Half Dome Village at Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the great beauties of California. This breathtaking landmark was signed into protection by none other than Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and subsequently lead pioneers such as John Muir to begin a movement that opened up the path to the National Park system as we now know it.
Millions of tourists flock to this gorgeous historic site every year. If you have ever tried to reserve a camping spot, you know that the competition is fierce and most campgrounds have a lottery system in place. Last November, we decided to try our luck so we could take our niece to Yosemite to celebrate her finishing her first year in school! We were too late to reserve a spot at one of the campgrounds but we were able to secure tents at Half Dome Village!
What is Half Dome Village?
It wasn’t until I began my search for a campsite that I discovered what it was. I have been to Yosemite several times throughout my youth but I never knew this village existed (or I was too young to remember).
Formerly known as Curry Village or Camp Curry, Half Dome Village is located directly on the valley floor and below Glacier Point. Instead of pitching a tent on a patch of dirt, Half Dome Village has several hundred canvas tent cabins (wood frames wrapped in canvas) available to rent throughout the year, as well as several dining and entertainment options.
The village includes:
- Several shower houses and restrooms with flushing toilets open 24 hours
- Showers are free and stalls have shampoo and soap dispensers. Main doors have key codes which are provided upon check in
- **PRO TIP: Showers are busiest around 8-10am and 8-10pm, and hot water isn’t always available at that time. Shower early in the morning or mid-afternoon to avoid the crowds
- Pool with lifeguards on duty
- There is a shallow side good for the little ones and towels for pool use are provided there
- Buffet hall that serves breakfast and dinner
- Outdoor grill
- Outdoor pizza deck
- Outdoor Bar
- Peets Coffee shop
- Ice cream bar
- Outdoor amphitheater
- Grocery and supply store
- Bike rental shop
- Lounge with WiFi
- Mountaineering shop
It is also one of the stops on the free shuttle-line, which means you can park your car and take the shuttle everywhere (except Glacier Point).
** PRO TIP: You can check out the Yosemite Guide to see shuttle routes, shop hours, schedules, and more. Here is where to find the digital version: link. They have free printed versions available throughout the park.
You can make your reservations online (link). They charge a deposit up front equal to one full night's rate and you pay the balance upon arrival. Make sure you bring a state issued ID, as it is required for check in.
Note: You do not need to make a reservation to visit the camp grounds. General parking, dining, and entertainment options are available to everyone.
Canvas Tent Cabins
There are 403 Canvas Tent Cabins strewn across Half Dome Village, with heated and unheated options that can sleep up to four people. On our trip, we had three cabins - two were heated and contained one double bed and two single beds, and the third was unheated with just a double bed.
Note: Although you can rent the heated tents year-round, they turn off the heaters the Friday before Memorial Day and turn them back on the Tuesday before Labor Day.
** PRO TIP: No matter what time of year you go, GET THE HEATED TENT. Even if the heater won’t be turned on, there are two electrical outlets available in the tents with heating units. There are NO outlets in the unheated tents at all. If you can survive without electricity, then this won’t be an issue – but, if you want to charge your gear, then go for the heated!
Each tent has:
- Door and Padlock – each tent has its own lock and you’re provided with keys upon check in.
- Bearproof Food Locker – Several sizes throughout the camp, but the smallest lockers are 20.5” Deep, 35.5” Wide, 23” High. (Link for other sizes)
- You must bring your own lock for the lockers!
- Light – a single bulb in the middle of the tent. Some turn on with switches and others require you to pull a string at the base of the bulb.
- Metal Storage Rack – provides some shelf space and a few hooks to hang things.
- Small Digital Safe – secured storage for your small valuables or gear.
- Wooden Chair – you know, to sit on.
- Bed – metal bed frames with a comfortable-enough thin-ish mattresses
- Linens – fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillows with pillow cases, and two wool blankets.
- Note: You can get several additional wool blankets at the Registration Desk for no extra charge but they require you to sign a waiver and return them upon checking out.
- ** PRO TIP: Leave your bulky sleeping bags at home and request at least two additional wool blankets when you check in. Trust me – even if it is warm in the day, it gets quite chilly at night and the layered wool blankets will keep you nice and toasty. Just don’t forgot to return them to the front desk or you’ll get charged.
- Towels – one towel per person.
- Plastic Cups – two eco cups for whatever your cup needs are.
- Daily housekeeping.
Daily Housekeeping includes:
- Trash and recycling disposal.
- Towel refreshing.
