Summertime in Yosemite National Park is buzzing with thousands of campers, tourists, climbers, photographers… you name it you’ll find it in Yosemite. So when it comes time to find a campsite for a few nights, it is nearly impossible unless you have reserved your spot many months in advance. If you get fortunate and arrive extremely early to the park, you may be able to get first come first serve campsite. For those of us who haven’t thought ahead, we may have to scour for a campsite outside the park. If you know where to look, you can find many beautiful campsites within a short distance to the park entrance.
One of the best camping experiences we had was when we showed up short notice to Yosemite thinking we would be able to find a place to post up for a few nights. Wrong! After driving out of the east side of the park, we stumbled upon Aspen Grove Campground. The campground is named for the beautiful aspen grove that surrounds the 45 campsites within. At an elevation of 7490 feet, Mount Dana and Tioga Peak are visible from the campsite. It was a first come, first serve site with a few vacancies available. We pounced on a spot along the Lee Vining Creek which snaked through the backside of the campground. The snowmelt from the nearby mountains had the creek flowing at a good pace, which made for peaceful naps in the hammock and even better night’s sleep. It was an amazing campsite only 3.5 miles from the park entrance.
After setting up our tents and hanging our hammocks between Aspen trees which lined the creek, we all took a well-deserved nap before cooking juicy cheeseburgers over the open fire. The sunset turned into darkness until the billions of stars began to twinkle above us. We then cozied up in our sleeping bags and our warm wool blankets from Woolly Mammoth Woolen Company. As the cold mountain blew in overnight, we were all snug as a bug in merino sheep wool blankets. The navy blue wool blanket was my favorite camp blanket, but we also made use of the gray and yellow wool blanket as well. The next morning, we had a big day as we were going to conquer the Clouds Rest hike.
Clouds Rest is one of the best hikes in the U.S. with the most spectacular sweeping views overlooking some of the most famous landmarks in Yosemite. Some can see as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Oklahoma. After hiking most the day and wandering through the park, we headed back to our nest at Aspen Grove Campground to enjoy the serenity and solace of the flowing creek and the fresh mountain air that gently blew between the Aspen trees.
Moral of the story folks – you can still have a great time in and around Yosemite even if you failed to plan early.