Into The Wild: Backpacking Young Lakes Yosemite

Highlights Of Our Yosemite Hike:

  • The Alpine Meadows!
  • Glorious, sweeping views over both lakes – lounging above the cloud line
  • Falling sleep under a sky slowing filling with stars and the glittering Milky Way
  • Deer prancing up to our tent, ground hogs playing

In July, I went on my very first back packing trip to Sunol Regional Park, and in a surprising turn of events fell completely in love with it! I went on this trip to prepare for an upcoming four day hike to Young Lakes Yosemite. I wanted to give myself a taste of what I might be taking on. 


On Friday, we took a half day at work, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows (stopping at In-N-Out for dinner  – oooh), and camped at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground so that we could spend the first evening at elevation adjusting. We woke up early Saturday morning, picked up our permit and were at the trail head and hiking by 8:30am.

Details: Young Lakes, Yosemite National Park

Trail Head At: Tuolumne Meadow

Length: 13.2 Miles Give or Take,  6.6 Miles Each Way

Elevation Begins At: 8,584 

Top Lake Elevation: 10,218 

First things first – this hike is insanely gorgeous

Really, about every two miles or so, you are rewarded with the most stunning, take your breath away, panoramic views.


The first half mile is a steep ascent, (keep in mind that this is a pretty high elevation, especially for a newbie, so I was absolutely dragging ass). When we came across this magnificent meadow, we knew it was the perfect break spot. Surrounded by verdant pines and snow capped mountains, a crystal clear rushing brook, violet wildflowers and a light breeze, we dropped our packs, collapsed and lounged in the grass, listening to the wind through the pines.




The First Lake

We carried on to the bottom lake, where we perched on a rock by the water’s edge and stopped for lunch. PB + crackers for me,  salami and cheese for Brad. In and of itself, this lake is a gorgeous sight, but Brad insisted the upper most lake was even more gorgeous and so off we went.


The Middle Lake

We forged on to the middle lake. By this time we had walked about 6 miles, most of it steep. We stopped to choose a place for a tent, when mosquitoes swarmed. It was pure carnage. We had been attacked each time we stopped for a rest along the trail – and those little assholes bit me on every inch of exposed area, including through my pants, but we had managed to continue hiking. This time, it was a total massacre. There was nothing for it – we frantically put up the tent as we were covered by grey buzzing swarms and leapt inside. I tried not to cry.

While we rested in the tent, snacking on dark peanut butter protein bars and wondering what in the hell we were going to do, a massive doe ambled up to our tent, staring curiously at us with her golden eyes. “Hello, beautiful,” we whispered.

Shortly following the deer, two hikers tore by, shouting out that mosquitoes were much better if we could manage to make it to the topmost lake. Originally, we had planned to stop at the second lake, spend the night and hike the last precipitous mile to the top lake in the morning. We chose to trust the hikers. While Brad frantically dismantled the tent shouting “go, go go!” I hurtled up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and waterfalls, pulling myself up by handholds.

The Topmost Lake

When we first glimpsed the meadow, I gasped, overwhelmed by the natural beauty. This  was some angels singing, Lord of the Rings magic, alpine beauty. 

Alpine Meadow – first glimpse. Go on – tell me magic doesn’t exist!

As we breathed in the alpine air and basked in the beauty of this secluded lake, we quickly realized the mosquitoes were still attacking, and scrambled up another rock to the most glorious, sweeping views overlooking both the lower lakes. We found the perfect place to pitch our tent and lunged in.

Twilight at Young Lakes Yosemite
Exalting in the views  – we made it to the top lake!

Once inside the tent, we finally relaxed. We made dinner, and shared chocolate mint Cliff Bars (which I highly recommend) while we reveled in Yosemite’s exceptional beauty. We sipped Kahlua and hot chocolate as the sky slowly filled with stars and fell asleep under the glittering Milky Way.


We woke up in the morning to fluffy ground hogs scampering and playing near our tent. We sipped Kahlua coffee’s (we needed to fortify ourselves you guys) and decided there was no point staying at the top lake, breathtakingly gorgeous as it was, if we couldn’t leave the tent. We put away our things and hurtled back down the mountain.



The Descent

The hike down was tough. We were exhausted and achy from the seven mile ascent the day before. Climbing down the waterfall was trickier than going up, and stopping for breaks was nightmarish because of the mosquito swarms, but during that final descent of switchbacks before reaching the car I felt a surge of adrenaline. This is why people fall in love with hiking, this feeling of accomplishment. You just hiked a mountain. You are strong, and capable and perhaps even a little badass. At the very least you have earned the title of Outdoorsy AF. And the first sip of icy cold diet coke once we reached the car was incomparable.

I HIKED to this gorgeous place! (Notice the outfit change. Yep. I’m wearing Brad’s pants and top. Take that mosquito f**kers.)



Final notes

I am a car camping kind of gal. We usually go about 5 + times a year. We have our favorites:  a very specific, stunning campsite at Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz Redwoods with panoramic views, and Samuel P. Taylor under towering redwoods next to a a little running creek. We can leave work and have our campsite set up and toasting bubbles by sunset. We have our menu set, and there is something so fulfilling about watching the embers die in your campfire, while sipping vino and watching the stars populate the sky. We are also comfortable campers – we have a tent large enough to stand in, we have a blow up bed, it’s glorious. So when Brad first suggested backpacking I was very skeptical. I fancy myself outdoorsy, I love nature and wildlife, but I also like to be cozy. I want a soft bed. I want a restroom. I don’t want to do a massive amount of work. So, the idea of trudging up a mountain hauling over 20 pounds on my back sounded less then ideal. Shut that beautiful fucking mouth, was actually what I believe I said to Brad when he first floated the idea. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Yes, backpacking is tough. Yes, several times during each trip I thought – why am I doing this to myself?! But the feeling of absolute freedom gazing over a panoramic sweeping view above the cloud lines, knowing that you survived the trip is empowering as hell. 

May the adventure continue! Stay tuned for more backpacking and hiking trips! Coming up – Hiking in Lake Tahoe and Beach Backpacking in Point Reyes.



5 thoughts on “Into The Wild: Backpacking Young Lakes Yosemite

  1. Sounds like a great experience. I can’t say I’m much of a camper/hiker either but I can definitely see the appeal, those views are amazing! Looking forward to hearing how you get on at Lake Tahoe and Point Reyes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a wonderful experience. Camping is good for the soul. I camped a ton as a kind, and then picked it up again about 7 years ago. Backpacking is NOT easy, really half a dozen times I flat out thought I would give up. But oh, those views and the sense of freedom! If you can force yourself to get on that trail, it’s worth it 🙂 Great, thanks! Posts to come.

      Liked by 1 person

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