Wilderness Camping
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Judi | 05/31/2020 | Camping, Hiking, Nature, Rock Climbing, Tours, Tours |   

Imagine! Lying in a sleeping bag beneath a star-strewn sky, alone or with a few cherished friends, as a full moon rises over the Sierra Crest, and a soft breeze rustles the trees. Just you and the wilderness. This is a magic view of Yosemite and the southern Sierra Nevada to be relished by the fit and adventurous. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, here are some tips to make your jaunt a success.

In order to camp outside a developed campground, you’ll need a wilderness permit, obtained from the government entity in charge of the trailhead you select. If your trail originates in Yosemite, you must obtain the permit at a Wilderness Center inside the park. If you plan to depart via a Sierra National Forest trail and enter the park, you must obtain a permit from an SNF office. In either case, do yourself (and the wilderness ranger) a favor and . . . PLAN AHEAD

Find an expert guide service to take you to the top. 

  • Decide WHEN you want to go. Research weather conditions in advance; continue to monitor each day prior to your hike. Don’t get caught by surprise, and be prepared to change plans last minute if weather moves in.
  • Research WHERE you want to explore. Know your options.
    • Obtain topo maps (and know how to read them)
    • Decide on a trailhead (map)
    • Know where you are allowed to camp along your designated trail
    • Know your abilities and don’t overestimate them.
      • What are the starting/ending elevations of your hike? Are you accustomed to trekking at that elevation? 
      • Is the trail flat? If not, how strenuous a climb will it be? Can you handle it?
  • Obtain your WILDERNESS PERMIT from the proper authority. 
    • Sierra National Forest
    • Yosemite National Park
    • Reserve your permit ahead of time, if possible, and know the rules on when to pick it up.
    • Know the days and hours of the office where you will pick up your permit. 
    • Obtain the latest trail information when you pick up the permit.
  • Gather your SUPPLIES. This is your one chance to be sure you have all you need for the time you intend to be away. Carry the Ten Essentials:
    • Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger, BUT don’t depend solely on GPS. It often doesn’t work or gives false info.
    • Headlamp: plus extra batteries 
    • Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
    • First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
    • Knife: plus a gear repair kit
    • Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove. Your wilderness permit will include a campfire permit. Research rules for building a fire or using a camp stove.
    • Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
    • Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation
    • Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation; think about a water filter, and know where or if there are water sources around your route. All water in the wilderness must be filtered for safety.
    • Extra clothes: Beyond the minimum expectation
  • Refer to the REI Backpacking Checklist for items beyond the Ten Essentials. Make a list and check it twice as the last step before departing. Don’t assume you have it all. 

Take Your Family Somewhere Extraordinary

  • YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – obtain a permit from one of the Wilderness Centers inside the park. The Valley Visitor Center/Wilderness Center is open year-round, as is the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station. Season stations include Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows. Hetch Hetchy features self-registration for trails originating in that area at the Hetch Hetchy entrance station. Bear canisters are required to backpack in Yosemite.
Paddleboarding on Bass Lake

Trail quotas are limited and can fill rapidly on popular trailheads, so don’t wait till the last minute. 

Be sure to leave your itinerary with loved ones and your estimated date/time of exit. If you don’t emerge as scheduled, that will be a starting place if a search becomes necessary. If you don’t wish to camp overnight, most of these hikes can be done in a day, and a wilderness permit will not be necessary. Still let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. 

Whether you decide to camp in the wilderness or do a day hike, you’ll be seeing the Sierra Nevada in a way that at least 90 percent of visitors never do. It’s an unforgettable experience.


Find a trusted guide.

Judi Hussain came to Bass Lake over 28 years ago and fell in love with the area. She bought a house that weekend, moved here from Southern California four months later. She’s made the Sierra Nevada foothills her home ever since. 

An avid hiker, she believes the best way to see Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada is by foot or bike. She has trekked virtually all of the trails in Yosemite Valley and many in the high country, as well. She’s always open to new adventures and loves sharing those journeys with visitors to the area.


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40343 Highway 41,
Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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