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Tuolomne to Valley with 8 year old

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

Moderators: Wickett, dan

Tuolomne to Valley with 8 year old

Postby dan » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:14 pm

Postby Snelsone » Tue Jan 30, 2018 5:25 am
When I was 16 I hiked from mammoth Yosemite and dreamed of taking my kids on the same hike. Anyways I’m thinking of starting in Tuolumne and ending in the valley with my 8 year old girl. I’m just looking for advice on logistics and permits etc. I’m struggling figuring out what I need to do to make sure I’m legal or whatever. Is there a website or can anyone point me in the right direction. Please feel free to email me as well snelsone@Gmail.com

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:46 pm
Everything you need to know is on the Yosemite NPS website. Start here:


You need a wilderness permit to camp in the backcountry. So pick your dates and apply for the permit. If you explore the page above, you will also find a link to the list of trailheads and what has already been booked in advance, although they always hold back about 40% of the permit for the first-come-first-served walk ups. Your itinerary is one of the most popular in the park, so it helps to be a bit flexible with dates at this point.

From Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, you could use at least three different trailheads to begin: Cathedral Lakes would be the shortest hike, via the John Muir Trail. But you could also hike up either Rafferty Creek or Lyell Valley and then hike past Vogelsang High Sierra Camp down into Little Yosemite Valley, and then down past the falls to Yosemite Valley.

With an eight year-old, you might also consider a base camp hike to either Young Lakes or Ten Lakes Basin, where you would hike into a campsite in one day, then spend a day or two exploring that area, then hike back out. Of course, you could do this just as easily at Cathedral Lakes...And once your daughter is a bit older and has a bit more experience, you really owe it to the family to take a trip to Nelson Lake! that's not a long hike, six miles or so, but it is cross-country with no real trail for the last few miles.

Your permit will require you to store your food in a bear canister. Those are available for rent very reasonably at the Wilderness Office where you get your permit. with a permit, you are also allowed to camp one night before your trip and one night after your trip in the backpackers campgrounds either at Tuolumne Meadows or Yosemite Valley, so you don't need a campground permit for those nights.

Postby Justin-T » Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:32 pm
Good advice from balzaccom. The only things I would add are:

1) The reserved wilderness permits get snapped up quickly, and they become available on a rolling basis, with many trailheads full on the first day of availability. Today (Jan 30) the ones for trips beginning July 18 are up for grabs, so bear that in mind. See all the dates and description of the system on the Wilderness Permits page.

2) Remember the altitude. TM is at around 8000 feet and some of the trails in the areas you might go through to the valley reach above 10,000. You may not know yet how your daughter will react to those conditions, I would plan on doing shorter day-hikes for 2 or 3 days at similar altitudes before setting out on your backpacking trek.

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:47 pm
Actually, ALL of the backpacking trails leading from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley go over a pass that is at least 9,600 feet high.

Postby Phil » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:19 pm
One of the very first posts I made here was in relation to first trips with littler kids, so this makes me think back a bit.

The route we took was Yosemite Creek to the Valley via Yosemite Falls. Bite sized, done over 1 night and two days, about 13 miles total. The kids were my son, 9, and my daughter, 7 at the time. That area up there is called the North Rim. It's nice for kids because the trails are all easy; lots of downhill, camping, easy to get permits for, some great views. If you want to expand upon that, plan to head over toward Lehamite Creek/North Dome, then descend into the Valley along the Snow Creek Trail and exit out past Mirror Lake for easy access to the shuttle stops, the Valley backpackers' campground, and Curry Village with hot food and showers.

Needless to say, the kids loved it and thrived. It was an experiment and a test that ended well, with them not only getting a feel for the whole experience, but still backpacking today, years later.

Just a few quick tips, especially for a young girl: keep her pack light, which means that you inevitably carry more, so trip duration is important. Get her good boots: maybe a little pair of Vasques and heavy socks for comfort. If her feet cramp or blister up, your trip is basically over, and she'll be miserable, and she'll let you know it. And make absolutely sure those new boots are broken in before you go! Some sort of good hiking shoe will also work, but I strongly recommend boots for the ankle support, especially when first starting out over uneven terrain, which even the most worn trails in Yosemite are for the most part.

Small girls are also hard to fit when it comes to full-on backpacks. The North Face and Deuter seem to have the best fits, and it's something you're going to want to have fitted and let her wear around the store with some weight thrown into for a while before you commit. Also, as I discovered, little girls tend to overpack like crazy, not with just too much, but with too heavy. You need to curb that tendency for both your sakes. Her pack shouldn't be more than 1/4 of her body weight, carrying only her basics and a few shared essentials; clothing, personal gear like headlamp, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, water bottle....as long as you keep her strictly at or below weight and volume. Fully loaded, maybe try to take her out to a local park and let her hike with her pack on. It's not just important that it not weigh too much, but she needs to be able to adjust the contents within the pack itself, and by using the various straps for load tensioning, and shoulder and hip belts so that she can do it when it counts, quickly and comfortably... you can take a lot of weight if the carry is comfortable, so it's a big deal that she knows what to expect, and how to easily correct it in order to be more comfortable when straps and belts start hurting as the day goes on.

And speaking of sleeping bags and all things warm; don't let her get cold at night with some crappy sleeping bag. Get her one that's rated for a lower temp than you'll likely encounter. If she gets too hot, she can always unzip it. And with clothing, if you know how to do it, layering is always better than relying on only one thick, heavy piece.

Also, with smaller kids in general, you need to really watch them around water and food storage. Water speaks for itself, but kids tend to forget food and wrappers in strange places that adults don't, which can be an issue with bears. If you're doing freeze dried food, have her sample it at home so you know what she likes...and more importantly, what she absolutely doesn't. Because of bears (which won't bother at all if you if you keep things tight), you need to really drive the point home, and if both of you need to learn the ropes of proper food/toiletry storage, do it together from the start. In all ways, make her a big part of the entire planning process. She'll be more appreciative of the efforts and that much better and more aware for it. Finally, and maybe most importantly, know and respect her limits in all ways. You can push her beyond those slightly, but too much of the wrong thing early on will kill it for her forever.

Very cool and exciting.
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