Planning Your Yosemite Backpacking Trip
Yosemite has 1,100 square miles of designated wilderness (about 94% of the park), making it the perfect destination for your next backpacking trip. To avoid the crowds in the Valley, try going to the High Country in Tuolumne or to Wawona. Don’t forget to drive slow for bears!
Hiking Half Dome
Of course, the most coveted backpacking permit is the Half Dome Permit. The quota is now only 75 permit are available every day for backpackers, 50 are reserved by lottery and 25 are offered first-come first-served, one day in advance. Some People hike to the top of Half Dome and back in one extremely long day. Instead, we find that a Half Dome summit is much more rewarding when backpacking.
More Yosemite Backpacking Routes
Don’t let the permitting system scare you out of your Yosemite backpacking trip. Half Dome permits are hard to get, but there are many more backcountry options as well. You can send in a wilderness permit reservation request here, as far in advance as 24 weeks before your trip. All permits are awarded by lottery. Yosemite backpacking permits are limited by the trailhead you begin your trip at, not the backcountry campsite you stay in. If your lottery request is denied for one trailhead, try a different one nearby.
Here are some of our favorite Yosemite backcountry places to camp:
- Cathedral Lakes
- Elizabeth Lakes
- The Cathedral Range
- Young Lakes
- Chilnualna Falls
- Dewey Point
- Ten Lakes
- Merced Lake
There is always a backcountry trail with permits available somewhere. If you’re flexible, arrive at the Wilderness Office on 11am the day before you would like to begin your hike, and ask what’s available. Start with something like “Hello! I’d like to spend two nights out near Matthes Lake starting tomorrow. What’s available?” The ranger might have some options for your preference but, if not, will almost certainly have some alternative routes or available destinations to suggest. They know the best hikes in Yosemite.