Arriving at Yosemite National Park
Day 1 – Jun 4, 2022
At long last, the trip to Yosemite National Park was upon us. Our flight from Denver departed at 11:30AM – a direct flight to Fresno International Airport. We eventually settled on checking two pieces of luggage. Dave’s 70L backpack housed the tent while my suitcase was filled with sleeping bags, the bear canister and other necessities. It took seemingly forever to pick up our rental car, but finally we were off toward Oakhurst for some much needed shopping. At the store we picked up groceries to last the next two days, as well as two styrofoam coolers and ice.
Yosemite National Park operates on a reservation system. Between the hours of 6AM and 4PM a reservation is required to enter the park. Our camping permit served as our reservation but nonetheless we arrived at the entrance gate just after 4, a happy coincidence. Yosemite National Park is massive. After driving through the entrance station, another hour of driving along a winding road separates the driver from Yosemite Valley.
We Had to Pull Over for Tunnel View
This long drive is capped by the iconic “tunnel view,” where Yosemite Valley can be seen in all its grandeur. Many visitors stop just after the tunnel to admire the views, and today was no different. We waited a while in a cramped parking lot before managing to snag a spot. This is a great area for photography purposes. Half Dome and El Capitan are distinguished landmarks, flanked by Bridalveil Falls. If you look closely, a small trickle of water indicating Horsetail Falls is also visible. Regrettably, the Bridalveil Falls trail was closed during our trip – Tunnel View Overlook is one of the best alternatives to view this waterfall.
After stopping to snap several pictures, we continued down to Yosemite Valley. The road system in the valley is somewhat confusing. The roads are one-way only, creating a large circle. Construction in some areas had us driving on the left side of the road which was unnerving.
Finding our Campground at North Pines
It took us a good chunk of time to find where to check into our campground at North Pines; first we found ourselves at the registration for Curry Village, then we turned into a large parking lot in error because we misread a sign for campground reservations. Eventually we were able to locate North Pines Campground from a paper map (we struggled with cell service all week). When we arrived at the check-in location there was no one manning the desk, but thankfully the volunteer ranger left my name along with our campsite 212 written on a white board.
Campsite 212 is wedged in the center of the campground, and very close to a bathroom with running water. We set up our tent before hopping in the car once more to take in the views and stop at the Village Store for firewood. Close to our campsite is a road where both Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls can be observed from across a meadow. We were able to find parking along the road here to snap some pictures before picking up firewood. Upon returning to camp, we grilled up a few sausages and retired to our tent after a long day of travel.
Day 2 – Jun 5, 2022
A 5:45AM alarm marked our first full day in Yosemite; the plan was to hike the 7 mile Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, a popular hike in Yosemite Valley. Parking in the valley can be tricky which inspired our early start time. There was plenty of parking at the trailhead, we parked near camp 4. The official trailhead is across the road from here originating close to Camp 4, a tent only campsite. This also serves as a trailhead to Eagle Peak, El Capitan and several other hikes. Immediately after starting Dave rushed back to the car to grab bug spray, the mosquitos were horrible throughout our stay. The trail wastes no time in regards to elevation gain, we zigzagged through numerous switchbacks. Though trees shrouded views into the valley, there are a few beautiful overlooks scattered along this stretch of trail.
A few miles in, the trail descends a few hundred feet and the hiker is awarded with a first view of Yosemite Falls. This landmark is truly extraordinary, water falling down seems almost as if it’s in slow motion. Though narrow, the falls are staggering in height, and we both paled at the thought of hiking up the elevation. This is an ideal spot to grab a picture of the falls in their entirety, the trail deviates shortly after and up another bout of switchbacks. Half Dome can be viewed from this section for a brief period before disappearing behind a cliff.
