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1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

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

Postby Hobbes » Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:53 am

I've mentioned many times that I grew up in the Bay area - the nascent Silicon valley - and moved to SoCal for college. As a kid, my dad's favorite spot was the Valley, and on my own I've been up to the major spots in Kings & Tahoe. (I lived in a pup tent in Tahoe the summer after I graduated.) More so, for literally decades I have made the run up the 5 and back down the 101 endless times to visit family that still live in NorCal.

Suggesting the E side passes isn't snobbery, it's just common sense to visitors from SoCal. The roads are incredibly rutted & traffic is really bad now on the 5/99 (oh, don't forget the 80 through Sac) to make travel both slow & dangerous. (The big rigs stack up the right lane, so the speedsters absolutely jam on the left and then dive in between the trucks to "pass". How do I know?) But to make matters worse, you still gotta get through/out of LA. Aye carumba. That's why the 395 is the ticket, pure and simple. It's easy for the two of you coming from Fresno to suggest all your backyard spots, but for everyone else, it's a trek unto itself.

As for reservations, there's a simple rule that applies to everything in life: the Pareto principle aka 80/20 rule. Whether it's 20% of the sales reps generate 80% of the commissions, or 20% never get the command down the line, it also applies to reservations ie long-term plans. There are always cancellations - if you're willing to take a bet, the worst case scenario is you drive out to a hotel. But if you want to try for the Lodge (hands down the best gig/deal going), then you gotta go with the wait list. If you've got the funds, the Ahwahnee is a good back-up (ask me why I know this). But the bottom line is you have to be physically present to get your name on wait lists (eg Half dome).

One last thing: Inyo FS controls the E side passes. Not to promote 'law breaking', but they are orders of magnitude less strict about impromptu 'car camping'. As AT says, you can't do it in the parks; and since they have more funds and a more rigid ranger hierarchy, they are more prone to 'following the rules'. The E side is loosey-goosey - what they're really looking to prevent are people setting up equip & staying multiple nights. So, if you're transient and on your way, it would take someone with a major chip to create a problem.

The comments/observations above are a direct result of being a CA native who has seen the state double in population size with the concomitant impact on the environment. The recommendations are solutions born of figuring out the gaps ie how to get on.



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

Postby markley » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:08 am

I appreciate your comments/suggestions Hobbes! Having never been out to California, and only have heard of the mess of driving in LA, I really have no idea what to expect. I understand that our plans our very ambitious (to visit both the west and east side) for a two week trip, which is why I am on here seeking suggestions. While I really don't mind driving through beautiful scenery, I'd rather try to at least limit our time spent in the congestion of the highways and main parks. We have been through Yellowstone a number of times and experienced the crowds. There's a reason parks are like these are so crowded and that it is the sheer beauty (which is the trade-off for the crowd density). While I have to at least visit the parks while we are there, I'd much rather spend the majority our time away from the hotspots. Which is why the east side is really appealing to me. We tend to just go with the flow and don't like to have to many plans. I like the idea of being able to just pull over and sleep in the van if it gets too late, rather than drive around searching for a campground. Hence the reason we are renting a campervan.
Last edited by markley on Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:11 am

The bottom line is, if you aren't from "around here," there's a very good chance of wandering aimlessly if you have nothing in place for the night.

It'll happen on the east side, west side, north side, or south side. The up side, the down side. Having a place to go gives you peace of mind unless you're okay with just plopping down in a pullout. The absolute frustration of driving without a clue of where you can stop despite all your research (this has happened to me, and has happened to others - we let a family have a campsite one evening in Lee Vining area, when they rolled in at 11 pm with a van load of crying children and the absolute worst expressions of exhaustion I've ever seen, after they drove 15+ hours hunting in vain through Yosemite, over Tioga Pass, and down the other side from full campground to full campground - we were crowded but they were overgenerous in reimbursing us).

If you haven't been to Yosemite at all it's a perfect place to start the Sierra addiction. But, if the spots aren't there, there are plenty of places to go until after September when the crowds go home and the campsites are all first come, first serve. Winter is the very best time for the claustrophobe to visit the valley floor and walk the loop in relative solitude. You won't be river rafting or lounging in shorts, but you will get first hand the peace and quiet that the Sierra can offer.

Go up the 168 into the mountains. National Forest land for miles, and plenty of legit free camping to be had. Trailheads all over. Hot springs. Good fishing at Courtright and Dinkey Lakes. Visit the McKinley grove of Sequoias.

Go up 41 and head out to Nelder Grove, Bass Lake, Beasore Road, and trailheads into Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Go up to Camp Nelson and wander around in the Belknap complex. Get a reserved spot at Quaking Aspen. Wander the trail of the 100 giants and hike trails into Golden Trout.

There's plenty to see.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:17 am

Thanks again AT! Your suggestions have also been very helpful! I do plan on reserving at least one night in Yosemite so we can day hike and not worry about trying to find a spot to camp. I also may make a reservation somewhere along Tioga (on the way to the east side) as a just in case and just take a hit if we don't make it there.

