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Backpacking Information

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Yosemite and the Mother Lode area provide an oasis for backpackers. In many cases you do need a permit so contact the local ranger station. (list below)

Stay on trails. It’s safer and less damaging to the environment. See the Leave No Trace(SM) website for more information. Search and Rescue Coordinator Deputy Lyons advises: do not go alone while hiking, hunting, fishing etc. always notify someone of your travel plan, including the route, who is not Couple tent campinginvolved with the activity. Prepare for inclement weather and bring extra supplies to last longer than the anticipated activity.

The Calaveras sheriff’s office receives about 60 calls per year for search and rescue aid.  Tuolumne County Sheriffs Search & Rescue says it is one of the oldest teams (since 1975) and ranks among the five busiest, with an average of 70 calls per year. Foot or ground searches are the most common, usually assisted by trained search dogs. About 1/3 of the searches require helicopter assistance or evacuation and 25% of the time technical rescues involving swift water and rope are needed.

The Mother Lode is also Bear Country for more on being prepared see below.

Backpacking Equipment List

  • 5,000+ cubic inch backpack
  • (+15 F°) synthetic sleeping bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tent
  • Bear can
  • Stove Fuel
  • Utensils
  • Spoon, bowl and insulated mug
  • Sun block (SPF30) and lip balm
  • Sunglasses (UV-A, UV-B and IR Block)
  • Personal Medications
  • Blister Kit with extra Moleskin
  • Insect repellent Mosquito head net
  • Headlamp, spare bulb and batteries
  • Disinfecting handi-wipes
  • 1 or 2 large, heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Small pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • 2 1-liter water bottles or 70+ oz CamelBak Shorts
  • Toilet Kit (…Toilet paper)
  • Camp Suds -type biodegradable soap
  • Lighter or matches
  • Small towel (Some trails follow alongside stream passages, be prepared to get wet, especially hiking around waterfalls.)
  • Lightweight daypack (for trips with layover days)
  • GPS
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Guidebook
  • Camping Permit
  • Camera and film
  • Hiking Poles
  • Binoculars
  • Fishing tackle and current license
  • Paper and pen
  • Art supplies
  • Reading material
  • Special food and drink
  • Clothing
  • Choose wool or synthetic materials, cotton clothing should generally be avoided.
  • Waterproof (breathable is preferable) pants and jacket
  • Turtleneck, zip type is good
  • Insulating jacket
  • Insulating pants
  • Sun hat or visor
  • Bandana
  • Winter hat or balaclava
  • 2 or 3 pair polypropylene liner socks T-shirt
  • 3 pair wool or blend hiking socks
  • Light long underwear
  • Underwear
  • Warm mittens or gloves
  • Medium weight, broke-in waterproof hiking boots
  • Lightweight running-type shoes for in Camp
  • Gaiters
  • Food (list below)

Water Treatment

Bring lots of water. To protect yourself from disease, treat any surface water before drinking. Treatment methods include boiling for 5 minutes, use of a Giardia rated water filter, or iodine based purifier. To prevent the spread of Giardia and other water-borne disease organisms, use restroom facilities where available. In natural areas where facilities are not available, bury human waste 6 inches deep, and do your washing and camping at least 100 feet away from any water source or trail.

Bear Precautions

You are required by federal regulations to store all your food properly throughout Yosemite National Park. You must have your food stored unless it’s within arm’s reach- don’t go for a swim or take a nap while leaving food out.

Bear resistant food containers (bear canisters) are required for overnight hikers through out the Wilderness. Counterbalance food hangs are no longer legal. In Yosemite and the southern Sierra, bear canisters are the only effective and proven method of preventing bears from getting human food.

“Food” includes all food and drinks, regardless of packaging, along with trash, toiletries, and other scented items. These items must be stored in either an approved bear-resistant food canister or food locker. Hanging food is illegal throughout Yosemite.

Using a Bear Canister

The most important part of using a bear canister is what goes inside it. Make sure all food, all trash, all toiletries, and all other scented items are inside the bear canister. This includes but is not limited to all sealed or packaged food, sunscreen, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, deodorant, medications, garbage, and feminine products. As a general rule, if you put it in your mouth on on your skin, it should probably be stored in a bear canister.

The bear canister only works if it’s closed and locked! Be sure to keep it closed and locked, even while you’re around your campsite. Place the canister on the ground in a flat, level area 100 feet or more from your campsite. Do not hang it from a tree.

Take care not to place it near a cliff or any water source, as a bear may knock the canister around or roll it down a hill. Do not hang or attach anything to the canister (ropes attached to the canister enable a bear to carry it away). You can place pots and pans on top of the canister as a bear alarm if you like.

The best way to carry a bear canister is inside your pack. Think of it as a big stuff sack, though it will always occupy the same amount of space. Later in your trip, when you have eaten some of your food, you can place other items inside the canister to conserve space.

Packing Your Food

Take food out of its original package. This allows you to fit more food inside a canister and reduces the amount of garbage you generate. Repackage food from boxes, bottles, jars and cans into resealable plastic bags. These bags are flexible and fit into small spaces. Force air out of packages. Poke tiny holes in freeze-dried packages to release the air. Save instructions for cooking and put inside meal bags. Write food contents on outside of bags with a permanent marker.

Suggested Food Items

  • Cheese
  • Jerky
  • Sliced meats
  • Tortillas, pita bread
  • Gorp, Trail mix
  • Raisins, nuts
  • Dried fruit, candy
  • Spaghetti, flat pasta
  • Rice
  • Dehydrated beans
  • vegetables, soups, sauces
  • Nutrition bars
  • Peanut butter
  • Freeze dried meals
  • Packaged food
  • Condiment packets
  • Oatmeal
  • Powdered milk
  • Instant coffee
  • Tea

Ranger Districts in the Mother Lode

Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor's Office

19777 Greenley Road
Sonora, CA 95370

Hours All Year
Monday – Friday 8am – 4:30pm

(209) 532-3671 Phone
(209) 533-1890 FAX
(209) 533-0765 TDD

Calaveras Ranger District

5519 Highway 4
P.O. Box 500
Hathaway Pines, CA 95233

Summer Hours (May – Oct)
Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm
Saturday 8am – 2pm
Winter Hours (Nov – Apr)
Monday – Friday 8am – 4:30pm
Saturday 8:30am – 2pm

(209) 795-1381 Phone
(209) 795-6849 Fax
(209) 795-2854 TDD

Mi-Wok Ranger District

24695 Highway 108
P.O. Box 100
Mi-Wuk-Village, CA 95346

Hours All Year
Monday – Friday 8am – 4:30pm

(209) 586-3234 Phone
(209) 586-0643 Fax
(209) 586-0262 TDD

Groveland Ranger District

24545 Highway 120
Groveland, CA 95321

Summer Hours (Apr – Aug)
Monday – Sunday 8am – 3:30pm
Winter Hours (September – March)
Monday – Friday 8am – 4:30pm
Saturday 8am – 3:30pp

(209) 962-7825 Phone
(209) 962-7412 Fax
(209) 962-6406 TDD

Summit Ranger District
#1 Pinecrest Lake Road
Pinecrest, CA 95364

Summer Hours (including holidays)
Monday & Friday 8am – 5pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday 8am – 4:30pm
Fall/Spring Hours
Monday – Saturday 8am – 4:30pm
Winter Hours (December to mid-January)
Monday – Friday 8am to 4:30pm

(209) 965-3434 Phone
(209) 965-3372 Fax
(209) 965-0488 TDD

If you want to stay in the Mother Lode take a look our list of places to stay.

Planning a wedding, conference or other event? Take a look our list of places to host your event.

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