Short of maybe Everest’s base camp, Yosemite’ Camp 4, not far from the mighty face of El Capitan, is one of climbing’s most storied and historic campgrounds. It’s just one of the valley’s many tent-only camp zones, attracting hardcore climbers and typical family campers looking for a place to sleep beneath the stars. It’s also one of the most crowded, or can be, with hopeful campers waiting in line for an entire day to nab a spot at the first-come, first-served campground. Desperate campers, or those for whom rules are but a suggestion will often camp in undesignated areas, prompting confrontations with park rangers and fellow campers.

So this summer, for the first time, Yosemite is trialing a lottery-based reservation system for Camp 4. It’s strictly a summer-only program though, with the traditional show up and hope system taking effect again in September. The new lottery goes into effect May 21.

It will work like this:


The day before you’d like to camp at Camp 4, beginning at midnight, you can pay a non-refundable $10 fee to enter a lottery system on recreation.gov. You can apply for up to 7 nights with enough room for 12 people. If your name is chosen, you are charged another $6 for the site. If your name is not chosen, well, thanks for playing. There’s always next time.

For a campground that’s been known for a freewheeling vibe over the decades, it’s a sign of the times in terms of the popularity of climbing, Yosemite, and camping in general.

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