Good trails in Yosemite and Olympic Nat'l Parks

7:57 p.m. on February 8, 2010 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts

My girlfriend and I are taking 2-3 weeks and backpacking through as much of Yosemite and Olympic as we can this summer. I'm planning on going as soon as most of the snow melts to try to avoid the crowds. If you have any recommendations for moderate-strenous trails, I'd appreciate it. I would like to avoid as much of the crowds as possible and maybe just take a couple days to hit the touristy spots of Yosemite like Half Dome and the Sequoias.


8:44 p.m. on February 8, 2010 (EST)
4,404 reviewer rep
6,005 forum posts


Avoid the crowds in Yosemite as soon as most of the snow melts? You have to be kidding! The backcountry crowds start moving in before the snow melts in Yosemite. Plus, in much of Yosemite backcountry, there is snow all year around, or at least into late July and August. Right now, we are getting lots of snow in the high country, so expect most of the passes to have snow well into the summer.

Years ago, the crowds stayed in the Valley, with most of the campgrounds empty between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. Now the Valley campgrounds are full year around, and Tuolumne fills pretty quick after the Tioga Road is cleared. It is still true that "the density of people decreases as the square of the distance from the trailhead and the cube of the altitude", but the trailhead densities are just a lot greater. However, the saving grace is that there are limits for the areas that are legally designated Wilderness Areas. Go to the Yosemite website to find these for the Park. You can reserve a trail permit in advance (MUST if you really want to specify the date and not take a chance on a "walk-in").

I can mention some places to avoid - Little Yosemite Valley and Lyell Canyon are along the route of the John Muir Trail, so have a fair amount of traffic, and the area from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin and Waterwheel Falls is extremely popular. North of the Tuolumne River (especially NE of Hetch Hetchy) is somewhat less crowded, as are the areas toward the southern boundary of the Park away from Lyell Canyon. Basically, if you get more than a day's hike away from the trailheads, the crowds are thinner. Don't get too close to the boundaries of the Park, since the adjoining National Forests have a lot of forestry roads that lead to campgrounds that are jumping off points for hikes into the Park itself.

9:34 a.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
4 reviewer rep
16 forum posts

The permit system in Yosemite is somewhat limiting and getting more so all the time. Picking dates and camps from the NPS website is trial-and-error and rather frustrating. Better to go to YNP just before the permit system season starts (going in April before it starts in May), and follow the snow line up from the lower elevations or carry snowshoes. If you are planning a trip in midsummer then you will have a lot of competition for closer campsites in the backcountry and lots of vehicle traffic along the roads. Good advice to avoid the crowded areas which is pretty much all of the readily accessible areas of Yosemite National Park in summer. Since all of the trails are good and scenic, find at trail that accesses the park on the exterior boundaries such as from the northeast or southern tip. The roads are all open in the adjoining National Forests and mostly accessible by ordinary passenger cars. You can even gain a lot of elevation compared to starting in the Yosemite Valley and save a lot of trouble with the congestion there. Best choice to recommend: Skip over the ridge from the San Joaquin River watershed into the upper Merced River watershed and you will have no regrets whatsoever. The views are incredible and you have fairly quick access to the Clark Range and Mt. Lyell areas. You can still visit the Valley (use the shuttle bus) before or after your backpack.

8:53 p.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts

Thanks, to both of you. I live in Florida, so I'm not really prepared to hike and camp entirely in the snow. Also, I'm still in school at that time. I will definitely look into entering the park from the adjoining forests though. Do you still need backcountry permits if you do that? I don't mind getting the permits in advance, it's just kind of hard to know exactly what dates I will be where and what trails will even be open, especially that far ahead and 3000 miles away. I would like to talk to a ranger about the trails right before I head out, but then I might have a permit for the wrong area. It's just a headache.

It's good that more people are out hiking, but it's also frustrating. Thanks again.

10:43 p.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
22 reviewer rep
210 forum posts

cdreaden, this thread can probably help you with some Yosemite trail ideas and also some good information on getting your permits.

Gary C.

12:14 a.m. on February 26, 2010 (EST)
47 reviewer rep
241 forum posts
5:03 p.m. on March 1, 2010 (EST)
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts

For the Olympics I would recommend the loop around Heart Lake, 7 Lakes Basin and the Sol Duc River. Hiking along the coast too, 57 miles of the park is right along the ocean, just be careful about tides and trying to get around some of the headlands. Some other good hikes include the Hoh river, Desolation Ridge (I think that is the name) on the east side of the park, and anything involving the Bailey Range.

