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Best Day Hikes in the Sierra?

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Best Day Hikes in the Sierra?

Postby sierranomad » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:40 pm

Hello all:

I am new to this forum (having posted just a couple times) and am grateful to have found it. When given the opportunity, you'll find me out backpacking (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...rain, shine, snow - you name it). Responsibilities though keep me from getting out as much as I would like, and I find that I often have to make do with day hiking.

So I'd like to pose a question to all: What is your favorite dayhike (20 miles and under)?
Jon

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir



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Postby quentinc » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:27 pm

Well, you have just narrowly excluded Mt. Whitney and (I think) Mt. Langley by your 20 mile cut-off, so now it would be hard to answer! The problem with most other dayhikes is that it's SO frustrating to have to turn around, because it's probably just at a point where you've really hit wilderness.
On the other hand, I do enjoy dayhiking in Mineral King, in the western Sierras. Farewell Gap is nice, as is White Chief Bowl and Sawtooth Peak.
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Postby SSSdave » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:11 pm

My favorite hikes are almost always cross country which I suspect was not on your mind when throwing out the question. But then as someone that has produced a commercial multimedia CD on hiking Yosemite, you likely have a bookshelf of hiking guides in the Sierra and are fishing for something new. Yes for me a good hike is a challenging route that I have map analyzed that when done goes off close to expectations. Well here is a partial hike story though it is actually a backpack.

I did a hike about two decades ago, leading a group of 4 EE's from a company I worked at, down to the spectacular cascades of the Tuolumne River below Glen Aulin. Except it was not on the trail side of the river. And it was my first time to do this route thus I not only was tackling a quite difficult route, but was also taking some engineers I worked with that would not be too happy if I did not lead well. But then topographic map analysis for crosscountry in the Sierra is my honed skill. We parked our vehicles about half a mile south of Daff Dome on SR120 in front of The Lamb. Striking out due north, we passed to the east and downslope of The Whiz domes through lots of dense red fir. It was late June so there was still a fair amount of snow in the shadows, water trickling about all over and through every ravine, and mosquitoes were of course welcoming us. As someone that has ventured out towards The Whiz a few times, it is always a fine place to see black bears during the day so I kept my eyes looking about. After dropping an awkward 300 feet we reached the bench west of the creek and then angled northwest in order to pass to the west of the dome west of dome 8403 that we had glimpses of at times through the pines. What a fine area of granite flats of big knobby feldspar crystals with lodgepole pines in all the joint ravines. A mile and one half along and we intersected the trail that goes betwen May Lake and Glen Aulin. My route pretty much went as I had penciled on my topo and being down in the trees often without many visual clues, required careful progress and a bit of compass watching at times. So by that point my workmates after some initial apprehension were beginning to believe I knew what I was doing. They of course were glad to have reached a real trail.

About a mile east we reached the trail crossing of Cathedral Creek that had a fair flow due to snow melt. The log for crossing was a bit narrow and had some ice on the wood. I went across dropped my pack and carried a pack or two of the others across so the less confident did not have the burden of their packs. Another quarter mile east and I vectored offtrail back north to climb 150 feet to a saddle, our 3 mile point of the nearly 7 miles route. There we stopped for a longer break to enjoy the view down the pristene canyon of Cathedral Creek. Then it was a steep drop 350 feet to the creek below. From there we just had to wander beside the creek a few miles until reaching the area we would need to hike east over the cliffy glaciate domes of Falls Ridge. Along the creek there was one dicy area of steeply sloping monolithic glaciated granite slabs that needed negotiating where I once again carried some others packs so they could more confidently manage.

Well I'll stop the story at this point as you likely have the idea of my idea of a favorite hike. We eventually reached the area upriver of Le Conte Falls. Near the crux of the route the engineers were about to mutiny as I stopped awhile trying to locate my correct escape to avoid the many cliffs bands. But with careful map work I noted the landscape and we reached the riverside without having to navigate any difficult spots. And yes we did visit California, Le Conte, and a couple of us Waterwheel Falls on our layover day from the side only chipmunks get to see.

