The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne was unbelievable. This was a long discussed backpacking trip for 3 friends who hadn’t really seen each other for over 20 years. None of us had visited Yosemite and we were finally able to make it happen! We got to experience many amazing waterfalls, classic Yosemite views, and saw so few other people. We almost always had this impressive trail to ourselves, and I feel lucky to have had this initial Yosemite experience.
I picked up my friends in Las Vegas and we headed to Mammoth Lakes to stay for the night. We stayed with an old friend from Crested Butte, it was great to catch up and chill in this cool place.
Sunday morning we got up early and headed into Yosemite National Park to start our adventure. We picked up our permit at the wilderness center and strolled to the YARTS bus pick up spot for the ride to the starting trailhead and camp for the night. The White Wolf Campground was nice, and wasn’t too crowded considering it’s summertime in Yosemite.
Day 1: The next morning we loaded up the packs and headed into the backcountry for a 4 day trip. The first day we descended almost 4000ft to the bottom of the canyon. While the miles of steep downhill were a bit rough on the knees, we were super stoked to have the packs on and start our hike.
The hike starts out in the forest as you leave the trailhead and climbs a bit to the edge of the canyon and then it’s time to descend!
This was the only day we experienced any smoke issues from the wildfires, fortunately it didn’t seem to effect our breathing. After a final cruise along the river we made it to Pate Valley and found a nice campsite. We had easy river access and a quick swim in the river to cool us off and rinse off the dirt was most excellent.
The Day 2 hike starts to follow the Tuolumne River, so we started to see small waterfalls and pools. After a bit we got to the good size climb up the Muir Gorge. We got really lucky with the weather, as we started this tough climb we got great cloud cover and little bit of rain to keep things cool. We saw 0 people all day on the trail.
That night’s campsite was almost certainly the best one I’ve ever had, with a waterfall and great swimming hole. After a quick set up in the rain and a little tent time while it down-poured, we dried out and went for a swim!
We got to relax on some big granite above camp to watch the sunset and then again to stare at the stars for a bit!
Day 3 was the day of so many waterfalls! There was more climbing than I thought, but it was totally worth it. Around almost every bend of the trail is a waterfall, pool or beautiful river view. We couldn’t help but stop to take so many pictures!
Waterwheel and Le Conte Falls were huge and it was so cool to be able to walk out into the rock right next to the rushing waters! We definitely spent a good amount of time with the packs off exploring these amazing features.
The afternoon of day three we finally started to see a few other people as we approached Glen Aulin, it was an almost weird experience after 2 1/2 days of seeing no one. We found a nice sheltered campsite and relaxed for our last night on the trail.
Day 4 was a great day of hiking. The climbs weren’t as tough, both White Cascade and Tuolumne Falls were awesome (and we had a great swim).
The last few miles are a great ending, as you walk into Tuolumne Meadows with it’s iconic granite domes and peaks. We stopped by the Parson’s Memorial Lodge, talked with a couple other backpackers and headed to the Tuolumne store for some ice cream!
After hiking out we headed to Independence for some me food, and hit up the Onion Valley campground for the night.
After a nice night in the tents at 9,200′ we headed towards Vegas so my friends could fly out the next day. After stops at the Möbius Arch, Star Wars Canyon, and Badwater Basin we cruised to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit in our rooms, went out for an excellent dinner, played a little gambling, and then crashed out!
Everything on the trip worked out so well, great friends, awesome scenery and hiking, and pretty much perfect weather. We only dealt with smoke from the wildfires on the first day, after that it was clear skies. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls, Yosemite is an amazing place and I feel so lucky to have such great long term friends.
Pretty sure it’s my 24thish year here in Phoenix, Az. I’ve always tried to be active year round, there’s a certain time of year that requires an early morning start, but it’s never actually cold and rarely rainy enough to delay something more than a day. But it does get hot, in August when you get up at 4:30am to be on the bike at first light and walk outside and it’s in the mid-90s you might curse. If you want to recreate outside all year, you have to be out there as it gets hot, acclimating to the temps as the summer progresses, and you still need to be careful!
For me the keys to successful summer training are:
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Drink lots water – kind of a no brainer but it needs to start the day before, you can’t really catch yourself up if you start with a deficit. Include Nunn Tablets or the like, you need those electrolytes.
- Get up early – even if your conditioned for the heat, it’s best to get it done before it gets to be 112!
- Accept that fact that some days just aren’t your days and know when to slow it down, or call it, there’s always tomorrow.
- Do things you enjoy – there might be some suffering, it’ll be better if you really like the activity.
- And of course accept the fact that’s going to be HOT and there will be sweating!
It’s just starting to warm up here, getting into the low 100s everyday, I’ve been getting out regularly for at least a month, and have felt good so far. I’ve getting back to a pretty good set schedule with some afternoon gym time.
- Monday Afternoon- Swim
- Tuesday – Rest Day
- Wednesday – Cardio – Treadmill/Stair Stepper/ Treadmill
- Thursday – Strength
- Friday – Rest Day
- Saturday – Hike or Bike
- Sunday – Hike or Bike
For hiking fitness I’m using the hike that has gotten me up and down the Grand Canyon 4 times and to the top of Mt. Whitney. The Pyramid Hike is 4.2 miles to the top and back, you can also continue on and circumnavigate that area of South Mountain Park, going 7,8,10, or 12 miles. The first climb gains almost 1000ft of elevation and is an almost constant climb.
Overall I think I’m on a good track. I feel like I could do the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne hike right now, and really I’m training for the September Challenge, and there’s a lot of work to do to get ready for that! The next few weeks will be critical in heat acclimation, but I know it’s always worth the early suffering!
What are your summer adventure plans?
Aravaipa Canyon, AZ
Cant wait to get back up high this summer!!
I’ve gotten most of the planning done for this summer’s adventures. There are still a couple of things up in the air, but most of the important details have been taken care of or there’s a plan to do so. Right now I’m starting to concentrate on getting in shape for this challenge, not digging too deep yet, just trying to get a solid base built.
I hiked both days this weekend, yesterday was a nice 7 miles in South Mountain Park. I love this hike, 1600ft vertical and lots of rolling hill once you get up high!
The Status of the Plans
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne trip is all set. Plans, permits and all reservations have been made. The only thing left to do will be buy supplies, load up and head out. The hardest part will be waiting almost 3 more months!!
The September Challenge is almost all set with an important hurdle still to get over.
- Grand Canyon Campsite ✅
- Whitney Portal Campsite ✅
- Mt Whitney Day Permit ✅
- Yosemite Valley Campsite ✅
- Half Dome Permit ❌
I was unsuccessful in getting a Half Dome permit during the seasonal lottery, my plan is to enter the daily lottery 2 days out from the hike date, The only complication is that’s the day I’m hiking Mt Whitney, so I’ll wait until midnight and drive down the Portal road until I get service, sign-up for the lottery, drive up to the trailhead and start my hike, hike out in the afternoon and find out if I got a slot. If I don’t get that slot then my last opportunity will be permit jumping. Apparently you can hike to the base of the sub-dome and ask the rangers if there have been any open spots on permits, if there have been up you go. If anyone out there has any experience with this please hit me up! If that doesn’t work out I’ll hike around for a bit and enjoy being in Yosemite Valley!
See you on the trails!!