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Chilnualna Falls/Buena Vista Lake


Adventure Details

Welcome to the Yosemite Chilnualna Falls/Buena Vista Lake backpacking page! All the information you desire can be found amongst these pages. Simply click on the black tabs below to access all the information you need, i.e. pricing. Need more? Give us a call at 877-399-2477 or send us an email.

Chilnualna Falls/Buena Vista Lake


The Chilnualna area of Yosemite National Park is one of those gems that you just can't pass up; high mountain lakes and passes, meadows strewn with wildflowers, views galore and—of course—waterfalls. This 5 day backpacking trip will have us starting from the southern portion of the park in Wawona and then hiking to Chilnualna Falls, the largest fall outside the Valley area. This loop will then take you to several glacier formed lakes in the higher country of Yosemite National Park. You will hike over a 9,000 foot (2743.2 m) pass before descending back down to Chilnualna Falls and Wawona. After each day of hiking, take a swim, relax by the campfire or take some time to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite.

Want a little extra time to just chill by the water? Add a 6th day to the hike for some more "you" time!

Route Variation - Our specific hiking route and campsites on each departure are dependent upon permit availability. Therefore camping locations and daily mileage may vary.
Please Note - There are no available park shuttles that will take you to the Chilnualna Falls trailhead. Your own transportation is required for this trip.
Day 1

After meeting the group, we will all caravan to the Southern portion of the park to Wawona - parking at the trailhead for Chilnualna Falls to start our 5 mile (8 km) hike. With a 2000 ft (609.6 m) increase in elevation today, this first day is nothin' to sneeze at! We will pass Chilnualna Falls, a 240 ft (73.2 m) waterfall that is lesser known than those you will find in the Valley area (therefore, fewer people)! We will camp near Chilnualna creek the first night.

Day 2

After breakfast, we will pack up and hike about 6.5 miles (10.5 km) with a 2000 ft (609.6 m) gain in elevation to Johnson Lake to camp - only after hiking past the supposedly haunted Crescent Lake - BOO! Johnson Lake that is great for swimming. There are also opportunities to go on a trail-blazing hike for some great views of the southern portion of the park.

Day 3

Today we hike about 4 miles (6.4 km) to Buena Vista Lake. First we will hike by Royal Arch Lake at 8700ft (2651.8 m) in elevation, then we hike over Buena Vista Pass (gaining another 600 ft (182.9 m) and the highest point of our hike) where there is an amazing panoramic view of the park- Buena Vista Lake, another great lake for swimming.

Day 4

Today's hike will take us along some of Chilnualna Creek's arteries and lakes. There are a couple great campsites along the creek, but most guests like to camp at the same camp as day one - small waterfalls and great swimming holes. This is an 8 mile (12.9 m) hike mostly all downhill.

Day 5

We will hike back to Wawona today - the distance is the same as day one but we are descending the 2000 ft (609.6 m)! We are typically finished for the day around lunch time. Once back in Wawona, unpack all your personal belongings and say your goodbyes - departing with lifetime memories!


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Trip Cost Per Person
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5 Day


Regular Price


Includes camping and dinner the night before the trip.

6 Day


Regular Price


Includes camping and dinner the night before the trip.

What's included?

  • 5pm orientation the afternoon prior to your hike at Yosemite Valley at the backpacker's camp.
  • Backpacking permits.
  • Tent camping each night on the trail plus the night of orientation at the backpacker's camp*.
  • All food while on the trail prepared by your guide - from dinner at orientation through breakfast on the last day*.
  • Double occupancy tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, trekking poles. A single tent is available for an additional $50.
  • A certified, medically trained guide that will lead you safely on your journey. 
  • An unforgettable experience! 

*Camping at backpackers camp, dinner the night of orientation and breakfast the morning of the trip is $50/person additional and is not mandatory.
Our prices do not include guide gratuity ($25-$35 per person per day is recommended).

Click here for Just Roughin' It's Booking and Cancellation Policies.

Travel Protection

Now’s the time to consider purchasing a travel protection plan to help protect your trip investment. For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click here or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 03-0152.

Travel Insurance is underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, NAIC #22276. 11.17 W20


Upcoming Trip Schedule

Not seeing a list of dates? No biggy! There could be a few reasons for that, so give us a call at 480-857-2477 and we will see what we can do for you!

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Related Destinations

"My favorite hike is the Red Peak Pass in Yosemite. High mountain lakes, wide open meadows and the highest pass in Yosemite National Park - so views are endless. Best part is there are so few people to encounter - no 300 person line attempting the ascent up Half Dome! "
Kyle Sherman
5 years experience
Toll Free:877-399-2477