Video of Our Hike to Upper Yosemite Falls
The next stretch of trail is a punishing uphill with many switchbacks. Large portions of trail are covered with uneven rocks likely to trip up even seasoned hikers. Elevation gain. Near the top, the trail levels out some before shooting down a steep, narrow staircase carved into the rock face. This part is mildly terrifying, as only one metal rail provides support from a steep drop-off. At this time during our hike it began to sprinkle which made the rocks all the more slippery. While it’s impossible to see the falls from here, it’s amazing to see the amount of water flowing over the edge, knowing that just feet away there’s a dizzying drop. Another scenic cascade flows above Yosemite Falls, and we were able to get quite close by scaling across rocks.
We decided to tack on an additional mile and a half with a few hundred feet of elevation gain to visit Yosemite Point. From here, a panoramic view of Yosemite presents itself. Gray skies and a continued drizzle impeded our view considerably; large clouds covered most of half dome and surrounding cliffs. We spend only a few moments here before retracing our steps back to Upper Yosemite Falls.
Traveling downhill was no easy feat; it put considerable strain on our knees and the rocks became increasingly slick in the falling rain. We saw a few hikers on our ascent, but now we were passing others with alarming frequency. This flow of hikers would remain unchanged for the duration of the hike. Since parking is limited, there are two shuttle buses that circle the valley and drop visitors off at popular destinations. After a mile or so, the rain let up, though the sun would not emerge until later that evening.
Lower Yosemite Falls
Upon finishing the hike, we visited our campsite for a lunch of deli meat sandwiches and formulated a plan to visit Lower Yosemite Falls. Due to our late-ish arrival to the campsite the previous evening, we were able to officially check into our campsite. A ranger indicated we could walk to Lower Yosemite Falls from our campsite but it proved to be over five miles round trip – we would take our chances driving and finding parking. We snagged a spot in a parking area designated for the Yosemite Visitor Center and began the trek toward Yosemite Village. Despite parking closer, we still walked about two miles round trip on paved pathways that wound through the area.
Lower Yosemite Falls is accessible to all and is wildly popular. A paved loop trail snakes through the trees and can be completed in either direction. Halfway through the loop marks the viewpoint of Lower Yosemite Falls. Although the falls can be seen clearly from the bridge, it’s much more rewarding to scramble up the rocks to get directly in front of the falls. We failed to realize from this viewpoint that a considerable amount of water sprayed from the falls and onto visitors – Dave had to save the camera and we both left with damp clothes.
With that destination completed, we decided we had enough hiking for the day and retired to our campsite to plan for the following day. We originally considered hiking Cathedral Lakes, but this trailhead is a 90 minute drive from the valley and we also needed to collect our wilderness permit from the visitor center. As an alternative, we opted to hike Mirror Lake for sunrise, and follow up with a trek through Mariposa Grove to see giant sequoias, as this hike is close to the Mariposa Visitor Center. Another dinner of grilled sausages, and we were ready for bed.
Mirror Lake and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia’s
Day 3 – Jun 6, 2022
A second early start for a sunrise hike to Mirror Lake began our third day in the park. Conveniently, this trailhead could be accessed directly from our campground, all others wishing to hike will need to take the shuttle or walk from a distant parking lot. Many visitors use bikes to navigate the park as well. The trail here is flat and mostly paved which made for easy walking. Mirror Lake is a small seasonal lake that boasts a unique view of Half Dome and becomes quite crowded throughout the day, but at this early morning hour we were the only visitors along the banks. We returned to our campsite and geared up for Mariposa Grove.
Prior to entering Mariposa Grove, we stopped at the Visitor Center to obtain wilderness permits for the next four days. With our particular permit, we had to stay at Little Yosemite Valley Campsite our first night but could camp anywhere else thereafter, as long as we weren’t within one air mile of a road or within 4 miles of Yosemite Valley. This indicated that we needed to complete the backpacking loop in a counter-clockwise direction, opposite of what most other hikers attempt. At first we were anxious that we couldn’t hike clockwise, but it ultimately worked out to our advantage. We tacked on two Half Dome permits for an additional $10 each, I stamped my National Parks passport book and we headed off.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia’s
Parking at the trailhead of Mariposa Grove is not permitted, instead the hiker must either take a free shuttle, or hike an additional four miles round trip. We had already tallied over 4 miles at Mirror Lake and planned another 5 at Mariposa Grove so we opted for the shuttle. The bus ride took just under ten minutes, dumping us off right at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
Lots of trails crisscross through the grove, enabling visitors to complete a hike ranging from less than a mile to over ten miles. The 5-6 mile loop hike is easily the most popular, featuring prominent sequoias such as Grizzly Giant, Fallen Monarch and the crowd favorite Tunnel Tree.
