Probably the most famous climbing area in the United States, and for good reason. Yosemite valley is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. With granite walls that rise so high they blot out the sky, the valley is a mecca for rock climbers the world round. And with that comes some serious crowds during peak seasons (Spring and Fall). Well worth the dreaded alpine starts though, as Yosemite has some of the highest quality granite traditional climbing in the world.


  • Nutcracker 5.8
  • East Buttress of Middle Cathedral 5.9 A0
  • Central Pillar of Frenzy 5.9
  • The Nose 5.9 C2
On Sickle Ledge of the Nose, looking up.
  • Royal Arches 5.7 A0 to Crest Jewel 5.10
  • Rostrum 5.11c
  • Astroman 5.11c
  • The Crucifix 5.12b
On top of the Crucifix, looking down on El Cap.


Spring and Fall are the peak seasons (with Fall perhaps having more stable weather).

Summer will be too hot to climb in the valley so many climbers escape up to the higher elevation of Tuolumne Meadows.

Winter can be surprisingly pleasant in the valley. I was there for the month of January (2018) and remember climbing Royal Arches to Crest Jewel in a t-shirt. Look for climbs that are south facing. Cookie Cliff and most other crags down canyon receive sun most of the day as well. The biggest plus during this time of year is that almost all the climbers have left and Camp 4 is empty.

T-shirt weather in December!


The sleeping situation is not an easy one if you want to spend an extended period of time in the valley.

The reserved campsites (Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines) are $26/site and you must book months in advance.  

A cheaper and more flexible option is Camp 4, which is a walk-in campground and costs $6/person. The downside is that during peak season, you must start waiting in line to get a spot as early as the night before. You basically get in line and then throw down your sleeping bag and go to sleep in line.  

If you have a vehicle to sleep in, you can make a 15 mile drive from the valley to the small town of El Portal. There are spots to park your car on the side of the road, see map. Ironically, in my two or three months in Yosemite, the only times someone has knocked on my van were in El Portal, so yeah the situation is unstable, to say the least.


Any campground. Degnan’s Kitchen. Fern Spring is right off the side of the road and has delicious spring water that most people drink without treating (see map). 


Groceries in the valley are not cheap, but there are no alternatives nearby. The grocery store in Yosemite Village has a good selection of fruits and vegetables.

The Pizza place at Curry Village has great pizza, though it is quite expensive (~$26). Try to avoid going on weekends otherwise you will be waiting in line with hordes of tourists.

Degnan’s Kitchen has expensive food as well, but might be the most reasonable in the park. They also offer free refills on coffee so it’s a great place to chill on a rest day. It is worth mentioning that it’s the only place in the park with free wifi.

Single pitching during the short days of winter.


Curry Village has showers and Housekeeping Camp has a laundromat.

Rest Days

More of an active rest day, but the hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls is beautiful and well worth it. The trailhead starts at Camp 4 and it takes about 3 hours (7.2 miles) roundtrip if you power hike up and jog down. The elevation gain is 2,700 feet. 

Another rest day idea, though this takes about 4 days total, is to backpack from Tuolumne back down to the valley. This is a great backpacking trip because you’re starting high and ending low.

You can hit up Cloud’s Rest and go up the cables of Half Dome as you make your way back to the valley.

It is also quite easy to hitchhike up to Tuolumne if you use a sign with your destination, if the shuttles have stopped running for the season.


By: James Huang

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