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Yosemite First Timer...HELP!


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Hey everyone, so Im in the process of planning my first Yosemite trip with my fiance this July (5th-8th). My bride to be grew up just outside the park in Mariposa, but has never backpacked anywhere in or around Yosemite. We're coming from Atlanta and this will be my first west coast backpacking experience, so Im looking for any and all advice I can get! I know the park is going to be a zoo that week and after looking into getting permits it seems our options are already limited.

Here are our goals for this trip....two night maximum (one night isint out of the question) killer views of the valley, would LOVE to hike the mist trail if possible, great campsite at least one night, and we dont want to kill ourselves with crazy elevation change (although from what I understand that may just be part of it?) 

As far as permits go, is it crazy to think we'll have a chance at the first come first serve for trail heads like Happy Isles or Cathedral Lakes? If so where would you recommend we look at to make sure we get permits?

Here are a few trips I found on Backpacker that jumped out to me.

Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles via Clouds Rest


Nevada Falls Loop


South Rim Traverse


Again any help would be greatly appreciated! 

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I wouldn't want to be anywhere near Happy Isles or Cathedral Lakes the week of July 4. Especially not Happy Isles, which is like getting off a crowded bus at the local urban zoo, and Mist Trail is like the crowded paved sidewalk between the gorillas and the lions. If you really want to hike the Mist Trail, do it as a day hike with 1000 other people and avoid camping elbow to elbow and getting raided by bears in Little Yosemite Valley.

I'd go to the backcountry office in Wawona as soon as they open and get a permit for one of the southern trails in the park that aren't in Backpacker mag. Hike as far into the backcountry as you can and you'll have plenty of great views and campsites without hundreds of others looking for the places with famous names. The whole park is beautiful and the rangers should be able to point you towards a place you'll enjoy.

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I don't know Yosemite at all, but if you want to backpack and not be surrounded by other people, find a route that is not in Backpacker. My understanding is similar to toejam's, there is not an ugly part of the park, some places are just a lot more crowded.

First come, first serve for permits on a holiday weekend are likely to be "difficult" especially for the really popular trailheads that you mentioned.

Are you renting a car? If so, you have lots of trailhead flexibility that you should take advantage of. There is plenty of time to figure out where you would like to be.

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Awesome, thanks for the advice yall. Its super helpful, Ive been looking at the Young Lakes Loop, its about 15 miles which spread over two nights should give us more than enough time to enjoy it. Looking at the elevation profiles is making me a little nervous, Ive never hiked at 9,000 to 10,000 feet before, are there any recommendations you west coast guys have for a first timer at that altitude?

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Hi I replied to you last night but for some reason it never posted....

So this post has my name written all over it. I too was a first timer in Yosemite last weekend-Memorial Weekend.  Despite everyone telling me how crazy I was for choosing to book this trip this on such a busy weekend- I am glad I did. I have always always wanted to go to Yosemite and I finally got to check it off my list!

We reserved a campsite in Lower Pines, the valley is definitely crowded but this campsite was nice, and people were respectful, I noticed other campgrounds were a little more compact, this was perfect for us.

Traffic was crazy in the valley, we rode the shuttles everywhere but still had a hard time getting around because the shuttles were stuck too. Be prepared to wait.

We stayed only 2 nights, arrived Saturday and checked out Monday and because of that we decided to go on the Mist trail. It was pretty cool except the crowd factor. Once you got to the wet steps up near Vernal falls, you took one step every few minutes. It would have been better if you just had a straight shot up to the top, and stopping on every step made you contemplate your surroundings, get dizzy etc..Going up you had a rock wall to hold onto and allow others to pass going down. I was worried people were going to fall into me and knock me over because going down they didn't have anything to hang on to. And people were dragging babies, toddlers and kids down with them, which I thought was pretty stupid, but I am not a parent, I don't have that judgement. But the trail itself is pretty decent and I think the people just make it harder than it is. But once we got to the top it thinned out and the higher we went, the nicer people were and it was more spaced out. We took went straight up to Nevada Falls to the very top and took the Muir loop back down. I would have gone back down those wet steps if it wasn't so crowded. The trail itself is grueling, I suggest some conditioning before hand if you decide to go. The elevation change and the distance going straight up to the top of a waterfall is very challenging if you are not fit or not used to it. I also suggest very good hiking boots, I saw some women with sandals, and then someone said they saw someone barefoot. But we hiked with some friends and despite not having any trail experience lately, they made it, they were cursing the way down and yes muscles were sore and feet were on fire but they said it was worth it, we all said that.

I think 2 days was not enough, I think it was just as bad as only having one day there. I wanted to go to Glacier point, Illouette falls, bridaveil falls, and explore up by Tioga and possibly hetch hetchy. And we decided to go this time of year because of the waterfall flow.

But overall if you decide to go that weekend, just have patience, expect it to be crowded and most of all have fun. I don't regret going last weekend, it was a great kick off to summer despite how crazy the crowds were, I got a lot of awesome photos, hang out with friends and enjoy it. I hope you do the same!



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