- Eco cups.
- Note: Linens will not be refreshed unless asked.
Other Sleeping Accommodations:
- ADA Canvas Tent Cabins Available
- 46 Cabins with Private Baths
- 14 Cabins with Shared Bathhouses
- 18 Standard Motel Rooms
We did not stay in these other accommodations and therefore I have nothing else to contribute here.
Note: There are no roll-away or cribs available for any of the accommodations.
Pros and Cons
We had an incredible time staying at Half Dome Village. We had ten people within four generations and it was comfortable and fun for everyone. Since we had three children with us under the age of 6, the convenient glamp-y aspects of the village made the trip A LOT easier for everyone.
With that being said, if you’re a camping/outdoor purist who prefers to dig your own holes when seeing a man about a horse, then this camp will be wayyy too touristy and crowded for you.
- IT IS YOSEMITE. YOSEMITE!
- You don’t need to bring much, just standard essentials – you can get almost everything you need at the camp.
- It is very family friendly and there are fun activities available for all ages.
- The views are STUNNING. Seriously, it’s incredible and you can see a beautiful waterfall from the parking lot.
- The food is actually pretty good and they have a full coffee shop inside of the buffet hall. The pizza was shockingly good as well.
- Hot showers. YAAAAS. (I’m high maintenance)
- Flushing toilets. YAAAS x2.
- WiFi available in the lounge.
- Deer can be seen grazing throughout the camp grounds and it is pretty magical.
- Free and easy shuttle access.
- You absolutely cannot cook any food. You can bring food that does not require cooking, but none is allowed inside the tents and everything must be kept in the bear lockers.
- If you’re bringing a large cooler, it might be difficult to fit that, other food, and toiletries in just one bear locker.
- It is not cheap. Mr. San Diego and I spent around $65 a day on meals and coffee for just the two of us. We didn’t bring any food since we had to fly in for the trip and because we couldn’t cook even if we wanted to.
- Cell service is almost non-existent, which makes it complicated if a member of your party is meeting up with you later.
- Bike rentals are not cheap either. A standard bike is around $33 for the day and higher for the tandem or trailer bikes. Perhaps that rate is industry standard but since I don’t rent bikes often, it caught me off guard.
- WiFi available in the lounge. I know this is listed as a Pro above, but it’s also annoying seeing all the kids with their heads down and playing video games while surrounded by some of the best nature around.
- We were able to keep all of our tents close to each other, so it’s great for groups. However, it is not guaranteed that your tents will be next to each other, even if you request multiple tents under the same reservation.
They take bear safety very seriously and you should too. Make sure to bring an extra trash bag or two to clear everything scented out of your car.
Check the weather before you leave. Our days were in the high 80’s and the nights were in the low 40’s.
Fill up your gas tank before you enter the park if you plan on driving around. It takes a while to get to Half Dome Village upon entering the park and there are no close gas stations.
The shuttle does not go up to Glacier Point but YOU HAVE TO DRIVE UP around sunset. It is about an hour drive to get there but it is absolutely worth because it has the best view in the park.
Absolutes / Don’t Forgets:
- Padlock – bear lockers.
- Shower sandals – because even though they’re cleaned twice a day, they’re still public showers and can get quite gross.
- Flashlight – not all areas are lit and it gets really dark, obviously.
- Camping chairs – if you would like to lounge/nap outside your tent.
- BUG SPRAY – because the mosquitos are gigantic.
- Refillable water bottles – stay hydrated. There are free water stations available.
- Hand sanitizer/wipes – not all the restrooms through the park are pleasant or clean.
Good Ideas / Bring for Fun:
- Glow stick necklaces for kids – they’ll think it is fun and you can keep track of them when it gets dark.
- Bicycles – there is a bike path right along the village and the views are gorgeous! If you don’t have your own, you can rent one there.
- Small hand towels – so you can dip your feet in the water and have something to dry them off with.
- Ear plugs – if your neighbors snore or you’re a light sleeper. You can get complimentary ones at the front desk.
Why So Much Information?
Well, because I research obsessively and I would have loved to have had one-stop guide like this before we left.
Half Dome Village is absolutely worth a visit – even if just once. While it may not be cheap (as camping trips usually are), it is an incredible experience to sleep on the valley floor and wake up to the sights and sounds of Yosemite. It is great for groups and families, for the unexperienced campers, and for anyone wanting to be surrounded by nature without having to pack every single camping essential.
We loved it, the kids loved it – everyone loved it!