...David
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Postby sierranomad » Sat Dec 03, 2005 4:24 pm

Thanks Quentic and David:

So Whitney is a good hike? Never been there, and hadn't really a desire because I've heard that it can be a zoo (then again, the same is said of Yosemite, but I know you can find solitude there). Never been much south of Yosemite, so I appreciate the suggestions.

I know what you mean about "just getting into the wilderness" and having to turn around. I felt that frustration often as a youth hiking with my family, and that's what got me into backpacking (at the point where we would have to turn around I would see backpackers setting up camp and was very envious).

I know I gave a 20 mile cut-off, but one of my favorite day hikes is well over that - the John Muir Trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley (leaving the JMT to visit Sunrise Lakes and Clouds Rest).

David, I must say I admire your topo reading and route finding skills. The attempts I've made at it resulted in my going so slow (to make sure I knew where I was going; and due to very rough terrain) that I decided to stick with trails (though I do venture off trail from time-to-time).

Thanks again, and I hope to hear more suggestions!
Jon

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir
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Postby quentinc » Sat Dec 03, 2005 4:42 pm

A lot of people look down on Whitney because it is so popular, and somewhat overrun. But I think it's an absolutley beautiful hike, and the prohibition on stock makes up to some extent for the profusion of people.

And as to Langley, the Cottonwood Lakes Basin is beautiful and quite uncrowded by Yosemite standards -- one can tour virtually the entire basin within a 20 mile limit and feel like you've experienced it. The elevation gain is quite modest (if you skip the Langley part).
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Postby sierranomad » Sat Dec 03, 2005 5:36 pm

Thanks Quentinc, I'll have to get a map of the area and consider a trip south.
Jon

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir
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Postby markskor » Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:12 pm

Got to agree about the Cottonwood Lakes area - (great fishing there for goldens - however, be aware of very specific F&G regulations - and these regs do vary from lake to lake - check before you go.)
Starting at altitude from Horseshoe Meadows, it is really the closest convenient Sierra experience - that has an abundance of water - and is driving close to the So Cal area. (I know, I lived in Palm Springs for 15 years.) With the addition of the relatively new South Fork Lake trail, you are presented with a great loop - South Lake - Long Lake - NAP - Langley? -OAP- Cottonwood Lakes - & out, that is quite doable as a day hike, or a better yet, as an easy overnighter.
Then there is the Miter Basin...
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Postby wingding » Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:56 am

There just so many great day hikes in the Sierra. Put me above 10,000 feet and I'm happy as a clam scrambling up granite, past alpine lakes, and through meadows filled with wild flowers.
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Postby Hikin Mike » Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:03 am

I agree with Kathy.

If I were to choose one, I would have to say a trip to Mt Conness would be one of my favorites so far. As soon as I can walk again, that will be one of my first day hikes (I think).

A close second would be the area around Gaylor/Granite Lakes.
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Postby BSquared » Wed Dec 07, 2005 12:17 pm

If you can do it in the fall or spring (to avoid the crowds), one of my favorite loops in the Yosemite Valley area is Panorama Trail to Glacier Point and then back down to the valley via the Four-Mile Trail. Haven't done it in years, but I clearly seeing my first "wild" bear on that trip! The views are, of course, incomparable...
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Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:55 pm

Whitney CAN be done in under 20 miles. Go up the Mountaineer's Route (5 mi) and come down the main trail (11 mi) or come down the MR. And if you have the energy, you can bag Keeler Needle, Crooks Peak and Mt Muir on the way down. That is one of my favorite hikes.

http://community.webshots.com/photo/181 ... 2921uXVSzY

The blue line is the North Fork Lone Pine/Mountaineer's Route, then follow the Whitney Ridge and bag the others on the way down.

So many other favorites, they're all good! :nod:
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Postby sierranomad » Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:06 pm

snownymph:

Thanks for the tip! I'm getting excited about hiking Mt. Whitney (glad I asked this question here, as I never had an interest in Whitney before).
Jon

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir
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