Questions About Our Adventure Programs?

Want to know more about what to expect on an Outdoor Adventure, Custom Adventure, or a Naturalist Walk? Click on the text below to expand the sections — and hopefully we’ll be able to answer all of your questions!

Outdoor Adventures

How do I register for Outdoor Adventures?

Register online. Select the program you’d like to attend and click the yellow “Register” button to provide participant and payment information. Give us a call if you run into any registration issues at 209-379-2647.

What do I receive after I register?

  • An automatic email with the Subject: Confirmation of Your Booking with Yosemite Conservancy
  • From: [email protected]
    • The Confirmation email contains a link to your registration portal to fill out your online liability forms. We need a form from each participant.
    • Along with the lodging details to book using our Group Code.
  • Roughly a month prior to your program you will receive your “Information Packet”. This is a PDF attachment to an email from [email protected] with all the specific program details pertaining to your adventure.

 

I registered and I have not received any information about the program.

If you cannot see the confirmation email, please search for “[email protected]” in your “All Mail” box. Sometimes our confirmation emails will show up in “Spam” or “Promotions.”

If it is within one month of your program and you have not received your “Information Packet”, please reach out to [email protected] to ensure we have your email address correct.

What if I have to cancel?

We understand that you may need to cancel your registration or miss your adventure. Our cancellation policy enables us to issue some refunds within our limited budget as a nonprofit organization.

  • If you cancel 30 or more days in advance, we will refund your registration. All refunds incur a $25 cancellation fee.
  • If you cancel fewer than 30 days in advance, including in the case of illness, we will offer a 50% refund.

We strongly suggest purchasing trip-cancellation insurance through an online provider or your local travel agent. If we cancel your program, we will refund your registration in full. If we cancel your program, we will refund your registration in full. Note that the refund will cover your registration fee. You will still be responsible for the costs of any other travel or lodging you’ve arranged.

Are there additional forms I need to register for a program?

Every participant is required to complete a liability release form before attending a program. In addition, participants in backpacking trips will require a medical form.

Use your registration/confirmation email to access your private portal and fill out all necessary forms.

What is included in the fees?

  • Your fee covers instruction with an expert naturalist guide
  • Park entrance fees (as needed, no discount if you already have a pass)
    • Be sure to print out your entrance fee waiver that will be attached to the information packet you’ll receive after you register.
    • If you don’t have a physical copy or a screenshot of the entrance fee waiver on your phone, you will have to pay the regular fee of $35.00 per car. There is no cell service at the entrance gate.
  • Shared campsites as needed, there is no discount if you choose not to use our shared sites. You don’t have to camp to attend the program.
  • Wilderness permits (for backpack trips)
  • Bear-proof canister on all backpacking trips as needed.

Please check specific program details for other things that may be included in your registration.

Are meals, transportation, or equipment included?

  • Meals are not included in any programs unless specified in the program description. Only our Dine and Discover programs offer food and beverages. For all other programs, participants are responsible for their own gear, food, and water. Please be prepared to be self-sufficient out on the trail.
  • There is no transportation included in any program. We help to arrange carpooling among participants, as needed.
  • Bear canister rentals are provided when required. A coupon is included in the information packet, and you must pick up your own bear canister before your trip.
  • Pick up canisters at any Wilderness Center in Yosemite. Wilderness Centers are in Yosemite Valley, Thomas Hill Studio in Wawona, The Big Oak Flat Entrance Gate, and Tuolumne Meadows. We recommend avoiding the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center when possible since traffic in Yosemite Valley can be difficult.

 

How does the camping that comes with the program work?

Our campsites are shared between participants who have opted to camp. You will be asked during the registration process if you’d like to use our shared campsites. Each site can fit six people, has one bear locker, one table, one fire pit, and two parking spaces. No other equipment or supplies are provided.

