href=”/articles/12517″>YOSEMITE | GRAND CANYON | <a
| OLYMPIC | <a
href=”/articles/12526″>YELLOWSTONE | DENALI
>> Getting There Yosemite is about three and a half hours from the San Francisco area. The most direct entrances–on CA 120 heading east through Groveland, and CA 140 northeast through El Portal–lead straight to Yosemite Valley.
>> Season Watch the Yosemite park weather page (nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm), and after the third consecutively hot weekend in spring (75°F-plus in the high country, usually middle of May), head into the Valley and witness cascades roaring off sheer granite walls. Go in September for bug- and crowd-free beauty.
>> Best frontcountry campground Camp 4, on the Valley floor, is noisy, dusty, and crowded–but you should stay there anyway. Why? Because world-class climbers Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins, and Lynn Hill all did. Outside the Valley, try White Wolf Campground, with 74 spots. (Camp Four, $5 per person, per night; nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camp4.htm. White Wolf, $14 a night per site; nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wwcamp.htm)
>> Pre-trip breakfast Leave the Bay Area at dawn and stop in Groveland at the Mountain Sage (18653 Main Street, 209-962-4686) for a cup of fair-trade coffee and a breakfast burrito.
>> Gear Shop Forgot something? If Yosemite Mountain Shop (209-372-8396; yosemitegifts.com/wetoyomosh.html) doesn’t have it, you don’t need it. The Valley store stocks everything from HB offset brass nuts for climbing to bug spray and iodine.
>> Permits Backcountry permits ($5, 209-372-0740; nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm) are required year-round–and are subject to a trailhead quota system. Make reservations up to six months in advance online or by phone. Missed the window? The park holds 40 percent of their quota for walk-ins. Go to any one of the five backcountry offices the day before your start date to get one–and rent a mandatory bear canister ($5 for two weeks, nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcanrentals.htm).