High Sierras Yosemite 5-day Camping/Hiking Itinerary
Before Your Trip:
- Book campsites 6 months prior to desired trip date
- Establish transportation, whether airfare, personal vehicle, rental car or combination of the three
- Check weather, check weather, check weather!
- Apply for all necessary or desired permits
- Locate nearby post office if needing to mail out supplies *you can't fly with Jet Boil fuel!*
- Pack enough camping food to have 3 meals a day per person
- *Note this itinerary is for the adventure type and experienced hiker*
Drive from originating location and be aware of any time changes as it could impact check-in times. If you have a reserved campsite, you will be less pressed for arrival time. However, if you are wanting to risk a first-come, first-serve site, the earlier you get there the better as you can catch people leaving. First-come, first serve campsites vary based on season so be sure to do research prior. We camped at Tioga Lake (first-come, first serve), which sits right outside the east entrance of the park on the Tioga pass, which is closed during the winter months due to snow.
Wake up and enjoy some breakfast and libations as you begin to let go of life outside the mountains.
Lace up your hiking books, pack your lunch and head towards the Lembert Dome trailhead. To get there from Yosemite Valley, take highway 120 10 miles (16.8 km) to the Crane Flat turnoff onto Tioga Road, then take Tioga Road 40 miles (64 km) east to reach the trailhead at the far eastern edge of Tuolumne Meadows. From Yosemite's east entrance at Tioga Pass, take the Tioga Road west 7 miles (11 km) to the trailhead. Lembert Dome is a 2.8 mile in and out trail that gains 900 ft in elevation. While it is a short hike, you are climbing a mountain so take care as your lungs may not be completely adjusted to the altitude. Enjoy some views with your lunch!
If you are craving a little more hiking, complete the 1.5 mile round-trip Tuolumne Meadow: Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge, which begins at the Lembert Dome parking area. Walk along the gravel road and pass the locked gate (signed Glen Aulin and Soda Springs). Soda Springs, carbonated, cold water bubbling out of the ground, is protected within a log enclosure. Historic Parsons Memorial Lodge offers exhibits (limited hours-see Yosemite Guide for schedule). A path winds to the bridge below and continues on to the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. If you are done with hiking for the day, take a drive through Tuolumne Meadow and park in one of the many pull offs to observe the wildlife in the meadow.
On the way back to camp, visit the Tuolumne Meadows General Store to grab a beer or Gatorade after a long-days work.
Spend the evening back at your campsite relaxing and enjoy great conversation with fellow campers.
Okay, for Day 4 we have some options depending on what you are looking for. Overall, Day 4 will be a rest day for the grand finale taking place the final day.
If you are looking for the most relaxed day, head into Mammoth Lakes, which is accessed via Tioga Pass to CA-120 E. While in Mammoth you can float or fish in one of the many lakes within the town, glide 11,053 feet in the Panorama Gondola, grab a beer at Mammoth Brewing Company or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.
Option 2 takes you into Yosemite Valley where you can wander around the valley floor for the day. You will have the opportunity to drive through a mile long tunnel to get the first views of Yosemite Valley, spot climbers on El Cap, see one of the many waterfalls that plummet to the valley floor, explore Yosemite Visitor Center, or complete the 2-hour ranger guided valley floor tour. You can bring your camping food or enjoy a "real" meal from Base Camp Eatery, Village Grill, or Meadow Grill, to name a view.
If you pick option 2, be aware that the valley is VERY busy as it is the main tourist spot. It is important to get there early (8:00-9:00 am) to get a parking spot. If you have been camping in the high sierras, such as at Tioga Lake, be aware that temperatures are about 20 degrees warmer in the valley.
Be sure to get to bed early as you will rise before the sun come Day 5!
Day 5 starts just like every other day, only a little earlier. We made sure to get up about 45 minutes before sunrise to eat breakfast, get dressed and pack our bags. The Day 5 hike will be the crème de la crème, Clouds Rest. Clouds Rest is 14.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,775 feet. So why such a monster hike? Clouds Rest offers you uninterrupted 360-degree panoramic views of Yosemite where you tower over both Half Dome and El Cap. When people think of Yosemite, they think of hiking Half Dome. However, not only does Clouds Rest reach elevations higher, the combination of views from the cloud and North Dome offer multiple angles of the historic landmark.
The trailhead is off Tioga Road at the west end of Tenaya Lake - watch for the "Sunrise" signs. It's 31 miles (50 km) from the Tioga Road's western end point at Crane Flat, and 16 miles (25 km) from Yosemite's eastern entrance at Tioga Pass. Clouds Rest is considered strenuous but less then the Half Dome cables. The most difficult part will be a thousand-foot-gaining series of switchbacks about a mile and a half into the hike. The elevation of Clouds Rest means that sunscreen is especially recommended, and mosquito repellent is a must, especially in the early part of the hike.
Part one is a gentle, nearly flat walk of just under two miles through the Tenaya Lake valley. Part two is a hellacious series of switchbacks covering a thousand feet of elevation gain in a mile, leading at the summit to the Sunrise Lakes trail fork. After a brief descent, you'll have a leisurely stroll for a few miles through another wooded valley, passing a pretty pond along the way, until you begin climbing Clouds Rest itself. This final section isn't as steep as the first big hill you climbed, but its 9,000+ foot elevation will still take a toll.
Once at the top, take your boots off, eat some lunch and soak in the view..... you have earned it!!
Take your time coming down but be aware of how much sunlight you have, especially if you didn't pack a headlamp. We completed the hike several hours before sunset.
It is all easy from here. Pack up, say your goodbyes and head to your next destination!