Planning a Backpacking Trip to Yosemite? Here Is Everything You Need To Know

Planning a Backpacking Trip to Yosemite

If you’re looking for an adventure right here in the US that can end up feeling like you’re in a secluded haven I have one word – Yosemite.

You’ve probably heard about Yosemite National Park, most people have. But how much do you really know about this National Park, and are you ready for an adventure?

Planning a backpacking trip to Yosemite is pretty straightforward. That’s the good news. I will tell you everything you need to know to head off with your backpack prepped and a bunch of ideas what to do and where to go when you get to Yosemite.

Planning a Backpacking Trip to Yosemite

There are three key things to consider:

  • How long you intend to hike/backpack for
  • Where to go/what to do in Yosemite
  • What to take with you in your backpack

I can give you a brief overview of each so you don’t forget the essentials or miss any of the must-see landmarks and views:

How Long to Camp For?

First things first, make sure you’re aware of all the camping rules at Yosemite, which you can find here.

You can go just for the day, I do know some people who have done this. But in my opinion, it’s just not long enough.

You will spend half of your time traveling to a destination, just to spend the other half of the day going back.

If you have access to a vehicle or the help of a guide then the ideal amount of days are three in my opinion.

In three days you can see most of what Yosemite has to offer, anything less and I think you might leave wanting more.

What to Pack for Yosemite?

You’ll need all of the backpacking/hiking essentials that you’d pack for any camping trip. So, the basics are:

  • Appropriate clothing for the forecast weather
  • Good footwear for rough terrains
  • Camping stove and food
  • Plenty of fresh water
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Lights
  • First aid kit
  • Campfire supplies

There are camping areas and stores to pick up anything you may have forgotten, so don’t stress too much if you leave home and have that sinking feeling that you’ve left something behind.

There will also be plenty of other campers if you’re staying on one of the designated sites, so you’ll make some friends and might find some help if needed.

Where to Go in Yosemite?

yosemite waterfalls

If you’re visiting for the first time I recommend booking a tour or having a guide show you some of the areas to visit. At the very least pick up a map and guide so you can’t get lost or not know what to do next.

To get you started, check out Wawona where you’ll find the historic Big Trees Lodge, Mariposa Grove has hundreds of Giant Sequoias which is quite the sight, and Tuolumne Meadows is a large open meadow with a sweeping lake and all kinds of wildlife.

What and Where Is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is a huge park spanning across parts of several counties in Northern California. It covers a massive 750k acres and is a popular destination for hikers.

It’s a beautiful park to hike, with waterfalls, cliffs, streams, greenery, some interesting animals and insects, and plenty of hidden areas to discover.

There are over 800 miles of trails for hikers to follow. You can take an easy stroll, or hit some steep climbs and rough terrains, there is something for hikers of all experience levels.

Most people make at least an overnight trip. Five days or so is also a popular choice as there is more than enough to see and do.

Why Is Yosemite a National Park?

Yosemite became a National Park back in 1890. An environmentalist called John Muir headed up the campaign for it to become a National Park to help protect and maintain the area.

The gold rush was bringing in a lot of people and disruption. There were also animals chewing up the land and some other causes of disruption.

Becoming a National Park meant the government can step in and protect the area. It’s a good thing this happened as we get to enjoy this beautiful landscape today.

Yosemite Backpacking Permit Information

You’re right to check if you need a permit to hike or stay overnight in the Yosemite National Park.

You can pick up a free permit by visiting the National Park Service page. They are available all year round and required for overnight stays in the park.

There are some charges for certain permits depending on what exactly you want to do in the park, but you’ll find all the information you need on the page linked above.

Yosemite Trailhead Availability Information

Trailheads are the points where trails begin. There are several trailheads around Yosemite and hikes are planned throughout the year.

You can always find an up-to-date list of trailheads throughout the seasons by visiting this page.

This is certainly something worth doing so I recommend checking out the availability of dates that work with you. Don’t forget to book as far ahead of time too as they can fill up quickly.

Yosemite Slang Meaning

An interesting little bit of information behind the word Yosemite. The word refers to the Indian tribe that lived in the area of the Yosemite Valley.

Depending on which article you read and believe, the word Yosemite means something along the lines of, ‘those who kill.’

Pretty fearsome for a tribe that lived in and protected their land in Yosemite. As history is written the tribe was made up from rogues from several other tribes and they didn’t take nicely to those who crossed their lands unwelcomed.

Yosemite Wawona Hiking Map

This map of the Wawona area gives you an idea of the sheer size and amount of hiking and adventure that lays ahead of you: (click to enlarge)

Yosemite Wawona Hiking Map


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