Yosemite is iconic to both the hardcore climber, the once a year hiker and everyone in between. There is something for everyone in Yosemite. You can drive the valley floor and get views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls without ever leaving your car. In the summer you will probably pass a tractor ride full of tourists taking in the scenery while a ranger educates its occupants on the many formations and some of the history the valley holds. While a stop through Yosemite Valley is a must, remember that this park is the size of Rhode Island and the ability to get off the grid and away from the crowds is just up the road.
Tuolumne Meadows is well known amongst the California backpacking community. The world famous John Muir trail runs through this area, giving this place a sense of magic from the moment you enter. When you hit the market in Tuolumne you really get a sense that you are in a different part of the park. Long-term hikers pick up packages that have been shipped to them here. Climbers gather around after long days on Matthes Crest or Cathedral Peak. And if you are a backpacker, you realize that this is the place you have been looking for.
Sitting at 8,600 feet, Tuolumne Meadows has more of an alpine feel than other parts of Yosemite. Crisp mornings and spontaneous weather is the norm in this area. White granite domes and knife-edge ridges litter the landscape here and lunch at an alpine lake is a go-to. With miles of trail, the lack of crowds and your adventurous spirit, Tuolumne will keep you coming back time and time again.
Three need to knows:
Get a backcountry permit – Although there are campgrounds off the road here, exploring the backcountry sites are really what this area is all about. Hit the ranger station and they will point you in the right direction. Don’t get caught without a permit or you can expect a fine. There are plenty of trails to choose from but for starters check out Cathedral Lakes!
Bear Canister – Beware of bears in the backcountry. They are around and are used to the tourists bringing food. At night make sure to store food and any other items that have a scent ( i.e. deodorant) in the canister and away from camp. Don’t forget to clean out your car and put anything scented in the bear boxes located in the majority of parking lots in the park.
Bring a Map – The ranger will provide you with a map of Yosemite when you arrive. This map is huge! Make sure you take a look before you hit the trail and highlight the area you will be hiking so that you can find it quickly.