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Overnight in late June

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Overnight in late June

Postby TommyD » Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:07 am

My wife and I are driving across the country this summer and want to include in our itinerary a one-night backpacking trip somewhere in the Sierras. I had originally wanted to incorporate a small portion of the JMT, but it looks like I'm too late in the game for that — no luck on permits in Yosemite or Ansel Adams for the dates we need and I don't want to risk getting walk-up.

I have never been to California before, so, I know this is a big question, but if you could only do one overnight trip in the Sierras what would it be? We are in our late 20s, are runners and consider ourselves in good shape — we've done some fairly strenuous trips in the Appalachians, but I don't want to underestimate the altitude factor as we are not used to the West. The time frame we're looking at is around the last weekend of June.

I'd probably prefer a loop, that way we could maximize the scenery that we see, but if there's an out-and-back you think would be best, I would consider that also.

Thanks so much for any help!



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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby maverick » Mon Mar 24, 2014 12:17 pm

Hi TommyD,

Welcome to HST!

I had originally wanted to incorporate a small portion of the JMT, but it looks
like I'm too late in the game for that — no luck on permits in Yosemite or Ansel
Adams for the dates we need and I don't want to risk getting walk-up.

Getting a walk-up permit is not difficult, just need to get there early and be one of
the first in line. Arriving Mon-Wed your odds are even greater.
I have never been to California before, so, I know this is a big question, but if you
could only do one overnight trip in the Sierras what would it be? We are in our late
20s, are runners and consider ourselves in good shape — we've done some fairly
strenuous trips in the Appalachians, but I don't want to underestimate the altitude
factor as we are not used to the West. The time frame we're looking at is around
the last weekend of June.


This could be a issue especially if you were planning to do something on the
eastern side of the Sierra since you are coming in from back east. Most folks who
are sensitive to altitude can be affected as low as 8000 ft. Rest and hydration are
very important as well as eating well, how well will you be able to do these on a
cross-country trip?


I'd probably prefer a loop, that way we could maximize the scenery that we
see, but if there's an out-and-back you think would be best, I would consider that also.


Would recommended something out of Lake Sabrina west of Bishop (Blue Lake
and day hike to Midnight Lake), Big Pine North Fork, Little Lakes Valley, or 20 Lakes
Basin. LLV and 20 Lakes Basin are very easy to access and you'll be able to set early
in the day and enjoy some outstanding scenery, even do some exploring the same
day, and the following day, before you hike back out to your car.
Big Pine Lakes would give you a small loop and beautiful scenery, and a hike up to
glacier is great. All the above hikes are above 10000 ft.
If you opted for the Minarets you could shoot up the Shadow Lake Trail and spend the
night at Lake Ediza, or go up the River Trail to 1000 Is Lake and come back via the
High Trail. The problem with this hike is that one is required to use the shuttle bus
to get to the trailhead unless you get in the gate before 7am which is not an option
in your case. Even though the Minarets is one of the highlights of the Sierra as
an overnighter it really is just to short of a time period to see this magnificent area.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby TommyD » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:12 pm

Thanks, Maverick.

The reason I'm reluctant to go the walk-up route is because we'll be driving in from San Francisco the day before our hike and I don't believe we'll be there at the time the permits are released. Plus, it looks like we'll be there over the weekend, so I think our odds would be slim to none.

I was checking out the Sabrina Lake area and it looks beautiful. Would you recommend camping at Blue Lake? Looks like it's about 3 or so miles from the Sabrina Lake trailhead. Is it a feasible plan for us to set up camp at Blue Lake, then continue on to Midnight Lake or as far as we wanted to go before returning to camp?

I've also looked at non-JMT options that would keep us in Yosemite and came across the Pohono Trail. It looks like the scenery there would be very different from what we'd see in the Sabrina Lake area. Any thoughts comparing/contrasting those two options for us? Probably a stupid question for someone who has been around the Sierra a lot, but obviously we haven't!

