Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

Universally agreed as the crown jewel of the entire Yosemite High Sierra Camp system.  This 10,300 foot camp sits at a stunningly beautiful high Sierra location, the only one in a true Apine Zone. The steep granite peaks and rock strewn granite plateau leaves no doubt that you are in the Alpine ecosystem. This is the highest camp and therefore the coldest at night and the most difficult for hikers from sea level to acclimatize to. The thin air challenges even those who are physically fit and may be too hard for those with breathing issues or who are too frail.

The camp is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Except for a few permanent structures, all the guest cabins, bathhouse tent and dinner tent are completely disassembled before the winter snows.  The camp is resupplied with food and other materials entirely by mule train.  There is no electricity or cell service.  Reservations are obtained by a once per year lottery system.

 

HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

The camp derives its name from Charles Vogelsang, former President of the California State Board of Fish and Game.  His name also  graces the nearby granite crag, Vogelsang Peak (11,516 feet) as well as the close by Vogelsang Lake.  The camps’ current location was established in 1940.  It has had to move twice since its creation aside nearby Booth Lake in 1924. It is said that mosquitoes were the cause of the forced relocation.  The 2.9 acre site retains the majority of buildings and tentd from 1940.  Over the years, environmental concerns have forced the elimination of some services and changing the way how some guest services are provided.  In 1991 a solar powered composting toilet was added.

 

Vogelsang Peak Vogelsang Peak and Fletcher Creek

 

THE SETTING

The camp is perched just below timber line camp and bordered by a shorthair sedge Alpine meadow and shimmering Fletcher Lake.  Fletcher Peak rises dramatically at the very edge of the camp.  Both White Bark pine and Lodgepole pines dot the landscape.  Polished granite slabs sparkle all around and Fletcher Creek races by and includes a delightful waterfall and good fishing.  One of the reasons why fishing is so popular is because of the efforts of Arthur G. Fletcher who oversaw the stocking of trout in many of Yosemite’s alpine lakes starting in the 1900s.  No wonder they named a creek, lake and a mountain after him.

 

Nearby Vogelsang Lake

 

CABIN DETAILS

Arriving at the camp, you will find 12 canvas sided cabins where you will be assigned sleeping quarters dormitory style.  Meaning, you will sleep in the same cabin as other hikers.  Each tent holds 4 campers and the the maximum camps’ capacity of 42 guests fills each night.  Bring your ear plugs for noisy/snoring sleep-mates.  Layered clothing options are recommended.

The cabins have a steel pole frames and are constructed on concrete platforms 12′ x 14.’  Each has a wood screened door and a narrow verticle storage shelf.  Beds have squeaky steel frames and are older style cot mattresses which are all singles. No “glamping” style thick, plush mattresses here.  You are required to bring your own sheets or sleeping shell.  However, blankets and pillows are provided.  Despite this, campers are generally comfortable and thankful just to have a spot at a Yosemite High Sierra Camp.

Nights can be very cold but a wood stove is provided in each tent with fuel to burn.  If the heater is fired all night, some complain of coughing the next day.  Better to use it in the early morning when it is coldest anyway.

 

Vogelsang eating area Vogelsang meal tent at left abutting the stone cook house

 

FOOD AND DRINK

Meals are provided in a large canvas sided eating area. Its sides can be rolled up to take in the view of Fletcher Creek or to provide ventilation.  Food is served family style and although plentiful and well made, it is cooked by a seasonal worker, not a gourmet trained chef.  Fresh salads and homemade deserts are served.  The presentation and menus can be very basic.  Most find the meals taste better than they really are as a hard days hike gives hikers a good appetite.

Breakfast is the traditionally hot cooked affair and lunch sandwhiches are available for purchase. Fresh food and all supplies are stocked via mule train.  Alcohol is not sold but you are allowed to bring your own it.  Alternately, you could arrange to have it packed it with the wranglers pack train for $5.00 per bottle.  This option would obviously require significantly advanced request.

 

Vogelsang PassVogelsang Pass

 

DAY HIKING OPTIONS

Interesting days hikes abound including and are located at close proximity.  Ireland Lake and XXX are well worth a visit.  Although Vogelsang Pass is farther away at 1.5 miles, you will be rewarded by a panomamic.  For those who enjoy easy peak bagging, try Parsons and Rafferty.

 

Composting toilet house abutting the old shower tent (no longer used).

 

SHOWERS AND TOILETS

Although some other camps have flush toilets, the higher elevation of Vogelsang requires a more environmentally sensitive solution.  The composting toilet house is an impossing two story structure with a massive stone stairway to the upper level. The lower level houses the composting pits and although the building looks completely out of place, its design results in a far less smelly system than other High Sierra composting toilet locations.

The odd roof line supports solar cells to turn the composting equipment.  Four silver ventilation pipes sprout aggressively from the roof.  It was built in 1991 to replace the flush toilets which drained into an under designed septic system which failed too frequently and polluted the already fragile setting.  The designs’ goals have been successful but at the cost of disrupting this otherwise beautiful setting.

There are no hot showers at this particular camp but can be found at some other Yosemite High Sierra camps. The old changing areas are still in place for those who brought a backpacking type solar shower or decide to sponge bath.  Water and sanitation concerns have changed greatly over the years at this location.  Another change saw the elimination of the central campfire ring.  Now, wilderness regulations prohibit campfires above 9,600 feet.

 

Vogelsang Camp Map

 

ENTERTAINMENT AND TRADITIONS

An interesting tradition has developed around sunset when a phenomena known as Alpine Glow reflects the last sunlight off the nearby granite peaks.  Employees and guests gather on top of the old cookhouse built in 1940 which has a strong roof comprised of half logs whose bark has long since worn away.  At times the entire 37 foot long roof will host a full audience.

Hikers are called to dinner by a western style triangular bell.  Each camp has developed its own unique was of sounding the dinner bell.  After dinner, staff employees will typically play guitar and sing songs for entertainment.

 

BOOKING YOUR STAY

This is the most popular camp!  At the time you make reservations, you choose between waking in or a saddle ride, meaning a mule and donning a protection helmet.  The saddle option can be uncomfortable for many due to discomfort to the legs and buttocks.  If you have ever been “saddle sore” than you know how uncomfortable this can be.  This is definitely a cast of “pick your poison” when deciding if you want to walk long distances versus riding a mule for long distances.  It is a very individual choice.  Reservations are made through a yearly lottery and fills fast.  However, some campers have good luck with last minute cancellations, if you have that type of flexible schedule.  See our Reservations page for more information and helpful hints.

 

GETTING THERE

From the nearest road at the Tuolumne Meadows (Dog Lake parking area), the trail is a moderate 6.8 mile hike in. The trail is not steep and passes through numerous sections of fragile Alpine meadows where the trails have been diverted in many areas to allow the vegetation to heal.  Views of the surrounding granite peaks constantly change as you near the camp.

 

Dog Lake trail head to Vogelsang Camp for a total of 6.8 miles