Camping like Wes Anderson: The Real Moonrise Kingdom

Since 1899 (that’s long before Wes Anderson ever made Moonrise Kingdom), this charming campground has been welcoming travellers to Yosemite National Park with its picturesque tented accommodation and cinematic backdrops. This place my friends, is the real Moonrise Kingdom.

Formerly known as Camp Curry, until a trademark dispute with a private concessions company of the same name saw it forced to change its moniker after over a century in business, the historic campsite now goes by the name of Half Dome Village

It was school teachers, David A. Curry and Jenny Etta Foster (who later became known as “Mother Curry”), who set up camp here with seven tents, a year before the first automobile had even driven through Yosemite Valley. It would be another eight years before the Yosemite Valley Railroad, nicknamed “the short line to paradise,” arrived at nearby El Portal, California in 1907. In the meantime, some of the first hiking and horse trails were being cleared for future travellers they hoped would come. 

The only paid employee was the cook, the remainder of the duties about camp being performed by Mr. and Mrs. Curry, assisted by two or three Stanford students who worked a certain number of weeks in return for room and board and a week’s free vacation in the park. The Curry’s only son remembered local Native American women who used to bring heaping cans of strawberries picked from the nearby meadows and sell them for wild strawberry sundaes.

It was the influence of John Muir, Scottish-American author, naturalist and philosopher, also known as “John of the Mountains” and “Father of the National Parks”, that helped to popularize the area and to increase scientific interest in Yosemite at the turn of the century. 

John found work tending to sheep owned by a local rancher, but alarmed by over grazing of meadows, logging of giant sequoia, and other damage, he became an advocate for its protection. After persuading influential people to camp with him in the area, he finally got U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt t0 camp with him near Glacier Point for three days in May 1903. During that trip, Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of the valley and bring it under the protection of the federal government as a National Park. 

David and Jenny Curry advertised “a good bed and clean napkin with every meal” for $2 a day (equivalent to $59 in 2017 dollars), and still today, it has those same rustic wooden cabins, the 1914 entrance sign (with an amended name), the old registration office built in 1904 and dance hall built in 1913, which has now been adapted as a slightly more luxurious lodging option called the Stoneman House. The Foster Curry cabin and Mother Currys cabins are still there and available to stay in. The village was listed as a heritage property in 1979. 

At an elevation of over 4,000 feet, with seriously spectacular views of the grandeur of Glacier Point, Half Dome Village is known today for the same warm hospitality its founders offered some one hundred years ago when visitors were still only trickling into Yosemite.

© Yosemite National Parks

© Yosemite National Parks

There 46 cabins with private baths, 14 wood cabins with shared bath houses, 403 canvas tents and 18 motel rooms. Oh, and deer can be seen grazing throughout the camp grounds.

People even get married here…

If you’re an outdoor purist who prefers to dig your own holes, then this camp will be probably be slightly too crowded for you, but if you’re passing through Yosemite for the first or second time, this is your camp. 

Booking recommended well in advance for the high season (like a year in advance). Browse the website here for more information. There are also several other highly Wes Anderson-esque lodging options including The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Big Trees Lodge, the White Wolf Lodge, Toulumne Meadows and the Glacier Point Ski Hut. Browse them all here.

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