Backcountry Camping In Yosemite: Read Before You Go

Backcountry camping Yosemite guide

Yosemite National Park offers some of the greatest backcountry camping experiences in the entire world, and they are relatively simple to access.

All you are required to do is obtain a Yosemite Wilderness Permit and adhere to the Wilderness regulatory requirements.

So, keep on reading below to learn more about how and where to go backcountry camping in Yosemite!

How To Obtain A Yosemite Backcountry Camping Permit?

The information provided below is based on the National Park Service’s website and can always be changed.

Therefore, prior to planning your journey, make sure you have read the updated policies and any other relevant info.

Backcountry camping in Yosemite requires a permit regardless of when you choose to visit the place.

A permit can only be provided to a small number of individuals based on the point from which they wish to begin their journey.

Yosemite backcountry camping permit tips

As instructed by the Wilderness Act, the permit process ensures that these nature reserves are not extremely crowded and provide ample space for serenity and some ‘alone’ time.

There are principally two options for obtaining a permit for your preferred journey.

  1. The first one is to request a permit in advance
  2. While the other one is to get one based on a first-come, first-served basis after 11 am on the day preceding your hiking day trip.

It should be noted that for every trailhead limit set for every day, 60% of it can be booked in advance with the rest of it being offered to walk-ins.

As you can tell, flexibility is essential in this situation!

Your ideal option, whether that is reserving a permit in advance or trying your luck as a walk-in, isn’t going to work every time, but it will be easy to get one most of the time.

Camping In The Backcountry Of Yosemite

You will have unrestricted access to a number of the most breathtaking backcountry lands when you obtain a wilderness permit.

Camping In Yosemite

Your ability to trek a certain distance is basically the one thing keeping you from your ideal camping location.

As we mentioned earlier, the trailhead quota system places restrictions on use depending on where you start your hiking trip and, in certain situations, where you stay the night on your first day.

However, after that, as long as you abide by all rules, you can go camping anywhere in the wild where you can reach by hiking.

Quick Tip – There are a select few marked camping areas, so be careful to do your research on the particular trail you’re considering.

Additionally, using an existing backcountry campground always seems to be preferable when pitching a new camp.

Please always abide by the principles of leaving no trace!

3 Best Places To Go Backcountry Camping In Yosemite

Best Places To Go Backcountry Camping In Yosemite

1. Mt. Watkins

  • Difficulty: Easy To Moderate

Camping in Yosemite’s Mt. Watkins is another worthwhile experience, and the hardest aspect of this trekking route is locating it.

The path is not that often well-defined, and you may need to plot a different course a few times as you move uphill.

Once you spot a trail leading to an old stone quarry, go beyond the gate and up and around the quarry’s left side.

Yosemite Mt Watkins camping

From that point, you are probably going to navigate much easier by following the path to Mount Watkins.

Following an approximately 2-mile hike, go left and start descending the path.

Pay close attention and you will see some cross-country skiing trail signs on the tree branches.

The trees will soon start thinning out as the path ascends to Mt. Watkins’ high point.

Keep going on the path and through the dense forest till it’s time to start going up again towards Mount Watkins’ summit.

Soon enough you’ll be able to admire the top of Half Dome. Keep climbing until you arrive at the top of Mount Watkins.

Set up your tent and gaze out at the magnificent views of Clouds Rest, and of Half, North, and Basket Domes.

2. Pohono Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate

Trekkers who take the Pohono Trail are rewarded with breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley from the southern edge.

Pohono trail Yosemite

The Pohono Trail is a rewarding experience for people who choose to hike, with breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley from the southern edge and is most frequently backpacked downhill, with Glacier Point as the starting point and Tunnel View as the final destination.

So, what you get to see on this trail are Points like Taft, Dewey, and Crocker.

Another option is to also ascend Sentinel Dome via a half-mile side route.

Starting at the McGurk Meadow Trailhead is a nice option when you are restricted by time, are unable to obtain Wilderness Permits for the Glacier Point Trailhead, or have previously visited some of the Points.

3. Eagle Peak

  • Difficulty: Difficult

The tallest of the Three Brothers rocky outcrops is Eagle Peak.

In fact, John Muir noted that the highest point, which is on the eastern side of El Capitan, offers the best view from the northern wall.

Eagle Peak Yosemite

The Upper Yosemite Falls and Eagle Peak trails are the most popular routes to take in order to get to Eagle Peak.

It is a 6-mile walk with an ascension of more than 3,500 feet in one direction.

The path begins right next to Yosemite Village, at Camp 4.

When you are going up, you will pass close to Yosemite Falls where you will embrace the stunning valley scenery.

Another way to get to the summit is from the Tamarack Flat Campground off the Tioga Pass Road, that is if you find it difficult to obtain Wilderness Permits for the Upper Yosemite Falls trail.

One more option is the Yosemite Creek Campground, from where another path begins.

The Bottom Line

Yosemite is famous all around the world for its breathtaking scenery and hiking trails.

If you decide to head to Yosemite for backcountry camping, you are up for an even bigger reward, as you will get to enjoy the beauty of this National Park for a day or even more.

So, don’t think about it twice and start making your plans!

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