Yosemite National Park
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Yosemite offers breathtaking views, long backcountry trips, and world famous climbing.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
Yosemite Climbs: Free Climbs, Climber's Guide to Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite and surrounding topo maps
In summer (from Memorial Day until first snow) take 395 north past Mammoth to 120 West. 120 takes you into the park via Tioga Pass into Toulumne Meadows and the High Country. To reach the valley continue on 120 until it gets to Crane Flat where you can turn left and head into the valley. It takes about 7 hours to reach Toulumne and 8 hours to the valley via 395. When 120 is closed, head up 5 north over the Grapevine. Take 99 when it branches off to Fresno. From Fresno take 41 to Yosemite Valley. It takes about 9 hours to reach The Valley and 10 hours to Toulumne via 99.
Yosemite has enough to offer a lifetime of exploring. Yosemite Valley is the center of all activity. It has the breathtaking views seen in so many posters, but it also has 95% of the tourists. The Valley is best viewed by a day trip from a high country base-camp or by trails to the rim. The High Country (Hwy. 120 between Crane Flat and Tioga Pass) offers less crowds and stunning views. Activities in Yosemite are very dependent on the time of year and weather. The following only some possibilities:
Camping: Reservations for Yosemite must be reserved the instant you know your camping dates, especially if you plan on going during the summer months. Call Mystics at 1-800-365-CAMP to find out when you can first make reservations. Reservations for Yosemite Valley can require several people calling on different phones and a little luck during the peak months. Toulumne Meadows is a little easier. If you can't get reservations don't fear because the park has campgrounds that are first-come, first-serve. Yosemite Valley has several, including Sunnyside (called "Camp 4" by climbers). The high country has even more. The best bet is to hit them midweek or early in the morning. In The Valley people start lining up at the ranger both at sunrise. In the High Country, where payment is not done through a ranger station, the sites are claimed by you. Don't be afraid to ask people when they are leaving so you can grab their site.
Hiking/Backpacking: Yosemite National Park is huge - and the tourists are only in a small part. To best enjoy the park take some long day hikes or go out for an epic Yosemite backpack. Trails fan the high country and are well marked and maintained. If you are good with a map and compass, try hiking across the granite fields and open forests without following a trail. Backpacking requires a wilderness permit and you must know how to safely keep your food away from bears. Cars must be parked at the proper sites. For great views of The Valley without the crowds hike to Clouds Rest or North Dome. Toulumne Meadows is a great starting location for short strolls or epic backpacks. From The Valley many great hikes climb the shear granite walls. Half dome is the most classic hike in Yosemite. Plan to leave early and get back late if you attempt the sixteen mile hike to Half Dome.
Climbing: Yosemite is famous throughout the world as one of the premier big wall locations. El Capitan and Half-Dome are unrivaled. Shorter multipitch routes cover the valley as well. Toulumne has its own guidebook because so many more routes exists in the High Country. Not all of Yosemite's routes are long. One can climb first pitches or shorter one-pitch routes. If attempting your first multi-pitch climbs in Yosemite keep in mind that the ratings are stiff and the climbs are often run-out. Keep an eye on the weather. Pacific storms cause rescues every year.
Biking: Biking is very common in the valley. In fact, it is a quicker way to get around than car often times. Bikes are available for rent in the valley. They provide an enjoyable way to sightsee, but it is not a hard-core riding location. 120 offers a long road through amazing country, but the road is very narrow and RV's often take up the whole pavement, so bikes are not common on 120.
Backcountry travel in Yosemite leaves the hiker in isolated situations. Make sure you have plenty of water and a method of purification. Know how to properly secure food from bears. Always hike with a topo map. Never throw or roll rocks in Yosemite (or anywhere else for that matter) because climbers are likely to be on most cliffs. When climbing watch for rockfall and changing weather. Heat exhaustion and hypothermia can happen at anytime in Yosemite. Powerful pacific storms are common during the fall, winter, and spring, and thunderstorms strike often in the summer.
Edited by (in order): OTL Staff
Last updated: 05/22/2009