Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is truly one of America's national wonders. With its famous peaks (El Capitan and Half Dome) and its undisturbed back trails, there is much to do, see and enjoy. Getting the most out of your trip is essential.

The most important aspect of camping in Yosemite is getting camping reservations. This can be the deal breaker. Getting reservations is tough. Though it's a little complicated, it basically works like this - you can reserve your campsite five months in advance of the date you wish to camp. Campsites are released once a month (on the 15th) and are available at 7 a.m. the day they are released. Here's where it gets tricky - often, campsites are gone within minutes of being available, especially for the summer months. The trick to getting a campsite? Log on to the National Parks Service reservation site at 7 a.m. pacific time and also call the NPS at the same time. You are sure to get through on one of the two ends. Do this exactly at 7 a.m. and you might not only get your reservations, but in the campground you really want.

Once you get your reservations, and you are heading to the park for your camping trip, be sure you have everything you need. There are many stores in Yosemite where you can fill in the blanks on food, outdoor equipment and the like, but you will pay a premium for these items. Try to pack as much as you can ahead of time so you don't have to rely on the inflated Yosemite prices. But, save a little in your budget for treats. At Yosemite village, you can enjoy a view and a burger or ice cream, while the international buffet is a draw in Curry Village.

In the park, there are obvious activities, such as hiking, biking and enjoying the outdoors. During the off months (from October to March), you can enjoy wildlife, as the deer are more likely to be found crossing the street, watching you from sidewalks and just generally making their presence more felt than during the busy summer season. In the springtime, head to Yosemite Falls and get sprayed with water as the snowpack begins to melt.

Yosemite offers some less obvious activities for campers, as well. If you get a good campsite in Upper Pines or Upper River campgrounds, you can take a short hike to the Merced River, where it flows undisturbed and a bit wild over rocks and trees. If you hit it just right, you might see a bear hunting for food. In the mornings look skyward, and you might see a hang glider or two, as hang gliding off Glacier Point is a popular morning activity. There's nothing more serene than watching a glider floating down through the morning mist as you enjoy your toast cooked over the fire. If you're feeling particularly energetic, hop on your bike and bike over to Leidig Meadow (near Yosemite Lodge) and watch the gliders come down.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of camping in Yosemite is how much there is to do, yet how little you actually have to do in order to have a good time. It's one of America's great gifts.