Yosemite Natural History Base Camp, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13182A, Base Camp


  • Hike with a professional Yosemite naturalist and guidebook author
  • Explore some less traveled and most spectacular parts of Yosemite’s high country without a backpack
  • Learn about the park's flowers, animals, geology, and original inhabitants


  • Leadership and interpretation by veteran leaders
  • Naturalist-led canoe tour of Mono Lake
  • Exceptional meals assembled by a premiere backcountry cook


DatesJul 26–Aug 2, 2013
StaffSuzanne Swedo

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Trip Overview

The Trip

This is the way to experience Yosemite’s most spectacular high and wild country away from the bustling atmosphere of Yosemite Valley. The park’s eastern border lies along the crest of the Sierra Nevada, where we’ll follow trails leading to one knock-your-socks-off view after another.  Along the way, we’ll identify and delight in rare and colorful alpine and subalpine wildflowers, spot Sierra mammals and birds, and learn about the fascinating geology of the Sierra Nevada Range.

Our explorations will take us to North Dome for views of the valley’s attractions from high above the crowds, to Mount Hoffman at the geographical center of the park, along trade routes used by the area’s original inhabitants, and among remnants of Yosemite’s mining history.  

Our adventure will culminate in a canoe tour (no experience necessary) of Mono Lake, home of countless breeding shorebirds and weird tufa towers.

From our east-side base camp we’ll carpool to several nearby trailheads for moderate daily hikes of up to ten miles at elevations between 8,000 and 10,500 feet, returning to camp each evening to share hearty meals with new friends.


We'll meet for orientation and potluck salad on day one to establish our camp and get acquainted near the eastern entrance to Yosemite. On days two to seven, we’ll explore North Dome, Mount Hoffman, Mono Pass, Gaylor Lakes, Virginia Lakes Canyon and Green Creek Canyon, from the park’s eastern border to its center at Mount Hoffman above May Lake. On day eight we embark on a naturalist-led canoe tour of Mono Lake, a birders’ and geologists’ paradise.



Getting There

We meet at a campground near the eastern (Tioga Pass) entrance to Yosemite National Park, about 330 miles north of Los Angeles, about 120 miles south of Reno.  The little town of Lee Vining is nearby, where restaurants and accommodations are available.  Yosemite Valley is 1.5 hours to the west. The nearest large airport is Reno, Nevada.

There is no public transportation to our campground or our trailheads, so if you are flying in, you will need to rent a car.  A list of participants will be provided so that you can arrange carpools and share expenses.

To keep driving time and expenses to a minimum, we’ll form carpools each day to share rides to trailheads, usually less than 30 minutes away (with one longer drive). Participants are expected to share the driving and/or expenses to trailheads.

This is a popular vacation spot in summer so reservations for accommodations should be made well in advance, especially if you want to add an extra day or two to your vacation to visit Yosemite Valley or other nearby attractions.

Accommodations and Food

We’ll camp at a beautiful campground near the eastern (Tioga Pass) entrance to Yosemite.  Detailed directions and maps will be provided in a later bulletin.

All meals are included, from beverages and extras (you bring an ingredient for a potluck salad) for dinner on day one through lunch on day eight.  We provide all cooking equipment, including stoves and fuel.  Melinda puts in many hours of planning and preparing to turn out marvelous meals for us.  We do not serve red meat, but we do offer fish and chicken dishes.  Vegetarians can be accommodated easily, but if you avoid dairy products as well, this trip is not for you.  Please let us know as soon as possible if you have any food allergies.

Trip Difficulty

All of our hikes will be moderate (for someone who exercises regularly).  All will be on trail, over distances of less than 10 miles.  However, there are lots of ups and downs, and elevations range from 8,000 to 10,500 feet.  You must be in excellent physical condition (especially aerobic), and are encouraged to arrive at least one day early or to have recent high altitude experience.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent to all registered participants. You will need to furnish your own sleeping bag, tent, and personal gear, and a day pack with room for lunch, water and rain gear. Your sleeping bag should be rated to 30 degrees. High Sierra weather is usually sunny with occasional afternoon thundershowers, but be prepared for anything! Good rain gear is essential, just in case. You’ll need good hiking boots with lug soles that are well broken in to negotiate rocky trails.


  • Swedo, Suzanne, Hiking Yosemite National Park.
  • Storer, Tracy and usinger, Robert, Sierra Nevada Natural History.
  • Laws, John Muir, Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.
  • The National Geographic/Trails Illustrated Map “Yosemite National Park.” 


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity.  We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally.  Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement.  Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.  Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Yosemite National Park and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

When we explore wilderness in a place like Yosemite where nature is permitted to go about its business as free from human influence as is possible nowadays, we can observe, as John Muir did, how ”everything is hitched to everything else.” Understanding and appreciating biodiversity is our goal; observing the interrelationships of its plants and animals, water, weather and soil that make human existence possible. A visit to Mono Lake, site of so much controversy, past and present, will bring to light how critical the diversity of the life of all the organisms and processes of the wilderness is to our future.


Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Yosemite National Park and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.



Suzanne Swedo is a botanist who has led wilderness seminars for the Yosemite Conservancy for more than 25 years and is the author of Hiking Yosemite National Park. She leads natural history-oriented outings around the world for other organizations as well as her own adventure travel company. She has led more than 60 Sierra Club National Outings, written a number of other trail guides for Falcon Publishing, and backpacked the mountains of every continent.


Melinda Goodwater has been leading backpack trips for Sierra Club Outings for more than 15 years. She quit her full-time job when it got in the way of her trips and has been leading adventures ever since. She leads trips from Nepal to Alaska, Patagonia to the desert Southwest. Melinda has training in CPR and is a Wilderness First Responder. She is an avid fan of long trails (a reasonable section at a time), so don't be surprised if you bump into her in the wilderness sometime!

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