11 Amazing Backpacking Trips in Yosemite National Park

Escape the crowds and immerse yourself in Yosemite National Park!

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

In Yosemite, you can see some of America’s most impressive scenery without stepping foot out of your car. That said, you’ll be sharing the view with thousands of other people and the line of cars ahead doesn’t exactly satisfy the need for wide open space and fresh mountain air. Of course, there is a solution: head into the backcountry.

A few days of nothing but hiking, camping, and immersing yourself in the Yosemite wilderness is the ultimate getaway. Whether you want to spend a week linking up multiple trails or just have time for a quick weekend overnighter, Yosemite has options for everyone. Check out some of our favorite backpacking trips in the park and get out there!

Important Notes:

Please check online to secure camping and hiking reservations and permits ahead of time so you won't miss out on the opportunity to explore Yosemite to the fullest. 

As of March 4, 2024 Tioga Road and Glacier Point are closed for the winter due to snow. They usually reopen in late spring or early summer. Check here for further updates.

1. Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest

The sun shines on massive stone mountains giving them a greenish gold hue.
Photo by Nathaniel Polta

Distance: 18.93 miles
Elevation: 1775 ft
Type: Loop

This adventure will not leave you yearning for better views as you take in the beauty of Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley from Clouds Rest. The trek to Sunrise Lakes is truly in the High Sierra backcountry and typically has less traffic compared to other popular Yosemite hikes, though you may find some people camping near the lake. Be sure to secure the proper permits if you plan to backpack and stay overnight. There’s an option to extend this adventure by choosing to summit the nearby Half Dome.

2. 10 Lakes Basin

A person stands on the side of a mountain looking down toward an alpine lake.
Photo by Kyle Frost

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

The trip to Ten Lakes offers stunning lake camping and High Sierra vistas. The start of the trek is uphill, which will likely make you break a sweat, but is followed by a downhill stretch into the lake basin. There are several campsites at the lakes to choose from. Take a dip in the chilly, yet refreshing waters. Catch the sunrise from a ridgeline, and check out one of the short side trails that offer incredible views of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

3. Glen Aulin

This nighttime image features a small waterfall coming out of a rock face. Tall, skinny pine trees dot the rocks, and the sky is purple and black and full of stars.
Photo by Alex Souza

Distance: 12.19 miles
Elevation: 600 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Visiting Glen Aulin is a great waterfall adventure for those seeking excellent photo opportunities and a chance to cool off in a swimming hole in the hot summer months. In addition to Glen Aulin Falls, the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp (typically open June-September), which is situated along the Tuolumne River, has drinkable water close by. There’s also an 80 foot waterfall called White Cascade right at the edge of camp. Plan to stay overnight and relax with a perfect view of the sunset.

4. Snow Creek Trail

A person is standing on a large boulder overlooking mountains in the distance. There are evergreen trees surrounding the boulder.
Photo by R. Adam Prieto

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

This trail is not a quick walk in the park, but the views of Half Dome and Basket Dome are well worth your efforts. Plan to backcountry camp overnight to split up your trip, extend your time staring out at Half Dome from your tent, and for the opportunity to take advantage of incredible night photography. You can also swim on this adventure in cold water that’s sure to re-energize and reawaken your body after a big day of hiking!

5. Little Yosemite Valley and Hike Half Dome

Massive mountains cover the landscape. Two people are on top of a rocky cliff at the top right.
Photo by Eddie Jo

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

This adventure takes you to a campsite with direct access to Half Dome. Along the way, enjoy two waterfalls – Vernal and Nevada Falls. Continue following along Merced River before reaching the backpackers campgrounds in Little Yosemite Valley (check for re-openings after the winter season). The Little Yosemite Valley Campground has large communal campfire rings and a compost toilet. If you plan to hike Half Dome, which is no easy feat, come prepared with proper shoes to climb nearly vertically with the use of two parallel cables installed into the rock. Bring gloves or borrow from a pile left at the base. Hike Half Dome as early as you can to avoid crowds and experience a sunrise like no other.

6. Cathedral Lakes

A calm lake reflects a pointy mountain peak and trees along the shoreline.
Photo by Addison Klinke

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

Check out this adventure for an opportunity to view a majestic natural rock formation called Cathedral Peak that towers roughly 10,900 feet tall. On your way, you'll see high alpine lakes and can take your time exploring lush green meadows and High Sierra forests of pine trees and large granite boulders. Though you can stop at the first lake, keep pushing forward to arrive at Upper Cathedral Lake for even better views of Cathedral Peak. Sunrises and sunsets in this area are breathtaking.

7. Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley

A rock face covers the bottom half of this photo horizontally. In the distance, there are more rocky mountains and the sun is rising or setting, making the sky red, orange, yellow, and blue. There is an evergreen tree at the bottom right.
Photo by Kevin Abernethy

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

This is a longer outing, but one that offers well-marked trails and unbeatable views as you’ll get the chance to see noteworthy Yosemite landmarks on your way. While in Yosemite Valley, take the time to check out Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. Though frequently visited, they are known to be popular attractions for a reason. Plan your stopping points/campgrounds ahead of time as this is a multi-day trip that can be completed in 3-6 days, depending on your speed, experience, and time spent admiring each site.

8. Young Lakes

A calm lake reflects mountains and trees surrounding it.
Photo by Kyle Frost

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

Take a beautiful backcountry hike to Young Lakes in Tuolumne Meadows. Strap on a backpack and plan to stay overnight because there are great campsites to choose. Here, you can set up to watch the sunset and sunrise over Ragged Peak and Mount Conness. While en route, you'll pass alpine meadows and indulge in scenic mountainous views throughout. You’ll encounter Lower and Middle Young Lakes, but consider heading on to Upper Young Lake for the best views.

9. Vogelsang and Merced Lake High Sierra Camps

A tranquil lake reflects the cloud-dotted sky, a rocky mountain, and trees on the shoreline.
Photo by Julie & Brian

Distance: 27.07 miles
Elevation: 4596 ft
Type: Point-to-point

This adventure is perfect for an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys being in remote mountain terrain by alpine lakes, but also wants the luxury of camping amenities like a canvas tent, a cot to sleep in, and provided meals–  an unforgettable glamping experience! The High Sierra Camps, nestled in the remote Yosemite high country, are spaced out roughly 5-10 miles apart. Note that visitors must make reservations for the High Sierra Camps through a lottery system.

10. Dewey Point from Tunnel View

A person in a pink long-sleeve top, black pants, and a beanie hat is sitting on the edge of a rounded rocky mountainside. The sun is just starting to rise above or dip below the horizon.
Photo by Jonathon Reed

Distance: 9.25 miles
Elevation: 2979 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Watch a gorgeous sunset above a sequoia forest while spending a night on Yosemite’s South Rim. At Dewey Point, you’ll be right across the valley from the majestic El Capitan. Insider’s note: Dewey is an ideal camping spot since there’s an abundance of dry wood for making campfires to sit around with friends at night! Please ensure you are mindful of others and your environment beforehand and follow proper rules and regulations for bonfires and stove use.

11. Buena Vista Lake

A person wearing a large capacity hiking backpack is holding trekking poles and standing on a small rock in a lake. The lake is surrounded by pine trees and there is a mountain in the distance.
Photo by Austin Trigg

Distance: 24.64 miles
Elevation: 5453 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Located on the south side of Yosemite, this area is generally less populated and has awe-inspiring views of the South Valley Rim and dispersed alpine lakes. With sights of Buena Vista Peak, the backside of Half Dome, and Clouds Rest, there’s no shortage of prime scenery. After securing an overnight camping permit, set out to Chilnualna Falls and enjoy views of Wawona Dome on your way. Continue onward to Buena Vista Lake and ascend Buena Vista Peak to catch a killer sunset. 

Prepare for your Yosemite trip by downloading the Outbound app and checking out offline trail maps to make sure you're headed in the right direction regardless of cell service.

Learn 5 Things you don't know about Yosemite National Park before you go!

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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