  • Our sites are for participants only, no partners, spouses or guests are permitted.
  • We guarantee space for tent camping only. If you choose to bring a recreational vehicle, we cannot guarantee you will have a parking spot. Please be prepared to tent camp.
  • We ask that you always leave one parking space open for the group to use. It is the responsibility of the group to decide how the parking spaces are used, unless you’re instructed otherwise by the office staff.
  • Please let the office staff know right away if your camping request changes.
  • Check specific program pages for camping dates and location.
  • If you desire a private campsite, or have a camper or RV, or want to sleep in your car, call 1-877-444-6777 ASAP to handle your own reservation at the regular fee (Campsites can be difficult to secure and must be reserved in advance.)
  • The National Park Service campgrounds have cold running water and flush toilets, and there are no showers or electricity (except in the bathrooms).
    • Showers may be purchased through the concessionaire at Curry Village.
  • Pets are not allowed on programs or in Conservancy-reserved campsites.
  • Quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.
  • Please be considerate of other campers by being quiet if you arrive late or get up early.

 

What if I don’t want to camp? Are there other lodging options?

There is a lodging block for most programs. These rooms can be booked using a Group Code for an additional fee. Check the specific program page for lodging upgrade availability.

  • All lodging reservations must be made 30 days before the start of the program. These rooms are released 30 days prior to the program.
  • Once you register for a program, you’ll get an automated email with the group code.
  • If you register with the intent to use the lodging upgrade and our room block is full, reach out to us right away for a full refund.

 

What do the three Experience Levels mean?

For Day programs and all programs that are not backpacking trips:

  • Easy: Requires walking on fairly flat trails, moving at a slow pace and stopping often to discuss the surroundings. Traveling 1-5 miles on foot throughout the day without much elevation gain, and carpooling when needed to higher elevations.
  • Intermediate: Generally requires hiking 6-9 miles per day with an elevation gain of 200-900 feet and could include some off-trail travel. Check specific programs for additional information on mileage and elevation gain.
  • Advanced: Generally requires difficult hiking and intense physical activity, covering 8 miles or more per day with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet. Usually these trips begin in the Tuolumne region and participants hike to higher elevations over 9,000 feet.

For backpacking trips:

  • Easy: Suitable for participants with little to no backpacking experience. Hikes are usually limited to less than five miles per day with daily elevation gains of less than 1,000 feet.
  • Intermediate: Best for participants who have prior backpacking experience. Hikes are usually between 6-10 miles per day with daily elevation gains of over 1,000 feet.
  • Advanced:: Participants must have extensive prior backpacking experience. Hikes are generally over 10 miles per day with daily elevation gains of over 1,000 feet.

Consider the following factors when choosing a program that involves hiking:

  • Your personal fitness level.
  • The overall elevation of the hiking area. Tuolumne Meadows hikes start at 8,600 feet elevation; Tioga Pass at 9,940 feet; Yosemite Valley and Wawona at 4,000 feet.
  • Each hike’s round-trip mileage per day.
  • The overall elevation gain or loss of a hike. If you gain or lose over 1,200 feet, the hike will be demanding.
  • Winter courses can become more challenging than usual when there is a lot of fresh snow.

 

What is the typical class size?

To ensure a quality experience, we limit most courses to 12-15 students. Programs that require a more focused level of instruction may be even smaller in size. We allow groups between 15 and 20 when there is more than one instructor leading, such as during photography and basketry workshops.

Where should I stay?

For registered participants, fees cover the cost of camping (a value of up to $36 per night where applicable) at shared campsites.

Additionally, a limited number of hotel rooms or tent cabins are available for participants at an additional cost through Yosemite Hospitality (the concessionaire that manages the park’s lodging, food, and retail operations). Check the specific program for lodging upgrade information.

You’re also welcome to find lodging on your own outside the park in the surrounding gateway communities.

I don’t see a program that fits my schedule or interest. Can Yosemite Conservancy arrange a private guided hike for my group?

We love doing this! We regularly plan and lead Custom Adventures for corporate groups, tour companies, church or university groups, friends, families or individuals looking for a companion to hike with and learn from. Learn more & submit an inquiry online, or call 209-379-2647 to get started arranging a special adventure for your group with one of our top-notch naturalists.

Do I need to donate to Yosemite Conservancy to participate in a program?

No, but Yosemite Conservancy members do receive a 15% discount on all course fees (along with many other benefits).

Please consider becoming a member of our Sequoia Society with a monthly gift of $5 or more. Find more information online or email [email protected] with any questions.

