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Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:51 pm
by rapunzel
Hello all,

We're planning our second trip to the Sierra (we're from the East Coast) and could use some help. Last year, we did the High Sierra Trail to Mount Whitney and had a great time, so we'd like to come back this year. We're thinking of checking out Yosemite and are trying to plan a route. We would like to see Yosemite Valley at the beginning and/or end of our trip, but we'd like to spend most of our time in the backcountry.

Here's our info:

Backpacking experience - high level 2 (we backpack frequently but only started a couple of years ago; always on trail; almost all in the mid-Atlantic)

Desired terrain - class 1 (all on trail, though we are looking for a physical challenge; elevation gain/loss is good, though something manageable is preferred. I'm late-20s, my husband is 30, and we're both in good shape and plan to hike/backpack as much as possible before our trip to train.)

Interests - mountain scenery, lakes, forests, photography; we do not fish and don't have a dog

Length of trip/miles per day - We're looking for 6 to 7 hiking days, though that's flexible. We plan to allot almost two weeks for the trip in total, including flying to/from San Francisco, travel to/from Yosemite, some time before we hike in the Yosemite front country, and a visit with friends in San Francisco after we hike. While hiking, we like to average about 10 miles a day, though we have no problem doing 15 or so as necessary. For a trip of this duration we don't need any layover days. As noted earlier, we like physically challenging trips and would like to have some climbs, though we're not masochists.

Type of trip - we can do either a loop or point-to-point, as long as transit's available to get to/from San Francisco.

A few additional notes: as we're from the East Coast, we do not usually hike at altitude. We took a day in Sequoia before starting the High Sierra Trail last year, and neither of us had any problems with altitude - fingers crossed for a repeat. Also, I am working on my fear of heights ... some of the dicier ledge sections on the High Sierra Trail really got to me last year. I don't mind having some sections with exposure, but I'd rather not cling to cliffsides for the whole trip. This also means Half Dome and Clouds Rest are NOT on our list.

Here are the possibilities we're considering now:

(1) Starting at Tuolumne and day hiking Mt. Dana before we start. Heading down to Vogelsang, then Merced Lake, then through Little Yosemite Valley to end in (Big?) Yosemite Valley. This is a very rough sketch based on suggestions I saw on a previous post on this topic, so if this sounds like a good idea, feel free to suggest more specifics. Or feel free to suggest a better/alternate route that starts in Tuolumne and ends in Yosemite Valley; I think transit is available to make that possible.

(2) Starting in Yosemite Valley. Bus up to Glacier Point; hike Illilouette Creek towards Merced Pass, then do a loop (direction not determined) past Fernandez Pass, Post Peak Pass, Isberg Pass, Red Peak, then back up Illilouette to Glacier Point. This appears to be tougher/more remote than my other possibility; correct?


Final note: We are thinking early August this year. We did late August last year, and with the very dry season, we ran right into fire season. It looks like it may be even worse this year ... :(. Late July might actually be better than August - what do you think? Though we are almost too late to get permits for late July, depending on the trailhead, at this point.

All suggestions/criticisms/jokes at our expense are very welcome! Thanks so much for providing such a great center for information about hiking in the Sierra!

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:29 am
by oldranger

Both trips are great.

1. There is no "down" between TM and vogelsang.

2. Suggest you end trip 2 in valley rather than glacier pt.

3. No telling how long current change in jet stream will have beneficial impacts on snowpack. But last week in July is likely a better start date this year.

4. Markskor will provide more detailed recs, I'm sure.


Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:35 am
by markskor
rapunzel wrote:We would like to see Yosemite Valley...we are looking for a physical challenge; elevation gain/loss is good...we do not fish...We're looking for 6 to 7 hiking days...we like to average about 10 miles a day...all on trail, though we have no problem doing 15 or so as necessary. For a trip of this duration we don't need any layover days.
Impressed that you have done the HST previously...How many days did it take you? It sounds like you are looking for 60 - 70 miles total, all on trail, with no layover days? Ambitious plan, maybe too ambitious... Do you have a car?
Some thoughts first - (BTW, Initially I wasn't going to touch this as you wanted all "on trail" but - )
1) For all trips noted, leave car in the Valley - Curry Orchard is good, take YARTS (or other buses first to whatever trailhead), and hike back to the car.
2) Averaging 10 miles per day is certainly do-able,( maybe even 15 if needed)...but why...Why no layover days? (BTW, we call these "zero" days out here.) I personally think you are doing too much hiking and deserve at least one Zero somewhere.
3) The best of Yosemite in August is above 10,000 feet elevation. You say "no problem" with altitude but even the best can be effected.

3 Possibilities, just to start you out:
1) First night Yosemite Valley BP and early morning GP bus next day. Take bus to Mono Meadows (stop before Glacier Point) and head for Ottoway Lakes. 16 miles to Lower Ottoway - with bus connection first, figure two days to the lake and eventually Red Peak Pass...Red Devil Lake third night (pretty but no fish - just frogs, but you say you do not fish so...), Harriet Lake area (day 4) and Washburn or Merced (5). Follow the Merced down to Moraine Dome waterslide (6), and the Valley. Maybe 55+ miles total.

