Day: 1 | Distance: 4.8 mi
In June 2014, four friends and I embarked on a 3-day backpacking in Yosemite. We started our hike in Tuolumne Meadows and ended it in Yosemite Valley. Our journey through this spectacular national park was filled with awe-inspiring views and thrilling hikes. Little did we know that two years later we would embark on an even more ambitious trip.
In mid-July 2016, I started a similar trip with the same group of friends, but this time, the trip was different in two significant ways. First of all, although we hiked the same route through Yosemite, we hiked it in reverse this time from the valley to Tuolumne Meadows. Secondly, and more importantly, for my friend Don and me, this stretch of the trip was just the tip of the iceberg. We were preparing to embark on a 13-day, 220-mile thru-hiking adventure along the entire length of the JMT, stretching all the way from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney, California’s highest peak.
Happy Isles to Nevada Falls
We started day one in a typical lazy fashion, leaving the Yosemite Valley backpacking camp at around 9:00 am. Nestled in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the backpackers camp is the perfect launching point for any Yosemite adventure. It is the ideal spot to kick off a backpacking trip from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows, the first leg of our hike.
The five of us were all excited to start the adventure with a hike up to Nevada Falls, where we planned to eat lunch, from the Happy Isles Trailhead. Named after the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Nevada Falls is a 594-foot high waterfall located on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. From the Happy Isles trailhead, the hike to the top of the falls is about 2.7 miles, over which you’ll gain about 1000 feet of elevation.
A combination of heat and the slow climb left the trail crowded with hikers who were struggling to reach the falls. Our arrival at the falls put us just past our halfway-point for the day. The hike from Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley, our destination, is the shortest hike we’ll have on this trip.
The roar of the falls continued to grow louder as we made our way up. The view from the top was breathtaking, and we took some time to take in the beauty of the Park. The misty spray of the falls was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. We stopped at nearby for an hour or so to enjoy lunch under some shade trees alongside the creek. While relaxing in the shade, I feasted on trail snacks , and sipped on some cool water from the nearby stream.
Nevada Falls to Little Yosemite Valley Campgrounds
From the falls, we continued on our hike, finishing up mid-afternoon at Little Yosemite Valley Campgrounds. Over the next few hours, we swam in the Merced River, washed our clothes, and played several games of bridge before calling it a day.
The Merced River is a 145-mile long river located in Central California. It starts in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains and meanders its way through Yosemite National Park before emptying into the San Joaquin River. The Merced passes through a number of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, including Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and Vernal Falls. It’s also a popular spot for swimming, fishing, camping, and rafting. As the sun set on our camp, we settled in for the night, exhausted but excited for the days to come.
My Backpacking Meal Plan
My ultralight backpacking food list for the day included oatmeal with milk and blueberries for breakfast, and Thai peanut noodles and tea for dinner. The Thai peanut noodles recipe was adapted from an original recipe by Andrew Skurka, a renowned long distance hiker. The dinner was delicious and gave us the energy we needed for the next day’s journey. I was really looking forward to a good night’s sleep in the backcountry.
We were all looking forward to beginning our hike to Sunrise Lakes Campground the next day. And I was especially looking forward to sleeping by the meadow under the stars with a full moon. But for now, we’d all have to settle for the soft trickle of the Merced River, and the wind rustling through the trees blocking out the stars overhead.
Links & Resources:
- John Muir Trail Day 13 – Mt. Whitey Summit from Crabtree Meadows Past Guitar Lake - January 10, 2017
- John Muir Trail Day 12 – Vidette Meadows Over Forester Pass to Crabtree Meadows. - January 9, 2017
- John Muir Trail Day 11 – Lake Marjorie over Pinchot Pass and Glen Pass to Vidette Meadows. - January 8, 2017