Snowshoe Camping Dewey Point Overview
A couple of years ago I did my first snowshoe camping adventure up in Yosemite. Despite hitting a lot of traffic on the drive up it was an awesome first snowshoe camping experience.
For anyone who has never snowshoed before, I would highly recommend the Badger Pass to Dewey Point route in Yosemite. The Badger Pass to Dewey Point route is a little over 7 miles round trip and can be a great day hike if you start early!
The best part of the hike is when you get to Dewey Point you are treated to some amazing views of El Capitan looking across the Yosemite Valley.
You are not allowed to camp on Dewey Point itself, but you can camp in the vicinity of Dewey Point off the trail. If you are looking for your first experience camping in the snow this is a great place to start! Fairly easy snowshoe hike out, great views and fairly easy snowshoe hike back to the parking lot.
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Video Overview: Dewey Point Wilderness Snowshoe Camping
Badger Pass - Dewey Point Wilderness Backpacking Permits
Wilderness permits are required to backpack in this area of Yosemite National Park and I recommend checking the Yosemite National Park website for the latest details. When we went this was the guidance:
Wilderness permits are required in winter—but reservations aren't needed from November through April.
For our permits we went to the A-frame ranger station at the Badger Pass Ski area. Sometimes if there is a lot of snow the A-frame ranger station can be a bit hard to find. When you enter the parking lot it should be on your right.
Yosemite Badger Pass to Dewey Point Snowshoe Maps
The map below can be viewed and downloaded on Caltopo here.
Day 1: Drive to Yosemite Valley Lodge
Living in San Diego we spent most of the day on Friday driving up to Yosemite National Park. We left early in the morning and hit the usual traffic in Los Angeles but eventually made it to the park an hour or two before sunset. Due to COVID-19 and the fire fall starting this weekend you needed to apply for a permit to get into the park ahead of time. By booking a room at the Yosemite Valley Lodge for our first night, we got an entry permit automatically with our stay at the hotel. I recommend that you check ahead of time but normally permits are not needed to enter the park itself.
As with any trip to Yosemite, Tunnel View is a must stop for pictures!
As we drove into the valley there were thick clouds all along the upper rim of the valley. While driving I tried looking up toward Dewey Point where we were supposed to be camping tomorrow, and everything was just covered in a thick fog. I thought to myself, if that stays it's going to be a cold wet hike with not a whole lot to see....
Once we checked into the Yosemite Valley Lodge and started organizing all our gear for the morning we realized we made a big mistake. We left our entire bag of food for the backpacking trip in our apartment in San Diego....
At this point I was a bit upset, but luckily we were only spending one night camping and the Yosemite Village Store was still open. If you have never been the Yosemite Village Store its half gift shop half grocery store. They had everything we needed, dehydrated camping dinners, and plenty of snacks.
After our emergency food purchase it was pretty dark, but we took a short walk in the dark over to Lower Yosemite Falls. It was pitch black but really nice because we had the waterfall all to ourselves and didn't have to share it with massive crowds of people.
Before bed I took out my phone and checked the weather for badger pass one more time and it showed snow showers all morning with a high of 27 degrees fahrenheit and a low at night of 16 degrees fahrenheit.
I almost forgot to mention this is my fiancé's first time camping in snow...and she grew up in San Diego. She may have mentioned on the drive up that she couldn't remember the last time she was in a lot of snow. Lets just say she is awesome for agreeing to go on this trip during valentine's day weekend!
Day 2: Snowshoe from Badger Pass Ski Area to Dewey Point (Dewey Point Ridge Trail)
In the morning we woke up in our warm hotel room to the sound of rain....a lot of rain. In Yosemite Valley it was pouring! I have spent plenty of time in my life hiking through the rain while in the Marine Corps, and if I had to pick rain over snow, I would much rather be hiking in snow. As we made final pack adjustments with all our gear and re-packed the car, I prayed it was snowing above Yosemite Valley as the weather report predicted the night before.
While putting Badger Pass Ski Area in google maps on my cell phone for directions, Google maps said Wowana Road was closed.... I quickly went to the Yosemite National Park Website and looked at current conditions and nothing on their page said anything about the road being closed. This got me worried, because it is the only road to get there. Luckily Wowana Road was actually not closed... so don't trust Google maps and go talk to the rangers and check it out yourself!
The drive up started out extremely rainy. The higher we got in elevation the rain started to change to ice and then to snow. The more we drove up the and out of the valley the harder the snow fell and the worse the roads became.
