We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Can I sleep in my car?

London
Level Contributor
14 posts
2 reviews
Save Topic
Can I sleep in my car?

Hi all,

I'm planning a 10 day road trip around Cali but am going to head through Yosemite & Death Valley National Parks at the end of this November.

Can anyone tell me if it is legal to sleep in your car (Jeep) and if so, where are some good spots to stay that are out of the way with a good view to wake up to?

I'm looking at doing the same in Utah in the Bryce Canyon or Zion National Parks.

If it does turn out that this is just a stupid, illegal way of saving some coin, could anyone suggest some cheap & cheerful places to stay?

Any help would be appreciated.

Cheers

Mentioned in this post
Fresno, CA
Destination Expert
for Fresno
Level Contributor
1,628 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

you can't sleep in your car. This link explains the rules. www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/nrcamping.htm

California
Level Contributor
10,862 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

If you are parked in a designated campground and have paid the daily camping fee you can sleep in your car in the spot. You can't, however, pull over onto the side of the road and "camp". Imagine the issues involved with that. Just the human waste alone if the population of CA decided to do that much less the enormous amount of visitors. Our state and national parks would be brimming.

Los Angeles
Level Contributor
18,304 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

Considering you are in the wild with animals(some not to friendly), I would think these rules are there to protect you aswell

Maryland
Level Contributor
59 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

In Death Valley, you can definitely sleep in your car. In the Inyo National Forest, which is between Death Valley and Yosemite, I believe you can sleep in your car as long as it is pulled off the road in a park area. There is a great spot for this near the Tioga entace to Yosemite. But since you are driving to Yosemite at the end of Nov, the Tioga Pass will likely be closed. Your best bet might be to get a cheap camp spot. Some of them are as low as $10/night and you can sleep in your car there. I did this last week.

As mentioned, you need an individual camping spot to sleep in your car. I thought I saw people sleeping in their cars who were not in individual camping spots...but the last thing you want is a ranger tapping on your window at some early hour.

I'm not sure about Zion. I've certainly heard of people doing it. There are some pretty isolated parts to the park, like the Kolab Canyon area, where I doubt anyone would notice.

Mentioned in this post
Tioga Pass
Tioga Pass
997 Reviews
Yosemite National Park, CA
Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
67,206 posts
122 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

There are various places around the US where you may "wild camp" but none are near Yosemite (that I know.) If you can't get a campsite in Yosemite, you might try these campgrounds: http://jrabold.net/yosemite/campn.shtml Another inexpensive option might be the Yosemite Bug in Midpines (about 45 min to an hour from the Valley) www.yosemitebug.com

Be sure to get accurate info from the helpful folks on the Death Valley forum for your DV visit. There was a recent death when someone was trying to get to a "wild camping" spot.

Mentioned in this post
Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
10,994 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

I do not think it's legal to sleep in your car at *any* National Park - outside of a campground.

The answer is the same for each park:

Yes, you can sleep in your car - IF you have signed into a campground.

You cannot just pull over somewhere and sleep - although obviously, in parks like Death Valley you are more likely to get away with it. But if a ranger sees your car off the side of a road in the middle of the night, they will come and shine a flashlight in your car to see if you are in it - and okay - or lost in the desert, and they will ask you to move so that the next ranger doesn't have to rinse and repeat.

I don't see how you could possibly fail to get a campsite at Death Valley, btw. If you do have to *nap* in your car and the ranger asks you to move, just head over to a campground area and wait for morning, when people leave. Each NP has a list of campgrounds and all NP's have *some* first come, first serve spots. Here's the list for DV:

www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/camping.htm

While you are waiting near the campground entrance (in your car), you may obviously "nap" again. If you are actually inside the campground without paying, they may really frown on this, but just outside the campground, you are waiting for first come, first serve (even if it's 5 a.m.)

Yosemite Camp 4 is the place to head with your basic idea - as people there are often willing to let you share their site (they allow up to six people per site, $5 per person). It's often filled with young people - some of them can't pay their own $5, so if you make friends (it doesn't take long), you can often say you are at one of their sites - then sleep in your car. There is ranger patrol in all NP campgrounds - you're supposed to have a paper ticket in the window of your car. Each ticket at Camp Four costs $5, but very little actual checking of cars goes on until daybreak. Again, Camp Four is first come, first serve with supposed limits on stays, so you can say you are waiting for someone to leave (but they may make you leave if they see you sleeping in your car around midnight).

Yosemite is the toughest park for first come, first serve. Stay at one of the lower elevation parks to get poised for a site at one of the higher elevation campgrounds. Apply for a backpacking permit and walk in aways near Tuolumne to camp, if you want.

Most other parks will have tent sites available if you are there before mid-day - and then, once registered, you can sleep in your car or on the ground or anywhere within your campsite. We do it all the time (had an excellent trip to Yellowstone spur of the moment - people are afraid of the bears and don't want to tent camp, and some campsites are tent only in all parks).

Mentioned in this post
LA
Level Contributor
11,007 posts
1 review
Save Reply
7. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

1. It will be very very cold in higher elevations in late November. Below freezing. Too cold to camp, in or out of your car.

2. Tioga Pass will probably be closed, so you will be taking the long way around to Death Valley. Make sure you have your route planned accordingly.

3. It will also be very cold at night in Death Valley in late November.

4. As others have mentioned. It is illegal to sleep in your car NOT in a designated campground. As there will be relatively few cars parked roadside at that time, expect to be rousted out by a ranger, and fined. Just pay for the campsite.

Mentioned in this post
Tioga Pass
Tioga Pass
997 Reviews
Yosemite National Park, CA
Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
43,811 posts
1,099 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

As far as Death Valley, it certainly is "legal" to sleep in your car other than in campgrounds. You will probably need a 4x4 and there are some restrictions. Look under the backcountry camping section:

death.valley.national-park.com/camping.htm#bc

Bryce will be VERY COLD in November, below 0ºC. Maybe well below!

It sound as if you are planning *far* too much to see in only 10 days. Have you looked at a map and figured out the driving distances? Or is this for two different trips?

It is legal to park and sleep free in your car at nearly all truck stops. Plus there are toilets and showers, food and supplies there. Could be a tad noisy, however ;-)

Motel 6 is a chain that averages around $50/night for one person. There are other, older, small town motels that will be roughly in that price range.

Mentioned in this post
Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
10,994 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

Let me point out once again (Scott has several threads going) that

DV still has rules about where you can camp. You must be *two miles* from any *paved road.* That's not your car - unless it is well equipped (and so are you) for driving on unpaved roads. It also cannot be any developed area (such as a view turn-out).

You must, instead, turn off on one of those lonely roads. You may sleep in your car there:

/Backcountry camping is allowed two miles BEYOND any developed area, paved road, or "day use only" area. Use pre-existing campsites and park your vehicle close to the roadway to minimize impact. /

I like DV's attitude - getting permit to do this is *voluntary*. But the part about being 2 miles away from a paved road is quite clear.

So yes - you can sleep in your car at all national parks - at most parks you need to be in an actual campground or have a backcountry permit. At all parks you have to follow the rules for backcountry behavior (and that's been mentioned above) - and at DV, a permit for so doing is necessary (and the rules apply anyway).

But you can't just sleep in your car near any day use (overlook) area or paved road.

I hope you can see that there are ways of doing this trip (there are), but from personal experience I can tell you that they do check roadsides in all national parks for overnight cars - for a variety of reasons.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
43,811 posts
1,099 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Can I sleep in my car?

I did indeed say "and there are some restrictions." I am assuming that TheLostScott can read the link I listed which explains the restrictions ;-)