I have travel to countless national parks and forest around the world. I have visit the first national park in the US, Yellowstone and hike around Europe a few times. I have never encounter any other place like Yosemite. There is something magical about Yosemite from the first time to arrive. I personally love entering Yosemite using the tunnel to be rewarded by the awesome view and the majesty of the rock formation. Other people love arriving on the highway 120 in the summer open while that road is open, to see Tuolumne Meadows.
Needless to say, Yosemite Valley is always crowded, in the summers is overcrowded without exception. All the amazing hikes are like walking in times square. There are places in Yosemite away from the valley in the summer without many people where you can find peace and a meaningful connection with “The Yosemite”, you just need to be ready to backpack. There are so many backpacking experience that I cannot possibly list them all. Here are 3 I would recommend.
– Backpack from Glacier point to Tuolumne Meadows is probably the best backpacking experience you’ll ever do. Because of the permits and people, you may want to avoid Half Dome, but I would recommend to camp at the Little Yosemite Campground to connect with other hikers and nature.
– JMT from the Valley. If you stay in the Valley, I would recommend to leave using the mist trail early in the morning to avoid the huge amounts of people that start hiking around 8 or 9 in the morning. That trail is still my favorite when no people is around. The John Muir Trail is one of the most interesting trails to discover the Sierras. You do not have to hike it all, a section hike is still very rewarding. Don’t need to take the same path that other people, hike to enjoy, not to hang another medal.
– Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin. Personally I haven’t done this hike, yet this is in my list of todos. I found a great description here with pictures and great descriptions. Looks far from people and beautiful.
You can’t go wrong leaving Tuolumne Meadows in any direction.
Hope you can find a way to go to this magical place, in the 70s climbers and hikes spent all summer living in Yosemite. Now there is a rule that you cannot stay more than 7 days inside the park due people living there and not wanting to leave.