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Reviews > Books > Trail Guides > Yosemite The Complete Guide > Owner Review by Kathleen Waters

Yosemite: The Complete Guide
December 15, 2016



NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 65
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)
WAIST: 28 " (71 cm)
TORSO LENGTH 18" (45 cm)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


Author: James Kaiser, Text and Photography
Publisher: Destination Press, and its Licensors
Year Copyright: 2016 4th Edition
Author's Website:
ISBN: 978-1-940754-19-2
Language: English

Paperback: 304 pages, including appendix and index. Also available in digital format
Printed in China on MIX, paper from responsible sources
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches (22 x 14 x 1.3 cm)
Measured Weight: 20 oz (567 g)
MSRP: US $19.99
Image copyright by author


"Yosemite: The Complete Guide" is a book written and beautifully supplemented by the photography of the author, James Kaiser. It features extensive details about Yosemite National Park in the state of California. The Table of Contents divides the book into 10 different sections, including the titles: Adventures, Basic, Geology, Ecology and Wildlife, History, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows and finally, Wawona and Hetch Hetchy. Each of the regions (Yosemite Valley, etc.) is explored in detail covering specific sights and hikes.

In the book in the chapters on the different regions of Yosemite, the author devotes two pages each to representative trails in that region - 25 trails in all. One page covers a brief summary of the trail, gives trailhead information and then an information "box" with the trails' rating, distance, hiking time and elevation change. The second, facing page is a full-page topo map from USGS data. The front and back covers have fold-out topo maps as well. The front cover depicts Yosemite National Park and the back cover depicts Central California.

Whenever the author describes a specific trail, he also includes a representative colored photograph.

Since I had a very limited time to cram in all that I could of Yosemite National Park during my trip out west this summer, I was very excited to see on page 8 of the guide a list of the author's "Yosemite Top 5". On this page he lists his top 5 viewpoints, adventures, hikes and waterfalls. And no, I didn't get to see even half of them! But this list was and is a great place to start when trying to pare down the more than 750 miles (1200 km) of trails in the park. However, from my one-time experience, "Top 5" could be translated as "Packed (with people) 5". No place where someone seeking nature and peace wants to be. The author does mention that summer is the most popular time. I'll go in the dead-of-winter next time!

In the beginning of the book there are several pages listing basic backcountry etiquette and information about permits, bears, etc. Quickly after that, the author dives into very readable, very interesting and again, gorgeously photographed sections about the park itself - its geography, history and flora and fauna. I personally really like this sort of thing as it makes me appreciate what I'm seeing when I am hiking rather than just getting the exercise!
Picture fron Guide
Picture of Sequoia from Yosemite The Complete Guide
My Picture
I DID take some pictures!
But of course, the most important aspect of a "trail guide" is whether or not it really guides me on the trail. This book is not really that sort of book. The summary gives a very general short description of the trail and how to get to the trailhead is simply enough stated - at least I never got lost trying to find one. And the rating, distance and elevation gain info appeared to be very accurate, though I found the hiking times to be very optimistic (?) for my style of hiking. Generally, while hiking a 2.5 mile/hour (4 km/h) pace with times for oo-ing and aah-ing, I doubled the estimated hiking times and was about right.

Where this book shines is in the background information and the photographs! There are LOTS of photographs to admire! "Yosemite: The Complete Guide" is most definitely in the category of "Coffee Table" books!


1.) Stunningly beautiful pictures which highlight all aspects of Yosemite National Park
2.) Clear and easy to read trail maps
3.) Wonderful and detailed information about the history, geography, flora and fauna of the park
4.) Logically grouped information by Yosemite's distinct regions.


1.) While the trails that are covered in the book are covered in detail, I wish there were more of them!


I received this book the same week I was headed to Yosemite National Park. I didn't even have a chance to crack the cover before I was on a plane winging westward. Once I was settled into my window seat, I was able to open the guide and immediately was blown away just by thumbing through the pictures. If I had been a bit excited about the upcoming visit before, I was now even more excited. We couldn't touch down soon enough.

I found the book to be well-organized and well-written, but the amazing pictures were what "made" this book for me. Absolutely gorgeous pictures which - since I certainly am not even a decent amateur photographer - allowed me to really just enjoy my all-too-short time in Yosemite without viewing it constantly from behind the camera lens! Before a future adventure to Yosemite National Park, I would however, consider buying the digital version for my phone so as to be able to "carry" it in the backcountry with me.

Thank you James Kaiser for your "Yosemite: The Complete Guide". It's a treasure for sure!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

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