How difficult will the hiking be?

  • Hiking is an integral part of practically every course, so you must be in good physical condition to participate.
  • All programs in Tuolumne Meadows are at high elevations starting at 8,600 feet going as high as 10,000 feet. Elevation affects everyone differently, so please do practice hikes in similar elevations, be well hydrated and eat plenty of food in preparation for your trip.
  • Backpacking programs require an even higher level of fitness, and if you wish to participate you will be required to complete a medical questionnaire before your space in the class can be confirmed. The health and safety of all our participants is our priority; if you are unprepared or appear physically unable to complete the required activities during any program, trip leaders reserve the right and responsibility to ask that you do not take part in the program in order to ensure the safety of the group.

All courses have been rated according to the difficulty of the hiking. Daily hiking miles are listed in the description of all classes. If you have questions regarding the demands of any course, please call the office and we will be happy to help you decide whether the course is a good fit: 209-379-2647

What’s involved in backpacking trips?

The most important first step in your backpacking program is that you are well prepared. If you are backpacking for the first time, we highly recommend that you:

  • Participants provide all their own food and equipment, other than a bear-proof canister, which are mandatory and are provided. (Approximately 1-2 months before the trip you will be emailed a complete information packet, which contains your fee waiver, detailed program schedule, packing list, park information, and bear canister rental coupon, if applicable.)
  • If you are a first-time backpacker, we suggest you refer to REI’S Expert Advice backpacking articles and watch a few instructional videos. Go into an outdoor store to talk to knowledgeable staff or search for books at your local library.
  • We also recommend watching How to Pack your Backpack with Yosemite Conservancy Naturalist Guide Marty Anderson. Marty has done over 80 backpack trips in Yosemite and shares some tips and tricks to help pack your bag.
  • Each participant must be in excellent physical condition and prepared with proper gear in order to attend. Even introductory trips involve hiking at high elevations and are physically demanding.
  • Each year we make an effort to offer backpacking trips designed for all skill levels, ranging from introductory programs for beginners who are physically fit (or for those who want to refresh their backpacking skills) to advanced hikers who are in excellent physical condition and have previous multi-day backpacking experience.
  • The health and safety of all our participants is our priority; if you are unprepared or appear physically unable to complete the required activities during any program, trip leaders reserve the right and responsibility to ask that you do not take part in the program in order to ensure the safety of the group.

 

What if I don’t own all the gear I need for the trip?

There are many ways to source gear. Here are three options to consider:

  • REI’s gear rental program from Yosemite’s local REI in Fresno, CA.
  • Along 120 W just outside the park boundary in Groveland, you’ll pass the Echo Adventure Cooperative. Echo’s Yosemite Basecamp Outfitter has a limited number of backpacking kits available to rent for a weekend’s adventure. To reserve, visit echocoop.com.
  • If you’d rather have the items at home in advance of your trip – we’ve got a third option for you! KitLender.com offers complete camping and backpacking kits that they will mail straight to your door so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.

What should I expect from the weather?

Expect the unexpected! Weather conditions vary greatly in the Sierra Nevada, so be prepared for all conditions in all seasons.

  • Programs are conducted rain or shine.
  • For current road and weather conditions call the NPS 24-hour hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1, then 1) or visit gov/Yose.

Here is some general weather information by region:

  • Yosemite Valley: The weather here can shift suddenly. In May for example, days can be warm and sunny one day, and cold, wet, and stormy the next. Spring temperatures typically range in the 70s, June temperatures are in the 80s. July and August are in the 90s and occasionally they reach the 100s. In September the temperature returns to the 80s.
  • Wawona: May temperatures are typically in the 60s, June and September they are in the low 70s. July and August they are in the high 80s.
  • Tuolumne Meadows: Temperatures in mid-summer are usually in the 70s in the daytime and in the 30s at night. Though skies are usually clear, thunderstorms can be a daily occurrence in summer afternoons.
  • Usually developing at higher elevations, thunderstorms form suddenly and can provide intense but brief downpours, lightning, thunder, hail, and gusty winds. Typically skies clear by nightfall.

