An Insight Guide of Yosemite Backpacking

Located in the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is the perfect place to get immersed in the wilderness. It beckons the young and old for Yosemite backpacking trips to explore the abundance of nature. The area has everything from meandering crystal clear river to rushing waterfalls, meadows, remote alpine lakes, to the iconic rock formation, glacier point, and a wide variety of wildlife. There are exciting trails with challenging elevation and solitude.

yosemite backpacking

Planning a Yosemite backpacking trip

You need some planning for a Yosemite backpacking trip. The first is where to go. Yosemite is always busy with backpackers. So, you must get reservations first.

While backpacking in Yosemite you need to spend nights. So, apply for a wilderness permit. This is allotted 24 weeks or 168 in advance by lottery. If you are unable to get a prior reservation, you may try for a first-come, first-served permit on the day before you start your wilderness trip.

Several roads and Yosemite backpacking trails remain closed, for snow, in most of the year. So, collect information about road conditions and closures beforehand. One can also take guidance from the park rangers.

Getting there

Getting into the park is easy. You can reach there, by car, from San Francisco and Sacramento. Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides scheduled bus services to the park.

The best time to visit

Yosemite is a popular destination from May through October. It is best to visit the park in late May, or in September when the crowd is less. June is best to see the amazing beauties of the Waterfalls.

The must-haves

Backpacking at Yosemite will be pleasurable if you carry the things you need. Besides appropriate apparel, get soft, light, and sturdy hiking boots.

Your backpack must have a hat, insect repellent, SPF cream, muscle relief gel, and other first-aid necessities. You must carry a tent or sleeping bag, and cooking arrangements for a self-guided Yosemite backpacking trip. Carrying duct tape, a knife, whistle, flare, or any other signaling arrangement for emergencies are needed.

Some amazing Yosemite backpacking trips

Whether you want to negotiate multiple trails, or looking for a weekend overnighter, Yosemite has something for you. You may try the following 10 backpacking trips.

  1. North Dome

This is a 10.4 miles round trip trail with an elevation gain of 1000 feet. The trailhead is at Porcupine Creek and descends through beautiful pine forests to the North Dome. One can have excellent views of the valley from here.

  1. Glen Aulin

It is a very popular trail covering 12.6 miles. The gain in elevation is only 750 feet. It is on the Pacific Crest Trail and highlights beautiful lakes and waterfalls. One can also enjoy day trips from the camps to the falls and swimming holes.

  1. Young Lakes

This is a moderate trail and suits the beginners. One has to cover 13.6 miles. The elevation gain is 1300 feet. It passes through meadows and forests. While the official destination is the first lake below Ragged Peak, one can informally continue to the second and third lakes for the best views.

  1. Yosemite’s Classic Summits

This Yosemite backpacking trip cuts through the geography of the area covering a distance of 23 miles. It starts at Sunrise Lakes Trailhead at the west end of Tenaya Lake and ends back in Yosemite Valley. You can enjoy the scenic beauty of Clouds Rest, the peak of Half Dome, and the Nevada and Vernal Falls.

  1. Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

This trail needs to cover 33 miles with a gain of 4800 feet. It will take 5 to 6 days to complete. The starting point is Cathedral Lake Trailhead and includes Sunrise Lakes, Cloud’s Rest, Little Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and get an indescribable view of the area.

  1. Tuolumne River Canyon

It is around 30 miles trail with trailhead is at White Wolf.  The trail lets one enjoy the amazing beauty of the sub-alpine meadows, sprawling river, waterfall, and the steep and stunning V-shaped canyon. This is a difficult trail with an elevation gain of 5350 feet. It can be completed with 5 days.


  1. Ireland and Evelyn Lake

This is a 22.2 mills trail with an elevation gain of 2150 feet and rated difficult. Backpackers usually start from Lyell Canyon. They climb through the forest leaving the Canyon at Ireland Creek and returns to Rafferty Creek at the end. You can enjoy views of the peaks and fascinating wildflowers.

  1. High Sierra Camp Loop

The High Sierra Camp loop is a moderate trail of around 48.2 miles. The elevation gain is 6450 feet. It offers many activities and can be used from April to September. It passes through the popular Yosemite’s high country, forests, meadows, and passes.

  1. Glacier Point

When you want to have a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, this is the right spot. This is slightly over 9 miles with a gain of 3200 feet. If weather permits, Glacier point trail opens in winter and the park rangers issue wilderness permits for camping. If you are lucky, you can have the entire area to yourself. The trail is tough with a backpack. But the beauty overweighs everything.

  1. John Muir Trail

Backpacking Yosemite is not complete without exploring this trail. It is a long-distance trail of around 210 miles for serious backpackers. Starting at Happy Isles it passes through the Sierra Nevada, Kings Canyon National Park, Inyo National Forest, and ends at Mount Whitney. One needs 2 to 3 weeks to enjoy the blast of the alpine region.

Current Status

Yosemite National Park is closed starting March 20 to all but residents due to the COVID-19 invasion. However, that does not prevent to use the resources and prepare your bucket list for Yosemite backpacking trips. Keep it ready now to be the first to explore the scenic beauty of the National park when it reopens.

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