Magazine article Sunset

Yosemite's Back-Country Camps ... Now's Time to Reserve for Summer

Magazine article Sunset

Yosemite's Back-Country Camps ... Now's Time to Reserve for Summer

Article excerpt

Yosemite's back-country camps . . . now's time to reserve for summer

Drifting snow has covered the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park; the tent foundations are empty and forlorn, the rock-walled dining rooms boarded up.

But unless spring thaw is late, at the end of June pack trains and helicopters will once again bring in new supplies, the canvas tents will be erected, woodstoves will be fired up, and blankets will go back on mattresses. Within days, the first of the summer hikers will be arriving, eating breakfast and dinner at rustic tables in the main tent, taking hot showers nearby. While summer is the time to enjoy, winter is the time to reserve. Savvy hikers get their requests in early.

Where the camps are. If you know Tioga Pass Road, the high trans-Yosemite road that closes in winter, you know Tuolumne Meadows, with its gas station, store, and "lodge.' Belying its name, the lodge is actually a village of tent cabins that can sleep up to 264 people and feed them in an often crowded dining tent.

The five back-country camps are similar, on a much smaller scale. Together with Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, they form a circuit of overnight way stations for summer hikers, about 7 to 12 miles apart. Their purpose: to open up the high back country to people who want to travel light and not camp on their own.

Here are the five, counterclockwise from Tuolumne Meadows:

1. Glen Aulin (7,800 feet): 32 beds; 7.6 miles from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, at edge of Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, famous for its series of waterfalls. Popular; usually first to open.

2. May Lake (9,270 feet): 36 beds; 8.6 miles from Glen Aulin, but less than 1 1/2 miles from a trailhead near Tioga Pass Road. Situated beneath 10,850-foot Mount Hoffman (climb it for panoramic views).

3. Sunrise (9,400 feet): 34 beds; 8.3 miles from May Lake, 7.8 from Cathedral Lake trailhead on Tioga Pass Road. Overlooks John Muir Trail at edge of Long Meadow.

4. Merced Lake (7,150 feet ): 60 beds; 10 miles from Sunrise. Largest of the camps and only one allowing stay of longer than one week. Good fishing nearby.

5. Vogelsang (10,300 feet): 40 beds; 7.6 miles from Merced Lake; 7.2 miles from Tuolumne Meadows. High, spectacular, craggy country; fine hiking, climbing. fishing. Fills up quickly.

How to reserve. The high camps are operated by the Yosemite National Park concessionaire, Yosemite Park and Curry Company. …

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