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Yosemite High Sierra Camps

October 22nd, 2009

When I was a kid, I remember my parents taking trips into Yosemite and staying at the High Sierra Camps.  These camps are located in the back country and you need to hike to get there.   I think these can be good family options because they allow someone not familiar with backpacking to venture into the wilderness but still have a bed (cot) to sleep on  and a hot meal.  These camps are very popular and there is a lottery system to get reservations.  Some people go to only one or two on their trip, others make the whole circuit of five.  Below is information about the High Sierra camps from their reservations site.

Located high in the wilderness, obtainable only by foot or by saddle, are five unique hike-to camps spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s beautiful High Country.

Overnight accommodations in Yosemite at the High Sierra Camps includes full dinner and breakfast, served in cozy dining tents. Box lunches for the next day on the trail are available at an additional cost and may be ordered the night before departure.

All lodging is in canvas tent cabins with dormitory-style steel frame beds with mattresses, pillows, woolen blankets or comforters. The staff makes every effort to keep members of a party in the same tent(s), but sometimes splitting a party is necessary.

Guests must provide their own sheets or sleep-sacks and towels.

Camp descriptions-

Merced Lake (1916)

Located along one of the largest lakes in Yosemite, this camp is encircled by granite ridges and domes. Because of its lower elevation, it is relatively warm and has slightly different vegetation, such as large white firs, aspen and lodgepole pines. With the largest occupancy it’s great for groups and often this camp has last-minute availability.  Merced Lake High Sierra Camp is also the furthest camp from any trailhead.  With roughly 14 miles of steep hiking to get to Merced Lake from either Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows, most visitors choose to stop at either Vogelsang or Sunrise first, and then continue on to Merced Lake the following day.   Merced Lake has 19 cabins with accommodations for 60 guests. Elevation: 7,150 ft.

Vogelsang (1924)

Located along Fletcher Creek, just beyond Fletcher Lake, Vogelsang is often named as one of the favorite spots in Yosemite by many a veteran visitor. It’s in an alpine setting with peaks and vistas, lakes, meadows and passes within close proximity and sits at the highest elevation of all the camps. Vogelsang has 12 cabins and accommodates a total of 42 guests. Showers not available.  Elevation: 10,300 ft.

Glen Aulin (1927)

Meaning “beautiful valley,” this camp is set alongside a stunning waterfall and lucent pool on the Tuolumne River.  Campers enjoy catching the sunset from a nearby promontory with a view of Mt. Cones.  Glen Aulin has eight cabins with a total occupancy of 32 guests. Showers not available.  Elevation: 7,800 ft.

May Lake (1938)

Named for the wife of Charles Hoffman, the first man to climb the peak that now bears his name. Mt. Hoffman is also the geographic center of Yosemite National Park and is an excellent, though challenging, hike for May Lake visitors. Located on a quiet high mountain lake, perfect for relaxing, swimming and fishing. The easiest camp to access via a short, one-mile hike from the parking lot off Tioga Road. A great family destination.  May Lake has eight cabins and has accommodations for a total occupancy of 36 guests. Elevation: 9,270 ft.

Sunrise Camp (1961)

Well-named for the spectacular morning views as the sun creeps over the mountains casting alpine glow on the Clark Range. Sunrise offers numerous vantage points for incredible vistas, including Echo Peak, Matthes Crest, Cathedral Peak and the Clark Range.  Sunrise camps has nine cabins for a total occupancy of 34. Elevation: 9,400 ft.
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The camps fill up quickly and in order to maxmize your chances of getting the dates you are looking for, it’s best to enter the High Sierra Camp lottery.   Here is some information from their website.

  1. The deadline to request an application is typically late November of the prior year
  2. Applications will only be accepted on the official Yosemite High Sierra Camp Lottery Application Form.  They must be received by the Yosemite Reservations Office sometime in December.  Check the website for exact dates.
  3. A maximum of eight spaces (six for meals-only) may be requested on one application form.
  4. Please do not send payment until requested.
  5. Applicants will be notified in late February as to their standing in the lottery.
  6. You will receive notification once we receive your lottery application.  Please DO NOT CALL or email to check on the status after that. Due to the volume of applications received, we ask that applicants wait until the lottery is complete to make any inquiries.
  7. Any canceled space will be filled by a second round lottery using applications which were not awarded during the first round. Any available space not awarded during the first two rounds will be filled by phone inquiries on a first come first served basis beginning in early April.
  8. All reservations must be paid in full within 30 days of lottery award.
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