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Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

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Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:11 am

This isn't exactly "camping" related, but somewhat is too. I'm looking for information about car camping on the sides of roads. Yes, I know it's illegal in Yosemite, but what are the fines/risks involved?

I don't plan on camping in the car, but I plan on shooting the meteor shower tonight somewhere around Tuolumne Meadows (3 hours from Fresno give or take). I went up yesterday hoping to find a campsite to book, but nothing was available, which was shocking being there's usually a couple available in Porcupine Creek and Yosemite Creek, but this time nothing.

My plan now with campsites unavailable (I will check when I get there to see if one opened) is to go up and shoot the shower for a couple of hours. Haven't decided how long right now, but it will definitely be sun up by the time I get back to Fresno.

What I would like to do is take a nap in the back of the car for a few hours before heading back down as it's a long drive, but am wondering what this would fall under. Realistically I plan on putting the seats down in the back and a small foam pad over them to be somewhat comfortable, and then possibly using a sleeping bag if it's cold. Two weeks ago when I camped it was in the 30's around the meadows so I suspect it'll be that or colder.

Obviously I'm not camping, but can see how this could look and possibly even fall under camping on the side of the road. Is this something I can talk myself out of if a Ranger comes by? Photos of the meteor shower good enough to back up why I'm resting?

I plan on parking around the Cathedral Lakes trail head so I would hopefully blend in more with backpackers, but I know they do check on cars as I've seen them doing that around 5am (I would be gone before that).

Anyone have any information on this by chance? I see the RV's and vehicles on the sides of roads all the time. Doesn't mean they aren't getting fined, but just want some more information to see if it's even worth risking the nap or not.

Thanks



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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:19 am

The risk is being fined like crazy and thrown out of the park. If the ranger is in a particularly bad mood, they have a jail. It's a matter of interpretation as well -- if the ranger believes you are there taking night shots you're fine, if the ranger believes you are camping, you are not. Not having camping gear out would help the cause. Going to a dome and sitting there at night watching the stars isn't backpacking -- going and putting down a pad, and getting in a bag, would probably be interpreted as backpacking, and you'd get the fine and walked back to a trailhead. I'd expect similar from a ranger visiting a pullout and finding someone sleeping on a pad, in a bag.

I take naps in pullouts well outside the park. There are plenty of places outside the park. There are campgrounds on the east side, and there are pullouts along the road to Saddlebag where one can overnight without consequence. For that matter, so far as I know, I could haul a backpack up to Gardisky Lake without any permit and camp up there. It's not in a wilderness area.

If it were me I'd avoid pads and sleeping bags, and not sleep, or just go outside the park. Why risk having to appear in front of that one judge that works in the park?
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:48 am

I think I know the road you are talking about to Saddlebag. That's not too far from where I'll be shooting. Perhaps I'll just go down that way. I assume CHP/Forest don't check that area then?
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby Beantown » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:51 am

there a walk in camp sites just off saddlebag road, first come first serve. maybe try those?

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/rec ... 0&actid=29
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:08 am

Not sure if I want to walk out there at 3am give or take. But now that I think about it isn't there a campground or two for cars at Saddlebag? Think I recall at the end there being one, and one about halfway down the road. Unless the one halfway down is indeed the walk-in one and I just thought it was a regular campground.

I will however keep that in mind for future camp trips. I like that style if I can't go backpacking.
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:33 am

Our Sierra national parks are not fully serious about clamping down on roadside parking within park boundaries. Otherwise it would be easy for them to stop the practice by issuing dashboard permits for all vehicles that had a valid reason to be along park roads. I personally would prefer they do so but not a big deal either way.

For instance issue dashboard permits for backpackers parking vehicles and campground users. As is park night patrols will stop and check vehicles parked along areas without trailheads and tell one to drive off out of the park. For decades there have been a whole lot of people abusing the status quo. It is very easy to sleep inside many vehicles without someone on the outside being able to see anything indicating a person is inside doing so. That is where dashboard permits could stop the practice. Probably the worst abuse is around the Cathedral Lakes trailhead and along the little road at Lembert Dome going back towards the stables. All those cars lining the road parked there are not backpackers folks as there are often far more vehicles than the trailhead quota. Of course obviously the climbing community decades ago influenced park management to look the other way as many of those "privileged" enthusiasts spend weeks up about Tuolumne Meadows hanging out.

