My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park

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I stare at the campsite full sign.  This is the last open campsite in Yosemite National Park, California. My travel without a plan plan just failed.  I am still in shock.  This has never happened before and I was sort of at a loss for what to do.  I could usually find a walk up campsite when I arrived in a National Park.  It was the middle of the week during  late October and I wasn’t expecting camping to be an issue.

My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park

As a general rule, I don’t like pre-booking anything because that means I am committed to a plan and doesn’t leave any room for changes.  I like the freedom of not having to worry about what to do about a reservation should I decide to change plans or stay an extra day in a location.

My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park

It was rather late on a Wednesday evening when I arrived at Yosemite National Park. About half the campgrounds were closed due to the season.  But 4 were open.  Three in the Yosemite Valley and one in the northwest section of the park. A quick visit with the camp store confirmed that all the walk-up camping was full.  I picked up a thing of ice cream and then headed back to my car to decide what to do. I decided that since the night was clear and there were some stars in the sky.  I would go find somewhere to set-up and do a night photography shoot.

I setup so I could shoot stars with El Capitan in the foreground.  Alas, while I setting up my camera a bank of clouds rolled in and ruined my star shots (it also didn’t help that the moon was out).

I shook my head and finished my set-up.  I took a couple of test shots.  Once I had my settings as I would like, I set my multi-shot timer and  started taking a few shots.  I grabbed my sleeping bag and cuddled so I could watch my camera.  Or to take a nap while my camera took pictures.

My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park
What would you do if you couldn’t get a campsite in Yosemite National Park?

My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park ~~~~~~ I learned the hard way to pre-book campsites in Yosemite National Park. I had to spend 3 nights doing night photography when I couldn't get a campsite.

10 Replies to “My No Plan Plan failed in Yosemite National Park”

  1. John M.

    I don’t like making firm plans ever, but discovered it to be fairly important after a few experiences that put me “up a creek.” That said, if you’re a camper with a sleeping bag, there are a lot of places to crash – even in your car, if necessary.

    Reply
  2. Anne Sutherland-Smith

    While the ‘no plan’ concept can work in theory and I have done several trips using that approach, I have definitely become more risk adverse as I have gotten older. So while I plan to remain flexible I still usually call the previous day and make a booking. At least you took advantage of it to do some night photography, but I am not sure what the policy is for people to sleep in their car in very busy places like Yosemite…

    Reply
  3. Mar Pages

    Sometimes not having a plan is the best way to go, but maybe not if you’re looking for a campsite! Although I have to say your photos look very worth it 🙂

    Reply
  4. Meg Jerrard

    The National Parks are always super busy and I’ve heard from a few people campsites tend to be full without a pre-booking. You got some amazing photos though, so stunning to be there at night!

    Reply
  5. Rosemary

    What amazing pictures. With the stars so bright, it almost looks like daylight. So, what did you do? Were you able to find space to camp? I would sleep in my car, if it were me. Great pictures though!

    Reply
  6. anto

    We are used to always booking our campsites well ahead when traveling in the national parks in the US. It doesn’t bother us too much because we generally have a bit of an idea when we’re going to be there. I wouldn’t have thought that October would be fully booked though…

    Reply
  7. Adonis Villanueva

    Oh well, this stuff happens to me all the time man. You can’t really plan for Yosemite because it’s way too crowded and you’d have to plan it a year before. Can’t find a campsite? That’s ok, venture off to the full campsite, find a friendly looking group of people (usually foreigners), strike up a conversation and tell them your situation. More often than they’ll share their spot for your tent and you’ve made new friends.

    Other ways I’ve gone by. I know it’s illegal but hey take a nap in your car. If a ranger comes through and kicks you out just say you were driving and you kept falling asleep on the wheel. If this is not an option, you can car camp just outside the park border on Tuolumne meadows.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Adonis Villanueva

      Oh well, this stuff happens to me all the time. You can’t really plan for Yosemite because it’s way too crowded and you’d have to plan it a year before. Can’t find a campsite? That’s ok, venture off to the full campsite, find a friendly looking group of people (usually foreigners), strike up a conversation and tell them your situation. More often than they’ll share their spot for your tent and you’ve made new friends.

      Other ways I’ve gone by. I know it’s illegal but hey take a nap in your car. If a ranger comes through and kicks you out just say you were driving and you kept falling asleep on the wheel. If this is not an option, you can car camp just outside the park border on Tuolumne meadows.

      Reply

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