Premier Yosemite Hiking Company

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Yosemite's Cathedral Range

Highlights

  • All-encompassing experience of Yosemite
  • Start & end in beautiful Tuolumne Meadows
  • Exploring high country & lower valleys
  • Incredible views of Yosemite Valley
  • Opportunity to climb Half Dome
  • Loop route, so very little back-tracking
  • Amazing natural & cultural history

Description

This longer Yosemite Backpacking trip is an excellent option for those with a bit more time to spend on the trail and who want to have an all-encompassing experience of Yosemite National Park. It isn’t necessarily more difficult than other treks but you will get to see and experience more of Yosemite’s Backcountry splendor, and enjoy many of the iconic highlights of the "Range of Light" including the summit of famous Half Dome!
This epic adventure traverses the heart of the Cathedral Range from Tuolumne Meadows up to the high Vogelsang region and then down the beautiful Lewis Creek Canyon to picturesque Merced Lake and along the shores of the cascading Merced River. The route then circles back around the western flank of the Cathedral Range and summits Half Dome, Yosemite’s most popular summit, on the world famous "Cable Route." It then heads back through the northern Cathedral Range past such iconic Sierra peaks as Tressider, Cathedral, and Echo before returning to Tuolumne Meadows in one of the most beautiful and all-encompassing Yosemite Backpacking trips we offer.
Give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more about this exceptional Yosemite backpacking experience!
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.

 

Photos of this Trip

Photos: Wes Leland and Peter Scott

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

This Yosemite trip begins with rendezvous in Yosemite Valley on the patio of Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) in front of the Yosemite Mountain Shop at 6PM on Day 1. The Mountain shop is located on the street-facing side of the Half Dome Village Pavilion (closest to the parking lot). You will easily spot your guide waiting for you in a Wildland Trekking hat and shirt. We'll conduct an orientation meeting and enjoy dinner together here at Half Dome Village, after which we'll get settled in the Backpackers Camp a stone's throw away from majestic Tenaya Creek and under the spectacular domes and cliffs of Yosemite Valley.


Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Elevation Loss: none


We begin our adventure in one of the highlights of the High Sierra, Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. There, among soaring granite domes, jagged mountain peaks, and lush fields of wildflowers, we follow the John Muir Trail south along the banks of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River into wide Lyell Canyon. We will take it slowly today to acclimate to the thin alpine air and hike approximately six miles to the junction with Ireland Creek, a mere 200 feet higher than our trailhead. Here we will make our camp and after a quick dip in the brisk waters of the Tuolumne enjoy a delicious meal prepared by our guides. Then, under a canopy of brilliant Sierra stars, we will turn in to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s climb to Vogelsang!


Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
Elevation Loss: 300 feet


After an early wake up call, we eat a hearty breakfast as we prepare for our hike up beautiful Ireland Creek into the high peaks along the crest of the magnificent Cathedral Range, one of Yosemite’s most celebrated regions. But, first we must tackle a difficult climb as our trail ascends 1800 feet to the high point of our day at 10,650 feet in just three miles. After catching our breathes, we descend to an idyllic spot alongside Evelyn Lake and enjoy a filling, well- earned lunch as we enjoy the beauty of the surrounding peaks: Johnson, Rafferty, Fletcher and Parsons, all above 11,000 feet! Our camp tonight will be near Vogelsang Lake at 10,300 feet, two miles further up the trail. There, magnificent views include looking down on the summit of Half Dome and all the way to the Coast Range 120 miles beyond!


Day 4

Hiking Mileage: 8.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Elevation Loss: 3500 feet


It’s another early rise this morning as we traverse around Vogelsang Lake as the early morning sun lights up Vogelsang Peak 1200 feet above us. We quickly top out at Vogelsang Pass, the high point of our trip at 10,700 ft. and descend into the exquisite canyon of Lewis Creek. We may get our feet wet as we descend along the banks of the creek, crossing over every now and then. After a streamside lunch in the vicinity of the beautiful cascades of Florence Creek, we begin a steep and challenging descent to Merced Lake. Just beyond the lake we will set up camp among granite slabs and Jeffrey pines next to the mighty Merced River and enjoy dinner by a crackling campfire as the alpenglow slowly fades from the peaks.


