Return to the High Sierra Camps

After having such an incredible experience with my brother at Yosemite’s Merced Lake High Sierra Camp last summer, I really wanted to return with Stephanie. We entered the lottery last September, but didn’t get picked, so in February I pieced together a partial loop for Labor Day Weekend from among the dates that were still available. We chose the “Meals Only” option, which meant we got to enjoy the same amazing, homemade meals as all the other guests (while saving us from having to carry food and cooking supplies), but we had to bring our own tent and sleeping bags (instead of staying in the tent cabins).

En route to Glen Aulin in Yosemite National Park
En route to Glen Aulin

Originally this was the only backpacking trip we’d planned for the summer, but of course the PCT happened, and then we managed to squeeze Rae Lakes into the July 4th weekend. I’ve been calling it “The Summer of Backpacking”. Along with our trip to Oaxaca in May, it’s the first summer in a long time that’s actually felt like a summer.

Stephanie the Explorer in Yosemite National Park
Stephanie the Explorer

Once again, we drove to Tuolumne Meadows (Stephanie’s third time this summer), where we’d begin our hike to Glen Aulin—on same section of the PCT that I had hiked with my dad back in June. Since we drove for 5 hours and then hiked for 6 miles that first day, we had smartly decided in advance to spend two nights in Glen Aulin. We used our “rest” day in between to hike out and back to Waterwheel Falls on the Tuolumne River. On day three we hiked to May Lake and spent a night, on day four we hiked to Sunrise and spent a night, and then on day five we hiked the John Muir Trail back to Tuolumne Meadows, spending a night there in a tent cabin, and availing ourselves of their glorious showers! All told, we hiked roughly 39 miles, almost the same distance we covered at Rae Lakes, but split over five days instead of four.

Map of our High Sierra Camps loop in Yosemite National Park
Map of our High Sierra Camps loop
The Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park
View from a bridge over the Tuolumne River near Glen Aulin
Overlooking Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park
Overlooking Tenaya Lake (a lunch spot)
Cloud formation in Yosemite National Park
Neat dusky cloud formation at May Lake
Breathtaking view towards Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
Breathtaking view towards Half Dome (another lunch spot)
Stephanie on the trail to Sunrise High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park
Stephanie on the trail
Sunset at Sunrise High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park
Sunset at Sunrise
Mule train departs Sunrise High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park
Mule train departs Sunrise
JMT trail view in Yosemite National Park
JMT view
Cathedral Peak with airplane contrail in Yosemite National Park
Cathedral Peak with contrails
Post-hike legs
Post-hike legs



Great pictures, makes me feel as though I am back on the trail.


What an awesome loop. Makes me want to go do the other camps next year. Or maybe part of the JMT? Or maybe a whole National Parks tour? Or maybe….


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