In June, 2017, we finally got to visit Yosemite National Park for the first time! We stayed at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort and Campground for 3 nights – it’s part of our Thousand Trails camping membership, which meant we were able to stay for free. This was especially exciting to us as it is so difficult trying to get a campground reservation anywhere near Yosemite, being so popular and also expensive. The campground is located 5 miles from the west entrance of Yosemite National Park, but then it’s a bit of a drive into the valley floor, but it’s a very pleasant drive. Yosemite Lakes is your typical campground with fire rings, picnic tables, and trees. For more detail about the specifics of this RV park, sites, and amenities – including pros and cons – read on.
Yosemite Lakes RV Resort and campground is located right by Yosemite National Park in California. It is actually located about 5 miles west of the western entrance of national park just off Highway 120. You should be aware that many of the roads in the California mountains are not great for RVs. There are many roads with narrow lanes, tight turns and steep grades, and the roads into this area are certainly no exception. We spent extensive time on route planning to find the roads with the most reasonable grades for our gas powered motorhome. The campground voicemail will suggest coming straight in from the west on Highway 120, but after calling the ranger station, they advised us to take the less precarious Highway 132 – this was confirmed by many locals as the most gentle grades, and lower traffic. If towing a car, and you have a second driver, we would recommend unhooking your toad (as we did) in the town of Coulterville, before the largest hill climb of the drive begins. Likewise, we waited to reconnect our car in Coulterville to avoid straining our RV on the downhill. The drive into this area on the mountain roads can definitely be a challenge for most RVers, so be prepared, take your time and plan your route. Even our adventurous friends who drove in with their Jeep Wrangler admitted they were a bit shaken up by the drive in via Highway 120!
Turn right at the gas station/convenience store to enter the campground (not the street before it) and when you arrive at check-in, you’ll find a large space with two lanes to pull in with your RV to park. The gas station is just up the hill from the RV park and the nearest grocery store is about 30 minutes away in the small town of Groveland. Restaurants are limited, so stock up on groceries before you arrive. As mentioned above, the Western entrance to Yosemite is only five miles away, but it 29 miles – about 45-60 minutes – to the Yosemite Valley floor, Visitor Center and amenities. We liked that we got to stay fairly close to the national park without being subjected to the massive crowds of people inside the park campgrounds.
Once in the campground, some of the roads are asphalt, but most roads and sites are dirt/natural surfaces. It is much larger than it first appears because there are multiple sections of the campground that include yurts, bunkhouses, tent sites, cabins, cottages and RV sites. There is a small section of RV sites available to the public, but the majority of the RV sites are only for Thousand Trails members. There are over 200 RV sites and another couple hundred sites for the other options like tents, yurts, and cabins. Nearly all of the RV sites are 30 amp, but there are about 20 sites that have 50amp if you happen to be lucky enough to get one. The south fork of the Tuolumne River runs through the campground. We saw many folks tubing running down the river which looked very peaceful when we visited in June 2017. The water was about knee deep easily walkable for adults and refreshingly chilly, with a sandy bottom (at least near our site). We were told that earlier this spring the waters were much higher and faster and caused extensive damage to the park.
The internal roads were gravel, and were a bit rough. The sites along the river with the nice trees were pretty tight. The awning of our neighbors RV virtually touched ours. The sites in the more open section with fewer trees were larger and could more easily accommodate larger RVs and tow vehicles, especially since many of the sites in the open area were un-occupied when we visited. Most of the sites seemed pretty level, especially in the open field area with fewer trees.
The campground is part of a
- Proximity to Yosemite National Park
- Scenic surroundings
- Some riverside campsites that are also very shaded
- Other camping options so friends without RVs can also visit
- Roads into the area are hilly, curvy and sometimes narrow
- Virtually non-existent cell coverage (regardless of carrier)
We didn’t see what the rates were for the few sites available to the public. Being Thousand Trails members, we do not pay a nightly fee to stay here.
The campground does not accept mail or packages for guests. If you want something shipped to the area, you will need to ship it to General Delivery in Groveland CA 95321 (about 30 minutes away).
The campground only had a dial-up connection at the time we were there. It was extremely slow and only accessible while in the lodge and even then it was painfully slow to even send a text message or email. We did hear a rumor that they are working with an outside vendor to provide a more robust internet connectivity solution in the future. This high-speed internet would be a paid service, but for those who need to be connected (like us, as we work), it might be well worth the expense. Cellular connectivity is virtually non-existent for all carriers at the campground. According to campground literature, there is some 3G signal for text messages and possibly a phone call a few miles away, but if you want any significant connection you will need to drive 30 minutes to Groveland, or 45 minutes into Yosemite Valley. We knew going in that cell/internet coverage would be very limited which would make it difficult for us to work, we did drive into Groveland once to take care of some emails, but the drive each way and lack of inspiring cafes to work fro wasn’t very conducive to productivity. We understand there is a library which may provide a better place to work from.
Instead of trying to stay longer and work, we focused instead on a shorter stay and disconnected for a couple days while we explored Yosemite with our friends. If your goal is to get away, turn your technology off and disconnect, this is a great campground for that.
The main attraction to the area is, of course, Yosemite National Park. Some might stay at this campground simply to get away from the big city, but we would imagine most guests will visit the national park at least once during their stay. Yosemite is a very busy National Park especially in summer, so be prepared for some crowds in the main valley. We were pleasantly surprised that the crowds were much more manageable than anticipated, being a week or two before July 4th weekend. We were glad that we camped at Yosemite Lakes instead of inside the park itself as we found the campgrounds inside the national park to be quite crowded and very smoky from campfires, which may be an issue for asthmatics or those with allergies. Yosemite National Park is beautiful with waterfalls and over 800 miles of hiking trails.
This campground is designed for getting away from the big, bustling city so you can connect with nature, not cell towers. If you work from your RV as we do, plan on visiting when you can take some time off work and spend a few days fully immersing in your surroundings. It is only a few miles outside of one of America’s most loved and popular National Parks. If you want to explore Yosemite and disconnect from your busy, normal life, and you don’t mind an easy 40-minute drive into the Yosemite Valley Floor, this is a great campground to visit, especially if you have a Thousand Trails membership like us, as you won’t pay a nightly fee.
About Our Stay
We visited in late June 2017 and the weather was magnificent. We were never too hot or cold and had our RV windows open the whole time. It was late enough in the season not to be cold, yet early enough to still have snowmelt for the gushing waterfalls inside the park, especially since the 2016/17 winter had seen so much snow. From what we understand, if you come late in the season, the waterfalls often dry up, but we imagine that the crowds would be smaller then too. As with most national parks, the busiest times are from Memorial Day through to Labor Day, with July-August being the busiest time as school is out.
We made our reservation for 8 ni
Have you stayed at Yosemite RV Resort? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below