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2021 - help me decide

Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 12:39 pm
by westmatt
Thinking about Mono Pass/Pioneer basin, or going out of Virginia Lakes to Gilman/East lakes, etc. in late summer or early September, ~7 days.

I have never backpacked north of Lee Vining, and don't have much familiarity with that country.

As always, scenery and solitude are keys to a successful trip for us. Looking for an area where we can establish a 'base' camp for a day or two, do some day hikes and get to know the area, then move to another 'base' camp, lather, rinse, repeat.


Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 2:14 pm
by balzaccom
I love both areas, but I think there is more to see do in the Mono Pass area: Fourth Recess, Pioneer Basin, Third Recess...Second Recess.....unless you want to hike down Virginia Canyon further into Yosemite. And more people in the GIlman Lakes/West Lake, Green Lake area.

WE have trip reports on both areas on our website

Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 3:33 pm
by Wandering Daisy
Agree- Mono Pass. Be sure to stop at Ruby Lake and at least get a few photos. Also, go to Golden Lake either on way in or out. 7 days may be too much for Pioneer Basin alone so the other "recesses" are worthy of a night's stay, particularly Fourth and Third. Rather than one base-camp it may be better to have two, one in Pioneer Basin to explore 2 days and one at Fourth Recess and then do a day-hike to Third Recess. Camp at Ruby Lake on the way in the same day you drive, and then come out spending one night at Golden Lake, with half day out next day.

Rock Creek is loaded with day-hikers, particularly with dogs, and day fishermen and it can be crowded until you get over Mono Pass. But come night, most of the people clear out.

Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 7:40 pm
by Harlen
Hey westmatt, I also think both areas are great. If you get up into Pioneer Basin, I recommend that one of your day hikes be a ramble along the divide separating Pioneer Basin/Mono Creek and McGee Creek to the north. I think it is a really fascinating view, with a lot of color and wild mountains. Here's a couple images from that ridge:



Have a great trip wherever you go.

Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 10:14 pm
by Wandering Daisy
Both areas are great, but Green Lake is more suitable for a 3-4 day trip, whereas Pioneer Basin and the recesses give you plenty of space to roam about for 7 days. If I had 7 days and really wanted to go north of Tioga Pass, I would do a loop out of Twin Lakes- going in via Barney Lake- over to Matterhorn Canyon with a side trip to see Ice Lake, and up Spiller Canyon over Horse Pass and back next to Matterhorn Peak (with a climb). Or other loops - there are many trip reports on these loops. In fact there just was a trip report on this route with more gnarly passes posted recently. - I think it was robertseeberger's late October post.

Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Sat Dec 19, 2020 10:29 am
by westmatt
Excellent advice - I had kind of set my sights on Pioneer Basin, and I think your comments have cemented it for me. The thoughts about base camps and hikes are pretty much what I was thinking, so I'm glad to hear from some folks who have been there. Harlen - really love those pics of that tortured metamorphic rock!

Thanks, now I have some planning to get me through winter!

Re: 2021 - help me decide

Posted: Sat Dec 19, 2020 12:16 pm
by westmatt
Thinking now about hiking out over Hopkins Pass and down to the McGee Creek trailhead. Mileage wouldn't be that different, and we wouldn't have to see the same scenery twice.