|Rule Number One; (and this is an
immutable fact of life; read this carefully and understand it!)
You may not go into the backcountry without a wilderness permit.
Period. If you are caught without one, you will be summarily ejected
from the forest immediately. Plus, you will be fined $75. It matters not
the time of day, how far deep you are in, nadda. The ranger will
wait while you pack your stuff, and will escort you out of your immediate
area, and you will be told to report to the ranger station in the
valley. He or she will radio ahead that you are coming out, and you will
be expected to report to the ranger station to confirm your ejection and
note your citation. If you do not show, it is a FEDERAL contempt
violation which boosts the fine to about $250. If you have no
identification on you such as driver's license, they will have someone
come up and get you and escort you down the hill. And he or she will not
smile. They govern the number of people who can enter the wilderness
on a per-trailhead basis. For instance, say you want to leave on
your trip from Happy Isles trailhead, or the Vernal Falls trail.
(This is the most popular debarkation point in Yosemite, by the
way...) You will get a permit that notes where you entered the
wilderness, and the date, your destination and expected date out.
When the ranger asks for this permit, have it readily accessible.
It's just like a traffic stop on the highway.
having said all that, here's how to tweak the system to get around those
trailhead quotas; Peruse your map, and find a parallel trail that will get
you to the same place, but by a different wilderness entry point.
What we have done frequently is upon finding that Happy Isles is booked,
we ask for a trail head out of Glacier Point Road (Mono Meadow) and then
head over to Little Yosemite and we're good to go. Getting to the
same place, just not on the same trail. Now, don't ask for a trail
head entry point in Tuolumne Meadows and go in at Wawona, that won't
work. Rangers are not stupid, and if you do that, even though you
have a wilderness permit, it's not for a valid trailhead based on where
you actually are, and they will throw you out of the woods.
so you know, and just in case you're thinking of bucking the system, I
have been awakened by the ranger from a sound sleep checking
permits. He was on a horse, and as I stuck my head groggily out of
my tent, he and his horse were looking down on me from on high, and it scared the s***
out of me. Granted, it was about 8:30am, and I was sleeping in, but
I couldn't find my permit at first, and he was getting impatient. I
ALWAYS that's ALWAYS get "carded" when I backpack.
story: We were at Little Yosemite and this new, cocky belligerent arrogant
female ranger came over pushing her weight around asking for wilderness
permits from everybody, and I started making fun of her by imitating a
stern Nazi Gestapo agent asking "You vill present your payyy-pers
Plise" "Pee-pers, plise" and everyone roared with
laughter. One guy couldn't find his permit; his hiking partner had
it, and that guy was off somewhere not in camp. She was getting real
bitchy, so I started "YOU HAVE NO PAY-PERS! Vee...have...vays...of...dealing...with
violators! YOU...VILL....PRODUCE...YOUR... PAY-PERS... OR FACE THE
CON-SE-QUENCES.... YES?" Our crowd was just in tears
laughing, as this gal had to complete her inspections, and she was getting
PISSED, but we did not let up. She looked at me with that
look... and if looks could kill, I'd be dead... Some rangers
just get power-mad. So we give it right back to them. Screw 'em)
Two: No Fires Above 9,600 feet.
They will bust you good for that, too. Watch your topo map and
pay attention to what elevation you are camping at for the night.
They are hard-core about this.
Three: Do NOT cut any wood.
That includes fallen trees. You may collect wood that is readily
available only by picking it up loose. They'll bust you for cutting
any wood. Big time. Note about the valley floor: DO NOT
pick up loose wood ANYWHERE on the valley floor. You must collect it
outside the valley. The valley is defined as that area below the gate
near Bridalveil Falls parking lot. You will drive by and drool at all
the fallen oak that is just lying in piles; you can't touch it. Don't
even think about it. WORK-AROUND: Go to
Foresta and collect all the dry, loose wood you can burn. Drive
into the area and proceed all the way past the barns, and keep going back
until you cross a small bridge, go up the hill and start looking after you
pass the green house on the left and where the road turns dirt. There is tons
of firewood up there and it's close to the valley floor. An afternoon
of foraging will fill your pickup. Be careful; the road is a
BAD road, so don't take a really nice car back there. Trucks and
beater-cars only. There will be lots of dust... Also, you can go
to areas between Bridalveil and Wawona and pick up loose wood where you find
it. But just remember: Do NOT pick it up off the valley floor.
Four: Use the bear canisters.
The rumor is that hanging food does not work anymore. I would
challenge that assumption. If you are camping at a developed
campsite this is probably true. But if you are bushwhacking a
campsite (creating a new site) then you will more than likely do OK with
hanging your food, IF you do it properly.
Backcountry permits are required for
all overnight stays in the wilderness. Those leaving from Badger Pass
must register at the Badger Pass Ranger Station. Wilderness
self-registration permit stations for other areas are located at the Big
Oak Flat visitor contact station, Hills Studio in Wawona, the Ski Hut in
Tuolumne Meadows, and from 9:00 to 5:00 at the Valley Visitor Center.
Anyone entering the wilderness in winter should leave a detailed
itinerary with a trusted friend or relative including information
indicating at which point a search should be initiated.
Most wilderness users will find the
best day and overnight trail options leaving from the Badger Pass area.
There are more than 50 miles of marked trails and the Glacier Point Road
beyond Badger pass is groomed. For Ostrander Ski Hut information and
reservations call 209-372-0740. The Yosemite Cross Country Center
operates overnight guided ski trips to Glacier Point, for information
about this trip and equipment rentals call 209-372-8444. All overnight
users are required to register for overnight parking at the Badger
Marked Ski trails are also available at
Crane Flat and at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia. Check at the
Valley Visitor Center for information and maps of these three nordic ski
All winter Wilderness travelers should
be prepared for sudden storms. Snow, hail, and freezing rain can occur
through out the park. Creeks and rivers can rise suddenly, trails can
become obliterated by snow. Hazards such as slippery and icy conditions,
difficult creek crossings, rock and ice fall, and challenging route
finding are all possible. Check the weather before you come and plan for
the possibility of wet and cold conditions. Be aware of the risks of
Tuolumne Meadows is a popular
destination for skilled wilderness skiers. Avalanche potential is high
with December snows overlaying the old snow from early November. Any new
snow increases the avalanche danger. It is strongly recommend that
anyone skiing in the high Sierra this winter dig a snow pit to determine
snow stability. Avalanche conditions are likely to persist through out
the winter and can vary greatly from place to place. If you are not
familiar with assessing avalanche conditions it is highly recommended
that you ski on the marked trails at Badger pass, Crane Flat and the
Mariposa Grove. For updated Tuolumne information call 372-0450 between
8:00 am and 5:00 pm.
Those entering Yosemite from the east
side can obtain self registration wilderness permits at the Tuolumne Ski
Bear Resistant Food Canisters are
recommended in all parts of the Yosemite Wilderness and are required in
the Rancheria falls area near Hetch Hetchy. Bear resistant food
canisters can be rented at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the
Valley Sport Shop, the Curry Village Mountain Shop, the Wawona and Crane
Flat Stores and at the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station. Bear canister
rentals and road hours call 209-379-1922.
The Yosemite Wilderness is here for you
to enjoy and help protect-plan ahead, leave no trace, stay safe, and