Some campers prefer a bit more seclusion, lower campsite prices, or just a different atmosphere. They tend to go for the campgrounds outside Yosemite’s  boundaries, which abound in the woodsy wilderness surrounding the park.
To camp in Big Oak Flat along Hwy. 120 near Groveland, try the Thousand Trails RV campground at Yosemite Lakes (31191 Harden Flat Rd., 800/533-1001, ranger station 209/962-0103, www.1000trails.com ). This sprawling wooded campground beside the water has more than 250 RV sites with full hookups, 130 tent sites, a few dozen cabins, tent cabins, and yurts, and a 12-bed hostel.
It’s only five miles from the park entrance, and it’s got a full slate of recreational amenities, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi. You’re right on the Tuolumne River, you’ve got great access to the boating opportunities on Lake Don Pedro, and the Moaning Cavern is only a few miles away.
Several campgrounds surround the Arch Rock Entrance to Yosemite  on Hwy. 140, near the border town of Mariposa. The Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort (6979 Hwy. 140, 866/826.7108, www.yosemitebug.com , $23/dorm bed, $35–55/tent cabin, $65–135/private cabin rooms) is part hostel, part rustic cabin lodge. This facility includes five hostel dormitories, a number of attractively appointed tent cabins with real beds, and a few cabins with private rooms, some with private baths.
Solo travelers and families on tight budget favor Yosemite Bug for its comfortable and cheap accommodations. It’s not the Ritz, but the bathrooms are clean and the linens are fresh when you arrive, and the location is great for Yosemite visitors who want to exit the park each night.
RVers aiming for the Arch Rock Entrance flock to the Indian Flat RV Park (9988 Hwy. 140, 209/379-2339, www.indianflatrvpark.com , tent sites $20–30, RV sites $35–40, tent cabins $60, cottages $110, pet fee $5). This park is a full-service low-end resort, with everything from minimal-hookup RV sites up through tent cabins and full-fledged cottages. Showers are available here, even for passers-through who aren’t staying at Indian Flat.
The lodge next door has extended an invitation to all Indian Flat campers to make use of their outdoor pool. Because Indian Flat is relatively small (25 RV sites, 25 tent sites), reservations are strongly recommended. You can make your booking up to a year in advance, and this kind of planning is a really good idea for summertime Yosemite  visitors.
At the South Entrance down by the spread-out forest town of Fish Camp, book a site at the small, attractive Summerdale Campground (northeast of Fish Camp on Hwy. 41, 877/444-6777, www.reserveusa.com , two-night minimum weekends, three-night minimum holiday weekends, $19, June–Nov.). This lovely spot has only 29 campsites and a strict limit on RV size (24 feet), making it a bit quieter and less city-like than the mega-campgrounds.
You’ll have a fire ring and a grill at your site, plenty of room under mature shade trees for yourself and your friends, and maybe even a running water spigot (on some sites, boiling before drinking recommended).
Out east, near Highway 395 and Tioga Pass , campgrounds tend to cluster in the Inyo National Forest. You can stay at Ellery Lake (Hwy. 120 in Upper Lee Vining Canyon, 877/444-6777, www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/campgrounds.shtml , $17, no reservations, pit toilets, garbage cans), which boasts 21 campsites perched at 9,500-feet elevation with available running water. Get there at dawn if you want a site on a weekend!
Another option is Sawmill Walk-In (Saddlebag Rd., 1.6 miles from Hwy. 120, 877/444-6777, www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/campgrounds.shtml , $12, June–Oct.). This primitive, no-reservations, hike-in campground (no water) has an astonishing 9,800-foot altitude that will, after a day or two, prepare you for any high-altitude activity you want to engage in.