This 31-mile shuttle hike pieces together several trails and spurs for the best views and remote campsites in and above Yosemite Valley.
From Rockslides Trailhead, follow the now-defunct roadbed of Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail (OBOFRT). In the first few minutes, you’ll see the shaved granite wall of El Capitan piercing the skyline. At mile 1.7, where a massive rockslide blocks the road, follow cairns uphill to the next intact section of roadbed. The upcoming 2.5 miles pass through dense manzanita; peek out at Bridalveil Fall, and end at a campsite near Cascade Creek.
Top off water bottles and backtrack .6 mile the next morning to the North Rim trail. Turn left and climb through sugar pines, contour around El Cap Gully, and take the .3-mile spur trail to the 7,569-foot granite prow of El Capitan. Backtrack and head northeast for 1.8 miles to another spur up 7,779-foot Eagle Peak. Swing north, then east to Yosemite Falls Trail. Turn right and hike south to end this big 12-mile day at your second campsite. Catch the sunset glow at a nearby overlook of Yosemite Falls, a high-decibel whitewater ribbon falling almost 2,400 feet.
On day three, see the sunrise from Yosemite Point (6,936 feet), then continue east for four miles to North Dome for a front-row view of the cleaved granite face of Half Dome. Hike north for 3.5 miles, passing a side trail to Indian Rock, a rare granite arch. In 3.8 miles, turn right onto Snow Creek Trail and camp on a gravel bench with oh-my-God views of Half Dome.
The last day, descend 100-plus switchbacks over 2,500 feet into Tenaya Canyon. Follow the north side of Tenaya Creek, pass Mirror Lake, and pick up the free park shuttle back to your car.
PERMITS: Required backcountry permits are issued based on your originating trailhead, and a quota system limits the number of permits issued each day. Sixty percent of each trailhead’s daily permits can be reserved up to 24 weeks in advance and cost $5, plus $5 per hiker. Download the application at nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm, then fax to (209) 372-0739. Walk-in permits are free and available the day of or the day before your hike at any of the five Wilderness Permit Stations. Park entrance fee: $20 per vehicle.
MORE INFO: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-0200; nps.gov/yose
-Mapped by Kelly Bastone