Visiting many of the iconic National Parks with our kids is one of our travel goals. We took our first trip to Yosemite National Park a couple years ago and we had a blast. The national park was amazing but we also loved our experience staying in Yosemite yurts near the park with our partner Thousand Trails.
Yosemite Lodging Options
When I first started researching our trip to Yosemite, I assumed we’d stay inside Yosemite National Park, in Yosemite Valley. Little did I realize how hard it is to get a reservation inside Yosemite Valley without booking it a full year in advance.
Unfortunately, we started planning our trip about 8 months out which meant there wasn’t any lodging available. I could plug in individual dates and find one night here and there but nothing was available for the full length of our stay. Basically, we were out of luck.
Learn from me and plan your Yosemite adventures a full year in advance for the best lodging options.
Lodging Near Yosemite National Park
So I started researching lodging outside of Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park. Luckily the National Parks Service shares a few different areas to consider near Yosemite National Park. Also, Google is your friend. 😉
I really wanted a ‘National Parks’ experience. What that meant, I don’t know. I knew that I didn’t want to stay at a chain hotel or camp in a tent. Camping in a tent may be a ‘National Parks’ experience for some people but we were flying to San Jose and our luggage space would be limited. Plus we aren’t camping people and don’t own any camping gear. So camping was out.
Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes Resort
I found Yosemite Lakes RV Resort, a Thousand Trails campground to be just about perfect for our needs. It’s located just a few miles from the West gate of Yosemite National Park. They rent RV sites, tent sites, and a limited number of cabins, and yurts.
Yosemite Yurts at Thousand Trails
Of course, we chose a yurt but before I share about glamping in a yurt, I want to talk about the Yosemite Lakes RV Park. Don’t let the name fool you, there is no lake on site but no worries, it doesn’t need one. There is a small river that runs through it that was perfect for us. If you are looking for an actual lake, Lake Don Pedro is 35 miles away.
Yosemite Lakes RV Resort
Yosemite Lakes has a lodge with lots of comfy seating inside and out, pool tables, really slow wifi 😉 and lots of game you can check out. Next to the front desk is a quirky mini golf course. It really weathered but we still had fun playing on it.
There is also a brand new playground that looks really fun. (It was installed after we visited so I have no pictures).
You can get a schedule of weekly activities from staff when you arrive. We also took advantage of an afternoon craft activity in the lodge. We also enjoyed watching the pet parade, an outdoor movie night with popcorn and a live band with s’mores another night.
There is a gas station with some grocery supplies close enough to walk to, although it’s up a fairly steep hill so you might want to drive to it instead. It was pricey but we appreciated the option of picking up a few extra things nearby. We opted to use grocery pick up in San Jose after we picked up our rental car. We easily saved an hour of time by ordering our groceries ahead of time!
Beyond the activities scheduled, there was plenty of outdoor fun to be found as well. There were several hiking trails available, just grab a map from the activities desk to get started. You can also swim, fish or even gold pan in the river that runs through the site. We stayed in a river yurt which meant, the river was just outside our front door. The boys loved our yurt site.
Our yurt had a queen futon bed and a bunk bed, it wasn’t the most comfortable beds we’d ever slept on but it did the trick. It’s all about perspective in my opinion and to me, this was a ‘camping but better experience.’ The beds were definitely better than sleeping outside in a sleeping bag on the hard ground. The bathroom was small with only a small shower stall but was perfect considering the alternative was public restrooms for tent campers.
Yurts include a basic kitchen with a stove, fridge, and microwave, plus some basic cookware. There is also a gas grill outside on the deck. The satellite TV didn’t work great, but we weren’t there to watch tv, so it didn’t matter too much to us. Although Elliot did manage to watch a few programs during some downtime.
Yosemite Yurt Camping
Now some people may say staying in a yurt isn’t camping but I don’t care. It’s the best way to ‘camp’ in my opinion. It’s like tent camping but with a bathroom and kitchen. 😀
Plus the fact that our yurt was right next to the river, made our experience feel very outdoorsy. The boys waded in the water every day and we roasted s’mores in the fire pit almost every night.
If you have an RV or are a tent camper, you can have a similarly amazing experience staying at Yosemite Lakes because the bulk of the sites they offer are actually for motorhomes or tents. There are also some small cabin or tiny home rentals available as well.
Tips When Staying at Yosemite Yurts
We had no trouble booking our river yurt but we also visited before the kids in California get out of school. Our trip was just before the busy summer season.
I’d recommend booking ASAP as soon as you start planning a Yosemite trip, whether you try to stay in Yosemite Valley or nearby at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort.
No Regular Housekeeping
There is no regular housekeeping service during your stay. You can ask the front desk for new towels, linens or trash service.
We found it easier to just take our trash to the dumpster ourselves rather than wait for someone else.
If you don’t want to drive into Yosemite Valley, you can take the YARTS Bus. It was $10 round trip with 3 departures scheduled during our stay.
There is extremely limited wifi available in the lodge area and there was none at our Yurt site. I’d plan on just disconnecting while staying here. There is a printer and computer available for guests to use at the front desk.
A laundry room is available next to the front desk with several washers and dryers.
Bringing 1/2 as many clothes and doing laundry in the middle of our trip definitely helps when packing suitcases.
Bring your Groceries
Just be sure to add a couple of bags of ice to your grocery order. The insulated bags doubled as a cooler for drinks during our stay.
Disclosure: We were guests of Thousand Trails during our stay at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort. This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated to improve reader experience.