On average, the Sierra Nevada mountains receive over 30 feet of snow each winter in areas above 7,000 feet. This year, Mammoth Mountain has reported over 50 feet of snowfall at their summit of 11,053 feet. Yosemite Valley sits at only 4,000 feet, so the following article is only referencing backpacking trails around 7,000 feet and above. This includes the Pohono Trail which varies between 4,400ft – 8,200ft.
The immense amount of snowfall makes forecasting the early backpacking season very tricky. In some years, there is a lack of snow and backpackers can begin as early as April on the Pohono Trail. In other years, we receive over 50 feet of snow and backpacking won’t begin until late May.
As you can see, we are around 150% of average, but still not to 2017’s snow depth. In 2017, Glacier Pt Rd opened on May 11th providing access to the start of the Pohono Trail. This doesn’t necessarily mean the trail is snow free though. This just means the road has been plowed and cleared. The snowpack on the trail may still exceed 5-10 feet at this point, but begins to melt quickly around May 1st in a typical season. The intensity of the heat obviously plays a big role in this, so we do not allow bookings for May until we can get a clear picture of the snow that will melt. This is for CampCrate customer safety as well as increasing the chances of a successful trip.
Currently, the National Park service is not allowing permits for early June. As the season approaches, we expect to see this precaution lifted if we continue to stay under 2017’s snowfall totals. It wouldn’t surprise us to even send backpacker’s onto the trail in late May. That being said, at this time, all we can do is wait for the end of April to know for sure. At the end of April we will have a forecast for the 1st half of May and very little chance of additional snowfall.
In summary, for those of you looking to backpack in May we recommend booking a CampCrate trip, but also finding backup accommodations with lenient cancellation policies. As May approaches, a final decision can be made. If there is too much snow, at least you’ll have accommodations and you can cancel your CampCrate trip for a refund. If the snow melts, you’ll be able to cancel your hotel accommodation and continue with backpacking. Many areas around Yosemite offer a 2-week free cancelation policy. The hotels we recommend are in order below. These are based off their distance from Yosemite Valley, not Yosemite National Park. Double check for cancellation policies before booking.
- Half Dome Village (TravelYosemite.com)
- Housekeeping Camp (TravelYosemite.com)
- Yosemite Lodge (TravelYosemite.com)
- Yosemite View Lodge (www.stayyosemiteviewlodge.com)
- Indian Flat RV Park – Camping Only (www.indianflatrvpark.com)
- Cedar Lodge (www.stayyosemitecedarlodge.com/)
For those booked in late May or early June, we will continue to monitor the snow pack and update you with information as we receive it. As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send us a message.