It was humbling looking up into the branches of towering sequoias, which can live for over 2000 years. Many have survived several forest fires and burn marks scour their thick bark. While most visitors circled back after Tunnel Tree, we turned right to view other parts of the area. This awarded us with plenty of solitude and continued glimpses of the largest organism on Earth. Some other popular destinations include Telescope Tree, Fallen Tunnel and Clothespin Tree. We also had a chance to view the Mariposa Cabin and saw plenty of wildlife. There are bathrooms scattered through the grove which was much appreciated during this hike.
When we finished, there was a considerable crowd waiting for a shuttle ride back and for a moment we considered taking the 2 mile hike but luckily the driver was able to squeeze an ungodly amount of people onto that bus. Once back at our vehicle, we drove the short distance to the Mariposa gas station, filled up the tank and had some lunch before driving an hour back to Yosemite Valley.
Returning to Camp
We returned to camp to pack up all our gear for the backpacking trip and made a final visit to the Village Store to pick up camping necessities we couldn’t fly with, including a gas canister for the JetBoil. Bear canisters are required to backpack in Yosemite National Park and we maximized our space by consolidating our dehydrated meals and eliminating as much trash as we could.
Instead of cooking our (now waterlogged) sausages for our final night in North Pines, we decided to check out the pizza restaurant in Curry Village. The restaurant was busy, but food orders arrived fairly quickly and there was plenty of seating both inside and outside. This area is a fun place to people-watch as there are visitors ranging from casual day hikers to people who are hiking the PCT or John Muir Trail. Yosemite National Park backpacking camp is an excellent place to stay for those who are thru-hiking, because there is access to groceries, showers and several other amenities. We ended the night early, excited and anxious in preparation for the long trek ahead.
Mist Trail to Half-Dome
Day 4 – Jun 7, 2022
We continued the 4:45AM wake-up pattern and packed everything into our large backpacks. Everything we didn’t need would stay locked up in the trunk at the trailhead. While we were required to carry a paper copy of our wilderness permit, we did not have to hang anything special on the vehicle to indicate it would be parked for a few days. A free shuttle bus will drop hikers off at the true trailhead, but since we drove it tacked on an extra half mile to the Mist Trailhead. A massive sign with an extensive list of destinations with mileage marks the beginning of the Mist Trail. Our first stop was Little Yosemite Valley, a campsite 4.3 miles from the trailhead, before continuing up to the summit of Half Dome.
Elevation gain is made immediately apparent on the Mist Trail as it travels parallel to Merced River. Though the trail is somewhat paved, it’s very steep with several switchbacks.
After hiking just under a mile, we arrived at the Vernal Falls Footbridge, which awards a nice view of upcoming Vernal Falls on the hikers left. Though the falls looks close, it’s still a 0.8 mile hike to the top of Vernal Falls with a considerable amount of elevation gain. This section is where the Mist Trail derives its name; a continuous mist stems from Vernal Falls, dampening both the trail and the hikers below.
Due to excess water, the trail can be slippery but it’s exceedingly beautiful, especially when viewed from above. Green moss coats surrounding rocks and cliffs to create a luscious landscape. The mist was a welcome respite for our overheating bodies, but it did present a problem for Dave’s camera and he needed to cover it with a waterproof bag. As with Yosemite Falls, it’s difficult to see Vernal Falls from the top overlook, but it’s a heady experience to be standing so close to a sheer drop-off.
