Hiking Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park, California.

Best of Yosemite, Part 1: Backpacking South of Tuolumne Meadows

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   14 Comments

By Michael Lanza

I am floating in the stratosphere.

The feeling reminds me of childhood dreams of flying, but this is no dream. We are hiking across the slender, granite spine of 9,926-foot Clouds Rest, between sphincter-puckering abysses of deep air in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Below my left elbow, the rock drops off like a very long and insanely steep slide for several hundred feet before reaching forest; and that’s the side that feels less exposed. Below my right elbow, a cliff face sweeps downward a dizzying, stomach-churning 4,000 feet—that’s a thousand feet taller than the face of El Capitan.

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14 Responses to Best of Yosemite, Part 1: Backpacking South of Tuolumne Meadows

  1. Lisa Faure   |  January 5, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Hi there – Happy New Year! I love your site and all your information! What would you recommend for Yosemite backpacking wise if only have 3-4 days? Planning trip with my sons who are all in there 20’s so there would be 5 of us. Thanks!

  2. Lauren   |  September 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I came across this post a few months ago and knew immediately this was the trip I wanted to do in Yosemite – my first time visiting the park. About two weeks ago I completed an 85mi loop (slightly longer then yours as the only permit available was starting/ending in Happy Isles) that was without a doubt, the most awe inspiring, challenging and beautiful backpacking trip I have ever taken. Thank you for this wonderful write up and being the catalyst for a trip of a lifetime.

    • MichaelALanza   |  September 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Lauren, thanks so much for the nice comment. I know just how beautiful a hike you must have had, and I’m not surprised you describe it as the best, most challenging backpacking trip you’ve ever taken. I think I’ve gotten around a lot, and I consider it one of my top 10 best ever (https://thebigoutside.com/my-top-10-favorite-backpacking-trips/).

      Congrats. I hope you find more trips at my blog that you want to take. Keep in touch.

  3. Hilary   |  August 19, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Hello; just wanted to stop by and say thanks for all the great articles and pictures! I got my permits and will be trying out this route in two weeks. Thank you very much for the inspiration!

    • MichaelALanza   |  August 19, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Hilary, that’s great, have a fun trip. It’s a beautiful hike. Thanks for commenting.

  4. michaellanza   |  March 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Hi JZ, thanks for writing. As to minimum age, I’d say keep in mind that parts of this hike are fairly remote–or a long day’s hike from help. That said, I think it depends on the comfort level of parents and their ability and willingness to carry everything you need for a little kid that far, and their experience anticipating all you have to watch out for with a little kid in the backcountry. If a young kid is hiking most of the time, then it’s about the kid’s limits. If the kid’s still so young that the parents are really doing all the work, then it’s about the parents’ limits.

    Have you seen this story of mine yet? https://thebigoutside.com/are-you-ready-for-that-new-outdoors-adventure-5-questions-to-ask-yourself/

  5. JZ @ Living EZ   |  March 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    This looks incredible. Those photos are epic! Looking forward to round two. Thanks for stoking our fire to gear up, get fit, and get outdoors! The more we read your blog, the more places we need to come home to the US and hike. Do you have a recommended minimum age for this one, or does it depend on their willingness to remain in the backpack carrier?

  6. MichaelALanza   |  February 1, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Thanks Will. In a year of average snowpack, the higher-elevation trails (generally above 7,000 to 8,000 feet) will become adequately snow-free for hiking by mid-July, maybe early July. So far, this winter is well above average for snowfall; so while it’s hard to predict how the rest of the winter will go, or how warm spring and early summer will be for melting the snowpack, I would still plan on going after mid-July to avoid a lot of deep snow.

    That said, the mosquitoes in Yosemite in mid-summer are thick. So for many years, I’ve considered late August to mid-September the ideal time to backpack anywhere in the High Sierra, both for few bugs and afternoons not as hot as mid-summer. The waterfalls usually aren’t as robust by then, but they will probably still be flowing pretty well later this summer. Post-Labor Day is a bit less busy, too. Great weather can last through September and well into October, actually, but there’s also a chance an early snowfall could trash your trip. I’d only plan on a fall trip if you can go there on short notice, with a good weather forecast. If you have to travel a distance and plan time off in advance, go in that late August to mid-September timeframe.

    Good luck, you’re planning a fantastic trip.

  7. Will Dodd   |  February 1, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Love your blog post as well as your write up in Backpacker about your week hiking through Yosemite. I have recently been researching and looking into the 65 mile leg of your hike, south of Tuolumne Meadows. I would like to take a trip out to Yosemite this summer and was wondering what your suggestions would be as far as the best time to go, considering snowfall, etc. I am in good shape and have been backpacking for several years all over the US and some in Australia. I’ve never been to Yosemite, so any other advice you could add would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Eric   |  September 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Looking forward to the second half of this trip! If I don’t get my JMT permits this year I might try this out instead!

    • michaellanza   |  September 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks Eric. This trip or the one I write about next would be an excellent consolation prize if you can’t do the JMT.

  9. Carl Gandolfo   |  August 31, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Wow, I am exhausted reading this! What a GREAT adventure – thanks for sharing it with us!!

    • MichaelALanza   |  August 31, 2015 at 7:18 am

      Thanks Carl, glad you enjoyed it.

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