Oddly enough the intersection of Wowana Road and Glacier Point Road was where road conditions were the worst. At this intersection there is an area for you to pull off and put snow chains on which is highly recommended. Depending on if you have 4-wheel drive and all weather tires it will be mandatory for you to have snow chains on your car's tires. On this drive up to Badger Pass Ski area we went through two checkpoints where Yosemite Park Rangers were checking tires. Luckily I drive a Jeep Wrangler and have all terrain tires and therefore didn't have to stop to put snow chains on, but either way I had them in my car as a safety precaution if things got to bad.
ℹ️ Snow Chain Recommendations
Here is a link to the snow chains I have for my Jeep Wrangler. I like them because they are fairly straightforward to put on and come in a nice bag I can easily throw in my car for my winter travels.Make sure to pick the right size for your tires!
Security Chain Company Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain (Amazon Affiliate)
Underneath the snow on the road, there was definitely ice conditions. On the drive up Glacier Point Road we passed a number of vehicles that had spun out and were now stuck. Don't worry there were plenty of park rangers patrolling the road back and forth to help them out.
At one point we saw a Tesla Model X had spun out and was on the wrong side of the road. Soon after we were in a long line of vehicles slowly creeping up when suddenly the line stopped because the car in front got stuck. As we sat there, we saw the car in front of us start sliding down the hill, and soon after we were slowly sliding off the road as well inching towards a snow embankment. Luckily when I put my foot gently on the gas to creep forward I had plenty of traction and was easily able to get moving forward again.
Eventually we made it to the Badger Pass Ski Area parking lot!
When looking for parking there is an area specifically for overnight parking for backcountry campers. Look for the signs and you can grab a parking permit at the A-frame ranger hut when you fill out your backcountry permit.
The parking lot had a good inch or two of snow cover and the snow was still coming down hard at this point. My pack was getting snow covered just sitting in the parking lot while I made final preparations of my gear. At last though we actually made it to Badger Pass Ski Area and were finally embarking on our awesome Yosemite Snowshoe camping trip to Dewey Point!
Once we started snowshoeing, I was instantly in my element grinning from ear to ear. The snow was coming down hard, ice was pelting me in every direction, I was in my happy place!
The route from Badger Pass Ski Area to Dewey Point starts out on Glacier Point Road. Glacier Point Road is closed during the winter and is a groomed trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
As you can see from the map above, the hike starts along Glacier Point Road form the Badger Pass parking lot is a steady incline. Usually this trail is groomed pretty well and is wide enough for a cross country ski lane and a snowshoe lane on either side of the road. With all the fresh snow Glacier Point road seemed a lot more narrow then last time I was out hiking here.
There are two trails that connect to Glacier Point Road and head out towards Dewey Point.
- Dewey Point Ridge Trail
- Dewey Point Meadow Trail
The Dewey Point Ridge Trail is the first trail junction you will approach when hiking east from Badger Pass Parking lot. Dewey Point Ridge trail is a little more difficult than Dewey Point Meadow Trail due to it having more elevation change with rolling hills. Dewey Point Meadow trail is more flat and less challenging. Both trails meet up just under a mile before arriving at Dewey Point.
For our trip we took Dewey Point Ridge Trail on day one while we hiked out to Dewey Point and then we took Dewey Point Meadow Trail back.
Not sure if it's because it was snowing pretty hard on day one or if its because Dewey Point Ridge Trail is more difficult but we ran into a lot less people on Dewey Point Ridge Trail than we did on day 2 coming back on Dewey Point Meadow Trail. Probably a combination of both but I think a lot of day hikers take the easier Dewey Point Meadow Trail.
On the hike out, a lot of fellow day snowshoers and cross country skiers saw our backpacks and asked where we were camping. We met an awesome couple who has a yearly tradition of hiking out along Glacier Point Road picking a place in the snow to sit and enjoy a glass of champagne!
As we stepped off Glacier Point Road and onto Dewey Point Ridge Trail, the route quickly narrowed to single track with the forest creeping in tightly around us. It felt oddly peaceful to be off Glacier Point Road and in the forest of Yosemite National Park despite the constant snow and ice. The sound of the ice hitting my Arcteryx Jacket hood was rhythmic and calming. The first part of the day it was a bit hard to carry out a conversation while we hiked, we basically had to yell above the storm to hear each other on the trail.
Reflecting back on the clouds I viewed from the Valley floor the day before while driving into Yosemite, we were now in fact hiking through them. Fortunately for us, just as quickly as the rain turned to snow on the drive up, the clouds quickly dispersed and the sun came out just as we were approaching Dewey Point!
When the sun finally came out it was a relief to be able to take my hood off while hiking. The loud banging of snow and ice on my head for the last hour or so finally gave way and it was nice to be able to listen to the wind on the beautiful trees and to have a conversation again while hiking.
It wasn't much more hiking to get to Dewey Point and we got there at a perfect time. With the weather now lifting and since we were no longer hiking through a cloud, we arrived at Dewey Point with some fantastic views of El Capitan with clouds eye level across Yosemite Valley from us.
