Making a High Sierra Camp reservation can range from frustrating to the near impossible. That is, unless you found this booking tips page! So congratulations, you have just saved yourself a ton of time. We will break down the reservation challenges into three categories. First, your advance planning time frame. Second, which camps fit into that timeframe. And finally, how to navigate the Yosemite lottery. So start, which of the three time frames do you require?
One year in advance planning with a firm date.
Last minute but slightly flexible.
Last minute but not flexible.
ONE YEAR IN ADVANCE
For those who have the luxury of planning 12 months or more in advance, you are a candidate for any of the seven High Sierra Camps. However, all 5 of the Yosemite camps as well as Bearpaw Meadow fill one year in advance. So, if you are targeting any of those camps, you should start planning right away. You will be making your reservations on-line on a specific date which is tied to the opening of that lottery. The five Yosemite camps have one lottery date but Bearpaw meadow has a different start. See our section on lottery tips.
LAST MINUTE BUT FLEXABLE
The good news is that there is a 50/50 chance of getting a last minute cancellation at any of the seven High Sierra Camps! If you are slightly flexible, it’s certainly worth calling any of the three toll free numbers to check for availability. If your first group of dates produce no results, the trick is to keep checking back. That’s because cancellations happen more often than you would think. It’s boils down to perseverance and a bit of lucky timing. Your big take-away here is: keep trying! Below are the considerations in detail:
Yosemite (Five camps)
The one down side to last minute cancellations for the Yosemite camps is you’re more likely to get a reservation for one camp as opposed to stringing together several camps and forming a loop trip. Loop trips are the shortest distance between each camp. Therefore, it is more likely that you will have to walk into one of the Yosemite Camps from the nearest road which is not always the shortest distance. Another Yosemite cancellation tip is that the “saddle Rides” may be more available than the hike option from camp to camp. That’s because it’s more expensive but may work out for you!
As for Yosemite, keep trying every day for last minute cancellations. You are flexible so the range of dates you are seeking will work in your favor. See the toll free number below which is different from the Yosemite line. Keep in mind that this is the 11.3 mile trail and the most strenuous in terms of up and down elevation gain/loss. This trail is only for the super-fit and those who willing submit to the punishing aspects of such a long day. As mentioned previously, some people actually enjoy challenging themselves in that regard. Because the trail is so difficult, it may have more last minute cancellations than the five Yosemite Camps.
Sequoia High Sierra Camp
This is a large camp that can usually accommodate last minutes requests. They sometimes sell completely out for group events so there are exceptions. However, it is common to be able to book a last minute room. The only downside is that it is the most expensive camp as well. However, along with a higher fee, you get true 5 star amenities, The only High Sierra Camp to offer hotel-like luxury in every single category.
LAST MINUTE BUT NOT FLEXABLE
Our final category is you have one date open and its one week away. By all means, try to book the camp of your choice via a cancellation even though they usually require the one year in advance lottery system. You may get lucky but the odds are against you. In this case, your last minute timeframe will mean the Sequoia High Sierra Camp which typically can accommodate you.
THE YOSEMITE LOTTER SYSTEM DETAILS
You’ve made the decision to hike the Yosemite High Sierra Loop so it’s time to plan for the lottery. Enter via their website which opens sometime in September and closes on November 1st. There is no advantage to entering earlier than the end of October as all entries are randomly drawn once the lottery closes. You can enter two different dates for each camp. There could be increased chances of winning the later after Labor Day date but conversely, camps can close early due to snow, so be careful. Typically, after the random selections are made, the lucky winners are contacted on what is called the first round. Depending on if those individuals accepted or not, a second round of random selections will be made. Pony being that if you’re not contacted right away, you might still be eventually chosen.
If you definitely didn’t place in either round, there is still hope for advanced planning rather than a last minute cancellation. This is done by returning to the website you used previously (same link at the bottom of this page) and directly under “Current Availability” you will find a PDF called Unguided trip Availability. This document is updated when cancellations occur and can be used to secure reservations quite a ways out.
Typically after April/May, may cancellations can occur. One the cancellation is received, those date are opened to phone inquiries and/or posted to the PDF availability form. All phone numbers and websites are at the bottom of this page.