This 5 day, 4 night camping/backpacking tour takes you off the beaten path – for real! We start from the Yosemite high country of Tuolumne Meadows, passing at least two high mountain lakes, off trail for over a day, then to Clouds Rest and Half Dome, ending on the floor of the Yosemite Valley. This trip offers amazing views, mountain creeks, lakes and waterfalls. But the best part – very few people for the majority of the hike! When you go off the beaten path and then off trail, you get the park all to yourself – and there is nothing better than just you, nature and maybe a couple bears pooping in the woods*. Once we get near Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, then you will encounter more wildlife – i.e. people. This hike does provide the possibility of hiking to the top of Half Dome – permit dependent. However, while Half Dome does require additional permits, a hike up Clouds Rest requires no permits and will take you to a higher elevation than Half Dome – amazing views with fewer people. Bear in mind, even a day hike up Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest will increase the difficulty and oh snap! level of this trip from a 7 to a 10. *We do not guarantee you will see bears on this or any trip in Yosemite as the wildlife does not work on a schedule and refuse to do so until their demands for a higher minimum wage is met. **Route Variation – Our specific hiking route and campsites on each departure are dependent upon permit availability. Difficulty of the hike will also vary based on the route change. Additionally, the ascent up Half Dome is very challenging and is weather permitting.
Day 1After meeting the group, we catch our early am shuttle to Tuolumne Meadows. Upon arrival, we will set you up for your adventure to Nelson Lake. The hike is about 6 miles total, of which 3.5 miles are off trail. Off trail hiking, while slower going, is well worth the additional time and effort. No crowds and scenery you get to enjoy as a backpacker, not a tourist. You will hike by Elizabeth Lake and camp for the night by Nelson Lake.
Day 2After breakfast, we continue hiking off trail through Echo Valley for an additional 4 miles (taking 5 to 6 hours). Today is all off trail – hiking through the impressive Cathedral Range, meadows, pines and along Echo Creek. We will camp for the night near Echo Creek and Echo Creek Trail – the first time we will see a real trail in 7.5 miles.
Day 3Today we are back on the main trail so hiking will not be as slow going. We will cover about 8 miles as we head towards Sunrise Creek and the Little Yosemite Valley area, hiking a small section of the John Muir Trail. We most likely will camp near Sunrise Creek so we don’t have to “share” our trip with 50+ other campers at Little Yosemite Valley.
Day 4We leave camp for the day and hike up Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest. Since Half Dome requires a permit, this ascent is not a guarantee. Cloud’s Rest does not require permits but also has fewer people, no cables to have to hang on to and you get higher (by hiking up, not the other way) than Half Dome – a much better experience in our opinion!
Day 5After breakfast, we pack up to hike out of Little Yosemite Valley and back to the Valley and on the most popular trails in Yosemite! On our way, we pass both 317 ft tall (96.2 m) Vernal Falls and the 570 ft tall Nevada Falls on the way to the Happy Isles trailhead. We descend to about 4,000 ft (1219.2 m) and will hike about 5 miles (8.0 km). We will be back in the Valley by around lunch time.