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10 Incredible Backpacking Trips in Yosemite National Park

Find a piece of the park to call your own for the night.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Don't get us a wrong, a day hanging in Yosemite Valley, cruising Tioga Road, or going on any of the amazing day hikes throughout the park is a day well spent. Sometimes, though, putting in the extra effort of getting wilderness permits, loading up a 40lb pack, and hiking into the wilderness pays off tenfold. You'll find idyllic campsites at all these spots, whether it's a quick 4 mile hike in or you plan to spend several days covering 20+ miles. Whatever you're feeling for your backpacking adventure in Yosemite, you really can't go wrong. Check out 10 of our favorite backpacking trips in the park and prepare for a night (or two or three) in the wild. 

1. Backpack Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest

Photo: Nathaniel Polta

Distance: 18.93 miles
Elevation: 1775 ft
Type: Loop

Spend the night overlooking unreal views of a vast mountainous landscape and awaken to the most beautiful sunrise at Cloud's Rest. Though this is a longer trek with some stream hopping along the way, the sights at the summit overlooking Little Valley Fire, Half Dome, and the surrounding valley are truly unmatched. There is less traffic here compared to other trails in the area. Be sure to secure your wilderness permit first.

2. Backpack 10 Lakes Basin

Photo: Kyle Frost

Distance: 13.38 miles
Elevation: 2200 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Check out this peaceful and remote adventure for peak lake camping and views of the high Sierras. There are plenty of ideal campsites around the lakes on this adventure. Kick back and relax, reinvigorate your body by going for a cold water swim, and warm up with a campfire at night. Be on the lookout for a short side trail that leads to a vista overlooking panoramic views of the basin and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

3. Backpack the Snow Creek Trail

Photo: R. Adam Prieto

Distance: 20.43 miles
Elevation: 2700 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This adventure will reward you with stellar views of Half Dome and Basket Dome. Stay the night at the campground closest to the Half Dome overlook. Night photographers will marvel at the chance to capture the starry night sky with big slabs of rock in the background. Take a dip in the freezing cold waters if you dare! Note that wilderness permits are required for camping in Yosemite. Check in with wilderness stations to learn more about the trail conditions and bear reports.

4. Backpack to Little Yosemite Valley Campsite and Hike Half Dome

Photo: Eddie Jo

Distance: 13.88 miles
Elevation: 4800 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Stay overnight at a campsite with easy access to Half Dome. Spots are first-come first-served among the trees and by Sunrise Creek. It’s also just a couple minute walk from the Merced River. There are two large communal campfire rings and a compost toilet for campsite visitors to use. Watch for two waterfalls (Vernal and Nevada Falls) along the way. Wake up really early to hike to the top of Half Dome to experience a sunrise you’ll likely never forget. Please note that this is a demanding hike. It’s well worth it, but make sure you feel confident in your abilities and endurance before embarking.

5. Backpack Cathedral Lakes

Photo: Addison Klinke

Distance: 9.04 miles
Elevation: 1100 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Bask in peace and solitude on this stunning backcountry adventure that boasts views of Cathedral Peak, green meadows, and an alpine lake. Before reaching the alpine lakes surrounded by lush green fields, you’ll trek through pine trees and large granite boulders. Sunrises and sunsets here are spectacular and photographers will enjoy capturing the mountain’s reflection off the lake water. 

6. Backpack Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

Photo: Kevin Abernethy

Distance: 30.82 miles
Elevation: 6109 ft
Type: Point-to-point

A multi-day adventure, you’ll have the chance to take in insane views for days. This adventure will take you past several iconic Yosemite landmarks with amazing scenery at every turn of your head, which definitely helps when you’re feeling tired or strained from a long day of hiking. Seize every opportunity to soak in the sky, mountain peaks, glassy waters, and forests while taking on this longer trek.

7. Backpack to Young Lakes

Photo: Kyle Frost

Distance: 14.14 miles
Elevation: 1700 ft
Type: Out-and-back

The hike to Young Lakes in the gorgeous Tuolumne Meadows backcountry will gift you incredible mountain views on your way to Lower, Middle, and Upper Young Lakes. Parts of this hike are steep, but the campsites here are breathtaking and will offer you a fantastic place to rest and recover while enjoying the sunset/sunrise. Dunk in one or more of the cold alpine lakes to feel newly refreshed after pushing your body on this hike.

8. Backpack to Clouds Rest from Glacier Point

Photo: Austin Trigg

Distance: 23.85 miles
Elevation: 6942 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Adventure to the highest point in the Valley, which means stellar views all around! On your way, you’ll pass by Illilouette and Nevada Falls. Though grueling at certain points, the scenery will make up for it. The final ~0.2 miles is a stone staircase to the summit– keep pushing forward! There are places to camp with fire rings below the summit if you’d like to spend a night or two. Drink lots of water and pack plenty of snacks to keep you hydrated and energized throughout this longer trek.

9. Backpack to Boothe Lake

Photo: Kevin Abernethy

Distance: 16.6 miles
Elevation: 1400 ft
Type: Out-and-back

For a worthwhile lake adventure, head to Boothe Lake for a day of relaxing, swimming, and cliff jumping (be cautious of lake water levels first). Visiting in the summer will treat you with gorgeous wildflowers and abundant water. If you want to stay the night, there are several camping options around the lake, but remember to follow proper rules and regulations including leave no trace rules. 

10. Backpack to Dewey Point

Photo: Miranda LeConte

Distance: 7.51 miles
Elevation: 300 ft
Type: Out-and-back

This is an ideal adventure for backpackers and those with an interest in rock climbing. While on this hike, you can watch as rock climbers scale El Capitan’s Dawn Wall– an incredible feat! Aside from impressively massive rock faces, you’ll trek among red fir forests, small aspen groves, wildflowers, and babbling brooks. Watch for bears and follow camping rules and regulations if you plan to stay the night to experience waking up to a magnificent sunrise against the Dawn Wall that will be hard to beat elsewhere.

Cover photo: Addison Klinke

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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