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By Heather van der Grinten

Why try backpacking with Yosemite Conservancy?

The first time I backpacked, I was nervous. So many doubts ran through my mind: Would I be strong enough to carry everything I would need? Would I feel safe sleeping outside? Would I be comfortable enough to have fun? 

My mentor at that time helped me borrow gear from friends, showed me how to pack my backpack, and got me excited to experience the backcountry overnight. It also helped that we had a permit for just one night – and I felt decently confident that I could survive a backpacking trip for a day and then I would finally know what this thing was all about… 

People in nature and trees with backpacks lean in as a guide in a blue hat explains something

Lead Naturalist, Cory Goehring pauses during an Outdoor Adventure in 2022 to offer some Yosemite insights. Photo by YC/Tina Moseley

What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would love laughing at the marmots romping around the alpine meadows, finding our own perfect campsite with the best sunset view, waking up to a nearby chorus of coyote pups howling at sunrise, swimming in an alpine lake to refresh my scent and my soul, and not having to rush back to my car at the end of the day.  When I finally returned home, I remember feeling surprised by my personal strength and rejuvenated by all the nature I had experienced along the way.  

Today I could not imagine a more knowledgeable, kinder, or more encouraging group of naturalist guides who lead our Outdoor Adventures. If you have ever had a similar personal debate about whether backpacking could be fun for you, I would encourage you to try it with Yosemite Conservancy. On backpacking adventures with Yosemite Conservancy, our guides focus on building on your strengths and knowledge. You get to pack your backpack and prepare your meals — and there’s handy guidance beforehand so you know what to bring! Along the way, they’ll help answer questions and provide expert tips to ensure that you’ll build confidence.  

Been backpacking before and not sure what the Conservancy trips offer you? Our naturalist guides pepper information and programs along the route, so you leave your trip with a deeper understanding of the park’s natural and cultural history. What better way to learn about Sierra Nevada amphibians than to backpack with a frog scientist? Or consider building your endurance for a future jaunt down the JMT ( the 211-mile John Muir Trail) with a four-day 24-mile trek to Vogelsang, all while learning about how our changing climate is affecting alpine ecology.   

Alpine Lake with Mountain in background and reflection

A true Yosemite classic, May Lake, is the destination of the Conservancy’s beginner backpacking trips. Photo by Gretchen Roecker

Best Outdoor Adventures for Brand-New Beginners:
A short hike to a beautiful lake

Overnight Under the Milky Way: May Lake #3, July 30-31
Intro Backpack: May Lake Art & Story Stroll, August 4-7 
Overnight Under the Milky Way: May Lake #4, August 27-28
Overnight Under the Milky Way: May Lake #5, August 28-29 


Best Intermediate Outdoor Adventures:
Longer hikes leading to epic vistas

Backpack: May Lake and High Peaks August 18-21
Backpack: Yosemite Creek to Eagle Peak, August 28-31 


Large mountain on the upper left reflects into a small alpine lake as a person hikes along a trail that is leading toward trees

Backpacker makes their way down the Rafferty Creek trail towards Vogelsang. Photo by Madison Smith

Best Outdoor Adventures to GEEK OUT:
Yosemite Field Schools 

Yosemite Field School: Alpine Ecology, August 4-6
Yosemite Field School: Vogelsang Backpack, September 1-5 

New Outdoor Adventure Opportunity: Backpack: Ten Lakes LGBTQIA+ August 25-28. This trip will be co-led by guest guide, Bradley Olsen, and Yosemite Conservancy Outdoor Adventure Program Coordinator, Ashley McComb. 

Torn between trying backpacking and also wanting to make sure you have time to see all the must-see sights? Each trip includes a night in a shared campground in Yosemite Valley so you don’t have to rush home after your backpacking trip.  

Not seeing the Yosemite hikes you were hoping for? Prefer to have your Yosemite backpacking experience with just your friends and family? Did you know you can create your own guided adventure? Through Yosemite Conservancy’s Custom Adventures you can build your own unique experience. 


Header photo: Young Lakes Outdoor Adventure, August 2015 by Ted Wakabayashi