It’s sad but true that just about everybody nowadays has a full-time job that only allows for a certain amount of vacation time, an amount that unfortunately never seems to be enough for the real vacation we would like to take. Personally, I was raised while traveling around the country to various national parks, but one I had never gotten the chance to visit is Yosemite National Park. Having a love for backcountry hiking and wilderness photography I naturally wanted to visit as many as the well-known sites (Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, etc) that Yosemite has to offer, but I also wanted to hike up some of the most remote mountains as well. Having a very limited amount of time in such an immense park is the very reason I created this backpacking plan.
The following schedule requires quite a fast-passed timeframe. Many of the hikes involved are quite long and require a number of periodic breaks in order to catch one’s breath, so make sure you start your day as soon as possible. Also, this itinerary requires wilderness permits in order to camp in two of the High Sierra Camps (the most popular camping sites in all of Yosemite). Take it from one who knows, plan your trip up to a year in advance, choose your trailhead, and call the wilderness lodge the minute the phone lines open to sell the permits—they sell out extremely quick.
Day 1 –
- Arrive in Yosemite Valley (as early as possible).
- Pick up wilderness permits at wilderness lodge (as early as possible) *This line can be very long. If it is, depending on the time, consider picking up your permits after your first hike at Tuolumne Meadows.
- Hike Yosemite Falls Trail (7.6mi) – Very steep but worth the climb.
- Drive along highway 120 to Tuolumne Meadows.
- Pick of wilderness permits at the wilderness lodge if you didn’t in Yosemite Valley.
- Set up camp at Tuolumne Meadows wilderness campground, have dinner, and go to bed, after all, you’re probably beat from the Falls climb.
Day 2 –
- Wake up early and grab a shuttle to the May Lake (the first of the High Sierra Camps) trail head. The necessity of the shuttle ride is a slight disappointment, but necessary because of the sheer size of Yosemite Nat’l Park.
- Hike to May Lake High Sierra Camp 2.5mi – Generally easy.
- Set up camp along the lake.
- Climb Mount Hoffman- 10,850ft which is steep but walk able and is located in the very center of the park, offering amazing panoramic views.
- Hike back down, relax in the sun, eat dinner and go to bed, tomorrow is going to be a long day.
Day 3 –
- Wake early to hike back in order to get the first possible shuttle back to Tuolumne Meadows.
- From Tuolumne Meadows head to the Rafferty Creek Trailhead and begin the hike to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp– 7.6mi *This hike is quite strenuous and requires time for many short breaks. Allow 5 – 6 hours for this one.
- Set up camp and explore the multitude of high sierra lakes nearby, but don’t wander too far, after all you are already exhausted from the hike to get there.
- Go to sleep early.
Day 4 –
- Eat a large breakfast and head out with day packs toward Vogelsang Peak. This peak (11,515ft) looks quite formidable unless you go around the mountain the long way, but with a few bouldering skills you can make it up the face of the mountain that would be facing your campsite.
- Head down the slopped side of Vogelsang Peak and directly back up Fletcher Peak (11,408 ft). This peak offers spectacular views of the mountains, and access to one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.
- Head down the back side of Fletcher Peak to Townsley Lake, again requiring some bouldering skills to get down, and relax for a while—this is one of the most pristine places you will ever see.
- Follow the lake around to Fletcher Lake and continue around to arrive back at your campsite. You’ve now completed a giant loop containing two 11,000+ summits!
- You’ll fall asleep as soon as you lay down.
Day 5 –
- Hike back to Tuolumne Meadows– 7.6mi
- Pick up your cars at the Wilderness Station and your Yosemite wilderness trip is over.
What to do if you encounter a bear –
While hiking through Yosemite National Park you are hiking through bear country. You will need bear canisters to keep all of your food and anything else with a scent in. Always try to do your cooking away from the place you will be sleeping, and before the sun starts to go down – I made this mistake at the Tuolumne Meadows campsite and was greeted by a large black bear halfway through dinner! If you do encounter a bear do not run. In stead, and only if there bear is near you and has noticed you, you should jump up and start yelling as loud as possible while making yourself as tall as physically possible. If this is done, most of the time the bear will run off immediately. Remember, they are afraid of you as well.
A tip for anyone planning a trip in August –
Plan your trip so that you are camping at Vogelsang for the nights of August 12th and 13th. The Perseids meteor shower is usually around this time of year and looks incredible on a clear night from 10,000 ft in the mountains!
Here are a few photos from this trip: