Staying In Curry Village..
It’s hard to describe what it’s like staying in Curry Village. With a prime location in the valley of Yosemite National Park, Curry Village is walking distance to thundering waterfalls and gorgeous meadows. However, in describing Curry Village, also known as “Camp Curry” and briefly known as Half Dome Village, the words that come to mind are “tent city, crowded, rustic, charming, noisy, and old-fashioned” So what is it, a crowded, noisy tent city or a rustic, charming place to stay in one of the United State’s most famous National Parks?
A smorgasbord of cabins with bathrooms, cabins without bathrooms, and tent cabins, Curry Village is a sprawling glamping mecca for visitors staying in Yosemite Valley. With four-hundred tent cabins and less than one-hundred cabins, most people staying in Curry Village end up staying in a tent cabin.
The Tent Cabins
Don’t expect the same level of poshness as the famed tent cabins of Ventana in Big Sur or Under Canvas. However, depending on what time of year you visit Yosemite, there is the possibility of having a heated tent cabin. Typically, they don’t heat the tent cabins during the summer months but for the remainder of the year it is possible to book a heated tent cabin. I highly recommend opting for a heated tent cabin if given the choice. Weather in the Sierra’s is unpredictable and you never know if you’re going to randomly get a dusting of snow in May!
Each tent cabin is furnished with beds, a chair, a shelf, and a small safe. We booked a tent cabin that had two twin beds and a full bed, which was perfect for our family of four. Bedding is minimal, just a pillow, a sheet, and a lightweight blanket. There was also one extra wool blanket provided.
Outside the tent cabin is a bear box where you keep all your food or anything that smells remotely edible to a bear. We were told even toiletries should go in the bear box at night. There isn’t a lot of outdoor space since all the tent cabins are so close together. Nonetheless you can squeeze a few camp chairs in front of your tent cabin.
To access the bathrooms at Curry Village there is a keypad on the door. You need to enter the code to unlock the door. I watched countless people struggle to unlock the door and I also struggled on my first trip to the bathroom. Fortunately even if you forget the code or the keypad isn’t working well, there’s usually some kind camper inside the bathroom who will open the door for you.
The bathrooms were reasonably clean, especially considering how many people are using them. There is hand soap and hand sanitizer provided. And there was always toilet paper, a rare luxury when camping. I found the bathrooms at Curry Village to be cleaner than what I experienced when camping at nearby Lower Pines Campground.
The showers are in the same building as the toilets. There is no cost for showering, although it’s encouraged to limit your shower to 10-15 minutes. There are a few “family bathroom” type showers that are more private and perfect for families. In these you have a large shower stall, a sink, and a toilet. As a mom I appreciated having a space where I could help my boys bathe. It was a lot easier than bringing the boys into the women’s bathroom or wondering if they were actually shampooing their hair in the men’s bathroom.
Eating in Curry Village
There are a couple of different places to eat in Curry Village. While we were there only the grill, the pizza place, the bar, and the coffee shop were open. Prices are fairly reasonable and while the food isn’t spectacular, anything tastes amazing when you’ve returned from a long hike. I definitely recommend grabbing a pizza for dinner if you’re extra hungry because the portions at the grill were a little on the small side.
Also, you’ll want to be strategic about mealtimes. With nearly 500 cabins and only a handful of places to eat, the lines can get really long during prime eating time. This is no fun with a famished family.
Things to Do In Curry Village
Biking: Biking around Yosemite Valley is a must-do while visiting the park. If you didn’t bring your own bikes you can rent them from the Curry Village bike rental shop. It costs about $30-40 for a rental for the day and there are even trailers for towing young children.
Swimming : Parents rejoice, in the summer months there is swimming pool located right in Curry Village. If you prefer a more peaceful place to take a dip, find your own stretch of sand along the nearby Merced River.
Ice Skating: Staying at Curry Village during the winter? The best part about staying at Curry Village in the winter is the seasonal ice skating rink. I don’t think there’s a prettier rink in California!
Hiking: Two of the most popular day hikes in Yosemite National Park, The Mist Trail and Mirror Lake, are walking distance from Curry Village. The Mist Trail is a strenuous approximately seven mile roundtrip trail that takes you past Vernal and Nevada Falls. If you’re wanting to get up close to Yosemite’s waterfalls, and want a booty burner of a hike, this is the hike for you!
Getting to Mirror Lake is significantly shorter and mellower. However, make sure you have reasonable expectations for what you’ll find at Mirror Lake. Frequently water is either non-existent or scarce in the lake. Personally my favorite part about visiting Mirror Lake are the views of Half Dome.