 

Leave No Trace

We want to Leave No Trace during our time in Yosemite, to contribute to the care of the park and respect others who will want to enjoy it as well. Please stay on trails, pack out all litter (including toilet paper), leave what belongs in Yosemite, don’t feed animals, and be considerate of other visitors.

Risks

Yosemite is a paradise to many but it does have its dangers, and unfortunate things befall visitors here every year. Among the challenges you might encounter on some of our Yosemite Outdoor Adventure programs are: stream crossings, exertion at elevation, continuous ascents or descents on trails, strong sun, lightning, and the general elements that make Yosemite wild: uneven terrain, steep slopes, rough trails, swift streams, mountain weather, wild animals, etc. It’s also a reality that Yosemite’s popularity makes traffic and driving a hazard; winter conditions add more challenge. Snowshoeing is harder than walking and if we have fresh, deep snow, it’ll be hard work. Some of the issues we worry about most on our courses include: dehydration, knee or ankle problems, getting lost, and getting sunburned. All of these are preventable with prudent attention. Please pay attention to your instructors and alert them to any problems you’re having, eat and drink adequately, use sun protection, pace yourself, and don’t stray from the group.

Custom Adventures

Can Yosemite Conservancy arrange a private guided hike for my group or family?

We love doing this! We regularly plan and lead Custom Adventures for corporate groups, tour companies, school groups, friends, families or individuals looking for a companion to hike with and learn from. Learn more & submit an inquiry online, or call 209-379-2647 to get started arranging a special adventure for your group with one of our top-notch naturalists.

How do I inquire about Custom Adventures?

Fill out our online inquiry form here. We will respond in 48 hours excluding National Holidays and weekends. In our response, we will confirm our availability, offer recommended start times, and recommend the meeting location.

What is included in a Custom Adventure?

Custom Adventures are tailored to your schedule and interest. We will arrange a convenient meeting location in the park based on your lodging.  We usually keep the itinerary loose to be decided with your naturalist once you meet up.  On our Custom programs you will learn information and stories on Yosemite’s dynamic natural and cultural history. Your naturalist will ensure you move around the park efficiently and see the highlights.  You can enjoy off the beaten path locations while on easy or moderate hiking trails, you’ll seek out unique views, and destinations. It will be an incredible and interactive experience!

What is not included in a Custom Adventure?

We do not include meals, gear or transportation. If your program involves driving, you can carpool (if space and comfort of the group allows), caravan, or drive separately. These options will be discussed at the program and decided based on what makes the most sense for the itinerary. You can inquire with your hotel to arrange lunches.

*For winter programs we will provide snowshoes if conditions allow for this activity. This is included in the fee for the program.

Where should I stay? 

It is best to make your lodging arrangements before reaching out to arrange a Custom Adventure.

What if I have to cancel?

We understand that you may need to cancel your registration or miss your adventure. Our cancellation policy enables us to issue some refunds within our limited budget as a nonprofit organization.

  • If you cancel 30 or more days in advance, we will refund your registration. All refunds incur a $25 cancellation fee.
  • If you cancel fewer than 30 days in advance, including in the case of illness, we will offer a 50% refund.

 

We strongly suggest purchasing trip-cancellation insurance through an online provider or your local travel agent. If we cancel your program, we will refund your registration in full. If we cancel your program, we will refund your registration in full. Note that the refund will cover your registration fee. You will still be responsible for the costs of any other travel or lodging you’ve arranged.

Can I book a guided hike up Half Dome?

The Conservancy does not offer private guided trips up Half Dome. However, you can check out Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG) an incredible guiding agency.  Here’s their site: Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

Naturalist Walks

What are Naturalist Walks?

These programs are one to two hours and explore a range of topics pertaining to Yosemite’s natural and cultural history, depending on the time of year. Programs are available for last-minute registration. Everyone must pre-register to attend.

Programs include:

  • Birding in Yosemite
  • Sunset Walks
  • Explore Yosemite’s Night Sky

 

How do I register for Naturalist Walks?

Register online. Select the program you’d like to attend and click the yellow “Register” button to provide participant and payment information. Give us a call if you run into any registration issues at 209-379-2647.

What do I receive after I register?

