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1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

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1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:22 am

Hi all! I'm new to this forum and wanted to thank anyone in advance for any advice/suggestions that they can offer. My wife and I are going to be spending 2 weeks in the mid-August exploring Sequoia/Kings Canyon and Yosemite areas. We will be renting a "campervan" and will likely just be winging it as we go with regards to any kind of schedule. Since we will have a van to sleep in we will likely be doing that the majority of the time and mostly doing day hikes. However, we would like to do at least two backpack trips. I was wondering if anyone could offer any suggestions for a 1 to 2 night backpack trip (loop or out and back), preferably to a lake where we could catch a trout or two. We are both experienced backpackers and would love to experience the wilderness of this area (ie. with as few people as possible) and enjoy some high alpine lake fishing. I have been scouring maps (bought both the Kings and Yosemite trails illustrated) trying to come up with a game plan but there is just so much potential that I have become overwhelmed. And I'd hate to plan a trip onlty to find that our van can't make it to the trail head.

We will definitely be checking out the major attractions as well, but are looking for some options to escape the crowds and enjoy some classic Sierra scenery.

Level of experience = Level 3
Terrain comfort = Class 2-3
Main interest = Lake, Fishing, Big Mtn Scenery


Thanks again for any help!



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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 11:14 am

A few areas that I have been looking at are Dusy basin (from South Lake) and Big Pine Lakes from Glacier Lodge Rd.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby Tom_H » Thu Apr 02, 2015 11:33 am

Hi Markley and welcome to the forum.

It can be difficult to get a vehicle all the way to a trailhead which is already at high altitude and only a day or so from alpine lakes. Places such as these, that are easy to get to are the ones that are going to be crowded with people, as opposed to the solitude you seek. You probably are going to have to sacrifice something. Either you hike longer and for more days to reach such a place, or you hike a short distance to such a place and share it with other people who also wanted easy access. In short, if you want a desolate alpine lake, you're going to have to do the hard work to get there.

It also matters what kind of "camper van" you are talking about. If you plan on renting a typical motorhome, most of those do not do well off road. A few can do o.k., but rental places of most motorhomes likely make you sign a contract saying you will not take the vehicle more than 100 feet off pavement. This is because most motorhomes suffer suspension damage in this type terrain and because the cost of towing a broken down motorhome out of such places can cost many thousands of dollars.I happen to own a motorhome built on a 4 wheel drive truck with special modifications that allow it to travel well on forest service roads and even some jeep trails. Mine is a Tiger Adventure Vehicle. Other similar vehicles built in the US are EarthRoamer, Sportsmobile, and Global Expedition Vehicles. There are also several very compact and expandable campers that slide into the back of a 4wd truck and also some small off road expandable tow behind campers with ultra heavy duty suspensions that can be towed behind a jeep that can access very rough trails. It is almost impossible to find any of these type vehicles for rent. I know only of a couple of places in Arizona and Colorado and the vehicles rent from $500 per day up into the thousands. There are places in the Sierra where this kind of camper could get you closer to the high altitude lakes with solitude that you seek. Any place where you can take an ordinary motorhome and be within a day of a beautiful high altitude lake is going to have other people there as well. A VW Westphalia might do o.k. on FS roads, but a renter would likely prohibit this.

It sounds as though you are flying in from a distant place. Is this correct? You have limited your search to SEKI (SEquoia/KIng's Canyon) and Yosemite. Is there a reason? There are other locations in the Sierra Nevada you might consider, such as Hoover/Emigrant and Desolation Wildernesses. The following might give us a bit more to go on.

Where are you coming from?
Are you traveling by plane, car, etc.?
If plane, where are you arriving?
What is the Class (A, B, C), size (length), and fuel type of the motorhome?
(Shorter is more maneuverable and diesel has better power)
Does the motorhome have "slide outs"?
(Slide out mechanisms are easily damaged on bumpy roads.)
Are you willing to consider other areas of the Sierra at all?
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 11:50 am

Thanks for the reply!! Yeah, I was really wondering if getting to a trailhead would be difficult.

Also, we would definitely consider other areas as long as they are near the SEKI and Yosemite. I'd also consider doing a longer backpack trip as well.

Thanks
Last edited by markley on Sat Apr 04, 2015 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Apr 02, 2015 11:54 am

So you are looking at the national parks, which are accessible by road from the west side of the Sierra. Then you are looking at trailheads on the east side of the Sierra. You have two weeks, want to camp in front country campgrounds, and then want to backpack a couple of times.

I wonder if you have a realistic idea of the driving times involved? It will take about two hours to get from SEKI to Yosemite, and 2-3 hours to get to the trailheads you mention from Yosemite Valley, barring any major traffic jams along the way. At one time I got stuck behind a tourist in a rental car on Tioga Pass - he did not appear comfortable driving, and perhaps was not accustomed to driving on the right side of the road in addition to not liking the narrow two lane mountain road experience, I think. And then if the tourist in front of you stops in the middle of the road and gets out to take a picture, and there is a lot of oncoming traffic, you're kind of stuck.

Do you have campsite reservations for Yosemite? Sites in the Valley are available five months in advance and vanish within seconds of the reservation website opening for reservations. Sometimes that leaves you trying for first come/first serve spaces. If the timing isn't right, you can end up driving for hours out of the park looking for other accommodations. This is season dependent and happens in summer quite a lot. You can't just park in any pullout in the park - that leads to a ticket.