And speaking of hot springs..my buddy was recommending Mono Hot Springs. Is there "free" camping up around that area?
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:35 am

markley wrote:Well it looks like the all of the permits for the "Bishop Pass-South Lake" (to go to Dusy) are reserved for the time we will be there. Any opinions on the following: Sabrina Lake (to go to Midnight Lake, Hungry Packer, and surrounding lakes), Treasure Lakes-South Lake, Golden Trout Lakes, and Big Pine Creek North Fork.

Thanks


Here are my recent reports on Golden Trout Lakes and Onion Valley from a trip last July:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... =1&t=12494

Onion Valley Road has convenient dispersed camping. If all the way up at the trailhead parking lot and campground, the campground is nice and can be reserved. First come first served sites make up the majority of the sites and are easy to get most weekdays. The host, James, is the most hospitable host I have ever experienced. The sleep for free in the van options are easy there, and may even be suggested by the host if the campgrounds are full. Dayhikes are good from that parking lot. A backpack to GTL is short, uncrowded, and rugged, unless you get aggressive enough to make it longer and do what I describe in my TR. You probably would prefer Kearsarge Pass for a dayhike or backpack.

All of the other trailheads you mention are great. North Fork Big Pine would be most stunning if you like the glacier shrouded Palisades, but most demanding of the ones you listed. The glacial feel will be a bit subdued due to drought.

Hobbes is spot on about just going for walk-ins and taking what you can get, or disperse camping, car camping, and dayhiking the highest trailheads if you strike out on permits. There are huge swaths of disperse camping land near 395 that usually are not a huge drive from most trailheads. You almost can't go wrong with backpacking or dayhiking the higher trailheads from the summitpost eastern Sierra link. Don't necessarily avoid the ones that aren't 8,000 feet or higher. Most of the middle elevation ones +/-7,000-8,000 feet are great from Mammoth Lakes north to Bridgeport area. The lower ones south of Bishop through Lone Pine are more seriously challenging.

Note: per Inyo NF, South Lake Rd. and Rock Creek Rd. will have construction projects that restrict parking this summer. I wouldn't count on as easy as normal van sleeping and parking for hikes there this summer. The early bird gets the worm regardless.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:15 am

markley wrote:Thanks again AT! Your suggestions have also been very helpful! I do plan on reserving at least one night in Yosemite so we can day hike and not worry about trying to find a spot to camp. I also may make a reservation somewhere along Tioga (on the way to the east side) as a just in case and just take a hit if we don't make it there.


What do you want to see in the Valley? We can tell you how to see most of it from Glacier Point and Tioga Road hikes. Most of the falls will be dry. The one must do dayhike (that will have some water) in my eyes is Mist Trail from Happy Isles past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and if energetic, tag Liberty Cap to escape crowds. Even this can be done from Glacier Point, but is usually done from Happy Isles. If wanting to really tourist it up, but avoid road rage, ride the shuttle bus, or better, rent a bike to do the Valley Loop. Do not try to drive or bus the Valley Loop on a Sunday late afternoon. It is a traffic jam on weekends. There are old viewpoints up unmaintained trails if the weather is not super hot.

Hike your own hike, but in August/summer, Tuolumne Meadows is the place to be and camp!!!! Stunning options there are countless. Along Tioga Road you might also enjoy a hike to North Dome or hike from Sunrise TH near Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest and back. They are great viewpoints! May Lake to Mount Hoffman also provides a great vantage point.

Along Glacier Point Road, hike to Sentinel Dome or if wanting more solitude, Pohono Trail to other points along the rim. There is a fun hike up to Inspiration Point from Tunnel View area to get up to the rim as well. From actual Glacier Point, you can dayhike the Panorama Trail crowd free down past Illilouette Falls to Nevada Falls. If one of you wants to drive, and the other hike, walk all the way down to Happy Isles from Glacier Point and meet at Curry Village for pizza. The trails there are smooth and fast (if not crowded). Plan your own trip, but it doesn't have to be in the zoo. Like I mentioned, that is just the stuff on maintained trails and maps.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:24 am

markley wrote:
And speaking of hot springs..my buddy was recommending Mono Hot Springs. Is there "free" camping up around that area?


Yes, but this will be time consuming. Don't bother unless you backpack/day hike to Graveyard Lakes or in Kaiser Wilderness. There are outstanding west side options from Mono Hot Springs area, but they are generally longer backpacks.

AT filled you in really well on most of our west side go to spots for sequoia groves and hikes/packs away from crowds. Beasore Rd. to Norris TH and Sky Ranch to Nelder Grove or to Quartz Mountain TH and Chain Lakes would get you away from crowds, but take a long drive, some on dirt.