  • An automatic email with the Subject: Confirmation of Your Booking with Yosemite Conservancy
  • From: [email protected]
  • The Confirmation email contains a Google pin to the meeting location for the program.
    • Also, a link to your registration portal to fill out your online liability forms. We need a form from each participant.

I registered and I have not received any information about the program.

As soon as you registered you were sent a confirmation email from [email protected] with all the details on where to meet, what to bring, and directions on how to find your meeting location. If you cannot see the confirmation email, please search for “[email protected]” in your “All Mail” box. Sometimes our confirmation emails will show up in “Spam” or “Promotions.”

What if there is bad weather?

For Sunset Walks, we will cancel ahead by texting and emailing if there is heavy rain/snow forecasted. The naturalist will still show up to the meeting place to notify the group in case people do not receive our messages. If it’s only lightly raining/snowing, we can go out still. We will continue with the programs if there is only snow on the ground as well.

For Star programs, we will cancel ahead by texting and emailing if there is heavy rain/snow forecasted. The naturalist will still show up to the meeting place to notify the group in case people do not receive our messages.

If it’s just clouds or light weather, we will offer something called a “partial cancellation”. This allows each participant to decide whether they still want to go out.  Those who want a refund can ask for one at the start of the program and leave.  Those who want to continue with learning about the night sky will enjoy the evening with the naturalist still and not receive a refund.  If you don’t show up you will not get a refund. Often in Yosemite Valley the clouds move quickly due to unique pressure systems. When it’s cloudy at the beginning of the program, clouds can clear in 10-15 minutes, or more. Although that is difficult to predict. When participants decide to still go out, there’s a chance it could be cloudy the whole time. We recommend continuing with the program because there is a lot you can learn about the night sky without seeing the stars!

Where does the group go on the Sunset Walk?

The route travels on the flat, paved/wooden boardwalk Cooks Meadow Loop Trail (Website description does not include the meeting location for the program).

Is the star program good for kids?

Yes, but this depends on the child. This program is an hour or more of lecture on the night sky. The group will lay on tarps on a grassy field and listen to the naturalist share stories and information. The program ranges from introductory to intermediate levels of information shared. You are welcome to leave early if your child is disruptive or turns out not to be interested.

Does the star program use telescopes?

We do not use telescopes on our star programs. Your naturalist will use a laser pointer to single out specific stars, planets, and constellations. The program curriculum focuses on astronomy (including but not limited to star science, constellations, planetary science, perception of light/how light travels, meteors, meteorites, etc.), as well as story/lore/mythology rooted in cultures both locally and across the world.

Where does the stargazing program happen?

You will receive the meeting place details immediately after you register online. The group will walk together to an open field for the hour-long program. The walk is on flat ground, mostly paved, with a section of trail that is dirt.

Can I bring my dog?

Dogs are not allowed on our programs. Service dogs are allowed.

Questions About the Park

How do I register for Yosemite Conservancy programs?

  • Go to org and hover your mouse over “Experience Yosemite”
  • Select the page for the program you are interested in.
  • Click the yellow “Register” button to provide participant and payment information.
  • Give us a call if you run into any registration issues at 209-379-2647.

 

Do I need to donate to Yosemite Conservancy to participate in a program?

No, but Yosemite Conservancy members do receive a 15% discount on all course fees (along with many other benefits).

Please consider becoming a member of our Sequoia Society with a monthly gift of $5 or more. Find more information online or email [email protected] with any questions.

How do I get to Yosemite?

Most participants drive to Yosemite since it is some distance from urban areas. Major airports near Yosemite include Fresno, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Reno (in summer).

We encourage taking public transit when possible. Here are some options:

  • Extranomical Tours offers daily bus tours to Yosemite from San Francisco. You can take these tours one-way, then obtain your lodging on your own, then use it to return to San Francisco when you choose.
  • Take Bart from San Francisco to Amtrak in Tracy.
  • Amtrak San Joaquins: Take the Amtrak train to the Merced station and then hop on our thruway bus partner, YARTS, for a seamless ride into Yosemite. Book your ride via Amtrak San Joaquins to help reduce your carbon footprint and emissions in the park.
  • YARTS: Buses operate throughout the Yosemite region and service all of the surrounding gateways to the park.

