Three Best Yosemite Backpacking Trips | Multi-Day
When we venture out of our normal Four Corners region to escape the summer heat of the desert Southwest, we love to head to the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. Yosemite National Park is an incredible summer hiking destination. What better place to escape the heat than to explore the numerous waterfalls, high alpine lakes, meadows, giant sequoias, and mountain peaks of one of America’s premier National Parks.
The Sierra Nevada mountains receive over 95% of their precipitation in snowfall between the months of October to May. This means that the summer months of June through September are typically dry and sunny and provide the most stable summer mountain weather for hiking in the US. The days are normally sun-filled and the evenings clear and plastered with stars, and it’s the ideal season to enjoy the bounty of all of that winter moisture. In early summer, the rivers and streams are raging and Yosemite Valley is alive with the force of some of the world’s tallest waterfalls cascading off the towering cliffs towards the Valley floor. Later into the summer, once the snow has melted, there is a short window available to summit the park’s famous peaks or explore the solitude of the high alpine lakes scattered across the high country. We want to share our three favorite backpacking trips in this crown jewel of America’s National Park System.
Our Top 3 Yosemite Backpacking Trips:
- Clouds Rest to Half DomeThis trip encompasses two iconic peaks in the park and provides some awe-inspiring views of both Yosemite Valley and the surrounding peaks of the Cathedral Range. Starting in the high country at Tenaya Lake, you ascend towards the idyllic Sunrise Lakes prior to passing up and over Clouds Rest. At this lofty summit, you will be looking down on Half Dome with a great perspective of the Cable Route that leads to its summit. From Clouds Rest, you descend to Sunrise Creek where you can make camp and layup for the Half Dome summit the following day. The Cable Route to the top is not for those with a fear of heights but the views are definitely worth the effort. After summiting Half Dome, you will begin your final descent along the edges of the iconic Vernal and Nevada Falls down to the Valley floor. This is a classic Yosemite hike and incorporates some of the park’s most well-known features.
- Red Peak Pass LoopYosemite has one of the National Park system’s largest established trail networks, including over 800 miles of trails. The Red Peak Pass Loop will take you into some of the lesser-visited sections of the park’s alpine wilderness. This is one of Yosemite’s more challenging backpacking trips but provides some of its most stunning scenery as a reward for its difficulty. This trip will take you into the Clark Range and will cross over the highest developed trail in the park as you ascend over Red Peak Pass. From this lofty summit, you will have one of the most amazing perspectives of the park’s landscape and the Sierra Nevada Range. Over these 5 or 6 days of backpacking, you will visit clear mountain streams, meadows, and alpine lakes and enjoy the serenity of the park without the crowds. It’s a truly spectacular trip and well worth the effort to experience this undiscovered section of the park.
- Glen Aulin
This is a perfect option for those looking to experience the beauty of the high country without the strenuous hiking typically required to reach these places. Glen Aulin is the easiest to access High Sierra camp and is an ideal spot to use as a basecamp for exploring the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. You initially pass through the alpine expanses of Tuolumne Meadows before following the river as it begins its descent through a steep-sided canyon. With a camp set up at Glen Aulin, you can spend a few days exploring the various nearby trails. Follow the Tuolumne River downstream for a day: Waterwheel Falls is a cascading waterfall that is a photographer’s dream, as it literally cartwheels off of the edge of the canyon. Spend another day hiking southwest to Polly Dome Lakes or north along the Pacific Crest Trail. Or simply hang out and relax by the river. Though this hike shouldn’t necessarily be considered easy, it is a wonderful introduction to backpacking and experiencing the high country of Yosemite’s National Park.
For more information about multi-day Yosemite backpacking trips, contact Four Season Guides at 1-877-272-5032. Four Season Guides is located in Flagstaff, Arizona and is a 20 Year Old Guide Owned Operation.