For those along SR120 the legal choice is to drive out of the park. Unfortunately between US395 and the Tioga Pass including the full length of the Saddlebag Road are all within the Inyo NF NO dispersed camping area. Thus to legally disperse camp (including sleeping inside one's vehicle) one really has to drive another 12 miles all the way down to US395 where there are endless legal places to legally do so. Traditionally for decades people have disperse camped overnight at the 9k bend on SR120 at the Warren Fork where there used to be an actual campground about 1 quarter mile up from the road. A few years ago some at Inyo began clamping down on that because some in the RV crowd joined using the spots for days increasing sanitary issues and making it a zoo. So Inyo put several large boulders on the road there blocking most of the access. That must have created a stink from locals because they soon went back to looking the other way. Of course the poorly funded national forest does not have a budget to be sending personnel out at night to do much.

Additionally Inyo built the newer roadside vista point above Tioga Lake that has a restroom and one regularly will see several vehicles parked there overnight. It is sort of a trailhead for Glacier Canyon (Dana) but obviously most are sleeping inside their vehicles. It is when people start tossing down sleeping bags and tents outside vehicles in such places that they will clamp down on such sly practices.

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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 11:36 am

So then they do patrol the Tioga Pass between 395, as well as the Saddlebag area? Or it's just more of a you shouldn't do kind of thing?

Whatever happened to that campground to where they closed it? Always interested in a bit of history.
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:25 pm

Go to the wilderness kiosk and get an overnight permit for the next night, to backpack on some obscure trail that has plenty of permits available, and then camp at the backpacker's campground after your viewing of the meteor shower.
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:02 pm

InsaneBoost wrote:So then they do patrol the Tioga Pass between 395, as well as the Saddlebag area? Or it's just more of a you shouldn't do kind of thing?

That stretch is outside of Yosemite and there are plenty of places where it is OK (ie OK with regulations) to pull off and get a wink.

If you are sleeping in your car, a popular spot is the huge turnout overlooking Tioga L., just E of Tioga Pass. I think RVs commonly use this place for an overnight stop and I think they even have an outhouse there now. Way back in the day (60s, 70s, 80s) my dad and I would use that turnout and sleep in the back of our 'Burb to be ready for East Side takeoffs the next day (we would drive up after work from the Bay Area and snooze there). I have a primitive car camping spot somewhere around there that I've been using since the mid 90's but that spot involves carrying my tent and stuff above the road from where I park.

As noted in earlier posts, the roads inside Yosemite are patrolled pretty regularly, and I know from the very recent experience of someone I know that this includes the pull outs btw Tenaya and Tuolumne you referred to.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:14 pm

The one near Tioga Lake. Is this the paved one? Or the one that's rocky? I know I've seen people setup at both.
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby InsaneBoost » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:16 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Go to the wilderness kiosk and get an overnight permit for the next night, to backpack on some obscure trail that has plenty of permits available, and then camp at the backpacker's campground after your viewing of the meteor shower.


Are they open 24/7? I won't be getting in until 11-12 tonight.
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Re: Camping In Car On Road In Yosemite

Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:35 pm

There was a time when it was legal to park and sleep in vehicles roadside in Yosemite and people would toss out sleeping bags at the Lembert Dome parking lot. That ended in the 80s. And yes there was a time when one could park along SR120 to the east below Tioga Pass. But that has not been the case for at least 20 years so GB's input is not valid. I have the big latest 2010 edition Inyo National Forest map that in dotted red boundaries shows all what are termed "Recreation Restriction Area Boundary". As I noted above the whole area along SR120 down to US395 is clearly within that NO dispersed camping zone. Anyone that regularly disperse camps as I have done for decades should have maps showing those areas. Most NF have free black and white map sheets showing those areas and usually they are not out in the open but behind their counters thus need to be asked for. In other words dispersed camping is mildly discouraged by doing so because they do want newbie and clueless campers to use standard campgrounds. Now besides the 9k bend I related above, the whole east side of the Saddlebag Road can be legally dispersed camped while the west side of the road where all the parking spots are at are marked as not. However there is a single parking spot on the east side of that gravel road where one apparently can do so.

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