Increasing demand for campsites and sometimes day-long lines for those who wait have prompted Yosemite National Park administrators to enact a lottery system for sites in historic Camp 4, the only first-come, first-served, walk-in campground in Yosemite Valley.

The lottery system is a pilot program, Yosemite National Park public affairs staff said this week. It starts May 21 and it will be run by, a contractor that handles reservations for 12 federal agencies, including BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Camp 4 is east of El Capitan and west of Lower Yosemite Fall on the Valley’s north side. Camp 4 has 36 shared walk-in sites for tents only. Sleeping in vehicles is not allowed. Each campsite is supposed to contain a fire pit with no grill, a picnic table, and four shared food lockers. Each campsite is supposed to be near a bathroom with drinking water and flushing toilets.

Park staff say increasing numbers of visitors and their demands for camping spaces at Camp 4 have increased over the past decade and the current registration system "no longer serves the public and meets the needs of current campers."

Under the current system, campers and people who hope to camp at Camp 4 line up and wait for a first-come, first-served camping space to open. Some people line up all day to wait for an available space to open up. Sometimes they start lining up the night before, with the hopes of getting a camping space the next day or night.

The system is inefficient, it has led to arguments and fights between campers, and it has contributed to wildlife impacts due to people improperly storing food and camping out-of-bounds, park staff say.

The lottery will be tested from late May to early September, Yosemite National Park public affairs staff say. The daily lottery system will be similar to the Half Dome daily lottery.

Camp 4 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its nationally significant role in the development of rock climbing, big wall climbing, and big wall rock rescue.

From 1947 to 1970, rock climbers made Yosemite Valley a hotbed for invention and innovation in big wall climbing, climbing gear, climbing ethics and rescue technique.

Camp 4 is where a lot of the early rock climbing and rock rescue pioneers stayed, bouldered, planned, socialized, and developed new gear between climbs and missions.

For more information about the lottery, visit online.

Contact Guy McCarthy at or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.