- Explore deep into Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley on foot
- Hone or expand upon backpacking skills while learning from expert guides
- Hike past fields of wildflowers, tumbling waterfalls, open vistas, and more
- Stay at a backcountry campsite and enjoy a day of hiking with daypacks
Hetch Hetchy Valley, etched by glacial erosion millions of years ago, has often been spoken of as Yosemite Valley's sibling. Although the valley underwent a massive transformation when a dam was built in 1913, stunning trails and vistas remain for backpackers, wildflower enthusiasts, and waterfall lovers. Get up close and personal with Yosemite National Park, traveling on foot through a landscape that few people experience away from the crowds.
Join REI on a foray into the Sierras and enjoy this backcountry experience as our guides share their love of one of the world's most revered wilderness areas. A stunning trip for the experienced and beginner backpacker alike, we carry all our belongings on our back and discuss basic skills like map and compass use, backcountry cooking, and minimal impact camping. Get away from your daily routine as we explore the rich environmental and political history of Yosemite.
Looking for more ways to get away from the crowds and explore Yosemite’s backcountry? Explore Tuolumne Meadows and beyond on our High Country backpacking adventure or set yourself up for some stunning views on our Yosemite Valley backpacking adventure.
- Day 1 - Meet at the Backpackers' Campground to enjoy dinner and orientation.
- Day 2 - Set out for camp, taking in views of Tueeulala and Wapama Falls.
- Day 3 - Donning daypacks, hike the lush Tiltill Valley.
- Day 4 - Break camp and return to the trailhead.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Day 1 - Meet at the Backpackers' Campground to enjoy dinner and orientation.
This trip begins in Yosemite National Park, CA. Today you will meet your guides and the other group members at 4:30pm at the Hetch Hetchy Backpackers' Campground, located just south of the dam next to the parking area. We will enjoy a full trip orientation, learning about John Muir's efforts to fight the Raker Act, the act that granted permission to build O'Shaughnessy Dam and flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley. "As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches," Muir said, "for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man." We will do a full gear check and enjoy dinner together at camp.
Day 2 - Set out for camp, taking in views of Tueeulala and Wapama Falls.
We enjoy breakfast in camp before packing up. We will start out hiking on-trail to our backcountry campsite near Rancheria Falls. This is typically a full first day of backpacking, with time along the way for lunch and teachable moments. Today's trail runs above peaceful Hetch Hetchy Valley and reservoir traveling at around 4,000 feet. We will stop for lunch and the photo opportunities presented by Tueeulala and Wapama waterfalls, as well as the plethora of wildflowers in their full spring bloom at our feet. Your guides share the human history of this valley, and the healthy debate around its use and protection. This will be a 6-mile hike, beginning at around 3,800' and ending at camp near rushing Rancheria Falls (4,700') swollen with spring snow melt. A refreshing dip in the creek washes away the miles. All meals provided.
Backpacking: 6.4 miles; ~600' elevation gain
Day 3 - Donning daypacks, hike the lush Tiltill Valley.
After breakfast, we continue exploring the Yosemite backcountry. Today, we'll load our daypacks and set out for Tiltill Valley. We'll look for wildlife and more flowers along the way and experience the changing climate zones as we climb up another 1,000 feet. Lunch will be in the lush Tiltill Valley meadow surrounded by pines among the deer and flowers. Hetch Hetchy has been called Yosemite Valley's little sister, equal in beauty to Yosemite Valley's waterfalls and domes, although much more intimate. Look forward to a refreshing evening dip and dinner as we enjoy our last night beneath the bright Sierra stars. All meals provided.
Day-hiking: 5.6 miles; ~1050' elevation gain and loss
Day 4 - Break camp and return to the trailhead.
We'll enjoy breakfast before breaking camp and making our way out of the backcountry. Retracing our path through forest and flowers and misty rainbows at the base of the waterfalls, we complete our journey and come to understand why the fight to reclaim this valley continues to this day. We plan to arrive back at our trailhead by 4:00 p.m. but there is no guarantee that we'll make it to our vehicles by then, so those flying out of Fresno should plan no flights before 9:30 p.m. and those flying out of Oakland should plan no flights before 10:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch included.
Backpacking: 6.4 miles; ~600' elevation loss
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control. There are numerous beautiful and suitable routes available to our guides, and these routes may be utilized instead of those published in this itinerary when circumstances or conditions warrant. This trip is operated rain or shine.
Contact REI Adventures prior to purchasing your airline tickets to confirm the trip has the minimum number of participants required to operate.
Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; 2-person tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter; campsite and permit fees.
Transportation from your hometown to group meeting point; park entrance fees where required, insurance of any kind; alcoholic beverages; soft drinks; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature.
Merced, CA: 80 miles, 2 hours
Fresno, CA: 100 miles, 4 hours
Oakland, CA: 180 miles, 5.5 hours
Reno, NV: 180 miles, 5.5 hours
There is no reliable transfer service from any airport to our meeting place. Anticipate renting a car if flying in for this weekend getaway. Although YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation Service) does offer transportation from Merced to Yosemite National Park, it does not serve the Hetch Hetchy area.
Daytime temperatures usually range between 60-80 degrees F, with evening temperatures dropping to the 40s or 50s. You may encounter freezing temperatures at some of the higher elevations. Afternoon thunderstorms are a distinct possibility so adequate raingear is important.
If you are traveling alone we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. A limited number of single accommodations are available, and are assigned only as necessary.General Information
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Weekend Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and detailed pre-trip information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Yosemite Backpacking – Hetch Hetchy Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.
- Tents (3 season, 2 person)
- Cooking gear
- Stoves and fuel
- Water filter
- Group first aid kit
- Bear canister
- Backpack: large internal frame or external frame (65-85 liters) – should be large enough to accommodate a cylindrical bear canister approximately 8.7” in diameter x 12.7”
- Pack cover, waterproof
- Lightweight compressible sleeping bag (rated at 20o-25o F)
- Lightweight compressible sleeping pad (inflatables are best)
- Rain jacket and pants, lightweight waterproof and breathable
- Midweight fleece jacket or wool sweater (or lighter upper body warm layer)
- Midweight synthetic thermal top and bottoms (MAY count rain pants as this bottom layer, and/or 1 long-sleeve synthetic t-shirt type layer as top layer – dependent on expected temperature and date of travel)
- Hiking pants, quick-drying, lightweight (zip-off legs are great & negate the need for shorts). No denim!
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying, lightweight OR the shorts from your zip-off pants
- 1 T-shirt, synthetic
- 2 changes of underwear
- 2 pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks
- 2 pairs of synthetic sock liners (optional)
- Sun hat with brim
- Wool or fleece hat
- Lightweight wool or fleece gloves
- Hiking boots: heavy duty, waterproof, and well broken-in, should rise above ankle
- Water-friendly shoes or sandalsfor stream crossings (can also be used around camp)
- You will need capacity for carrying 3 liters (or quarts) of water. This can be in the form of hard plastic bottles or in a hydration system, however the system must include at least one, 1-liter/quart Nalgene-type bottle (not a disposable water bottle).
- Headlamp with new batteries and bulb
- Plastic bowl, spoon, fork, mug
- Sunglasses and retainer strap
- Sunblock with minimum SPF 25 (small)
- Lip balm (unscented)
- Insect repellant (small)
- Mosquito head net
- Toothbrush and trial-size paste
- Small pack towel and/or washcloth
- Personal first aid kit, small and light weight (to include personal medications)
- TP system: Place the following items in one 1-gallon Ziploc bag: ½ roll of toilet paper, 1 Ziploc 1-quart bag, sanitation trowel, small bottle of hand sanitizer. A few wet wipes can be a nice addition.
- 1 large plastic garbage bag
- Down vest or jacket (highly recommended)
- Trekking poles (highly recommended)
- Gaiters (low or trail running type)
- Ear plugs
- Bic lighter
- Paper and pen
- Camera and spare batteries
- Small, compressible daypack (example: REI Flash 18 pack)
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.
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Comments about REI Adventures Yosemite Backpacking – Hetch Hetchy:
it was my first "organized trip" and i was afraid it might be too limited. i was totally wrong, the trip was a blast! i enjoyed every second, the guides were awesome and took care of all the chores, provided everything we needed and were interesting and fun (thanks Kayle & Gary!!)
the rest of the party was great, all like minded people who loves travel and outdoors. i can't stress enough how much fun it was. i am going to book more trips with REI travel for sure
one more thing, im vegan and had plenty of great food to eat. all of the food items i brought with me stayed in the car. they are not kissing when they say they provide ALL the food you need and lots of it.
- Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
- All the Details Planned for Me, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Why did you choose this trip?:
- never been in Hetch Hetchy before and the timing worked great for me
- What was the highlight of your trip?:
- the guides and the scenery. Gary & Kayle made it easy fun and interesting. not have to worry about all the planning was worth every penny. i enjoyed every second of the trip