3 Day Backpacking Video in Yosemite National Park
Above Vernal Falls lies Emerald Pool and Silver Apron. Despite the proximity to Vernal Falls, Emerald Pool looks calm in comparison, though it’s illegal to swim in this area because currents can be tremendously strong. The trail weaves around though a wooded area before crossing a bridge where Nevada Falls can be seen on the hikers’ right. As with Vernal Falls Footbridge, there is still a mile of hiking with 800 feet of elevation gain before reaching the top of Nevada Falls.
Though Nevada Falls is grander in size vertically, there are less opportunities along the trail to view it fully. In my opinion, the best view is obtained from below two miles in. Following this overlook, there is a punishing section of switchbacks up a rocky staircase before the Mist Trail intersects the John Muir Trail and levels out. Due to the popularity of this area, there are many vault toilets along the trail for hikers to use, and we halted at a popular resting point at the John Muir junction to use the facilities and take a short break. This section of trail was a strain with our heavy packs, a mere taste of what was to come in the following days.
Little Yosemite Valley Campground
The lack of elevation above Nevada Falls was a welcome respite, and the trail parallels a calm section of Merced River before snaking through Little Yosemite Valley Campsite. This backcountry camp also boasts a bathroom and bear boxes are scattered throughout the campsite.
We found a secluded spot near the camp boundary and made quick work of setting up the tent and arranging our day packs. Dave opted to ditch the tripod in favor of the GoPro Hero 10, because the cable route up Half Dome requires the use of both hands. We remembered at the last moment to grab our wilderness permit before setting off on the John Muir Trail.
A pattern of switchbacks weave through the forest for 1.5 miles, at which point hikers planning a Half Dome summit will take a left at the trail junction. The following day, we would be taking a right in order to attain Clouds Rest, but today we continued left. Signage along the trail indicates a two mile hike to the summit of Half Dome, another bout of heavy switchbacks and elevation gain. There are some great viewpoints along this section of trail, including glimpses of the Half Dome cable route, Clouds Rest and the Pinnacles.
A park ranger was posted up just before ascending Sub Dome, checking permits and information pertinent to Half Dome. Though the hike to the summit from this point is not lengthy, the ranger stressed that it would take roughly two hours to return. Since Half Dome is very exposed, many people took bathroom breaks here. The ranger agreed to tend over water bottles, but backpacks and other items were not allowed to be dumped to shed weight, as birds and squirrels would chew through them. The ranger was also checking permits but it is possible to avoid the permit system by summiting Half Dome prior to 7AM, or while the cables are down. Additional climbing equipment is needed to attempt Half Dome while the cables are down, but Dave and I agreed we may want to try that route if we plan to do Half Dome in the future, mainly because it will cut down the crowds.
Sub Dome and the Cables
Although cables are not needed to reach Sub Dome, this is still a difficult leg of the journey because the trail consists of a rock staircase carved into the rock face. There is no shade here and the elevation gain is tough, especially when trying to conserve energy for the cables. Our timing wasn’t ideal because we ran into a traffic jam along the cables, which is mildly terrifying because there are steep drops on either side, and there is no way to pass others on the route unless you’re willing to climb outside the safety of the cables. We passed a few brave souls doing just this, but predominantly hikers stayed within the cables.
The ranger stressed wearing gloves along the cables, but I found that they weren’t necessary. In fact, I thought it was easier without gloves as many people complained of sweaty hands slipping. I made sure not to drag my palms along the cables to avoid injury as I climbed up and down. Along the cable route there are wooden planks to assist hikers – a great place to rest or to wait for people ahead to move up.
Half Dome Video
As a rule of thumb, we waited until the next plank up was vacated before moving up along the cables, as it was hard to gain purchase on the steep rock. Dave did take some footage with the GoPro, but it was hard even to take one hand off the cable. Since hikers are traveling up and down, it made the cable route very cramped and hard to move around. It works best if those going up use both hands to grip the cable on the right, and those going down use both hands on the cable to the left, but some people were adamant about holding on to cables on both sides, which presented problems.
Summit of Half Dome
It would have taken Dave and I around ten minutes to summit Half Dome if we were alone, but with other hikers constantly stopping and causing jams it took about half an hour. Finally the path eased in grade and we found ourselves at the top of Half Dome.
