How to Prep for a Day Hike in Yosemite in Spring of 2021

Are you longing to get out of the house? As COVID-19 restrictions start to wind down and more people get vaccinated, thoughts of travel are hitting all of our minds. At the same time, you’re probably looking for a safe option.

If you live near Yosemite or another mountainous region, now is the perfect time to take a day hike. You can get in some exercise, see some new stuff, and stay outside and away from others. Spring is a great time to explore the mountains before summer fire season.

Listen to a podcast of the travel article here:

What is Yosemite Like in April and May?

Weather in the late spring is usually pleasant, but not warm. Highs in the valley tend to be in the 60s and lows in the 30s. Rain and snow are still possible, and you should dress accordingly. Fire conditions are possible but less likely than later in the summer.

Some higher areas in the mountains may still be snowbound and Tioga Road is still closed. Mariposa Grove usually opens by mid-March. Glacier Point Road is also closed (and as a note, it will be closed for the entire of 2022 for rehabilitation). Generally, plan a route that won’t take you above 6,000 feet and check with the rangers to see what is or is not open.

The spring snow melt makes the waterfalls particularly pretty, especially in the Valley. While it’s generally not clear enough for backpacking without snow camping, there are plenty of day hike options.

Check out my video from our day trip to Lower Yosemite Falls!

What Should You Do To Prepare For Your Hike?

Preparing for a spring day hike requires some conditioning. You need to know your limits, especially if you’ve been exercising less and have put on any COVID 19-weight, as it were. Do some walks in your local area and increase the distance, and choose a route that you are comfortable with; don’t go from being sedentary to an 8 mile hike. As it’s still spring, you won’t be at altitude anyway, but you still need to be fit.

You will also need the right gear. Dress in layers; the wide temperature range in the spring may mean you will be taking stuff off, putting it on, taking it off again…so make sure you can do that comfortably. You will also need:

  1. The right footwear. This is the most important piece of gear for hiking. Given the risk of rain or snow in the spring, hiking boots are generally your best option. If you’re staying on easier trails, walking shoes or trail running shoes may work well. Think about what kind of ankle support you need.
  2. A fleece jacket or wool sweater makes a good middle layer for the temperature range you are dealing with.
  3. Rain gear including rain pants. You definitely need rain pants. Bear in mind that wet jeans are the worst thing to be stuck in.
  4. Proper socks, ideally ones designed for hiking.
  5. A backpack. If you plan on hiking all day, get a daypack. Otherwise, an ordinary backpack is fine, but do not carry it slung on one shoulder (you will walk one sided and put strain on yourself).
  6. Some kind of hat. If it’s colder, you will want a wool hat. If warmer, you might want something to keep the sun off.
  7. Insect repellent. Make sure that you have and use a DEET-based insect repellent that also repels ticks. Apply repellent to exposed skin, but also to the cuffs of your pants and your hat.
  8. Sunscreen. Even if it’s not that warm.
  9. A hikers’ first aid kit. For casual hikers, a pre-made kit is more than sufficient.
  10. Gloves. You may want them and if you don’t, they’re light.
  11. A camera & gear. Maybe you will find a good smartphone is enough, but a DSLR will still give you better pictures if you want to make the investment. I take a lot of photos on my hikes and encourage you to do the same.
  12. A flashlight, even if you plan on being back well before dark.
  13. Food and water. If you’re really high in the mountains you can get fresh water, but in the park you want to carry enough for your hike.

If you are older and/or the trail is steep, consider investing in trekking poles. Another thing to consider is downloading an app onto your phone that identifies plants, wildlife,  etc.

It’s time to get back out into the world, and a mountain day hike is a great way to do so without worrying about that pesky virus. Watch my video on how to pick hiking boots and please come back to for more travel advice (and awesome pictures!)

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