Dewey Point gave us some amazing views of Yosemite Valley, but we had to bundle up again here on the point. The wind was blowing through the valley and blowing straight up the cliffs around Dewey Point and coming in hard! I was glad my snowshoes were holding me onto the snow!
The wind blowing up the cliffs was really cool to see! As it whooshed up and over the rim of Yosemite Valley it almost looked like it was snowing in the reverse direction. The wind carried up bits of snow and blew them up the cliff! We have some cool footage of this in the YouTube video we took of the trip!
After standing in the strong cold wind for a bit enjoying the views and taking some pictures we started to get cold ourselves and decided to go look for a spot out of the wind for camp so we could warm ourselves up.
The wind was pretty strong so it took a little bit to try and find a nice place where we weren't getting blasted by it. We eventually found a grouping of three trees that blocked the wind pretty well.
After digging down into the snow a little bit and making a good spot for our tent we set up camp and boiled some water for some hot tea!
After preparing camp for sundown and the ultimate wave of coldness I had some time before it got dark and was able to hike back to Dewey Point without all my gear on and take in the amazing scenery while the sun was inching lower and lower in the sky.
Since this was the weekend the Yosemite fire fall was starting I was hoping to get a glimpse from somewhere in the park. Secretly I was hoping I might be able to see it from Dewey Point.
I ended up not seeing the firewall but I think I liked my view much better! Instead of seeing the fire fall, I got to see what I am dubbing the "Fire Wall":
As this misty cloud moved through Yosemite Valley the lighting was changing almost every minute. From a photography standpoint it was awesome!
As the last bit of light disappeared into the distance we ate a hot meal and prepared for a long cold night.
ℹ️ Gear: How we Slept Warm
On this trip the low was 17 degrees fahrenheit. Here is a list of the gear we slept with:
- Nemo Dagger 2p (Amazon): This is technically a three season tent but held up for us in the snow.
- Foam Sleeping Pad: We had two foam sleeping pads, one for each of us to use. One was a Nemo Switchback (Amazon) and the other was a Zlite sol.
- Klymit Double (Amazon): In the winter it's a good idea to use two sleeping pads. One foam and another inflatable. We played the Klymit double on-top of our foam sleeping pads for added warmth.
- 15 Degree Marmot Bag: Since it was my Fiancé's first time ever snow shoeing and sleeping overnight in the snow I brought my 15 Degree Marmot bag. I have had this sleeping bag since high school so not going to attempt to find a link to its model. But it's warm and packs down nice and small.
- 30 Degree Enlightened Equipment Accomplice Quilt: The Accomplice by enlightened equipment is a fantastic two person sleeping quilt for camping/backpacking. This is what we use on most of our trips.
I slept just under the 30 degree quilt and I also wore wool pants along with my Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisper (Amazon) puffy Jacket. I slept comfortably most of the night and only woke up cold once or twice. My Fiancé was perfect under the 15 degree and 30 degree sleeping bag.
Day 3: Snowshoe from Badger Pass Ski Area to Dewey Point (Dewey Point Meadow Trail)
I think the best part about winter camping is that it gets dark early and therefore you get to bed early. As long as you are properly prepared to stay warm through the night, winter camping is some of the best sleep I ever get!
After probably 10+ hours of sleep we awoke to a beautiful morning and it wasn't snowing! The morning sunrise was just as beautiful as sunset the night before.
The first goal of the morning for us before breaking down our tent and packing our packs for the hike back along Dewey Point Meadow Trail was to get nice and warm. We broke out the jet boil and started boiling up some nice warm tea to drink while we broke everything down.
After we packed up and triple checked our area to make sure we weren't leaving anything behind, we took the short walk back to Dewey Point. Since it was in fact Valentines day morning, we decided to have a small glass of wine at Dewey Point to celebrate!
The hike back went by super fast, but it was very peaceful not hiking back in the storm that we hiked through on the way out to Dewey Point. The Dewey Point Meadow Trail is flatter terrain than the Dewey Point Ridge Trail and a bit more wide open.
Instead of winding through the dense forest the Dewey Point Meadow Trail cuts through the open meadow and as a result you get these great views of some untouched snow.
On our hike back we definitely saw a lot more day hikers but the hike was just as beautiful and peaceful.
When we got back to the parking lot at Badger Pass Ski area, I was shocked that my Jeep wasn't buried in the snow. I am glad I only had to wipe the snow off the roof and not dig out!
As a reward for ourselves for snowshoeing out to Dewey Point and spending the night out in 17 degree temperatures we spent our final night at the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley! We devoured a delicious Prime Rib Valentines day dinner and enjoyed the warmth of the hotel.
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