Go Explore: Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows

We’re starting off the New Year by highlighting one of our favorite campgrounds in our home state of California: Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows.

Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open sub-alpine meadow graced by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by majestic peaks and domes. Perched at an elevation of 8,600 feet on Tioga Road near the Sierra crest, Tuolumne Meadows is one of the best jumping-off points anywhere in North America for an adventure, especially easy hiking.

What to Explore

With over 300 campsites (more on that later), Tuolumne Meadows is a very popular location for camping—on a given summer day, there’s around 700 to 1,000 visitors. But head just north or south of the area and you’ll be transported to another world altogether, featuring beautiful landscapes, great hiking routes and adventuring, all without the crowd.

An easy hike from Tuolumne Meadows is the route south up Lyell Fork, the headwaters of the Tuolumne River, toward Donohue and Vogelsang passes. The first four miles are nearly flat as you walk along the John Muir Trail, which runs tandem to the Lyell Fork. The stream is loaded with small trout and has a spectacular bite around the last few hours of daylight. You can also break off the trail at any point and trek just 20 minutes or so to a rock perch that looks over Tuolumne Meadows and feels completely your own.

From Tuolumne Meadows, another great hiking option is to head north on the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail is easy walking and stays flat for about three miles as it follows the Tuolumne River toward the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. It stays easy to Glen Aulin, where you get a great view of several small waterfalls and the 100-foot-tall Tuolumne Falls, pouring through a granite slot and cascading into a foaming crater.

Of course, a trip to Yosemite would not be complete without visits to Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, and of course, Half Dome. The iconic landmarks and hiking trails are an hour and a half drive from the Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

These are just some of the many excellent day-trip options stemming from the Tuolumne Meadows. The area offers plenty of options if you’d like to leave the crowds and find your own natural sanctuary.

Where to Set Up Kamp

As previously mentioned, Tuolumne Meadows features 304 campsites, making it Yosemite’s largest campground. Half of those sites need to be reserved ahead of time, which is why now is a perfect time to start planning your trip! The other campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but we wouldn’t leave it up to chance if you’d like to get a spot. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table and food locker. Storing food in bear-proof food lockers is required. A restroom with drinking water and flush toilets is nearby.

If you can’t find a spot at Tuolumne Meadows, another option is camping just outside the park near Tioga Pass (about 10 miles east along Highway 120), where there are campgrounds at Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake operated by Inyo National Forest.

Learn more at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tmcamp.htm