Yosemite Back Country

Most (90%) of Yosemite is managed as Wilderness (essentially everything more than 1 mile from a road). The word wilderness is best defined by what the law says, not by anything else. From the Wilderness Act 1964 PL 88-577 -- Areas where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. And areas managed to secure for the American people ... and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness ... unimpaired for future use and enjoyment. This results in basic rules such as a size of at least 5,000 acres, no construction, no vehicles, no powered machines (a lever is a machine, so hand saws, but not power saws). It is also where you see fewer people. We have spent several consecutive days on trails, and encountered less than 5 people. You have to walk to see it. Horses are allowed on most of the trails -- like everything this is both good and bad (it means trails need to be well constructed, but also that trails can be worn and dusty).

To visit the wilderness, you need to know the rules, which change from year to year (so look at the Yosemite National Park Backpacking Information Pages). Of course, if you enter on foot on a trail, you need to also follow the rules from some bordering National Forest. The primary rule is the wilderness permit which serves 2 purposes, first to make sure you get the current information on rules and conditions, and second to spread people out (both in time and space).

Yosemite Back Country Visitation Backcountry (wildneress) overnight stays vary by the month, and are heavily influenced by the snow levels. Statistics (taken from the Park Service site) show variations by year. Note that January 1997 was the year of the flood -- heavy rain on top of early snow melted the snow and flooded the backcountry streams, and the valley. Several bridges were washed out -- like all natural events, traces remain but now have become part of the landscape.
Matternhorn Canyon, Lupine, Yosemite Matterhorn Canyon. This is the only place where I have encountered lupine so thick over such a large area that you can smell the aroma. Lupine are not famous for their aroma, mostly because it is weak. Burro Pass, Matternhorn Canyon, Yosemite From Burro Pass you get a good view of Matterhorn Canyon. I have seen the real Matterhorn, and the one in Yosemite is not even close, hence no picture of it. Smedberg Lake, Pacific Crest Trail, Yosemite Smedberg Lake isn't close to any trailheads so it gets PCT traffic and those on long loops.
Benson Lake, Yosemite, Benson Riveria, Pacific Crest Trail Also in the region north of Tioga Road, you find Benson Lake. Some call this the Benson Riveria (a short detour off the trail for the PCT thru-hikers). The camping is on the broad sandy beach. It has all the advantages of a beach, and all the disadvantages. Kerrick Canyon, Yosemite Kerrick Canyon has very little traffic. It is not a secret, it is just a long hike from any direction. Arndt Lake Yosemite Arndt Lake is a short detour, but like all lakes there is always somewhere to camp (as always at least 100' from water).
Sunrise High Sierra Camp, Tuolumne, Yosemite When you reach the top of almost any ridge you are rewarded by outstanding views. Such as this from near Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Ten Cloud, Yosemite High ponds throughout the Sierra are slowly becoming meadows as at Ten Cloud. Yosemite metal cutout signs, Yosemite, Signs The metal signs with cut out letters are still common on backcountry trails. Half Dome from Clouds Rest, Yosemite Yes, Half Dome is backwards. You get this view from Clouds Rest. You can also see Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan in the background. Much more interesting than the view from the other side. And you look down on Half Dome.
Iseberg Pass, Merced Canyon, Yosemite Iseberg Pass provides access to the upper Merced Canyon. Also you see almost no one. The access is from the forest to the south. The trail down the Merced to Yosemite Valley is a much longer trip. Iseberg Trail, Yosemite The southern reaches of the park have many opportunities for hiking without crowds.

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