Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains have some of the best hiking and backpacking in the World.
Yosemite alone have over 800 miles of marked and maintained trails for hiking and backpacking.
You can find everything from easy 10-minute walks to challenging multi-day treks.
The Yosemite Valley floor is criss-crossed with easy, level trails through grassy meadows. Steep ascending trails lead up from the Valley onto the peaks above. Everywhere in the high-country there are hiking and backpacking routes where you may not see any trace that humans exist except perhaps for a vapor trail from a high-flying jet.
You will find peaks up to 13,000 feet, lush meadows and cold glacial lakes. You can find them all here.
Before you leave just be sure you’ve checked that you are in shape for the trip, know where you’re going and know what weather and natural dangers you might have to face.
Because most of the high-country is over 8,000 feet there will be deep snow covering the trails most of the year and the highest trails will often be inaccessible until late July. Always check with the Yosemite Wilderness Centers before you set out.
Right after the snow melts in the spring is often not a good time to go due to mosquitoes. The first snow can hit as early as late October but most often in mid-November.
July and August are usually the prime months for hiking and backpacking but waiting until September you will see far fewer other hikers. The temperature at night in September can also get especially frigid although expect nights to be cold at any time of year.
You may experience a rare thundershower but most days will be gloriously clear and dry and at night the stars are spectacular due to the thinner air at this altitude and the remoteness from any man-made lighting.
Day hikers can go anywhere they like unless posted for no entry. Backpackers however must obtain a permit to sleep overnight in the wilderness. Smart hikers and backpackers will equip themselves with detailed topographic maps. National Geographic sell an especially good map for backpacking called Trails Illustrated.
Some Basic Hiking and Backpacking Rules To Follow
- Everything you bring in must be carried out with the exception of human waste which must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep and 100 feet away from any water supply. Toilet paper must be carried out.
- Mules, horses and all pack animals have the right-of-way.
- Pets and bicycles are only allowed in developed areas on paved roads. Your best bet is to leave the dog home when you go to Yosemite for hiking and backpacking. If he gets loose and even chases a chipmunk you will be in for a serious reprimand and possible a serious fine if a ranger sees it.
- Carry and drink lots of water. The water in the mountain lakes and streams looks so clear and pure but often contains the bacteria Girardia which can cause very serious abdominal distress. If you must drink it then you need to bring appropriate purification supplies.
- The sun’s rays are especially harmful at this altitude and can cause serious sunburns in minutes to hours on skin not protected with generous UV protection.
Wilderness Permits for Hiking and Backpacking
Permits are only required for backpackers wishing to sleep out over night. Permits are not required from November through April but a sanity check might be appropriate if you are planning on heading out for a long backpack in those months.
There can be a problem getting a wilderness permit, especially in the popular months of July and August.