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Yosemite backpacking
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Dennis Park
(dpark) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Yosemite backpacking on 05/20/2012 12:39:02 MDT Print View

Is there a particular book or other resource that is good for planning trips in Yosemite? Thanks.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Yosemite on 05/20/2012 12:43:39 MDT Print View

Dennis do a search on the web...or go to REI and purchase a book. There are many wonderful hiking guides available that will give you mileage, descriptions etc. That is how I found many great places to hike within the Sierras

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Yosemite books on 05/20/2012 12:46:17 MDT Print View

Sierra North has good info, as does Jeffrey Schaffer's book on hiking in Yosemite.

And you can find some nice trip logs on our website, as well!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Yosemite backpacking on 05/20/2012 13:02:13 MDT Print View

I'm not sure exactly what you are looking for.

There are several books on the hiking and backpacking trails of Yosemite. Some are a little more up-to-date than others. The National Park Service web site for Yosemite has some general information about doing trips in Yosemite. They have a map of all of the trails in Yosemite, and which trailheads feed those trails, and where to go to get a wilderness permit for each district of trailheads. Sometimes they have information on trail conditions. However, most of that information tends to be rather old.

Basically, wilderness permits are free. However, you may want to pay some bucks to get something reserved. Each trail has a daily quota for overnight backpacker use. As long as the permit you ask for will fit within that quota, then it should be free. However, if you are going in prime season to a popular trailhead, and especially if it is on a weekend or holiday, then the daily quota will be taken before you get there. So, if it is important, you try to reserve a permit in advance.

Now, if you are not picky, you can just go to a permit station near your proposed trailhead and ask. Sometimes the quota for the best trails is already filled, but sometimes a daily quota is still open for some ordinary trail right down the road. The web site typically shows information as to which trail quotas are already filled. So, the ones that get booked up far in advance for many sequential days are the most popular trails.

For most of the Yosemite backcountry, bear canisters are required for food storage. So, either you bring your own or else you may choose to rent one (Garcia) at the permit station. Personally, I like to have my food all packed in a canister before I ever leave home, and that way I know it fits. I think the rental canisters are used a lot by people who go only once or twice a year.

Those are the most important parts of getting the trip legal. After that, you just need to know what you are doing as a backpacker.

I've seen guys busted by the backcountry patrol rangers. Either they had no permit, or they were camping someplace improperly, or they had a dog in the backcountry, or some other obvious mistake like that.


Dennis Park
(dpark) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Yosemite backpacking on 05/20/2012 15:41:37 MDT Print View

Bob, thanks for the run down. I'm most looking for details of the trail and a trail map.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Yosemite backpacking on 05/20/2012 16:18:34 MDT Print View

It appears to me that the official Yosemite web site has been overhauled since last year, and they didn't get it finished. Just now when I browsed there, errors were popping up. So, maybe the good maps are there and it is just broken temporarily.

You are trying to decide on some good trails. The Yosemite Conservancy is the non-profit group that *sells* the permit reservations. It probably has all of the good trail information somewhere.

Otherwise, there are some Yosemite oldtimers who have been backpacking there for decades, and we know half of the trails from memory. If you get to a specific question about a specific trail, maybe we can help. You have to know what your priorities are. For example, are you just looking for a wilderness experience (and not see any people)? Are you looking to see wildlife, or are you looking to avoid bears? Are you looking for fishing lakes? Are you looking for easy trails, or are you looking for the butt-kicker trails?

The backcountry population decreases with the trail mileage from the trailhead. It decreases even faster with lots of elevation gain. It decreases even more with the degree of "off-trailness." So, you just need to decide what you want. There are some standard places to go where you will be almost guaranteed to run into a ranger on trail patrol. There are other places where you won't see a soul.


Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
season? on 05/21/2012 13:43:31 MDT Print View


Yes, the Yosemite Conservancy has some great books. I'd start by getting their Yosemite Recreation Map. And either one of their books, or the Sierra North book. (Sierra North and Sierra South books are great because they'll lead you to some other great backpacking trips around the Sierra to supplement your Yosemite experience.)

When do you plan to go?

Most of the good books will list the trailhead/destination elevations and/or will suggest whether the trip is for early, mid, or late season. As the snow melts, the higher country will become accessible, and that (9000+ feet) is the most scenic IMO. I backpacked at Hetch Hetchy (4000 feet) in early May and it was the perfect destination for May - snow melted, perfect weather. In July it'll be hot as Hades at Hetch Hetchy, but the high country should be easily accessible by then. Right now, I believe the snow is melted to about 8500 feet. For a June trip (during this low-snow year), you can probably hike snow-free to 9000-10,000+ feet, depending on snowmelt, and that opens the possibly of a Tuolumne Meadows trailhead.

Sometimes I get criticized for saying this, but: Some trails/destinations are a great deal more scenic and interesting than others. Some Yosemite backpack trips, notably the ones in the western half of the park, have actually been among my least favorite in the Sierra, and not just because of the crowds. (On the other hand, the Benson Lake loop; Upper McCabe Lake; and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne DURING THE PEAK OF THE MELT IN A HIGH SNOW YEAR are among my Yosemite favorites.) The guidebooks tend to be agnostic about the relative "Wow factor" of a particular trail. Once you've found some potential trails within your desired elevation range, come back here and try some other forums (, or one of the Yosemite forums) to ask people about the most scenic destinations. And once you've done a Yosemite trip, be sure to explore some other areas of the Sierra.

- Elizabeth

Colin O

Locale: Brooklyn
Re: season? on 07/30/2012 20:12:26 MDT Print View

RE: exploring some other areas of the Sierras - I'm in California, coming from the east coast, for work this week (Aug1) and have 3 days/2 nights that I plan to camp - to focus my research, can you recommend a few spots in the sierras striking distance from San Francisco that less crowded/crazy than yosemite? (a bit tired of the national park scene)