Life is an adventure & ultimately we should treat every day like it's an opportunity to make reality out of our dreams. Last week we were supposed to go to a yoga & music festival but quickly realized upon arrival that there was wayyyy to many people there & the vibes were not quite what we had expected. A quick decision later and we were on our way to Yosemite National Park.
As we got to the valley we had no plans or reservations and had to completely go with the flow and freestyle with what was available. Sometimes that ends up being the best way. We ended up meeting some very generous people, a young couple from Brazil/ Chile and an older couple from San Fransisco, who let us pitch a tent on their camp site the first nights.
There are a total of 5 camp grounds centrally located in the Yosemite Valley. You have Upper and Lower Pines (closets to the Mist Trail and JMT head), north Pines where we stayed, Camp 4 (climbers camp located below El Capitan) and a walk in camp ground (no car parking). If you want to reserve a spot you need to do so when they open registration online. It fills up in minutes so make sure to be quick on the shutter. If you don't get a camp site reserved, you can always post up at the half dome village in the morning (get there early) to get on the list and grab a cancellation. They announce at 3pm each day, you can always try to share with someone else in line and better your odds. You might get a site, depending on the number of cancellations that day.
The beautiful river runs through the upper, lower and north pines campgrounds (it used to have way more water in it) and it's a perfect spot to take a dip to cool off in the hot day. Temperatures in Yosemite during the day in the summer gets up to 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The nights can get quite cold so we recommend bringing a good sleeping bag and wool layers.
GOURMET CAMP COOKING
There are numerous hikes around the valley of Yosemite. You have some that starts down i the valley like 4 mile hike and Yosemite falls, but there is no longer water in the falls so it's not as exciting as back in the day. We found the hike to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point from the parking lot with the same name, to be great for a quick, light exercise with a stunning view. Follow the signs towards Glacier Point from the valley. It's not only a good warm up for the longer hikes like Nevada Falls, Half Dome or Clouds Rest, but it gives you a very good overview of the valley and it's surrounding mountains, providing you with some awareness of where you are at once on the forest trails. You can also drive to Glacier Point and get a closer view of Half Dome, but this is a really touristy spot. The views from the top of Sentinel Dome are stunning and you can pretty much see everything (including Half Dome, El Capitan and the John Muir trail up to Nevada Falls from here.
To hike Half Dome you need a permit, and these are a little tricky to get. You can enter a lottery online and if you "win" you will receive an email saying you did in the morning. Give yourself at least two days to get a response, for example if you wanna hike on Sunday you apply on Friday. If you don't win, you can apply again. It charges you about $4 each time you apply, but it's worth that investment.
As soon as we got our permits to hike Half Dome, we packed our gear and headed out. Our permits allowed back country camping over night, but since this was a spontaneous trip we had to rent bigger pack packs at the shop in half dome village at the mountain shop for $15/day. We only had brought our regular tent so we had to get creative on the pack job. There are two options for trails; the Mist Trail and the well known John Muir Trail. We decided to take the JMT as it's a bit less steep and more comfortable with big packs. Don't get us wrong, this trail is still quite steep, starting at the valley floor on 4000 feet climbing switchbacks 4000 vertical feet up to the top of Half Dome.
LITTLE YOSEMITE BACKPACKERS CAMP
The nights and mornings are quite cool and temperatures go down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year. In the day time it tends to heat up and get as high as in the 90s so it's good to layer so you can shed through out the day
We made it to the cables at 10 am, after a quick hike from Little Yosemite. We found some worn gloves at the base of the cables that people had left behind. We highly recommend using gloves, as you get a much better grip on the cables up. It's quite steep and can be slippery on the rock.
TIPS ON HALF DOME:
- You need a PERMIT to hike Half Dome
- Bring a headlamp
- Bring an airhorn
- Layer so you can shed
- Bring gloves if you have to clim the cables
- Calculate 4 L of water per person for day hikes from the valley floor to Half Dome
- Get to the cables before 10 am to beat the crowd
- Bring plenty of snacks with you
- Bring water filter if you are over night camping
- Cable climb takes about 15 min
EXPLORE THE VALLEY FLOOR WITH BIKES
We highly recommend bringing bikes to the valley if you have space. There are bike paths everywhere and so much to see. With a bike you can move around efficiently and peacefully.
PACKING LIST FOR OUR TRIP:
- Big Back pack 60 Liters
- Sleeping Bags 15 degree
- Tent (We used our regular tent)
- Water filter (we purchased the Sawyer from REI- to filter water from rivers, streams etc.)
- Water Gators (3 Liter-always an option to fill less)
- Map of Trails
- Airhorn (Hiking in the dark with bears and wildlife)
- Goal Zero solar chargers
- Light clothes for hiking (smart to bring things that dries quick)
- Wool layers and down jacket for cold nights
- Extra socks
- Light hiking shoes
- Down booties for cold nights
- Small, lightweight Towel
- Light packs (Chico Bag)
- Fanny Packs for day hikes
- Zip Locks for Trash and Poop
- Hat (PRSNT)
- Sunglasses (ZEAL and Oakley)
- Goal Zero charger
- Sunscreen (We love All good)
- A little bit rope / paracord for emergencies
- Knife/ Leatherman
- Jet Boils (The Flash)
- To-GO-Ware (spoon is most likely enough)
- Hand Sanitizer
- A little sponge + Dr. Bronner's soap to clean Jet Boils after cooking
- Dice or cards to play games at night
- Journal and pen
- Lighter and waterproof matches
- First Aid Kit (w/ blister bandages and manduka honey for cuts)
OUR GIFT OF THE PRSNT
We hope you enjoyed this gift, shaped by our experiences and urge to explore what this planet has to offer. The aim was to create a journey for you to follow, through images and words, in the spirit of awakening the adventurer that lives in us all. We hope we inspired curiosity for the outdoors and presentness in your heart. Please feel free to share this blog post if you found it helpful.