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Backpacking the Yosemite Falls Loop

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

The Most Bang for Your Buck

When it comes to Yosemite backpacking trips, few offer the same “bang for you buck” as the Yosemite Falls Loop. Whichever direction you intend to travel the loop, it starts by climbing out of Yosemite Valley, which comes with significant elevation gain. You are quickly rewarded, however, by views of some of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic features. This particular 3-day guided Yosemite trekking tour, led by Southern Yosemite Mountain Guide (SYMG) guides Dahlia and Brendan, doubled as a 20-year college reunion for our guests from London.

Dahlia leading guests up the Snow Creek Trail

Will appreciating his Leki trekking poles during the Snow Creek ascent

Heat, Blasting, & Blisters

The health of our guests and guides alike is of the upmost importance. SYMG relies on our partnership with Adventure® Medical Kits to keep our guides equipped and prepared to deal with the variety of medical situations which may arise in the backcountry.

Our first day on trail brought bouts of intense heat as we moved between sparse patches of shade while ascending the Snow Creek switchbacks, followed by some uncertainty as we listened to trail crews blasting further up the trail.

Yosemite view

Jarad and Will enjoying a well-deserved break while taking in the views

This challenging day left our guests with a few blisters in need of attention but in the end rewarded them with breathtaking views of Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon and eventually a hot dinner at the cozy Snow Creek camp, topped off with a relaxing sunset viewed from the promontory.

Treating blisters on the long ascent up Snow Creek with Adventure® Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight Pro

Tea time at the Snow Creek Promontory as the sun sets on Half Dome

North Dome Summit

After a hearty breakfast and plenty of coffee, 11 miles along the North Rim of Yosemite Valley lay between us and our Upper Yosemite Falls Camp. Despite our biggest day ahead (in terms of mileage) the group still opted to include a North Dome summit along the way.


Group photo on top of North Dome

The summit of North Dome is a great add-on to the Falls Loop and provides the opportunity to drop packs just before lunch and head out to yet even more views of Half Dome.

The iconic NW face of Half Dome as seen from North Dome

After a long day, we made it to camp at the Upper Falls with plenty of time for the group to relax and swim before our final dinner together.

Ed and Simon marveling at the scale of upper falls

Dahlia went the extra mile and capped off an already five-star dinner with a dessert of peaches flambé which drew a round of applause. With fully bellies and tired feet, the guys spent the remainder of the evening laying out on the granite slabs surrounding camp enjoying the clear, starry sky.

Friendship & Beauty in Yosemite

Our final morning had us up and out of camp early in hopes of beating the crowds to the view point atop Yosemite Falls and descended the Falls Trail before the full heat of the day had a chance to set in. In good spirits, despite nearing the end of our backpacking trip, we promptly made our way down to the Valley floor with brief stops to gaze at the Falls along the way.

After adjusting to the “real world” on our bus ride to Half Dome Village, we sorted gear and said our good-byes before sending Simon, Ed, Will, and Jarad off to their respective corners of the globe and back to their families. It was a real pleasure seeing such a long-standing friendship and sharing time in the back country with such a fun group.

About the Author

Joe grew up in the suburbs of Northeast Pennsylvania and naturally gravitated towards the forests of central PA and upstate New York. Upon graduating high school, he attended college in north Philadelphia where it didn’t take long for his affinity for wild places to make it clear this may not have been the right move. He packed up and headed south to Warren Wilson College in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina where he studied Forestry and solidified his love of the mountains (and good beer). Prior to guiding, Joe worked in natural resource conservation but made the switch as he appreciates the deep connections made when spending time with new friends in the mountains.