Backpacking in Yosemite National Park is one of the most adrenaline-charged experiences you will encounter. The Yosemite National Park has a series of waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and wild animals to see and enjoy. It is quite a popular venue for tourists all year round. So, you have to make reservations if you’d like to hike or camp in the area before going there; otherwise, you may end up getting disappointed. However, if you do not get a reservation, ensure you get to the park as early as possible as the management admits tourists on a first-come-first-served basis.
Here are a few basics you should know about the Yosemite National Park reservations:
- If you intend on going backpacking, you are required to have a permit that is issued for use throughout the year.
- If you intend on going for a day hike, you are NOT required to have a permit to access the park.
The trails are very popular, and they require reservations that cost $5 per person. The way the management has arranged it is that 40% of the reservations are put aside for those visitors who are coming on an ad-hoc basis. These reservations should be made after 11 am prior to your hiking adventure. The remaining 60% is reserved for those visitors who make reservations before coming to the park.
Yosemite Hikes At The Half Dome
Half Dome is a natural dome made of granite that stands majestically on the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. It is one of the most memorable landmarks of the park due to its outstanding unique shape. It is also one of the most popular Yosemite hiking trails. There are two ways to hike the Half Dome. The first one requires that you go around the 17-mile route that takes the valley floor and cable route. The second hike requires you to go up vertically to the top of the dome.
Hiking to the Half Dome has become enormously popular that visitors presently have to gain access through a lottery process. You should consider starting your hike to the dome as early as possible as it is a strenuous and daunting hike. For your convenience, the shuttle buses also start running at 7 am. Once you get to the top of the dome, you will enjoy spectacular views of the Yosemite wilderness.
Be extra cautious to have the right hiking shoes on. In case the weather changes, tread carefully along the slippery steps. Every so often you may also encounter many people trying to access the top, which means you have to wait a while to get back down.
Nevada & Vernal Falls
As you trek through the trails, you will see the Nevada and the Vernal waterfalls. Trekking to Vernal is quite exhausting but it is a worthwhile hike as the payoff is a spectacular view of the waterfall. Be sure to have on proper hiking shoes as the trek is slippery, owing to the water that sprinkles from the waterfall. It takes around 5 to 6 hours to hike the Nevada Falls. It is exhausting, so you have to come prepared with proper shoes as the terrain is very uneven. Also, carry enough water to stay hydrated. The area is cold throughout, which makes it an ideal condition to hike through. However, the trail is closed during the winter season. Take precautions while hiking these trails.
One of the things you need to avoid is swimming or walking across the river. Moreover, avoid walking at the edge of the river. Always stay on the trail that has been designated for that route. The best time to hike these trails is in early summer and late spring.
When you arrive at the Vernal Falls and would like to proceed on to the Half Dome, before starting on the trail, there are amenities at the entrance. Here, you can refill your water bottles and use the washroom. Note that this is the last area you will have access to toilets and drinking water before reaching Half Dome.
Along this trail is an Art and Nature Center that has a collection of exhibits. It also provides art classes which start in April and end in October. There are also a series of signboards along the trail that gives information about the rocks and their affinity to fall around that area.
John Muir Trail
The John Muir Trail, otherwise known as JMT, is a very long, difficult, and strenuous trail that takes about 3 weeks to trek. You will additionally require a wilderness permit to trek this trail. Obtaining this permit is extremely competitive as the trail is very popular among hikers. It starts from the Yosemite National Park and goes all the way to Mount Valley, which is way past Yosemite National Park. The trail passes through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park. As you can see, it is an exceptionally long trail and requires a great deal of planning to trek it.
Plan adequately for this trail. Additionally, add an extra day or two on your itinerary. It is more prudent to extend the number of days. Prepare your itinerary in good time so that you can make the most out of the Yosemite wilderness. Prepare a gear list and make sure you have everything in check before leaving. Furthermore, ensure that your luggage is as light as possible.
The John Muir Trail gives you a different perspective of the Yosemite National Park, and the trek to it is much longer than Mist Trail. For the adventurous hiker, this trail can get monotonous as there is not much to explore.
Mirror Lake Trail
This is one of the easy Yosemite hiking trails for a backpacker. There is a shuttle available and the trail starts at a place known as shuttle stop 1. The first part of the trail is on a service-paved road. From there, you can get to the loop of the trail. The northern part of the trail can be accessed throughout the year.
The southern side of the loop trail has very few natural barricades to support hikers. The lack of support makes it easy for you to slip and fall. During winter, the southern side remains covered in snow as compared to the northern side. While trekking in this region, avoid deviating from the trail as a way of looking for shortcuts to avoid going through the entire loop.
The river crossing looks shallow, but it quickly gets deep and you can easily get swept away by the water. In most cases, hikers have been trapped in between rocks. Be very cautious, because while the trail may look simple, a lot of areas here are accident prone.
Happy Isles Trail
Just as the name suggests, this is a happy and simple trail along a river. The trail, apart from trekking beside a river, offers no spectacular natural attraction. The Happy Isles starts at the shuttle stop named after it. It is equally the beginning of the longer and more strenuous hiking trails of John Muir and is also the route that leads to Half Dome and the Mist Trail.
The Mist Trail
The Mist Trail is an all-around hike that takes roughly three hours. If you have enough energy, you can go up to Nevada fall. Alternatively, you can change your direction and go up to the John Muir Trail. This hike begins from the Happy Isles trail then goes past the Vernal Fall and goes up to the Nevada Fall while passing a pool called Emerald Pool.
The place is surrounded by a mist that earned its name. During the summer months when trekking along this trail, the mist keeps you cool and hydrated. During the winter season, the mist gets you wet, and therefore, you have to consider carrying a raincoat to stay dry.
This trail is normally inaccessible to the public during the winter season. You can, however, get inside through the John Muir Trail, which in most cases is very snowy during the winter season. It will take you about 2 to 5 hours to trek this trail. The John Muir Trail and Half Dome trail are considered to be one of the most challenging trails, the Nevada Fall, Vernal Fall, and Mist Trails are considered to be moderate trails, while the Happy Isles Trail is considered to be one of the easiest trails. For the Happy Isles Trail, you may consider doing a day hike. As for the more strenuous trails, they require a well-thought-out itinerary and plan, because they take a more prolonged period to cover.
Consider packing lightweight gear for the more challenging hiking trails. Avoid weekend trails as they, most of the time, get jam-packed with hikers and there are lots of traffic. The Yosemite National Park has many other trails and natural attractions not mentioned here. We picked these as some of the popular ones. We hope that these backpacking trails will inspire you for your upcoming hiking trip to Yosemite National Park.