Hiking at elevation can be tricky for some. Altitude sickness is a real problem for some. You may be able to manage the climb from Lodgepole to Twin Lakes, but the lakes are at 9000 feet. That makes them a gorgeous and popular place to be, since they are a day's hike from the trailhead, but also risky to the unacclimated hiker. Other potential overnights in Sequoia NP would be Pear/Heather/Emerald Lakes (the Lakes trailhead is so popular it is always first come/first serve for permits). In Yosemite, Ten Lakes, Ostrander Lake, Young Lakes, and Lyell Canyon (the river runs through it!) come to mind as good choices - but for all but Ostrander you'll have permitting issues, if you didn't get a permit reserved in advance. All these are on paved roads.

You may also want to know that in the parks, you are expected to remove ALL the smellables - food, trash, hygiene items, anything down to the dessicated French Fry under the front seat - from the vehicle before parking at a trailhead for the duration of a trip. You store all this in bear lockers at the trailhead to prevent bears from destroying your vehicle trying to get that enticing smelly item you forgot. In Yosemite, ice chests even if empty cannot be left in view within the vehicle. This will be true in campgrounds as well, where you have a locker in which to leave things before heading out for the day. The measurements of the lockers are on the Yosemite website so you can be sure to bring ice chests that fit in the lockers. And, while backpacking, you'll be expected to carry a bear canister, which you can rent at the park - but this may be a challenge if you bring a full backpack. You absolutely need the bear canister and to use it as directed - don't attach anything to the can, or the can to anything.

Trailheads within the parks are at the end of paved roads, with few exceptions, and even the exceptions usually are drivable by passenger vehicles. Some trailheads in national forests are not so drivable.

If I were you, I would narrow your visit to a SINGLE park, and spend more time hiking and camping than driving.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:12 pm

Markley, which well known sites in the national parks do you consider to be must sees? If you are looking at Big Pine and Bishop backpacking trips, want to visit Yosemite and SEKI, and are coming mid-August, I'd consider skipping the west side of the Sierra altogether in this drought year. If you must experience Yosemite Valley, the road through Kings Canyon, and the largest of the giant sequoias, this August will be better than never. However it will not likely be the ideal time due to heat, drought, crowds, and your interest in backpacking away from crowds. You can see Half Dome, Clouds Rest, views of the valley, visit giant sequoias, and then head to the Eastern Sierra in a time efficient way if you stick to Tioga Road and forego the rest of the western Sierra. Like Tom H said, we may have lots of suggestions on the west side and east side depending on your specific transportation plans. If you will be traveling the west side and can travel on dirt roads, hitting Norris TH up Beasore Road from Oakhurst comes to mind as a less crowded way to backpack with a visit to Glacier Point in YNP before or after en route to/from Yosemite Valley and Tioga Road. Real solitude will take even more effort. The options are countless if you just want limited crowds, but not complete solitude, somewhere in the Eastern Sierra or on the west side in Emigrant/Ansel Adams/John Muir/Kaiser wilderness areas.
Last edited by seanr on Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:19 pm

Thanks for you comments AlmostThere! Yeah, I was really wondering if we should try and focus on one area as opposed to doing a lot of driving. We did a similar trip in Wyoming/Montana a few years back and covered ~2000 miles. While we saw a ton (only car camped) I did leave feeling that we should have just stayed in one area.

Anyway, I kinda figured a lot of 2-3 hour drives between areas so I'm not that opposed to that. Regarding the permitting issues you mentioned..can these be obtained online?

Also, are you able to just pull off and camp anywhere within the Nat'l Forests surrounding the parks?

I will be making some campground reservations in Yosemite (website reservations open April 15).

Thanks!!
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:24 pm

You may have trouble legally pulling off and camping as well as getting to some trailheads if you can't drive on forest service dirt roads. My Norris suggestion would be out. There are many forest service pay campgrounds on paved roads. Sierra NF on west side and Inyo NF on east side.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:28 pm

Thanks Seanr! yeah, being that I have never been to any of these parks, I definitely would like to see the giant sequoias and Yosemite Valley. Basically, what you mentioned is one route I am considering. Figure we'd deal with the crowds and see Sequoia, then up to Yosemite the first week, then over Tioga Road and spend the second week in Eastern Sierra.

Yeah, I totally understand that we will not be able to get complete solitude given the time constraints. Really just looking to get away from the large crowds that will be in areas like Yosemite Valley at least for the second week.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:31 pm

seanr wrote:You may have trouble legally pulling off and camping as well as getting to some trailheads if you can't drive on forest service dirt roads. My Norris suggestion would be out. There are many forest service pay campgrounds on paved roads. Sierra NF on west side and Inyo NF on east side.


Out of curiosity, how are the conditions of the forest service dirt roads? As long as they are not potholes that will swallow a small van (or 4x4 required) or have any fords, we should be okay.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:33 pm

You might be able to find a spot in National Forests - but that too involves a lot of driving, unless you are miraculously able to find a site in Big Meadows campground. Driving around in SEKI is slower going than in Yosemite, by the way.

National Forest roads vary widely in drivability. It's tough to say what they are like from year to year too, due to seasonal washouts or fallen trees.

So you're coming in late August? All campsites in Yosemite valley are booked solid until then.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Thu Apr 02, 2015 12:35 pm

Yes, you should be OK on many, but if something went wrong it sounded possibly in violation of your rental. I'm no expert on those agreements, but do know the roads and camping options on NF land between Yosemite and SEKI very well.
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