Thanks so much for your help.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby maverick » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:28 pm

Pohono Trail is pretty, going up from Wawona you have a 1 mile restriction before
you can camp, but beyond Inspiration Point your fine. Dewey Point is the best place
for camping with great views. Stanford and Crocker do not have good camping, and
Taft I believe there is no camping. You could start from Glacier using the shuttle
and hike back down to the car, it is about 8.3 miles from GP to Dewey Point.
Blue Lake would make for a fine basecamp, set up and go to the higher lakes if
the altitude is not an issue.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Tom_H » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:03 pm

I have an idea, but it depends on some things. I need more details.

You say you'd be coming in FROM San Francisco, but where are you going to be before that? Where are you entering CA? How long will you be in CA? Where are you exiting CA? What else do you want to see/do in CA other than your time backpacking?

You could be right re. altitude, but not necessarily. It depends on how hard you train and whether you've done other hiking at similar altitudes, like in the Rockies. What I have in mind will get you above the tree line into some exquisite alpine scenery and lakes, but keep you below 9000 ft. so the altitude may not be as much of a problem. I also need to know how many miles a day you'd like to go and how many you're capable of going. Blasted Sierra granite trails are much harder on the feet than the humus/duff of the Appalachians, so hiking shoes used by many in the east won't cut it here. What kind of boots do you ahve?

Give me some answers and I'll see if what I have in the back of my mind could work.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby papercup » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:34 pm

Maverick mentioned some overnighters that I've really enjoyed. Big Pine Lakes are great. It's not a full loop, but you can do it as a lollipop, and you can throw in a side trip to Palisade Glacier. Adding the glacier will require you to get up to a bit over 12,000 feet. The lakes and the glacier are both absolutely stunning. Camping at the popular spots (Third Lake) can be pretty busy, but it's still quieter than many parts of Yosemite, and maybe being there in June will help.

Here is Temple Crag viewed from Second Lake:

Second Lake.jpg


Thousand Island Lake is also a worthy destination for an overnight. You can make this one nearly a complete loop, as there are three trails (High Trail, River Trail, and JMT) that connect Agnew Meadows to the lake. As mentioned, you will have to take the shuttle. This, also, is a heavily populated spot.

Both of these are east-side entries, which may not be ideal if you're coming from San Francisco. Depends a bit on the surrounding logistics.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby maiathebee » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:35 pm

The drive from San Francisco to the western Sierra is much shorter (about 3-4 hours) than the drive to the eastern Sierra (about 5-6 hours), so you should keep that in mind. Also, the trails on the eastern side tend to be shots up and over high passes to reach the interior. The trails coming in from the west generally rise more gradually. (Of course there are exceptions to all of this, just noting a general trend to keep in mind.) Also, have you thought about Tahoe? Desolation Wilderness is really beautiful and super close to SF!

TAHOE: If you're not shy about trying to hitch a ride, you could do Echo Lake to Lake Aloha. Camp, then hike to Mt Tallac and out via Fallen Leaf Lake. For a hike that ends where you started, you could go out of Emerald Bay up to Velmas / Fontanillis / Dicks Lake and then back the way you came (or out via Maggie's Peaks / Bayview with a little walking on the road at the end to get back to your car).

WEST(ish): In Yosemite, hike the Forsyth Trail starting at Tenaya Lake up over Cloud's Rest. Camp on the saddle between Half Dome and Cloud's Rest (you'll have to plan for a dry camp iirc). Check out Half Dome in the morning then hike down the JMT/Mist Trail to the valley. You can use YARTS to make your transportation work.

