Going it the hard way on foot is not the only way to explore the Yosemite Valley or the park's Sierra Nevada high country. Equally popular are day excursions and overnight pack trips into the backcountry courtesy of sure-footed horses and mules. You might feel like a Yosemite pioneer as you traverse granite staircases to reach waterfalls or mountain trails leading to panoramic vistas.
Horse Around Wawona
Run almost exclusively by the park's concessionaire, most horse and mule rides are open to people of all skill levels, including children who are at least 7 years old and 44 inches tall. The maximum weight to ride a horse is 225 pounds. Days trips are run out of the Big Trees Stable in Wawona, which is closest to the park's South Entrance. The closest towns are Fish Camp and Oakhurst outside the park. The park is no longer offering rides out of the Yosemite Valley Stable nor Tuolumne Meadows.
Reservations are recommended, especially for any overnight saddle and pack trips and also day rides during the busiest summer months.Big Trees Stable is open early June through early September.
In the southern section of the park, Big Trees Stable, formerly Wawona Stable, offers two-hour day rides. On your ride, you'll travel the Meadow Loop Trail. Choose between three departure times per day: early morning, mid-morning and afternoon. All riders must arrive an hour before their departure time to watch a safety video and fill out paperwork. Closed-toe shoes are a must and the stable recommends wearing long pants. Call the Big Trees Lodge Front Desk for more information at 209-372-6556 or go to travelyosemite.com.
Tuolumne Meadows is also a starting point for multi-day saddle and pack trips into Yosemite's backcountry. Guided packer trips are offered only to those who won a reservation at the High Sierra Camps through the park's lottery system (reservations required) or to those wanting a custom pack trip. For all other overnight camping trips, you'll need to secure a wilderness permit from the park in advance. For more information go to 209-372-8095 or go to travelyosemite.com. For custom pack trips from Yosemite Valley, call 209-372-8326.
Horse Rides Among Giant Sequoias
For horse rides into the Mariposa Grove (currently closed for renovation but opening fall 2017) of giant sequoias, contact Yosemite Trails Pack Station, a short drive outside the park's southern entrance. Dating from 1938, this pack station also offers shorter creekside and pine forest rides, in addition to its half-day giant sequoia excursions (available twice weekly). In winter, sleigh rides provide old-fashioned family fun.