Day 5

Hiking Mileage: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Elevation Loss: 800 feet


We have a mellower day today with a moderate hike to our camp alongside Sunrise Creek. We first descend through Echo Valley after a leisurely breakfast and then make a moderate ascent up the slopes above Echo Creek. As the trail traverses high above the Merced the views are astounding. Bunnell Point, Moraine Dome and the Merced River, flowing through the granite walls of the Lost Valley, stretch out at our feet to the west. Back behind us to the east, the high, jagged peaks of the southern Cathedral Range loom above Cony Crags and Mount Florence. After a final two mile descent through a pleasant forest, we set up a basecamp for the next two days and rest up for tomorrow’s ascent of Half Dome!


Day 6

Hiking Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Elevation Loss: 1600 feet


Up early, we have a quick breakfast and make an alpine start on our hike to the summit of Half Dome! As we are leaving the camp set up, we set out with only our daypacks. Our goal is to beat the crowds and the thunderstorms that tend to build in the afternoons! The hike begins with the ascent of a series of mild switchbacks two miles and 800 feet up to the base of the sub-dome. Here we begin the real climbing as the trail ascends 500 feet in a half a mile on steep stair steps carved into the sheer granite slope. A short level respite provides an opportunity to rest and prepare for the crux of the hike: the final 400 foot vertical ascent along the legendary cables. At the top, after catching our breathes, we have a celebratory lunch on the top and soak in the views of Yosemite’s magnificent High Country before heading back down the mountain for a relaxing evening at Sunrise Creek.

Please Note: the ascent of Half Dome involves climbing a section called "the cables," which is a very steep and exposed part of our hike. The National Park Service has installed a pair of cables to use as hand rails, but it is still a physically and psychologically demanding climb. Some of the objective hazards also include mishaps by other hikers, such as people slipping or dropping items. This climb isn't required to do the trip, but it is required to reach the top of Half Dome.


Day 7

Hiking Mileage: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Elevation Loss: 3300 feet


We’ll enjoy our last breakfast in the Yosemite wilderness and hoist our packs to return to the hubbub of civilization. Our trail first descends along the John Muir trail into Little Yosemite Valley on the backside of Half Dome. Looking up, we’ll barely be able to see hikers as they ascend the cables, far above us, just as we had done the previous day. Beyond, our trail descends past some of the most astonishing scenery around; including the world famous Vernal and Nevada Falls. With the soaring domes of Mount Broderick and Liberty Cap, on one side, the Panorama Cliffs and Glacier Point, on the other, we finally descend to the Valley floor where we’ll end our trip with an early afternoon lunch at the trailhead and celebrate our trip into one of the most incredible places on the planet!


Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • Transportation logistics to the trailhead and back
  • All meals are included from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Yosemite hiking guide
  • National park backcountry camping permits
  • Bear cannisters for food storage
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, leather gloves (for the cables on Half Dome) and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.


Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.


Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Bear cannisters
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone


What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person, leather gloves, and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.


What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 48 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!


Where Do We Meet?

This trip meets in Yosemite Valley on the patio of Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) in front of the Yosemite Mountain Shop at 6PM on Day 1. The Mountain Shop is located on the street-facing side of the Half Dome Village Pavilion (closest to the parking lot). You will easily spot your guide waiting for you in a Wildland Trekking hat and shirt. This trip includes dinner and camping that night at the backpackers camp. Personal vehicles can remain parked at Half Dome Village during your trip.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.


Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's rendezvous time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will be out of the backcountry normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time) on the final day.


Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.


Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis


Weather in the Sierras

Being a high mountain environment, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in the mountains. On trips in June, snow is a possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:
 
Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
         
 
Month
Valleys
Alpine
 
 
hi
low
hi
low
 
 
January
49°
26°
45°
25°
 
 
February
55°
28°
46°
26°
 
 
March
59°
31°
48°
27°
 
 
April
65°
35°
54°
30°
 
 
May
73°
42°
62°
37°
 
 
June
81°
51°
71°
46°
 
 
July
89°
57°
77°
50°
 
 
August
89°
56°
81°
53°
 
 
September
82°
51°
71°
46°
 
 
October
74°
39°
62°
37°
 
 
November
58°
31°
51°
29°
 
 
December
48°
26°
46°
25°