Getting a Reservation for Curry Village
Like many of the most popular campgrounds in California, if you want to stay in Curry Village during the high season (April/May- October) you need to snag a reservation months in advance. For our most recent spring trip to Yosemite, I booked our tent cabin in Camp Curry in December. I thought I was booking well in advance but there were only a few tent cabins available. It’s always a little surreal to be planning a camping trip amidst Christmas shopping and cookie baking, but that’s the way it’s done in California. December is the month for holiday parties, visits with Santa, and planning your summer camping trips.
To actually book a reservation for Curry Village you can either call 866-875-8456 or visit the reservations website. You’ll pay a deposit when you make your reservation then pay the remaining balance when you check in.
Getting To and From Curry Village
Depending on which park entrance you use, it can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to drive to Camp Curry. Once you get to Curry Village I highly recommend trying to use your car as little as possible. It’s really easy to bike around Yosemite Valley and biking is so much more fun than sitting in traffic. If you don’t want to bike there is also a free park shuttle that stops right at Curry Village.*
*With current Covid-19 protocols the park shuttle is temporarily not running. Check the park website for more updated shuttle info.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Curry Village
- Great Location: You can’t beat the access to the bike trails, the Merced River, and Mist Trail. The view of Half Dome at sunset is pretty awesome too.
- Camping Simplified: Staying at Curry Village gives you a little taste of camping but without all the hassle of setting up a tent and bringing bedding.
- Fairly Affordable: The hotels in Yosemite are significantly more expensive. While staying at Camp Curry isn’t exactly like staying in a hotel, it does let you have a heated place to stay for less than $200 a night. Additionally you can save money by bringing some of your own food.
- You’ll Make New Friends: It’s impossible not to interact with your tent neighbors. The crowded arrangement of Curry Village and the communal bathrooms means you’ll have ample opportunity to get to know other visitors.
- Noisy: The biggest disadvantage of the tent cabins at Curry Village is the noise factor. The canvas walls of the tent do little to dampen the noise of crying babies, bear boxes being opened, and chatty campers.
- A Long Walk to the Bathrooms/Parking: Since Curry Village is such a large, sprawling tent town, depending on where your tent cabin is located it can be a long walk to the bathrooms and the parking lot.
- No Bonfires: There aren’t any fire rings in Curry Village. Camping enthusiasts might miss having smokey hair and sticky marshmallow fingers. Another downside of not being able to have a campfire is that when it gets dark there isn’t much to do…
- Limited Tables: There are picnic tables sprinkled throughout the village and amongst the tent cabins but there are more people than tables. You’ll need to be patient and wait your turn to snag a table or consider bringing your own.
- No cooking: You are allowed to bring food, just keep it in the bear box. While food is ok to bring, cooking is prohibited and they threaten a hefty fine for cooking. From what we observed most people bring simple breakfast and lunch items and go to one of the restaurants in the valley for dinner. Just keep in mind that there isn’t a great place to wash dishes. Therefore, you’ll probably want to plan on bringing food items that don’t generate a bunch of dirty dishes.
What to Bring
- A Wagon: With the parking area being so far from the tent cabins it is very useful to bring a little wagon for unpacking.
- Extra Blanket: Bring your sleeping bag or an extra warm blanket. There isn’t a lot of bedding included and if it ends up being cold at night you’ll be thankful you have an extra layer.
- Shower Flip Flops: Don’t forget a pair of flip flops for the shower and trips to the bathroom.
- Camp Chairs: Set up a few chairs outside your tent cabin for snacking and DIY happy hour.
- Breakfast/Lunch Food: You’ll save money if you’re able to pack some simple meals for breakfast and lunch.
- A Headlamp: You’ll want a headlamp for inside your tent cabin and for walking around Curry Village at night.
- A Beach Towel: Your cabin comes with a towel for bathing but you’ll want to bring an extra towel for river adventures.
Tips for Camp Curry
No Cell Service: There isn’t much cell service in Curry Village. Plan accordingly
Shower Timing: Lines for the showers can get long during peak shower times (morning and evening). Either be prepared to wait in line or take a shower mid-afternoon.
Check Restaurant Hours: When we were there the Curry Village grill and store both closed at 6pm. Make sure to check the operating hours for the restaurants when you check in.
Consider Ear Plugs: You might want to consider bringing ear plugs, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
Hang Out in A Rocking Chair: Near the reception office for Curry Village there are about a dozen rocking chairs that reside on the porch. Bring a book and relax.
The Bottom Line: Staying at Curry Village isn’t quite like camping and it isn’t as posh as other popular California glamping spots. However, if you want an affordable place to stay in Yosemite Valley but don’t want to camp, give Curry Village a try.