Yosemite National Park – Horse Camping in Toulumne Meadows – Part II

For part two of my post on horse camping at Yosemite, I’ll cover our Saturday and Monday rides. On Saturday, we left the barn around 7am for the long drive to the park. It should have taken us 5 hours to get there and I wanted to get there right at check-in to maximize the amount of time we’d have at the park. However, we hit completely stalled out traffic at the Yosemite entrance. It seriously took us 40 minutes to go 1 mile. Once we got past the entrance, there was no traffic and we carried on to our site arriving around 1pm.

Because we booked a cancellation, we had no choice in campsite and got Horse Camp Site #2. However, if you’re planning a trip in advance, I will tell you this is the worst site of the four. There’s no way to pull your trailer off the road and park it in the shade. The other sites have nice spots to park or you could even park on the road with your trailer along the side of the camp. Horse site #2 has a steep drop off from the road so we were very limited in where we could park. We ended up parking the trailer next to the only tree along the parking strip and leaving Eugene there. I tied Nilla to a tree in side the site overnight. If you use corrals and don’t care where your trailer is parked, #2 is ok, but if you have a larger truck or RV, you’ll be parking it out in the sun too. We managed to pull our truck into a small shady spot separate from the trailer. From walking around and looking at the other sites and talking to other horse campers, I would say that site 4 is the best, 3 is next best, then 1 and 2 only if you have to take it.


Given all the driving and the fact that our horses are not at all used to the elevation, we wanted to do a really easy ride the first day. We gave them some time to eat hay and relax while we set up camp and then we tacked up with the plan to ride for just a few miles to stretch their legs.

We took the Lyell Canyon trail out of the camp towards the Toulumne Lodge. It’s a very flat and easy trail that follows the Toulumne river. The river is very popular with campers for swimming and fishing in so we saw lots of campers. The trail also continues on to some High Sierra Camps and other destinations so we saw backpackers as well. Eugene had never seen a backpacker before and was terrified of the first one he saw, but he quickly calmed down about it.


We made it to the twin bridges, but decided to turn around before getting to the lodge because I hadn’t changed into riding pants and my legs were getting a bit rubbed. We did see a lot of people swimming in the river at those bridges and decided to try to come back with our own bathing suits later.

The ride itself was very pretty with views out over the meadows to the distant granite peaks.


You could even see snow on some of the distant mountains.


On our way back, my husband and I had a disagreement about which way to go. We ended up going his way and found ourselves in the middle of the regular campground. Surrounded by cars and bikes and screaming children and people carrying inner-tubes. It was a lot to test a horse, but Eugene and Nilla marched through there like good ponies. We eventually fund our way back to our site and settled in for the night. I posted about Saturday’s ride to Glen Aulin here.

On Monday, we knew we’d have a long drive back home, but we wanted to hit the Bay Area after traffic so we didn’t want to leave the park until 4pm. Since check out time was noon, we asked one of our neighbors if we could park our truck and trailer across from them and they were all for it. They actually invited us to stay the night it we wanted to. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any more food or I would have loved to stay longer.

With the extra time, we decided to ride out to Elizabeth Lake. It’s a short 2.3 mile trail ride to get to the lake, though there is a good 1000′ of elevation gain. This trail was much easier than the Glen Aulin ride. There were few granite scrambles and no cobblestone sections. It was mostly just dirt trail with boulders to wind between. Most of the trail was shaded too, but as you near the lake, you break out into a meadow with a beautiful view of Unicorn Peak.

unicorn peak

There are a bunch of trails sort of circling the lake so we wandered around looking for a good place to tie up for a break.  We crossed the creek that flows out of the lake and the horses enjoyed a long drink.


We eventually found a shady spot to tie up and sit by the lake for a bit admiring the view.


When we got back on to ride back, my husband caught this great shot. After struggling for a long time to get Nilla to stand still while I was mounting, I started giving her a treat after mounting. It works rally well and she now stands better than any of our horses. As I was trying to get on at the lake, she was refusing to move forward to line up with the rock and I was bribing her with the carrot to step forward.


We rode back down to the campground and tied up briefly to change into our bathing suits. Then we rode down to the twin bridges we’d ridden to on Saturday to go swimming. The ponies were thrilled to be tied up in the shade of a big tree with lush grass to graze on.


While the ponies hung out in the shade, we explored the river:


The water was, one again, crystal clear and gorgeous. The view was beautiful as well.


As we were leaving the river to go back to the campground we passed a hiker who asked if she could take out picture. Sure. We’re always fine with that. And while she was at it we asked if she could take some with my phone as well.


After that, it was a quick ride back to the camp where we fed the ponies, ate lunch, and then hit the road. We left the campground around 3:30 and arrived at our barn around 9:30, which included stopping for gas and then fast food dinner. I’m really liking this leaving late plan now that we’ve done it a few times. We missed all the traffic and the horses got to travel in the cooler night air.

This trip was amazing and I highly recommend going to Yosemite especially if you can go horse camping. However, even if you can’t, everything we did in the trip could be done via hiking.

14 thoughts on “Yosemite National Park – Horse Camping in Toulumne Meadows – Part II

    1. Olivia Post author

      It was still great. And I’d tell anyone they should go even if they can only get #2. But for people trying to figure out which one to book if they have a choice, 2 sucks.

  1. Karol Ayne

    Except for the crappy campsite, it sounds like you had a great time!! Hopefully one day I will take a trip like that and won’t have to live vicariously through photos… 😉

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