This Yosemite backpacking route is a great alternative to the ever popular, and crowded, Half Dome 3 day trip. While also starting from Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Falls/Snow Creek tour will have you leaving the day hiking crowds behind after a few miles as you ascend on the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. You will hike up the tallest fall in the park, as well as the lower 48 states, hike to the top of El Capitan (and wonder why all these people are climbing it when you can just hike to the top), see Half Dome from across the Valley from the less populated North Dome, and then make your way back to the Valley, finishing the loop via the Snow Creek trail.
The Yosemite Falls/Snow Creek hike is the perfect trip for anyone looking for a challenge (beware; this is the mother of all Stairmaster workouts), and is already visiting the Valley but want to stay away from the Half Dome craziness. With views into the valley for most of your hike is worth the heavy breathing and bouts of exposure here and there.
A 3 day trip is also available covering the same route but with less time for side hikes and exploration. A 5 day will give you an extra day camping at Snow Creek for some time to explore more of the North Rim of Yosemite Valley!
*Route Variation – Our specific hiking route and campsites on each departure are dependent upon permit availability.
After we meet the group, we start our ascent up the tallest waterfall in the lower 48 states and into the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. Views, and the climb, all the way to the top are breathtaking! After about 5 miles (8 km) of hiking, and a 3,200-foot (975 m) gain in elevation, we reach our campsite just past Yosemite Point. This is our home for the next 2 nights (only one night if a 3 day trip).
We set out to the east for a day hike to the top of El Capitan and beyond. Our path today will cross the scenic Eagle Creek Meadows on the way to Eagle Peak and El Capitan for more spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley. We shed the weight of the full backpack today for just a daypack with our essentials for the day. The total hiking distance is 11 miles (17.7 km) with some slight ups and downs as we hike along the north rim of the Yosemite Valley.
We pack up and hike toward Indian Rock and North Dome. We will take a couple side hikes in order to ascend the 8,522-foot (2,597 m) Indian Rock and the 7,542-foot (2,298 m) North Dome. From North Dome, we will have outstanding views of Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Our goal is to camp along Snow Creek this evening, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2,134 m). Today’s hike will be about 8 miles (12.9 km).
The group packs up camp and we finish our loop by descending the Snow Creek Trail. This is a steep 2,500-foot (762 m) decent over 2 miles (3.2 km) before we hit the floor of Yosemite Valley. We once again have great scenery along the trail and the group is usually back to the Yosemite Valley just in time for a hearty lunch if you so choose. The total mileage hiked this day is from 4 to 6 miles (6.4 to 9.7 km).