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Recommendations for late May

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Recommendations for late May

Postby mattt4001 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:33 pm

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 2 / Level 3 (minimal x-country)

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country (preferably avoid x-country)
- River crossings ok
- Snow travel ok (preferably non technical)

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
- Photography

3 to 5 nights
~6-10 miles a day, side trips ok.
Ideally loop trail

So I am looking to do a backpacking trip with a group of 6 starting May 20th. Originally we were looking into the Rae Lakes loop but are finding that the conditions may not be favourable in late May. We are ok with some snow hiking, but would prefer warmer temperatures (we understand the Rae lakes area will have highs in the mid 30's and lows in the mid 20's). Does anyone have suggestions for similar hikes that would be better for the end of May? We aren't tied to any region in particular, but would like scenery similar to the Rae lakes loop.

Thanks in advance!



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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:54 pm

In May most of the Sierra above 7500 feet is going to under a lot of snow--at least we hope it is. And while Rae Lakes is higher than that....it really doesn't matter. May is pretty darn early for the high country.

With luck and good weather, you might get a trip in on the north rim of Yosemite Valley, but most of the roads that give you access to trails are still going to be closed in May

Hetch-hetchy is a good bet, since it's lower. Or Lady Bug in SEKI...
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:14 pm

Yosemite is in its prime late May. For example, Day 1: park the farthest west that the bus will take you, ride bus to Happy Isles and go via Mist trail to at least 1 mi past Little Yosemite Valley CG (easier to get permits) on the Merced; Day 2 Merced Lake; Day 3 Little Yosemite Valley; Day 4 Panorama Trail and Pohono Trail to Bridalveil Creek. Day 5 out to Bridalveil Falls Parking (there is an old road you can take to avoid walking the busy road) and walk the Valley trail back to your car.

North Rim is shorter: Day 1 up Snow Creek Trail and camp on buttress on top, Day 2 - day hike to Watkins Peak - great view of Tenaya Canyon, Day 3- up Snow Creek to intersect the Yosemite Creek Trail, camp on top of Quarter Dome, Day 4, out.

Or just go up the Merced to Merced Lake and come back cutting over to the JMT and climb Clouds Rest on return (or get the permit for Half Dome).

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is the classic late May Yosemite Hike, if Tioga Road is open. Shuttles are not yet running so you have to hitch back to your car. I have done this without too much worry. Start at White Wolf, drop to the Tuolumne and go up and out to Tuolumne Meadows. There are trip reports here about this.

Depending on snow/road conditions, Horseshoe Meadow TH often is open and a trip to Sky Blue Lake is great. I did this trip years ago about the same time and the lake was frozen, just breaking up, but plenty of dry camping along the shores. We went in Cottonwood Pass and out New Army Pass (which had steep snow- we used crampons). Although there was a lot of snow on Cottonwood Pass, the PCT hikers had been in and out enough to make a distinct trail in the snow.
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby maverick » Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:10 pm

Hi Matt,

Welcome to HST!

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne for a 5 day trip would be great, but if only you have 3 days, then go down from Tuolumne Meadows to Waterwheel Falls and LeConte Falls, visit Wildcat Point as a day hike, it is one of the grand lookout points in the Sierra, this all of course is contingent on Tioga Road being open.

Anything out of Yosemite Valley will be difficult with a group of 6 people, especially if the high country is snowed in and Tioga Road is still closed, everyone will be trying to get something out of the Valley, wilderness permits are probably gone, and hoping to score 6 slots for one trailhead, is very difficult for walk in permits :(

Vernon Lake Loop trail should be doable, Rancheria will be crowded, but Vernon and areas above it, will have mild temps, with smaller crowds, though the views are not comparable to Rae Lakes, but for May, it is what will be accessible. There are numerous lakes nearby worth visiting as day hikes destinations, but again, do not expect big mountain views.

Miter Basin from Horseshoe Meadows would be nice, Cottonwood Pass had no snow on it last year in late May, but it will this year, but Miter Basin has great mountain views. TR from 2009 at the end of May: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4112

Big Pine North Fork may also be accessible, but once you get to Second Lake there will be solid snow, so you could camp down lower, do day hikes to the upper lakes and the glacier, and the views of the Palisades are right up there with the views you get at Rae Lakes. First Lake is at just under 10000 ft and Second Lake is just above 10000 ft, check the snow levels before you head out.
This is a TR form 2014 at the end of May: https://calitrails.com/2014/05/29/hikin ... -big-pine/
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby mattt4001 » Wed Mar 09, 2016 8:36 am

Thanks for all of the suggestions, they are extremely helpful. I think I will have to look more into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and the North Fork Big Pine trail.
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby balzaccom » Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:52 am

Bear in mind that Tioga Road (and thus access to White Wolf, Tuolumne Meadows, the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, and most of the high country in Yosemite) is usually closed in May. I know that we've had a series of very warm winters with very little snow---but 2016 is looking a bit more normal. There are now more than five feet of snow at Sonora Pass, and the big storms are still expected to hit again this week.

The only way you can plan for May in Yosemite is to start planning about ten days before you leave...based on the weather reports at the time.
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 10, 2016 12:22 pm

Here are the opening dates for Tioga Pass

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tiogaopen.htm
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby balzaccom » Thu Mar 10, 2016 12:47 pm

Cool! In 2011 we were one of the first cars on the road headed east...and tried to hike past Dog Lake to Young Lakes as a day hike. Didn't make it in the snow...but we saw some bear tracks.
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby hikerchick395 » Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:38 am

Even if Tioga Pass opens early, don't count on it remaining open. Last year, on our May trip to Yosemite Valley, the pass closed the day we were supposed to drive over, then reopened, then closed when we were to drive back. Which resulted in a long drive, both to get there, then go home.
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Re: Recommendations for late May

Postby robertseeburger » Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:52 am

It all depends how much snow we get in March and April. If you recall 2011 was the last big snow year, and that was all about 3-4 big storms late in the season.
I went up to Sky Blue Lake in LATE JULY that year. Sky Blue was just broken up. Primrose and Iridescent were both still frozen. And the lake above Sky Blue
was completely frozen with big blocks of ice. No way to even get over the south side of Crabtree Pass. I am feeling like we are getting enough snow now that this area should probably be reserved for later than May...
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