If you’ve yet to experience the sprawling natural beauty of Yosemite National Park in California, you probably got the travel bug after watching professional climber Alex Honnold scale El Capitan in the gripping documentary Free Solo.
In the film—which follows Honnold as he prepares for arguably the toughest, most dangerous free climb ever attempted—you see him spending most of his down time in a small RV with nothing more than the bare essentials. While, camping on wheels is a great solution if you’re looking for more than a polyester tent overhead at night, it’s not exactly a luxury experience. Not to mention, most of Yosemite’s 10 RV campsites are booked well in advance for the peak season of April through September. But there’s a way around that: AutoCamp. The company gets you smack-dab in the middle of Yosemite’s rugged terrain with all the creature comforts you crave.
Yosemite Camping, Only Elevated
AutoCamp Yosemite, which just recently opened for select bookings last month, will begin to accept bookings for full capacity on June 10. Guests can stay in one of 80 renovated Airstreams with mid-century modern designs, boasting amenities like queen Tempurpedic mattress, organic linens, and spa-inspired bathrooms complete with a walk-in shower and fluffy robes.
For glampers, 15 luxury tents are available with plush, king-size Tempurpedic beds, electrical outlets, and a wood-burning stove outfitted with Good Wood compressed firewood logs to reduce smoke and fire danger. And if you want to be surrounded by nature, just not while you sleep, you’ll be happy to know cabins with full kitchenettes are an option, too. (Five fully accessible X suites are also available should travelers need mobility assistance.)
Historic photography of the Yosemite Valley is featured in every unit, beckoning you outside. Speaking of which, every accommodation is outfitted with an individual Stahl fire pit, so you can char marshmallows for s’mores or warm up after a shower.
With its third location—AutoCamp Santa Barbara and AutoCamp Russian River in Sonoma opened in 2013 and 2016, respectively—Yosemite is the company’s largest (35 acres of land) and most secluded campsite. Three hours east of San Francisco, the site is situated just outside the iconic Yosemite National Park near Mariposa, CA.
“AutoCamp’s mission is to connect people with the outdoors and each other, and there couldn’t be a better location than Yosemite to do that,” says Brendon Haffner, AutoCamp Yosemite general manager.
That seclusion doesn’t come at the cost of amenities though: You’ll find a communal clubhouse with glass walls that opens to accommodate changing temperatures, a freshwater pond, a heated pool and sundeck, and outdoor lounge areas with heated furniture surrounding the fire pit at the center of the campsite. There’s even an AutoCamp Shop stocked with snacks and any gear you may have forgotten at home. (Think: all-natural bug spray, hiking socks, a hat, or a flashlight). “AutoCamp really simplifies your adventure,” says Haffner. “We provide everything you need to come to a place like Yosemite and have an adventure.”
If you couldn’t imagine leaving home without your furry friend, you’ll love the addition of AutoCamp’s Pet Kits, which includes a cozy blanket, food and water bowls, treats, and a guide to dog-friendly hiking trails.
Exploring Yosemite and the Surrounding Area
Whether you’ve never been to Yosemite or are a frequent repeat visitor, any of the “AutoCamp Adventure Guides” can help you curate your Yosemite experience. “Our staff is all local,” says Haffner. “The people who work at AutoCamp are from the area and many have grown up there and have spent a lot of time in the park.”
This born-and-raised insight will come in handy when you’re looking to avoid the tourist traps, but still want to get in your favorite outdoor activities. “We can create really unique and new experiences—maybe even point you in the direction of a secret spot,” says Haffner.
One such place is Hetch Hetchy, a “best-kept secret” inside the park that includes thousands of acres of hiking and biking trails, as well as climbing routes that are far less populated than anything you’d find in Yosemite Valley. If you’re looking to cool off, make sure to ask a guide where to find the Octagon swimming hole, another local favorite. This natural pool is five miles from camp and can only be accessed by a steep unmarked trail, but the refreshingly quiet escape is well worth it.
No matter where you want to go, getting around is easy, thanks to daily Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) shuttles that pick you up and drop you off at the AutoCamp entrance. YARTS has stops both inside the park and within Mariposa with routes running throughout the day during peak season. Bonus: YARTS tickets, which you can purchase on-board or in advance online, include admission to the park for seamless access to your next adventure.
Speaking of adventure, you’ll find no shortage of them in Yosemite. With more than 748,000 acres of parkland, 94 percent of which are designated as protected wilderness, you’ll never get bored. Here are a few of our favorites that’ll spark your wanderlust:
- Witness Yosemite Falls: With three sections that climb to 2,425 feet tall, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in America.
- Visit Yosemite Valley: The valley is one of the most high-trafficked areas of the park, and for good reason. It offers everything your national park-heart desires: biking, climbing, birdwatching, fishing, and hiking, plus museums and tours.
- Look Up in Mariposa Grove: Giant sequoias seem to climb to the clouds in this recently resorted park.
- Take it all in at Glacier Point: This rock formation is best known for the sweeping views you get of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome mountain, and even High Sierra in the distance.
- Climb Half Dome or El Capitan: You don’t have to have Honnold-like grip strength or unwavering fearlessness to scale mountains in Yosemite, but these peaks are for experienced climbers only.
- Backpack: One of the best ways to see Yosemite is on foot. Just know that you’ll need a wilderness permit if you plan to camp overnight.
- Hike the Pacific Crest Trail: Hop on the path that stretches more than 2,600 miles from Canada to Mexico.
While you may have come for Yosemite’s attractions and activities, Haffner says many of AutoCamp’s guests opt to spend a day or evening walking around adjacent Mariposa. The vibe is “small-town America” at its finest, with local cafes and shopping, but there’s also a mining museum and 5-star restaurants.
And if you just want to stay near basecamp, AutoCamp has a hiking trail right running around the parameter of the site, as well as yoga sessions on the activity lawn. If a nap is calling your name, you can plop down under the trees for a snooze in AutoCamp’s hammock grove. After, refuel with on-tap cold brew or kombucha in the clubhouse and prepare for an authentic DIY barbecue dinner with a choice of three proteins and two side dishes to cook over the open flame, plus freshly baked bread and dessert. In the morning, head to the complimentary breakfast hosted in the clubhouse.
Pining for a late spring or summer getaway? Book your trip now, and leave Yosemite better than when you found it by participating in AutoCamp’s partnership with Yosemite Conservancy Dollar-a-Night campaign. Donate a dollar a day for every night you stay and the money will go directly toward Yosemite Conservancy, an organization that ensures Yosemite and all its wonders will be able to host visitors for decades to come.
“There’s something about Yosemite and being in this iconic location,” says Haffner. “People build memories here for a lifetime and it’s a really unique and exciting opportunity for AutoCamp to be a part of those lifelong memories.”