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Yosemite Budget Wrap-up

June 1, 2011

People like to talk up camping as a frugal way to spend the holiday.  Maybe it is, maybe it can be.  But national park camping is SO much more expensive than our usual backpacking trip! Here’s what we spent for our Yosemite trip.


  • Campsite:  $60 ($20/night)
  • Gas:  $75
  • Firewood for relaxing around the fire and cooking:  $60 (yeah really!  And you aren’t supposed to bring in your own from > 50 miles, not that I knew where to get cheap firewood anyway)
  • Pizza for the rainy day when sandwiches for lunch won’t cut it:  $20
  • Groceries, wine, beer:  $150  (admittedly not all of this was eaten on this trip, some of it was random other crap we needed)
  • Park Entrance:  $20
  • TOTAL:   $385

Not so bad for a weekend away, I guess.  The firewood really surprised me.  When I go backpacking, campsites are free and fires are either not allowed (most places) or you are allowed to gather wood.

But here is what we got for that price:

We hiked to the top of that waterfall on Sunday

Mist trail – the name should be taken literally.  We got wet on the way up

At the top of the waterfall – this trail reminded me of Narnia on top

Worth it!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 5:15 am

    National Park campsites can be really expensive for a place to stick your tent and they know their concessions are the only gig in town so they feel free to charge you an arm and two legs. We usually camp/backpack in National Forests instead since it’s cheap and rarely crowded unless we have something specific in mind to visit. Those shots from your hike look amazing by the way.

    • June 1, 2011 6:43 am

      very true – the nice thing is, national parks are probably actually profitable and the money they make helps out less popular places. Or at least that’s what I like to think to make myself feel better about the annoying costs 🙂

  2. June 1, 2011 6:11 am

    That looks pretty cool. We go camping pretty regularly (not this year, though as we’re expecting any day) and we usually find that there are costs that we have that relate to supplies. Granted, these supplies will last us into future trips, but outfitting yourself for these trips can be expensive if you don’t have the necessary cache of ‘stuff’. Just something to consider for readers that might be looking at this who haven’t made a similar trip in the past.

    • June 1, 2011 6:53 am

      Good point – in 2008 we spent about $1000 each on various backpacking gear. You don’t need so much for car camping, but you still need some things.

      You might be able to borrow stuff (tents, etc) and aside from the tent, sleeping bag, and maybe a pad, you can get away without stuff. But if you don’t have that stuff, it isn’t nearly so cheap. If you have no gear, there were some rustic cabins in the park for about $100/night that sleep 4-6.

  3. June 1, 2011 7:06 am

    We went camping this past weekend and spent a lot of money, too. I don’t really think that camping is all that cheap. We had to buy an air mattress that lasted for one of the two nights that we were camping.

    We bought some firewood but after dark, we very slyly broke a couple dead trees up so we could burn them. I know that we weren’t supposed to do it but it was $5 for a little bundle of wood. After the park ranger would pull through, I would run and get the log. My husband and his friend would break it up and we had firewood. Probably not something to brag about but it doesn’t hurt anything.

    • June 1, 2011 7:29 am

      Probably not where you are camping, but in Yosemite, there are SO MANY campers that if everyone took wood, it would be a real problem.

      That sucks about the air mattress. I think camping is one of those things that is cheap if you do it often enough that you can average out the cost of tents/mattresses/whatever. But if you don’t, then each individual time is a bit more expensive.

      Still, 3 nights in a hotel would easily approach $300 (and more near the parks!), and that’s before you do anything else.

  4. June 1, 2011 3:51 pm

    That’s seems like a vacation worth taking. definitely have to attempt this trip..sleeping in tents is a whole other story. Thanks!

  5. June 1, 2011 6:57 pm

    Wow! So jealous! Yosemite is on my bucket list! I tried to re-book at Phantom Ranch this past May for the cabins at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. After dialing and re-dialing for over two hours I got through to find no more space. Not only is it not cheap; it’s a hot ticket!

    • June 2, 2011 7:37 am

      When you do look at yosemite, I’d recommend looking into the “housekeeping camp” cabins. They sleep 6, are about $95/night, and best of all, the sell out much less quickly than the campsites (while still being right inside yosemite valley). That is much more expensive per/night, but we are going back for a 1 night trip this fall (specifically to do half dome) and staying there!

  6. June 2, 2011 6:56 pm

    Wow, beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit the great American national parks, including Yosemite. I’m surprised at how expensive was firewood was, but I guess, they figure they can run a bit of racket with the firewood restrictions.

  7. TLC permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:43 pm

    That is more expensive than I imagined it would be. The photos are breathtaking though!

    It’s hard to find cheap vacation ideas these days.

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