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Yosemite National Park is one of the most-visited national parks in the country. In fact, the park received more than 5 million visitors in 2016. But back in the 1970s, Yosemite attracted a slightly different crowd: rock climbers.
Climbers, including the famed Stonemasters, flocked to the valley to climb the “big walls,” such as Half Dome and El Capitan. While there, climbers took up residence in Camp 4, which doubled as a training ground and home away from home.
Even better? Camp 4 — a campground centrally located in the heart of Yosemite Valley — is home to many climbable boulders itself, such as Midnight Lightning. (Tip: If you want to learn more about Camp 4’s rich history, watch the 2014 documentary “Valley Uprising.” It will blow your mind.)
Many years later, when I arrived in Camp 4 on my first Yosemite outing, the first thing I caught sight of was Midnight Lightning — one of the most difficult boulders in the camp. Look for the boulder to the right of the bathrooms with a lightning bolt sketched into it with chalk. Or, just ask anyone walking around the campground with a chalk bag and crash pad (a mattress-like pad that serves as padding and can be carried like a backpack for convenience).
Camp 4 is one of the only first-come, first-served campgrounds in the valley, so spur-of-the-moment travelers can find a place for the night without too much difficulty. In addition, Camp 4 is a shared campground, and sites accommodate up to six travelers. This means that groups of less than six will be paired with others, allowing solo travelers to mingle and make friends along the way. And while climbing was certainly the purpose for my trip, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting around a campfire with fellow campers and sharing wilderness stories.
Know Before You Go: In peak season, which is spring through fall, the campground kiosk opens at 8:30 a.m., although on weekends, visitors line up hours before to secure a campsite. During the winter, the grounds are operated on a self-registration basis. The rate for a campsite is $6 per person, per night.
The DetailsCamp 4 at Yosemite National Parkwww.nps.gov