If you are looking for an easy overnight backpacking trip in Yosemite National park, this a hike up to Vogelsang camp is the way to go. It is not too strenuous and takes you into the beautiful backcountry including great views, refreshing swimming holes and cosy campsites.
I have to admit Vogelsang was not really on my list when I was planing this year’s Yosemite backcountry adventure. I aspired something a little more ambitious as in climbing Mount Lyell. Wilderness permit at the ready but due to severe miscommunication suddenly hiking-partner-less I had to change my plans at the last minute and spontaneously decided to join another hiker on a two day trip up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Which turned out to be a fun hike to an amazingly beautiful area of the park.
We started the hike off from Tuolome Meadows backpackers campground (if you have a wilderness permit, you are allowed to stay in the backpackers campground for the night before and after your hiking adventure, no extra reservation needed). The hike took us into Lyell Canyon and we followed the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail for a few miles until our trail broke off towards Evelyn Lake. From the canyon it was a gradual ascent of some 1000 feet through a dense forest that gradually became thinner and finally led us up to a pass with views of some of Yosemite’s highest peak: Mount Lyell and Maclure, Cathedral Peak, Fletcher Peak and Vogelsang and Mount Dana, just to name the few that I actually recognized.
From the pass the trail descends to a green meadow and to beautiful Evelyn lake. Continuing another 1.1 miles you arrive at Vogelsang high sierra and backpacker camp. Since the high sierra camps didn’t open at all in 2017 due to too much snow and too short a season, Vogelsang was super secluded even though our visit there was on one of Yosemite’s busiest weekends of the season. Only three more hikers set up their tents up there with us. Exhausted and hungry from the hike, we set up camp, refilled our water bottles and prepared dinner: some fried rice, some M&Ms and a sip from the whiskey flask from a fellow camper. The dinner coziness was cut short though: An army of mosquitoes made us retreat into our tents pretty early, only daring to come back out again much later to watch the incredible night sky and the meteor shower.
The second day started off with a chilly morning and a nice hot cup of coffee and some granola with fresh fruit. The nice thing about a two-days-hike is that you can splurge on food weight a little bit – for me that means bringing along fresh veggies and fruit to spruce up my meals.
I did feel the altitude a little bit on this morning, yet I couldn’t resist joining my hiking friends in climbing up Vogelsang Pass for some great views into Yosemite Valley and of Half Dome and Clouds Rest.
With my head all dizzy and aching and also realising that I need to start rehydrating very soon (I tend to forget to drink enough on hikes and up in the altitude and usually only realize it when its already almost too late), I made my way back down to our packs and waterbottles at Vogelsang camp. Feeling much better at the lower altitude, I was up and running again in no time, and we made quick progress on our hike out back to Tuolumne Meadows via Rafferty Creek.
The trail leads you along the river which has some prime swimming and sunbathing spots (they are a little bit off the trail, just explore a little along the creek side). We did take our pick, and took a (very) quick dip in the icy cold water. Refreshed we made our way back to Tuolome Meadows and and at 3 pm we were back in the parking lot where clean clothes (I am always suprised at how dusty everything can get in just two days), mobile battery power (of course my phone died after only a day. Of course I didn’t bring a backup battery or similar) and the final ditching of the heavy pack awaited us. Yet it only took me a shower and a cappuchino to have me scheme my next backcountry escape to the beautiful Yosemite High Country. Back for more next year for sure 🙂
Route: Tuolome Meadows – Lyell Canyon – Evelyn Lake – Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. (approx 10 miles) Day 2: Vogelsang High Sierra Camp – Vogelsang Pass – Vogelsang High Sierra Camp – Rafferty Creek – Tuolomne Meadows (approx 10 miles)
Map: Yosemite High Country
Necessary gear: Wilderness permit / Bear Cans to fit all your food and scented items (can be rented at the Wilderness permit station / Shovel or similar for burying human waste / Water filter or iodine tablets (there are plenty of water sources along the way)
And maybe also of use: 10 things to know before your first backcountry trek