2:40 p.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts


Are the hot springs in Olympic worth hiking to?

10:11 a.m. on March 19, 2010 (EDT)
52 reviewer rep
200 forum posts

For the Olympics I would recommend the loop around Heart Lake, 7 Lakes Basin and the Sol Duc River. Hiking along the coast too, 57 miles of the park is right along the ocean, just be careful about tides and trying to get around some of the headlands. Some other good hikes include the Hoh river, Desolation Ridge (I think that is the name) on the east side of the park, and anything involving the Bailey Range.

My wife and I did a day hike in the Sol Duc area on our honeymoon. Expect a fair amount of traffic near the falls as there is a parking area with a trailhead a mile from them. That reminds me, I should post a pic of those falls for the photo contest!

10:26 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
18 reviewer rep
26 forum posts

If you do manage to avoid some crowds by travelling just after snowmelt, then you might be exchanging one annoying crowd for another--mosquitoes!!!

I live literally across the street from a coastal marsh and thought I knew mosquitoes (we RUN between the house and the car some times of year). Two summers ago my brother and I hiked Clouds Rest early in the season, while drifts of snow still lingered. Nothing could have prepared me for the mosquitoes we encountered. 100 percent DEET did nothing...nothing at all.

That being said, the mosquitoes were almost tolerable on sunnier, south-facing slopes and on high ground where there was a breeze. But it would be worth the trouble to avoid hikes that stay on the shady sides of the mountains.

10:46 a.m. on April 8, 2010 (EDT)
69 reviewer rep
10 forum posts

When you go to yosemite, hit the northern park areas especially north of Tioga Road (hwy 120). These are much less trafficked places, such as Hetch Hetchy reserve and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Reserve your permits early on and avoid weekends in the heavily trafficked areas. One excellent hike is Tuolumne meadows (Yosemite) to Agnew Meadows in the Ansel Adams wilderness (about 60 miles).

Here's a link. Happy Trails!

12:10 p.m. on April 13, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts

Thanks! Those are some incredible pictures. Do you feel like you missed anything (besides crowds) in Yosemite Valley? I would like to check out some of the sequoias and climb Half-Dome, but other than that I think I will stay out of the Valley.

Did you need permits for Tuolumne meadows to Agnew Meadows? I guess you would need them for any nights in Yosemite, but I'm not sure.

3:29 p.m. on April 13, 2010 (EDT)
22 reviewer rep
210 forum posts

You do need a permit for hikes starting in Toulumne.

I don't think that the valley itself is worth having to deal with the crowds. The exception being that it is your first time there and I think everyone should do the tourist stuff at least once.

If you plan on climbing Half Dome I would suggest hiking down to the valley just to see the different falls on the way down. LOTS of people along the trail down but like above if it's your first time to Yosemite it's worth it. if you timed things right and the bus schedule has not changed, you could hike down to the valley from HD and spend the rest of the day riding the free shuttle bus around the valley then spend the night in in the free backpackers camp. The next morning ride the bus to the Giant Sequoias, then back to the valley where you can catch a late bus to Tuolumne and your car. You would need to make sure of what this years bus schedule is and the bus from the valley to Tuolumne is for a fee. I would call about the bus schedules close to the time of your trip rather than rely on the on-line schedule. There are a couple different types of bus runs (YARTS - Yosemite Shuttle) and last year when we got to the valley we found out the schedules were different than what I had read.

Link and pictures to my TR from last season.

3:41 p.m. on April 13, 2010 (EDT)
22 reviewer rep
210 forum posts

If you are planning to hike from Tuolumne to Agnews Meadows you might want to consider getting a permit to go from Agnews to Yosemite Valley. It is probably easier to get the permit starting at Agnews and then you could hike to TM and on down to the valley floor. You could also skip TM and take one of the other trails down to the valley like maybe Vagelsang Pass. From Yosemite Valley there is a bus that goes I believe twice a day back to Mammoth Lakes where your car would be parked.

April 24, 2018
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Yellowstone Newer: Weather- Damascus to Mt. Rogers NRC in May?
All forums: Older: Free admission to all National Parks April 17-25 Newer: Glow-in-the-Dark Nalgene