|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – August 2008
Climb classic Sierra passes, ogle granite monoliths, and camp above treeline in John Muir's second home.
>> Clean up The showers in Curry Village (866-875-8456) cost $2 (towels not provided). Need change? Buy some chocolate at the nearby Curry Village store.
>> Pig out Head to the east side of the park on CA 120 and hit the Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Gas Mart (760-647-1088; thesierraweb.com/tiogagasmart/deli.html). Yes, a gas station–where bluegrass bands like The Trespassers jam Pink Floyd covers and the patio looks over Mono Lake. Locals passionately swear by the lobster taquitos and pitchers of mango margaritas.
>> Best dayhike: Panorama Trail Everyone knows about this eight-mile route, which traces the upper northeast ridge of Yosemite Valley and drops 3,200 feet–but few actually take the time to hike it. Buy a one-way bus ticket from the Valley up to Glacier Point, then wind past dizzying views of Illilouette Falls, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls, before catching the Mist Trail down to the floor. For a truly epic day, branch off at Little Yosemite Valley for an ascent of Half Dome–which will add seven miles, 2,600 feet of climbing, and a knee-crunching 4,842-foot descent.
>> Try something new Sample Yosemite's world-class rock climbing with Yosemite Mountaineering School (209-372-8344; yosemitepark.com/activities_mountaineeringschool.aspx). They run clinics for rubes and masters, and even lead trips up El Capitan. Don't feel like roping in? There are thousands of boulders in the park seemingly begging to be conquered–just be sure to check for periodic "closed" signs that signal rock falls and wildlife restoration areas.
Your Permit is Ready
3 surefire ways to improve your chances of scoring a much-coveted Yosemite campsite
>> Plan ahead Mark your calendar and call Yosemite's backcountry office 24 weeks before your start date. Put the number (209-372-0740) in your speed dial. Make sure to let them know if you'll be arriving later than 10 a.m. the day of the trip. (Otherwise, they'll cancel your spot.)
>> Go to the right office Permits for walk-ins are available at any of the five wilderness centers. The busiest stations are Tuolumne and Yosemite Valley; avoid them and up your chances by stopping at one of the less-crowded offices (Tioga, Wawona, or Hetch Hetchy). nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/trailheads.htm
>> Start hiking outside the park Since Yosemite restricts backcountry numbers by trailheads, not campsites or zones, you can always start farther away (outside park boundaries, if needed) and hike to your destination. To access the northeastern side of the park, use the Virginia Lakes trailhead. For southeastern access, head to the Chiquito Lake trailhead. Check out nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm for a list of links to common starting points.
You're a Tourist, Now Act Like One
If it's your first time to Yosemite, you have to visit the Valley, crowds be damned. Really, who goes to Memphis and skips Graceland? But packed parking lots and dazed tourons make the endeavor a logistical headache. The fix: Start early, park at Curry Village parking lot, and take the bus to the waterfall trailheads. Hike to Vernal Falls in the morning and Yosemite Falls in the late afternoon light–before spending the evening atop Glacier Point, where you'll see the views of Half Dome and El Cap that made Ansel famous.
Miles of trail 800
Phone (209) 372-0200
2007 visitation 3.6 million (total), 76,576 (backcountry)