2) Start Tuolumne (take 5:00 evening bus before) and do Grand Canyon of Tuolumne (North) 3 days down to Glen Aulin, Pate, and up to Harden Lake. Cross over 120 to Yosemite Creek (4). Top of the big falls (5) and east to North Dome ledge (6) down Snow Creek to Valley (7)...50+ miles.

3) Tuolumne Bus to Tuolumne BP (1) and either Lyell or Rafferty Creek to Voglesang area - lots to see/explore here (2) & (3). Bernice (4) High trail above Washburn to Merced Fork (just past Coney Crags (5). Washburn (6) down following the Merced to your car (7). 55 miles.

Lots more too, many variations.

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:50 am
by Wandering Daisy
Personally I would NOT do the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in August. If you do it in August, go down from White Wolf and work your way up the river. I would NOT want to hike up out of Pate Valley in August. Too hot and definitely would be dry. One advantage of August is that there are tons of wonderful swimming pools along the way. Instead of trying to do a 15-mile day, do a 5-8 miles per day and stop at EVERY hole and swim! I took my daughter on this trip one August and our pace was a crawl. One day we spent more time swimming than hiking. I think we made 3 miles that day.

I also am not keen on Yosemite Valley in August. Because I live here I can choose better times; this may be your only chance, but be prepared for hot weather, air quality problems, traffic jams, most of the waterfalls dry, and crowds of people. I would just walk out to the Valley (or start) but not spend a lot of time there. Come back in early May for a week just to hike in the Valley and do the trails from the valley floor to the rim.

If I were to spend a day not backpacking I would do at least a day in Tuolumne Meadows area. There is a shuttle bus that takes you to various points. And a backpacker's campground. Tuolumne Meadows in August is wonderful!

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:17 am
by sparky
Here is a suggestion:

Arrive in YV before sunrise, do some sightseeing and get out of there by 8am. Head up to TM and explore around for two days. Then head to bridgeport and do your 7 day hike out of twin lakes. There are a couple good options for loops in the area....pick your poison.

I do have to say that following the merced river from the high country down into the valley is incredibly scenic. Mind blowing granite. It is absolutely spectacular, and definitely on par with Hamilton Lake -> Kaweah Gap, which you passed through on your HST hike.

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:35 pm
by markskor
Wandering Daisy wrote:Personally I would NOT do the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in August.
My initial thought too - no big waterfalls but -
(even if this year's snowfall doesn't improve) -
The route works with one car, fulfills his miles/days, up-n-down requirements, and will have dependable water.

Thought about this some...hard to give good advise on a trip Yosemite, long enough, when that late in the year, where not too crowded, where water will still be readily available, and all the route has to be on trail.
Maybe Mammoth -> Valley instead?
Any ideas?

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:57 pm
by maverick
TM to Agnew Meadows for August would be the perfect trip. After climbing Lyell
Canyon and over Donahue Pass you have Marie and Davis Lakes worth visiting, and
the 1000 Is Lake, Garnet, Lake Ediza, some of the prettiest lakes in the Sierra.
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne as mentioned will be hot, and to me the main
attraction are Waterwheel, LeConte Falls and some crosscountry spots, which will
be well beyond their prime in August.
Since Clouds Rest and HD are off the list will not recommend Cathedral Lakes which
are some of the prettiest trailed lakes in that area.
Sparky's recommendation is a good one too, it will have no crowds, beautiful lakes,
canyons, and peaks. Sawtooth Ridge, Matterhorn Peak and Canyon, Smedberg, Benson,
Peeler, and Crown Lakes, Seavey Pass area are all very pretty and worth considering.

Re: Trip ideas - 6 to 7 days in Yosemite this August

Posted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:51 am
by wildhiker
I recommend a Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley trip via the headwaters region of the Merced River for wide open wilderness views and granite. You can take the afternoon YARTS bus from Yosemite Valley up to Tuolumne Meadows and camp in the backpacker's section of the regular campground first night (no reservation needed). Then head up Rafferty Creek to the Vogelsang area - that's a good short first day while you are getting acclimated to the elevation. There are lots of interesting lakes near there that you can explore. Most folks camp at Upper Fletcher Lake. You can dayhike on the trail from there to Evelyn Lake for great views over the whole Tuolumne region. Next day, go over Vogelsang Pass and down Lewis Creek. Make a side trip up to Bernice Lake. In fact, I'd recommend camping there - there is really easy cross-country walking up meadows and slabs into the lake basin above Bernice. Or camp low down on Lewis, or start up the High Trail on this same day and camp at one of the small creeks that crosses the trail after it gets up on the high bench (about 900 feet above Lewis Creek). The High trail has some absolutely spectacular viewpoints. You drop down into the Lyell Fork of Merced River. You can camp there upstream from the trail a bit and explore that basin, or continue on climbing up out of that canyon and camp just off the trail at the lake north of Forster Creek. From there, a side trip of easy cross-country walking in meadows and granite slabs leads to the expansive basin around Harriet Lake. Continuing on the High Trail, plan to camp a night at the big lake just below Isberg Pass and then take a side trip up to Isberg & Post Peak Passes for the amazing views of the high sierra to the south. You can connect these two passes by walking the ridge between them and thus make a loop day hike. From this big lake, backtrack slightly north on the High Trail to catch the side trail down to the Triple Peak Fork of the Merced River. Now you have a straight shot following the river all the way back to Yosemite Valley - 2 or 3 days depending on how fast you want to leave paradise!