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Tuolumne Meadows


  •   Vast and idyllic Tuolumne Meadows
  •   Cascades, rivers, lakes & domes
  •   Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River
  •   3 biggest waterfalls on the Tuolumne
  •   Moderately easy hiking
  •   Great for families or beginners


Our Tuolumne Meadows Backpacking Trip is a fantastic choice for families or guests who want a great introduction to Yosemite on a highly scenic, moderately challenging trip. This trip provides a lot of return on investment. In just 4 days with wonderful days of hiking we'll explore arguably the most pristine and majestic region of Yosemite National Park - Tuolumne Meadows. We leave the crowds behind on this trip and venture into a land of granite domes, meandering rivers, thundering waterfalls, peaceful meadows, and serene wildlife. On Day 2 we leave camp set up and day hike into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, which is a day you'll never forget!

Yosemite issues backcountry permits 5.5 months in advance. It's beneficial to register before permits are issued and if you do, we recommend not making concrete travel arrangements until the permit is secured. We have a very good success rate with Yosemite permits, but if unsuccessful your deposit is 100% transferrable or refundable.

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Backpacking Trip
Yosemite Valley
5 days
23mi /37km
$1310 Per Person

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Travel to Yosemite Valley

  Private Trips

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Trip Dates & Booking

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

This Yosemite trip begins with rendezvous in Yosemite Valley on the patio of 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 Curry Village Pavilion (closest to the parking lot). You will easily spot your guide waiting for you in a Wildland Trekking hat. We'll conduct an orientation meeting, 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. We'll enjoy dinner either at Curry Village or in camp.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1000 feet

We enjoy a quick breakfast in Yosemite Valley and make sure all loose ends are taken care of before we head up to our trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows, the largest and most beautiful sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra. Here, after soaking in the incredible panoramic views of the High Sierra, we begin our adventure. Taking advantage of our high elevation trailhead, today’s hike is mainly level following along the Tuolumne River as it meanders through the meadows. We’ll stop for lunch along the river and enjoy a fantastic view of the jagged Cathedral Range reflected in its calm waters as fluffy cumulus clouds accentuate the impossibly deep blue of the Sierra sky. After lunch the trail steepens and we pass numerous cascades as we approach our camp at the Glen Aulin Backpackers Camp. Here we’ll set up camp for two nights to take advantage of treated water, bear boxes and solar outhouses.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1700 feet

Today we’ll leave our camp set up at the Glen Aulin Backpackers camp and hike, sans backpacks, into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, one of Yosemite’s most scenic areas. After a hearty, filling breakfast, we’ll throw on our day packs and head down river to visit three of Yosemite’s most photogenic waterfalls. Our trail begins by descending into the idyllic, original site of the Glen Aulin camp along a flat area below spectacular Wildcat Point, an amazing expanse of granite. We reach California Falls just past the end of Glen Aulin. Farther on, the path becomes rougher and more precipitous as it follows the increasingly steeper Tuolumne River until we reach the second waterfalls, Le Conte Falls, one mile beyond. Another mile leads us to the most spectacular and largest of the three, Waterwheel Falls, with its namesake waterwheel shooting a spout of water into the sky. Here we enjoy our picnic lunch before retracing our path back to our campsite where we can enjoy a late afternoon dip in the Tuolumne or just relaxing with a good book.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 400 feet

After our last breakfast at tranquil Glen Aulin camp we’ll pack up our backpacks, top off our water bottles and head up the trail to our next destination, Polly Dome Lakes. Although the trail gains some elevation, it is mostly a moderate climb through a forest of lodgepole pines and some firs. Through the trees we catch glimpses of the surrounding granite peaks: Tuolumne, Hoffman and finally Polly Dome, itself as we approach closer to our destination. There we set up camp and afterward explore the area; maybe hiking up to the top of Polly Dome or, perhaps, just taking a quick swim before we settle down to our last dinner of the trip. Either way we’ll sleep well under the vast canopy of stars above us.

Day 5
  • Hiking Mileage: 4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 650 feet

We'll sleep in this morning and heavey a relaxing breakfast, as our today's hike is an easier one with our trail hardened muscles making quick work of our path. We’ll follow Murphy Creek out to its junction with awesome Tenaya Lake, where we’ll have our last lunch along the shores of, perhaps, the most beautiful lake in the Sierra Nevada. As we take a last look at the shimmering granite peaks surrounding us, we’ll already be planning our next trip to this incomparable "Range of Light."

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • 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) 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
  • Emergency communication device(s)

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, 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? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here 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 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($100).

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 in the parking lot of Curry Village near the bear boxes at shuttle stop 14 at 6PM on Day 1. Your guide will contact you approximately 10 days before your trip to coordinate this rendezvous and answer any last minute questions you have. Your guide will be 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 Curry 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.


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.

Guide Shifts

Yosemite and Sequioa-Kings Canyon guides work daily shifts from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. During off hours (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) the guides' time is their own, and they are free to sleep, rest, take personal time, postpone guest requests until the next morning, and any other legal, reasonable activity people engage in when not working. We ask all guests to respect the guides' off-duty hours by not waking or asking anything of them unless there is a true emergency. Also, state law requires that employees receive an uninterrupted 10 minute break every four working hours, so guides are required to take four 10 minute breaks between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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 1-800-715-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)

Camping on Backpacking Trips

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

Fresh & Delicious

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

In the Action

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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