EAST: Another vote for the PCT/High Trail from Agnew Meadows (Mammoth) to Thousand Island Lake. Camp there, and then in the morning you could do the easy x-country over the western saddle down to Garnet Lake and out the River Trail. Or you could hike the JMT out and get a bit of what you wanted :) There's a shuttle that runs all along the valley from Devil's Postpile to Agnew and up to Mammoth, so "open-jaw" type hikes are possible in this area. I did a 3-nighter up there last year and it was absolutely gorgeous, even though we had lots of smoke from the huge fire last year: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9785 I just checked the permit situation and there are plenty of permits for the High Trail out of Agnew in late June.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:40 pm

There are more options than you can imagine. If you are driving cross-country, you might just look at whichever pass you are going to use for the Sierra--there a nice trails from just about every one, from i-80 to 50, 88, 4, 108, and 120 (Yosemite). The farther you deviate from 80, the more driving you will do!

If you are truly worried about getting a permit, there are some foolproof options using Highway 108--where there are no trail quotas, and some of the trailheads allow you to self-register for the Hoover Wilderness. There are also no quotas for Twenty-Lake Basin east of Yosemite...so you can always go there.

A word of advice/caution. If you are looking for solitude, a two-day trip is not the best option. Lots of these trails get used as day hikes or overnights....but once you get past the first day, you'll be amazed at how the number of people drop off.

You might look at a hike that you could tackle over three days, driving part of the first day, hiking in a few miles, adding a nice long hike the second day, and then hiking out and driving away the third day.

if you are leaving from SF, the quickest ways into the wilderness are probably Desolation Wilderness off Highway 50--and for that reason that area is very tightly regulated.

Look at Emigrant wilderness, just north of Yosemite, with similar geology (lots and lots of granite) but far fewer people and much easier permits. If you could start hiking and get five miles from Crabtree cabin to Bear Lake, the next day you could make a nice loop past many lakes in the EMigrant Wildernes, camp around Grouse Lake, and then have a short hike back out the third day...

we've got tons of trip reports for all of these areas in the destinations section of our website.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby gary c. » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:49 pm

I think that the 20 Lakes Basin mentioned before deserves some thought. Besides the chance to take a little boat ride to shuttle across the lake the trail has an unlimited trail quota. It would also give instant easy access to Yosemite Valley on the way in or out. Even with just a couple of hours to drive through YV will give a first time visitor some awesome views to look at.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Phil B. » Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:53 pm

I would hope you are able to see "The falls" . It is a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Good luck and enjoy. :D
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby TommyD » Wed Mar 26, 2014 10:27 am

Wow, thanks so much for all the info, everyone. I've got my work cut out for me sorting through all of it!

For a little more info, so you can know what may or may not be most convenient, we will be driving in from San Francisco and headed out toward Utah. Zion NP will probably be our next stop, though we haven't really fully planned that part of the trip yet (I'd love to do part of the Narrows at Zion as a day hike).

We're originally entering California down south and spending a couple of days with a friend in Riverside. Then we'll drive up the PCH to San Francisco. The Sierra will be our first stop on our way back east.

Also, I do want to make sure we catch some of the highlights in Yosemite even if we don't backpack there. The valley and Yosemite Falls are must-sees for me. My plan was to hit hit the sights of Yosemite on the day we drive in, then camp that night close to where we plan to leave from on our backpacking trip the next morning.

Thanks again for all the help. I'm going to look into some of your suggestions, so I may have some follow up questions.

This board is a wonderful resource.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby TommyD » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:34 am

I'm loving the looks of Thousand Island Lake, especially since that loop from Agnew Meadows would let us get on the JMT for a bit, which was what I had originally wanted to do. I've actually read that particular section of the JMT between Tuolumne and Devils Postpile is one of the most beautiful (I'm sure that's open to interpretation!).

Maiathebee, or anyone else, it looks as if I would take the PCT/High Trail out of Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake, then take the JMT back to around Shadow Lake, where it looks like I'd take the Shadow Creek Trail back to Agnew Meadows? Does that sound correct? What would the mileage be? Seems like it might be kind of long. Or would it be better to end up somewhere other than Agnew Meadows and involve a shuttle...

This may not be the most convenient place for us (looks like it's about 2.5 hours from Yosemite Valley, but I'm willing to do a little bit more driving if it's going to be worth it...

Thank you all again for your help.
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