The summit is reminiscent of Longs Peak, where the trail up is narrow, but the actual summit is massive. More than one football field could be placed atop Half Dome and with 360 degree views of the valley there are many nice overlooks. Most hikers tended to congregate on the right side of the dome, which boasts the best view of Yosemite Valley. Dave and I snapped several pictures on the summit before returning to the cables. We originally thought Half Dome would be the highlight of our trip, and while the views were great, we found better vantage points from Clouds Rest and other areas that are far less crowded and don’t require a permit.
As with the ascent of Half Dome, the descent was just as slow-moving, if not more. We were stuck behind a long line of people near the top of the cables, which was fear-inducing as other hikers behind us were impatient to get down. We were all trying to get down safely, which was aggravated by the fact that hikers behind us were jostling us to move when there was nowhere for us to go. Eventually we were to make it back to Sub Dome, but again it took a half hour when it would’ve taken just Dave and I about ten minutes.
Returning to Little Yosemite Valley
On the return trip to Little Yosemite Valley, we descended through the multitude of switchbacks back to our campsite and had a well-deserved lunch. We took a long, luxurious break at Merced River, which is easily accessed from Little Yosemite Valley Campsite to wash our dirty feet and relax in the sun. This is also a good place to replenish water supplies; we filled up all our water bottles using a new Katadyn filter Dave purchased, which is by far the best filter we’ve used camping.
We returned to camp for more food, and while we had our bear canister out we saw a bear! This brown bear was not quiet in the slightest. We heard a loud snapping of branches as it lumbered toward our campsite. As a bear approaches in the wilderness, hikers are encouraged to make loud noises in order to divert the bear and this method seemed to work for us; the bear backed off but we could still see it through the trees for a long while thereafter. We told other hikers of our experience but we’re unsure if any of them had trouble with the bear.
After our first dinner of dehydrated meals, we zipped up into the tent and fell fast asleep. Dave stepped out a couple times during the night to take footage of the stars above, but otherwise we were undisturbed.
Hiking to Clouds Rest
Day 5 – Jun 8, 2022
In opposition to our early start times thus far, we woke up uncharacteristically late the second morning. It was nearly 8AM by the time our gear was packed and we were ready to head off. It was slow moving through the first mile in a half as we retraced our steps along the John Muir Trail before reaching new terrain at the trail junction.
This time we turned right to continue up to Clouds Rest. Clouds Rest Trail possesses more elevation gain than that to Half Dome. It would also be more of a struggle with our heavy packs. Nearly two miles and a thousand feet of elevation gain stand between the trail junction and the summit of Clouds Rest. Predictably riddled with switchbacks. During this section, we were granted amazing views of Half Dome from the side, especially those seen from a small peak preceding the true summit. We also had the chance to view some wildlife, as we spotted a mama grouse with two itty-bitty babies.
Clouds Rest Summit
At long last we reached the summit of Clouds Rest at around 12:30, and the views did not disappoint. Views looking down into Yosemite Valley are better than those from Half Dome, and Half Dome itself is a dominant presence along the skyline. We rested here for a considerable chunk of time and gleaned valuable information from other hikers traveling in the clockwise direction. We learned that Sunrise Lakes, our original campground destination, was a breeding ground for mosquitoes which fueled our decision to find alternate lodging. Continuing on, the trail travels along a ridge for 0.3 miles before dropping down into a wooded area once more. While the trail we ascended was defined by switchbacks, this side was more gradual with a few rolling hills.
We hiked down for an additional hour before halting near a small stream for lunch. Our backs and arms were getting burnt from exposure to the sun and limited sunscreen available so we tried to stay in the shade during our break. We were able to replenish our water before setting off once more toward Sunrise Lakes. Four miles and 600 feet of elevation loss separate Clouds Rest summit and the turn-off for Sunrise Lakes. Once we hiked this mileage we were extremely fatigued and ready to set up camp for the night. Instead of heading toward Sunrise Lakes, Dave scouted the area above the trail on a nearby peak and located a social trail that led to the most picturesque campsite.