If I had limited time and wanted quick big mountain feel I'd spend more time on the east side and in Tuolumne Meadows. Excellent dispersed camping and free hot springs can be found near Bridgeport along with excellent hikes and backpacks into Hoover Wilderness. Ask or for details If you get serious about Bridgeport area.

Yosemite has groves of sequoias along your route. Mariposa Grove and Tuolumne Grove. There will be some road and construction issues specific to these this summer.
Last edited by seanr on Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:32 am

Thanks SeanR! Yeah, I guess I didn't realize the valley was that crowded...My wife has already been there done that, and I would love to avoid a situation like that if I can still see most of it without dealing with the crowds. I deal with enough crowds in nature in NC!It's sounding like Glacier Point Rd is going to be our better option. Also, we will likely hit Tuolumne Meadows on our way over to the east side. Thanks for all the suggestions!! Keep em comin!
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markley » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:38 am

So it is sounding like we can skip Sequoia Nat'l Park and still be able to see the giant sequoia's...This would also allow us more time to spend up towards (and around) Yosemite, as well as the east side.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby Kelbaker » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:03 am

Personally I wouldn't skip Sequoia, the short hike through the groves are unmatched. Secondly, I visited the Mariposa Grove last year and they were planning on closing it for a few years for renovations. Check this web page http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/mariposagrove.htm
there are many posts with great advise here and I am sure you will have good visit.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:17 am

markley wrote:So it is sounding like we can skip Sequoia Nat'l Park and still be able to see the giant sequoia's...This would also allow us more time to spend up towards (and around) Yosemite, as well as the east side.


That's what I'd do. In fact if not overly expensive and time consuming, I'd consider changing your flight and rental to start in Reno, NV. :wink:

Seriously, since I've been to the biggest of the big trees in Sequoia more than once, I haven't bothered with the ones in Yosemite to be able to compare. Many years ago one early April, I got turned away from visiting Yosemite Valley from the south during a spring snow storm, and instead proposed to my wife at a famous tree near HWY 180 in SEKI. Still, I find those groves boring compared to the other stuff we are discussing. Anyway, Nelder Grove is nice, but not truly the same as the biggest trees. It is just kind of a time consuming hassle to bother with west side SEKI and Yosemite Valley in August when you are interested in stuff that is equal or BETTER scenery and much easier to arrange as van camping dayhikes and short backpacks. You'll enjoy west SEKI if you go, it just is more of a tourist environment if you don't backpack far into the backcountry. Mineral King is where I'd go, but it will take more than an overnight and kick your butt. Moro Rock is fun if yo do the tourist thing.
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Re: 1 to 2 night backpack trip (lake) suggestions

Postby markskor » Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:05 am

Despite all the zoo crowds in Yosemite Valley, still something everyone should see at least once - stunning, magnificent, iconic...(insert any superlative adjective here).
Just a few dirt-bag hiker suggestions if coming up eastside 395 without any prior reservations made. (See TOPO.)

Saddlebag Lake, just before Tioga Pass, does not have quotas. Bag a free wilderness permit in Mammoth or Lee Vining and park at the Saddlebag dam parking lot. There is a campground there - ask for 1 night - or better yet, take the boat shuttle to the far side and visit 20 lakes basin...super scenic, decent fishing, and plenty of great camping opportunities for a night or two - camp almost anywhere. Once back to your car in the mornings after, enter Yosemite at Tioga; Tuolumne camping (main campground) is 50% reserved and 50% first come...try /ask for the A loop (river sites) but take anything for the night. If early in the day, a good chance to bag a decent campground...$20.

Next day, leave the car in the Tuolumne Lembert Dome lot (safe - all food in provided lockers there) and take the YARTS with just your minimal overnight backpacks down to the Valley. With a YARTS ticket, you can legally stay one night at the backpackers camp Valley, no reservation needed - $6 pp...and see the Valley...BTW, Valley BP is a great campground - IMHO, best camp in the valley...you just can't leave your tent and gear there for the day. While in the Valley, drop by the Valley Wilderness Office and see what is open for the next day - (FYI, 40% of all wilderness permits are designated next day only) - try for Happy Isles but also look at one of the Tuolumne trailheads...Cathedral, Sunrise, Glen Aulin, Rafferty Creek, Lyell...could get lucky. BTW, with a next day permit in hand, you could stay again legal, another night Yosemite Valley BP.

After the Valley, take the morning AM YARTS or the 5:00 PM YARTS back to Tuolumne, and your trailhead but if you were not successful bagging one, once again, with a bus ticket, you are legal to stay over one night now at the backpacker camp in Tuolumne. While there, soak it up in the Lyell. BTW, (if you were unsuccessful getting a permit in the Valley), try again at Tuolumne Wilderness office (use the free shuttle bus/no car needed from the store)...asking again for a "next day" permit. Hike your 2 - 3 day hike to wherever TH was open...no reservations made and you will have seen/backpacked a bit of Yosemite my way...cheap.
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