Please note that not all course meeting sites are accessible by public transportation. Feel free to contact the office to see if your program is accessible by public transportation: 209-379-2647 

What should I expect from the weather?

Expect the unexpected! Weather conditions vary greatly in the Sierra Nevada, so be prepared for all conditions in all seasons.

  • Programs are conducted rain or shine.
  • For current road and weather conditions call the NPS 24-hour hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1, then 1) or visit gov/Yose.

Here is some general weather information by region:

  • Yosemite Valley: The weather here can shift suddenly. In May for example, days can be warm and sunny one day, and cold, wet, and stormy the next. Spring temperatures typically range in the 70s, June temperatures are in the 80s. July and August are in the 90s and occasionally they reach the 100s. In September the temperature returns to the 80s.
  • Wawona: May temperatures are typically in the 60s, June and September they are in the low 70s. July and August they are in the high 80s.
  • Tuolumne Meadows: Temperatures in mid-summer are usually in the 70s in the daytime and in the 30s at night. Though skies are usually clear, thunderstorms can be a daily occurrence in summer afternoons.
  • Usually developing at higher elevations, thunderstorms form suddenly and can provide intense but brief downpours, lightning, thunder, hail, and gusty winds. Typically skies clear by nightfall.

 

Are there bears in Yosemite?

Yes! Black bears have called Yosemite home for centuries. They are an essential part of the total ecosystem, and it is very important that we do not interfere with their natural state. To preserve bears and keep visitors safe we need to keep bears wild.

Bears that are encouraged to interact with humans through feeding can cause damage to automobiles and personal property by trying to access human food. To prevent this, please be sure to follow federal requirements for food storage while visiting the park campgrounds and other accommodations.

Never store food in your car. Each visitor plays an important role in keeping human food away from bears!

Are there alcohol or marijuana restrictions?

We don’t encourage drinking alcohol during our programs although it is not explicitly forbidden. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted for those under 21 years of age. Responsible, polite behavior is expected of everyone when alcohol is present and/or consumed. The Conservancy expects those who drink alcohol to act responsibly and never drink and drive.

Although marijuana is legal in California as of January 1, 2018, it is still illegal to use or possess in Yosemite National Park due to the park’s federal jurisdiction, 36CFR 2.35.

What are the roads like in the winter?

For current road and weather conditions call the NPS 24-hour hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1, then 1) or visit NPS.gov/Yose

Your vehicle should be prepared for winter conditions. This includes:

  • Having a good ice scraper/snow brush and snow shovel in your car
  • Making sure your radiator has fresh antifreeze
  • Checking your tire chains for fit and making certain your battery is in good condition.
  • Most of the time, chains are not required if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle running M&S rated tires, however park officials do require even 4-wheel drive vehicles to carry tire chains in case the roads get really icy.
  • Also, do not forget to fill your gas tank BEFORE you reach the park, as there is no gas available in Yosemite. There is gas in Wawona and Crane Flat.
  • You can also check the highways on your way to the park on this website. After numerous wildfires, the highways surrounding Yosemite may be affected by mud and rockslides.

 

Do cell phones work in Yosemite?

Reception is unreliable in the park. Verizon and AT&T work better than other carriers. You can get service with these two carriers in Yosemite Valley but on the highways entering Yosemite Valley, there is usually no service. We ask that phones be kept on silent mode during our programs.

General Yosemite Information:

We highly recommend reviewing the Yosemite Guide to get the most updated information on services including restaurants, stores, ATMs, and public showers in the park.

  • There is no gas available in Yosemite Valley.
  • Camping and sleeping in vehicles is permitted only in designated campsites.
  • You cannot remove any objects from the park, including pinecones, rocks, leaves, obsidian, etc.
  • The feeding of wildlife is prohibited.
  • Pets are not allowed on trails or on any Yosemite Conservancy courses.

Online Resources

Leave No Trace

We want to Leave No Trace during our time in Yosemite, to contribute to the care of the park and respect others who will want to enjoy it as well. Please stay on trails, pack out all litter (including toilet paper), leave what belongs in Yosemite, don’t feed animals, and be considerate of other visitors.