Be sure to fill up your propane tanks beforehand!) That said, it is good to keep in mind in case you were hoping to do some stargazing or other nighttime activities. 

4. Fire Bans are Typically in Effect

Late summer and early fall is fire season in California. Therefore, you can expect fire bans to be in effect during your visit. This means no campfires on those chilly nights. Instead, you’ll have to stick to grilling out and telling ghost stories with flashlights. 

Gorgeous view while camping in Yosemite National Park in fall

5. Fire and Smoke May Be Present

In addition to fire bans, fire season also tends to bring smoke to Yosemite. On top of that, prescribed burns can happen during the autumn season. Because of these things, when camping in Yosemite National Park in the fall, you can expect at least a few days of poor air quality due to smoke. You might also experience closures due to fires. 

6. Some Autumn Colors Appear in October

While the majority of the trees in Yosemite are evergreen trees that don’t change color during the fall, there are some trees that will offer bits of yellow, orange, and red throughout the park. These trees will begin to change in October, so keep an eye out if you visit during this time.

Mom and baby camping in Yosemite National Park in fall

7. Yosemite’s Waterfalls May Be Weaker

The best time to see the waterfalls in Yosemite is early summer. For example, peak flow for Yosemite Falls happens in May. Typically late spring through early July is usually when the snowmelt is at its strongest and the falls are heaviest. In late summer the falls get a bit weaker, and by autumn the waterfalls are either completely dry or barely there at all. This is unfortunate, but as there are so many other things to do in Yosemite, it doesn’t make or break a trip. 

8. Snow Chains May Be Required

Believe it or not, parts of Yosemite National Park can see snow as early in the year as October. Be prepared for some closures due to snow, and make sure to carry snow chains in case they’re needed while RV camping in Yosemite National Park in the fall. 

General Yosemite National Park Camping Tips

Of course, there are also some tips for visiting Yosemite National Park that apply whether you visit in June or December. These tips are equally important as the ones above, so I’ll include them below.

9. Make Reservations

As we mentioned above, with very few exceptions, making reservations for campsites in Yosemite National Park is advised, even if you’re headed there during the fall. Some campgrounds release dates as early as five months out.

According to the National Park Traveler’s RVing Guide, Yosemite’s year round campgrounds for RVs include Upper Pines Campground, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow. 

Reservations are always required at Upper Pines Campground. But first-come, first-served  options are available at Hodgdon Meadow and Wawona campground. The nice part about fall camping at Yosemite is that restrooms with flush toilets are open (even in December, January, and February!). Just don’t expect showers or other luxuries like that.

Of course there are many national park campground alternatives near Yosemite. Many private campgrounds exist just outside park gates.

10. Pack Everything You Need

In almost all cases, getting in and out of Yosemite to grab supplies means a long drive. While there are places to pick up some items in the park, these supplies are very limited and overpriced, so it’s a good idea to pack everything you need. 

11. Store Your Food Properly

Bears are very prevalent in Yosemite (and not just in the backcountry). Therefore, it is super important that you store your food properly while camping in Yosemite National Park. If your RV is completely hard-sided, storing in your trailer or motorhome should be fine. However, those with soft-sided campers will need to keep food in a bear box.

In any case, do not store any foods in a car thinking they will be safe there. Bears have been known to tear open vehicle doors in a matter of seconds.

12. Visit All Parts of the Park

Yosemite is huge. You might feel like exploring the area around your campground is enough, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. Every single section of this park is worth exploring. 

If Tioga Pass is still open (it usually closes in early November), you’ll have access to endless hiking options. For example, the White Wolf campground won’t be open, but you’ll still have access to several incredible activities like:

A trip to Tuolumne Meadows. There you’ll find one of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierras, where beautiful oranges and yellows decorate the landscape as fall sets in. 

Drive Glacier Point Road, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of Yosemite Valley if you hike to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. 

The park is huge, be sure to squeeze in as much as you can during this peaceful time of year.

13. Know Where You Can Drive an RV

Not all of Yosemite is RV-friendly. Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, Mariposa Grove Road, and Hetch Hetchy Road have restrictions that mean some RVs cannot drive on them. Other than that, you should be fine driving your rig through the park, but you will want to be careful as you drive the steep and winding roads, and use pull-offs to let people pass as needed. 

That’s it! Thirteen need-to-know tips for fall RVing in Yosemite. Use these suggestions and your autumn visit is sure to be a success. Start packing the RV now and get ready for an incredible time.

Related Yosemite RV Camping Articles

17 Unforgettable RV Camp Spots Near Yosemite

When is the Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park?

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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