Yosemite is big… real big. Oftentimes for backpackers it can be hard to determine where to go, and the idea of venturing into the wilderness is more than daunting. One course of action that we exercised was just showing up and letting the rangers decide. That’s exactly what we did with our last trip to Tuolumne Meadows and man: rangers know what’s up!
With all of our gear packed for a 3-day journey, a glorious adventure was started from the Lambert Dome parking lot. The route we would be completing was the Upper Young Lakes Loop–a full 15-mile adventure. We began by following the trail to Glen Aulin for about a mile, then after passing another sign, tracking the path towards Young Lakes.
We passed through dense forests and massive granite cliffs, scoured by ancient glaciers beyond our comprehension. We were a fit crew, but the climb was steady, and within minutes we were feeling the burn!
After a few hours of climbing (that were more difficult than we’d like to admit), we arrived at Dog Lake Trail and then eventually Lower Young Lake. To our aesthetic delight, the forest opened up and revealed the beautiful lake, shaped like a perfect bowl. Needless to say, we were enticed to jump in, but exercised some serious willpower and decided to wait for the bigger lake above.
So, we decided to climb on for another hour or so, eventually arriving at the big boy: Upper Young Lake. At this point, the sun was dipping below the horizon, so we cracked open the few beers we brought (yep, we hiked in beers) and made a mean meal of some good ol’ dehydrated goods (well… not that mean).
The next day was all about lounging (and some frolicking, of course).
Some people go on day trips, some people climb, but we were not those people. Upper Young Lake got the best of us, and we found a rock outcropping to jump off of. The remainder of the afternoon consisted of a dozen “leisure dives,” as well as some exploring of the ridge line.
There’s something nice about just chilling once you setup camp, and oh boy did we experience the glory of that relaxation.Usually it’s go go go from when you start till when you get back in your car, but this was different. It really helps you soak in your surroundings, and I couldn’t recommend it more!
That night we played with our flashlights and camera settings (no, it wasn’t a game of flashlight tag–we got a little more creative than that). Our goal was to paint pictures with the light, which worked out quite well (it’s great to have a photographer in the crew!).
After listening to some tunes and eating our final meal, we passed out for the night, ready for the return in the morning.
On the way back, you pretty much just retrace your steps, but you get a different perspective of the journey, which is still quite pleasant. We arrived back at our cars happy, hungry, and fulfilled from the excellent trip.
Young Lakes is WAY less crowded than a lot of the more popular hikes in Yosemite, and I would highly recommend it. Get out of the valley bro!
Eric Bach is Co-founder of Hipcamp, a website dedicated to getting more people outside by making the discovery & booking process of campsites easier! He loves using technology to get more people away from technology.