Camping Above Sunrise Lakes
A ledge looked out across Yosemite Valley and both Clouds Rest and Half Dome were visible in the distance. Mosquito activity was also limited due to the breeze and the elevation, a great perk. The only trouble was the ground was incredibly hard and it was impossible to drive in our tent stakes.
Fortunately this campsite had been used many times before and there were large rocks nearby with which we could weigh down the tent. Before settling in for the night we made a 0.6 mile round trip to Lower Sunrise Lake to fill up our water filters. The mosquito information was 100% accurate, it was overridden with bugs at Sunrise Lake, and two other hikers confirmed that it was not much better at the upper lakes. We were pleased with our campsite discovery and encouraged the two hikers we met to find a spot nearby.
Our campsite came complete with a man-made firepit and although we didn’t use it for cooking food, we lit one nonetheless. We prepared our dehydrated meals with the JetBoil and chowed down before settling in. Fires are permitted while camping in the backcountry, but as expected hikers are required to fully extinguish fires before leaving them unattended. Dave stepped out during the night again to capture footage of the Milky Way, which turned out exceptional.
Tenaya Lake and Snowdrift Creek Trail
Day 6 – Jun 9, 2022
We awoke earlier this morning and repacked all the gear. We decided the previous night to cut our backpacking trip short by putting in some serious mileage this day and camping in the backpacker camp in Yosemite Valley. This campsite is available to thru-hikers and backpackers either the day before or the day after a backpacking trip for $8 a person. All backcountry campsites in Yosemite National Park must be 100 feet from a trail or water source, 4 miles away from Yosemite Valley and one air mile away from any roadway.
Between Sunrise Lakes and Tenaya Lake the trail morphs into a creek in several spots which required some rock hopping. We arrived at Tenaya Lake, making good time in the early morning and mosquitos swarmed us immediately. We hardly got an opportunity to admire Tenaya Lake before we were chased away.
Arriving at Tenaya Lake
Furthermore, since water levels were high we had to ford a creek to continue on our way. We removed our shoes and socks as quickly as possible and waded across. The mosquitoes were ruthless when we stood still even for a moment. The trail pops out right into the parking lot for Tenaya Lake, where we used the vault toilets and got rid of some trash in our bear canister. We didn’t waste much time here and continued down Snow Creek Trail. Mosquitoes continued to be a constant presence throughout the next mile as we crossed several boggy meadows.
The droves of mosquitoes finally abated once we reached an area just below Olmstead Point. We could see visitors up above at the overlook. During this stretch Snow Creek Trail runs parallel to Tioga Road and we were able to hear vehicles passing by. After Olmstead Point we finished our final uphill push for the day, before descending back into a wooded area. Though scenic, there is not much variety to this part of the trail; it descends slightly through the forest, crossing a trail to Mount Watkins. There were no other hikers during this stretch, save for one person.
Snow Creek to the Valley Floor
After hiking several miles, we stopped for lunch at a bridge spanning Snow Creek. There were a few other hikers enjoying a swim here as we ate. The next leg of our journey would undoubtedly be the most difficult; an elevation loss of 2,700 feet over 2 miles. To make matters worse, it was over 90 degrees in Yosemite Valley. The trees fell away and we were rewarded with great views of Half Dome and the valley below, although it looked impossibly far away. As we descended switchback after switchback along a cliff face, we had little protection from the sun. We both kept our long sleeves on despite the high temperature because we were out of sunscreen. Other than a few hikers beginning their backpacking journeys, we didn’t encounter anyone until we reached the valley floor. This portion of hiking was extremely hard both mentally and physically. Our legs were shaky from carrying our heavy packs across 15 miles already and we were getting cranky.
It was somewhat of a respite once we reached Mirror Lake. The trail flattened out considerably and the trails were crowded with people, which provided a bit of a distraction. This part of the hike is misleading though. It felt as if we were close to the trailhead but another 2.5 miles remained. Once we passed Mirror Lake, there was no official trail to the Mist parking lot and we found ourselves walking on the side of the road. At long last, we made it back to our vehicle and collapsed into our seats.
