The Yosemite Wilderness has over 750 miles of trail to explore with a great range of elevation, ecological zones, and solitude. This backpacking trip, be it your first or fortieth, is a uniquely protected opportunity to provide maximum freedom to roam in Wilderness. So, in planning a trip, it is important to find the right experience for your interests, timeframe, and abilities. A good planning process will enhance your understanding of the park and your safety. Therefore, as part of the wilderness experience, park rangers can provide general guidance but will not plan a wilderness trip for you; you must plan your own trip.
When you have thought about or decided what you want from your trip, you can start planning and researching your hike. A detailed topographic map is a must for any hike. In addition, a good guidebook can help you choose a trip that is right for you. Remember that visiting the wilderness is an adventure: do not be afraid to explore a new area and discover what wonders it has to offer!
Yosemite Trailhead Regions
Most of Yosemite Valley falls within a no-camping zone, so while there are trailheads starting from Yosemite Valley, they all require a hike of at least four miles and a minimum elevation gain of 2,500 feet. Most trails lead to rewarding views from the north or south rim of the Valley, but water can be limited in late summer. This region is the most popular, and most crowded, portion of the park.
Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road East of Olmsted Point
Trails leaving from Tuolumne Meadows require backpackers to hike at least four miles before camping. This mountainous high country has an abundance of peaks, lakes, creeks, rivers, and waterfalls, but temperatures will be significantly cooler than elsewhere in the park. This region is very popular with backpackers during summer, and is correspondingly busy.
Tioga Road West of Olmsted Point
Trails heading south from the western portion of Tioga Road lead to stunning views of the Yosemite Valley. They tend to be longer than trails climbing up from the Valley, but have less elevation gain. The trails that travel to the north of Tioga Road lead to lakes, ridges, peaks, and views.
The immediate area around the reservoir is a no-camping zone, but hiking over six miles will lead to wonderful cascade waterfalls or peaceful lakes. Hetch Hetchy tends to be busiest in the spring and fall because of its low-elevation destinations and warm temperatures. In the summer, it can be very arid and hot.
Wawona and Glacier Point Road
At the southern end of the park, Wawona is a quiet, forested area with trails that lead to waterfalls, lakes, and stunning granite features. In late summer, trails become hot and dry.
Between Yosemite Valley and Wawona is the Glacier Point Road. Trails from this road head north towards the south rim of Yosemite Valley, south towards lakes and granite domes, or east toward the Clark Range.
Last updated: December 8, 2022