Going backcountry in Yosemite

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 24-May 1, 1996
Mountain biking Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
It's no joke: Skiing near San Diego
Going backcountry in Yosemite
Outfitter options for Baja, Mexico
Chicago-area recreation getaways
Day hikes near Vancouver, B.C.

Going backcountry in Yosemite
Question: I have an internship in San Francisco this summer and have always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park. Do you have any suggestions for a good weekend backpacking trip there? Thanks.

Justin Knowles
Durham, NC
[email protected]

Leave Yosemite Valley to the tourists.
Head for the backcountry hikes.

Adventure Adviser: A vast tract of wilderness roughly the size of Rhode Island, California's Yosemite boasts a mind-bogglingly large number of multiday backcountry hikes to choose from. The key is to pick one that takes you as far from the seven-mile-long Yosemite Valley and its throngs of Bermuda-shorts-wearing, RV-driving masses as possible.

With that in mind, consider a 14.5-mile loop hike to Young Lakes, an isolated cluster of lakes north of Tuolumne Meadows that fronts the scenic Ragged Peak Crest. Pick up the Glen Aulin trailhead at the Lembert Dome parking area west of Highway 120. While this initial stretch is a virtual hiker highway from the Meadows to the High Sierra Camp down the Tuolumne River, once you veer right onto the Young Lakes trail, just beyond the Delaney Creek crossing, things should quiet down a bit. From there, the route climbs slightly and crosses a broad expanse of boulder-strewn, glaciated sheet granite, with great views south across the Meadows to the Cathedral Range. Continue your slog across Dingley Creek, up through a pine forest to ridgetop vista of Matterhorn Peak and other snowcapped mountains to the north. Keep trekking to the several primitive campsites on the north shore of lower Young Lake or hike up to either middle and upper Young Lakes, both of which are only a short hop away.

The next day, retrace your steps about two miles to a left turn at the Dog Lake trail junction, a route that will take you along the southwest shoulder of Ragged Peak and then back down to an immense wildflower meadow, across Delaney Creek once again, and back toward Tuolumne Meadows and your car at Lembert Dome. Before you go, you'll need to pick up a backcountry permit (there are quotas), which you can reserve by mail between February 1 and May 31 (Wilderness Permits, Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389). If you miss the deadline, just show up at any backcountry office at least an hour before it opens on the day you want to camp and you may get lucky and snag one of the first-come, first-served permits.

For more information, refer to the official visitor guidebook for Yosemite, call park headquarters at 209-372-0200, and pick up a copy of Jeffrey P. Schaffer's almost painfully thorough guidebook, Yosemite National Park: A Natural History Guide to Yosemite and its Trails (The Wilderness Press, $9).

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Got Wanderlust?

Escape your daily grind with Outside’s best getaways.

Thank you!