Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Days: 4 or 5 Days

Distance: 28 miles/45km

Difficulty: Intermediate

Origin: Half Dome Village, Yosemite National Park

Cost: $950 (4 days)/ $1150 (5 days)

Trip Description

On this unforgettable backpacking loop, you will experience some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Yosemite National Park: Merced River, Echo Valley, Vernal and Nevada Falls and Half Dome. Our journey starts at the Happy Isles Trailhead, a popular trailhead located in Yosemite Valley. We will walk in the footsteps of the legendary John Muir, passing spectacular Vernal and Nevada Falls and Little Yosemite Valley before stopping for the night near Moraine Dome. We then continue along the Merced River through Lost Valley to the stunning Echo Valley for a second night. Day 3 will be spent heading up to the high country and walking among the granite domes and enjoying the epic views down upon the Merced River gorge below, with a final night at a secluded camp along Sunrise Creek. Our loop brings us back through Little Yosemite Valley on the final day and back down to Happy Isles via the famous Mist Trail. This is a truly spectacular adventure featuring some of North America’s most outstanding backcountry!

Trip Itinerary

Day 1:
We will meet at Half Dome Village in Yosemite Valley at a pre-determined time. The first day will be spent hiking the Mist Trail and exploring the waterfalls (320 foot Vernal Falls and 594 foot Nevada Falls) that have given this trail its name. We pass through forests of black oak and ponderosa pine as our trail heads relentlessly upward. There is good reason to stop and catch your breath often, as the views that unfold will leave you speechless. Enjoy lunch atop Nevada Falls, where the trail flattens out for the final mile to Little Yosemite Valley. Drop your backpack, pat yourself on the back and relax as your guide sets up camp. The remainder of the afternoon is free to spend time by the river, enjoy a nearby swimming hole, or just relax and enjoy the remarkable surroundings. Your guide will prepare a delicious dinner before settling in for the evening.
Distance/Elevation: 6.5 miles, 2000 foot ascent
Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:
After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, we will pack up camp and continue on with our journey. Today’s hike will follow the Merced River into Lost Valley, past cascades over polished granite, into Echo Valley and up towards Merced Lake. This is certainly one of the most impressive stretches of trail in the park. We make camp along the banks of the river and then embark on short stroll to Merced Lake in the late afternoon before returning to camp for dinner.
Distance/Elevation: 5 miles backpacking + 3 miles day hiking, 1000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:
After a night under the star filled sky, we pack up camp and head for the High Country. We will make our way up the ‘High Trail’ above Echo Valley and Lost Valley, 1500 feet below and formed by the Merced River. The views throughout are fantastic so keep your cameras at-the-ready. Camp will be made along Sunrise Creek. For those feeling strong, we can day hike up about 1400 feet to some epic views of Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome. Return to camp for a great dinner by the campfire.
Distance/Elevation: 5 miles backpacking + 3 miles day hiking, 1000 foot ascent
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:
On the final day of our journey, we will pack up camp and head 2 miles, mostly downhill, to Little Yosemite Valley to close the loop. From here, it’s just 5 miles back to Happy Isles and we’ll take the John Muir Trail back to our starting point, arriving in time for lunch at our journey’s end.
Distance/Elevation: 7 miles, 3200 foot descent
Breakfast, Lunch

5-Day Option with Half Dome: Our 5-day itinerary offers the chance to summit Half Dome on Day 4. We will summit as a day hike from our camp along Sunrise Creek before returning to camp, packing up and heading to Little Yosemite Valley for Night 4.

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.

What’s Included:

  • A professional, licensed and medically trained guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your guide will prepare all meals)
  • All meals from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on the last day + trail snacks
  • Backcountry permits and fees

What’s Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Yosemite National Park
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-15% of trip cost)

*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Most trips in Yosemite will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 12 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under the age of 13 are generally not permitted on regularly scheduled trips. This restriction may be negotiable on private tours. Please contact us with any questions regarding this policy.

How do I sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.

Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. Checks by mail are fine as well, as are bank transfers ($35 transfer fee). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-877-272-5032

Where does the trip begin/end?

This trip will begin/end in Yosemite National Park. You will want to fly into San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno, or Reno. You will need to arrange your own transportation from airports to the park. In most cases, renting a car is your easiest and best option. Please visit our Travel Resources page for information on airports, shuttles/rental cars and recommended hotels.

Where do meet our guides?

We will hold a pre-trip orientation at 5:00pm the evening prior to your trip’s departure at the at a pre-arranged location inside the park. Departure times and logistics for the following morning will be discussed at the orientation. Most trips will depart between 7am and 9am.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

On the first morning of your trip, you will follow your guide to the long-term parking area where you can leave your car and personal belongings for the duration of the hike. You can also check with your hotel to see if they are willing to store your luggage for you while you hike.

What time will we get back on the last day?

Most trips end at lunchtime on the last day of the trip. If you are considering flying home on the last day of the trip, you should be finished up around 2pm. Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

2019 Dates

June: 3-7, 17-21, 25-29

July: 4-8, 15-19

August: 19-23, 27-30

More dates to come soon…

Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-877-272-5032 or email us for details.