From here we drove to the 15 minute loading zone for the backpacking campground, which is situated just behind North Pines Campsite. It costs $8 per person to stay in the Backpacker Campground, and only those who are backcountry camping can use it the day before or the day after their trip. Permits are available at the campsite, and campers are required to fill in their reservation number and contact information. This orange paper must be displayed somewhere in your campsite for the night. It is on a first come first serve basis, but there were plenty of spots available when we arrived at 4:30.
We made quick work of setting up the tent and dumping our gear before hopping back in the car and driving to Curry Village for dinner. Dave looked high and low for an outlet to dump footage from his camera to the laptop, which took a couple hours to complete. While we waited for footage to transfer, we ate dinner and drank some well deserved beverages. Unfortunately there is no parking for the backpackers camp, and we had to leave our car at the trailhead parking once more; Dave valiantly agreed to drop me off and walk from the parking lot and I promised I would walk to the car in the morning.
Quiet hours in campsites here begin at 10PM, but we were tucked away much earlier than that. There was a group that arrived at the campsite and set up camp at about 11PM which disturbed us a bit, but other than that we slept peacefully.
Day 7 – Jun 10, 2022
Most hikers were up bright and early at the backpackers camp and we geared up to drive up Tioga road. Since we spent most of our time in Yosemite Valley, this would be a welcome change of pace. Tioga Road is a winding road that travels over Tioga Pass, the highest in Yosemite. We did not make it to this location as it’s a pretty far drive from the Valley. Instead we stopped at a few overlooks and eventually settled on May Lake, a two mile round trip hike with 400 feet of elevation gain. Mosquitoes continued to bother us on this hike and we applied a heavy layer of bug spray.
May Lake seemed like a great place to camp. There are established tent sites as well as tents in the High Sierra Camp that are already set up. Once we reached May Lake, we made the decision to continue hiking up to summit Mount Hoffman, the geological centerpoint of Yosemite National Park. This is not an officially recognized trail, but there is a well established footpath accented by cairns. We had to navigate a bit of snow through the trees, but other than that the path was straightforward.
Check out our Video Hiking to Mount Hoffmann
There is some scrambling in the rocky sections but the views from the summit of Mount Hoffman were better than we expected. Although May Lake was obscured on the summit, we were able to view an unnamed partially frozen lake, several surrounding peaks, and we could see Clouds Rest and Half Dome behind us. It truly was a treat to have hiked this, despite the ache in our tired legs.
We passed only one hiker descending as we walked up, and only a handful of people as we made our way back to May Lake. We were surprised by the lack of visitors given the splendor of the area. With the addition of Mount Hoffman, our two mile hike morphed into a 6 mile hike with almost 2000 feet of elevation gain. We made a stop at Crane Flats gas station to grab food before making our way to the Mariposa entrance station.
Leaving Yosemite National Park
For our final night we were staying in an Airbnb in Fish Camp, a popular place for visitors to stay outside the park. It was a bit difficult to find our lodging but eventually we were greeted warmly by our host and shown to our room. We both took a long, much anticipated shower and spent an hour or so repacking all our gear into suitcases for our flight home. For dinner we drove to a nearby hotel and ate in the attached restaurant.
Returning Home to Denver
Day 8 – June 11, 2022
Another early wakeup greeted us, as we had a 10:30AM flight out of Fresno. We also needed to allot extra time to fill up on gas and clean the rental, which had accumulated a thick layer of dust. The carwash situation was a bit stressful because it took forever, but we needn’t have worried because arriving at our gate in Fresno took all of 15 minutes total. Our return flight went without a hitch, but there was scheduled construction on the rail from Denver Airport Station to Union Station and we had to de-train in Rino. At this point we were so exhausted from travel that we paid extra for an Uber instead of waiting for the bus to take us to Union Station, which would require an extra ten minutes of walking with our luggage once we arrived. Our trip was fantastic, but we were glad to be home!