2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

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2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by spidermick » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:38 am

Hi all,

I've never been backpacking in the Sierra before--I am planning to head out from Colorado sometime next July. I learned from going to Glacier National Park this past summer to figure out the routes and permits early! The question below that asks what area I'm interested in is where I'm struggling--I've never been and I don't know enough about the area, so I'm looking to the forum for help here! I often backpack in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and enjoy high-elevation hikes and views (I've done a number of 14ers after backpacking in part-way or in-between peaks). I really really hate crowds--so I'm looking for a route that gets me away from day hikers. I'm interested in doing Half Dome, but not enough to have to endure tons of people on the rest of the trip. Also interested in including one of the High Sierra Camps, but certainly not a deal-breaker. My boyfriend may want to fish while on this trip, but again--it's not a requirement. I'm hoping to get a few different routes suggested so we have a better chance of getting permits through the lottery! I really don't want to do the walk-up permit option because we have to travel from CO, it wastes time!

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel/Glacier crossings (microspikes, but not full crampons and ice axe-type)

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
- Fishing (not a deal breaker at all)

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 5 days, 4 nights sometime in July (flexible)

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? Not a huge preference here, willing to do some hard days (~12 miles), but preferably not all in a row

Have you hiked at elevation before? Any prior issues with Altitude Sickness? Backpack often in Colorado--this is no concern

Do you have a route logistics preference: loop, out and back, point to point (which may require 2 vehicles or hitchhiking)? Open to any of these--if hitchhiking is easy, but a loop would be the best!

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in (Yosemite, SEKI, western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? I don't have enough information to answer this!

Have you hiked in the Sierra Nevada before, if yes, where? Please list a few of your more difficult hikes, so we can then recommend routes based on your experience level. Nope

Will you be hiking with a dog? No

Thank you for looking!

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by gbrown09 » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:30 am

Look into the North/South Lake loop out of Bishop, I think it meets all of your criteria

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by zbernstein » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:38 am

I'd also recommend loops out of Mineral King, like Timber Gap - Blackrock Pass - Sawtooth Pass.

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by levi » Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:12 am

Depending on your timing, the popular Rae Lakes Loop isn't a bad option, and it was my introduction to Kings Canyon. It is NOT overrated, and will have you begging for more Kings Canyon high country :)

Since you really really hate crowds, don't do this over a holiday weekend... it may be popular, but weekdays aren't very crowded. Depending on how fast you hike, you could also sneak in a night in 60 lakes basin and still be done in 4 nights/5 days (my wife and I had no issues doing just the loop over 3 nights/4 days, hiking no more than 8 hours per day).
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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by balzaccom » Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:15 am

Good suggestions above. July can be a bit early, depending on weather, and whether you arrive early or late in the month. Early July can mean snow at the higher elevations and mosquitoes at the lower elevations. Late July and those problems should decrease.

One other thought: Just about any trail in the Sierra will have fewer people once you get about one day's hike in from the trail head. This is true EXCEPT for the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. both of which run North/South. Taking side routes that run East and West will decrease the number of people you'll see.

And heading off away from the national parks will also help. We do a lot of hiking in the Emigrant Wilderness, where permits are easier to get (no trail quotas) and again, once you get in about 8-10 miles, there are not many people to see. You could easily hike in from Gianelli or Crabtree trailheads there and make a nice loop including Gem and Deer Lakes, Pingree and Big Lakes...or even get all the way to Huckleberry Lake and the border with Yosemite. Nobody there. Lovely country.


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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by AlmostThere » Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:54 pm

There are still areas where lotteries are not a difficult thing. National forests with designated wilderness areas are easy, if you are going midweek especially. Some have no quotas. A few have no wilderness permits either. Of course, those without permits tend to be where the frustrated folks who tried for a permit end up...

You can get a permit for Inyo (Ansel Adams Wilderness) or Stanislaus (Emigrant) and head into Yosemite's wilderness, for example. But of course, reviewing the rules for all the areas you will be in is important - Yosemite will fine you for not having a bear canister, which is not mandated in some of the bordering wilderness areas. So review websites when you are planning things.

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by davidsheridan » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:47 pm

A great trip is entering Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass then hike down to Mount Whitney and exit Whitney Portal. (Must utilize a shuttle service.)

Day 1: Pickup Permit - park at Whitney Portal and catch shuttle to Onion Valley campground (car camping near Independence, CA)
Day 2: Hike over Kearsarge Pass to Kearsarge Lakes
Day 3: Leave Kearsarge Lakes, join John Muir Trail and head south to 11,300 ft tarns below Forrester Pass
Day 4: GO over Forrester Pass to Wallace Creek
Day 5: Wallace Creek to high camp in Whitney Zone
Day 6: Summit Mount Whitney and head out to Whitney Portal

You can get a permit exactly 6 months in advance. You will need to indicate you want to exit via Whitney, this makes the permit harder to get. Do it exactly 6 months in advance. If you can't get an exit permit for Whitney, there are other options. The John Muir traill is well traveled, but this section has no day hikers on it, just through hikers. The scenery is definitley phenomenal.

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by spidermick » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:22 pm

These are awesome suggestions!!!

Thank you all--I'll be sure to be doing this over weekdays, and avoiding holidays for sure. I'll be researching all these and hopefully get permits exactly 6 months out.

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by dave54 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:18 pm

Keep your schedule flexible and you should have no problems. You always have the un-permitted and un-quota'd Wilderness areas as a fall back plan.

Of course, they do not require a permit and have no quota because they are not as popular, and are not popular because some people feel they do not have the stellar scenery and attraction of the big name Sierra destinations. I am biased by proximity to the Caribou Wilderness and Lassen Volcanic NP. Some of my favorite trails are not even in a Wilderness or Park. They are in multiple use NF lands but have not ever seen a dozer or saw and probably never will.
Log off and get outdoors!

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Re: 2019 Trip Planning - Permit Lottery and Suggested Routes?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:47 pm

Mosquitoes peak early July. In a normal to high snowpack year, river flows also peak early July. Snow on the Whitney trail can be a problem too. If possible, put your trip off until later July, unless we get little snow this winter.

If you are worried about "wasting time" to get a first-come permit, does that mean you are on a really tight schedule with respect to driving? Am I to assume that you would then rather access from the east side of the Sierra? It would take nearly a day to get over to the west side, unless you plan to fly into Fresno.

Some of the best scenery is a bit off the trails. For example, from the PCT on Wallace Creek, there is a use-trail up to Wallace and Wales Lake- well worth at least a day-hike, much more scenic place to camp than at Wallace Creek on the PCT. Often you see more by shortening the point-to-point trail route so you can add in side trips. This is particularly true in the upper Kern. Honestly, just walking down the PCT is not that scenic. Another example is North Lake to South Lake route- side trip to Murial Lake from Piute Pass; great little side trip up to Darwin Basin; poke around off-trail in Dusy Basin, take the little side trail past Chocolate Lakes while exiting to South Lake. Even when on a crowded trail, if you just more off the trail to camp you will have solitude. Example, everyone camps at Guitar Lake (west side base for Whitney climb). It is easy off-trail travel to a slightly higher bench to the north and a side-trip up to Arctic Lakes is stunning.

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