When this article popped up in my google reader this week, I have to say I chuckled just a little bit and then wondered, what took them so long?
The flipping of reservations and permits in Yosemite — the third-most-visited national park — is so rampant on Internet sites like Craigslist that park officials are “becoming more aggressive” in trying to shut down these operators, said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman….A review last week of all 29 Craigslist sites in California revealed dozens of ads peddling prime camp spots during the summer high season, including the coveted Yosemite Valley floor.
In visiting 300+ National Park sites and camping and hiking in most, Yosemite was the only, ONLY one where we had no chance of sleeping anywhere near the park without a reservation prepared months in advance. And this gutted us. I remember this six years later because we actually got some static from another blogger when he came across our original review. (he called us cranky).
The large crowds are a double-edged sword. First the good: Everybody is happy and having tons of fun. Kids are excited and smiles are everywhere, you might as well be at Disneyworld.
Now the bad: The large crowds necessitate advanced planning, especially if you want to spend the night. There are no same day openings from April through October. You NEED to book a campsite five months in advance. Yes, FIVE MONTHS IN ADVANCE. Everyone from Rangers to tourists to the birds above repeated this planning mantra. Since we have not had to plan at any other National Park Site we refused to believe in Yosemite’s exclusivity. Now we believe. Book your lodge and hotel rooms well in advance too.
Do not expect to find you own secret hiking spot in the Yosemite Valley. All ten trails are full of people with varying levels of hiking skills and perfume amounts. Even the very strenuous Half Dome hike (up over 4,000 feet in 9 miles) is full of people, most of them greeting you with warm hellos. Michael first gained his love of hiking here, mostly because of the kind nature of his fellow hikers.
As you can see, we still had a fabulous time, and you probably would too. There is no denying the infectious nature of thousands of people around you all carrying the same “is this cool or what?” silly grin across their faces. Which makes it that much more of a bummer when you have to get into your car and drive an hour plus to find an affordable place to sleep.
Here’s my confession, if Craigslist existed in the days of our USA-C2C trip we would have been one of those people willing to pay twice the price for the privilege of spending the night in a place that stole our hearts and signifies everything beautiful and wondrous about America. Who wouldn’t? Don’t hate the scalpers; think of a way to make this beauty more accessible to those who don’t have five months to plan, who find themselves on a day trip and realize there is so much more about Yosemite that they want to know and see. Don’t punish spontaneity! Especially if it brings you one step closer to understanding the value of our National Parks system.
Perhaps these recent revelations will cause Yosemite to think of some creative ways to accommodate some last-minute campers (like the Grand Canyon, perhaps?) In the meantime, you can always try your luck at the park’s eastern Tuolumne Meadows:
Space in the Tuolumne Meadows campground is just as scarce as it is in the Yosemite Valley. But, unlike the Valley, there are options. There are ample, first-come, first-served campsites just east of the Park’s eastern entrance, near Lee Vining, Calif. We spent the day in Yosemite, retreated outside of the Park boundary and away from the crowds at night, relaxed and watched the Perseid Meteor Shower.