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Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby markskor » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:49 am

We were looking at the logistics of travel and can be in Fresno and hopefully in a rental by noon. If we park in Yosemite Valley and take the backpacker bus or Yarts to Tuolumne Meadows or Mammoth Lakes what would be a good choice for spending the nght in Yosemite Valley for one night? I assume driving to Y Valley, catching a bus and getting to a trailhead as too much to attempt on the day we fly in.

In both the Valley and Tuolumne, there conveniently exists "walk in" backpacker sites...no reservation needed...$5/pp. There are two caveats however, You must have a wilderness permit and you can only stay one night - (well, maybe two if you tell them that you are waiting on your hiking partner broken down in Fresno, and smile/look like a backpacker should.) FYI, in the Valley last year they checked everybody in camp multiple times daily, but I never once saw a Ranger at all in Tuolumne.

When I go places like Ranier I prefer to obtain a "backcountry permit" allowing me to setup camp in a particular geographic area but not stay in a designated camping area. I understand the high sierra can be more fragile and water sourcing can be an important issue but can someone camp somewhere other than a designated campsite? BTW: I practice LNT camping, etc.

Once you satisfy the quirky 4-miles from 120 or Happy Isles requirements - there are no designated campgrounds anywhere in Yosemite backcountry - (FYI, The Valley is something different though.) Yosemite is one big honking place and you can stay where you want. Just be sure that you follow the "No camping too close to the water or too close to a trail" rules, and stay wherever.

Wilderness quotas are based on the trailhead starting out from, not where you are going to. If you wanted to go, say to Clouds Rest and one trailhead (Tenaya Lake) is filled, you could start out at Elizabeth or Budd Lake trailheads and still eventually get there legally just by starting out at a different trailhead. On a 12 day jaunt, as long as you have a valid entry permit for almost any trail, you could proceed to anywhere, as long as you start out where you are supposed to.

Bear containers are required everywhere?

Mostly yes and rangers do check - big fines too, but you can plan to stay at certain places where bear boxes boxes exist - LYV for instance, and you might get away with a short overnighter without one. However, better to be legit, just carry one and not worry about any food/ranger/bear issues.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby rlown » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:05 am

markskor wrote:Bear containers are required everywhere?

Mostly yes and rangers do check - big fines too, but you can plan to stay at certain places where bear boxes boxes exist - LYV for instance, and you might get away with a short overnighter without one. However, better to be legit, just carry one and not worry about any food/ranger/bear issues.


Just a follow-up note: You can rent the Garcia bear canisters at most permit stations in Yose, if you don't own an approved canister. you can find out more for Yose here: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcans.htm
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby The Other Tom » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:59 pm

Vidalia wrote:We were looking at the logistics of travel and can be in Fresno and hopefully in a rental by noon. If we park in Yosemite Valley and take the backpacker bus or Yarts to Tuolumne
Meadows or Mammoth Lakes what would be a good choice for spending the nght in Yosemite Valley for one night? I assume driving to Y Valley, catching a bus and getting to a trailhead as too much to attempt on the day we fly in.

Here's another option to confuse you :)
Sounds like you want to start your hike in TM and finish in the valley. Being from the east coast, I have flown into Fresno a number of times , in the car by noon as you say, and driven to TM, arriving in the late afternoon. Unless you have an over riding reason to drop a car in the valley, I would recommend going straight to TM. An even better route, IMO, is to fly into Reno and drive to TM. That way, you avoid the valley traffic all together. At the end of your hike (which I assume is in the valley), catch the bus back to TM and your car.

By the way, with a name like Vidalia, you wouldn't be from Georgia, would you ?
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby Vidalia » Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:51 pm

Good info and thanks for the suggestions. Once I have this digested I will have more I'm sure. I like the idea of flying in to Reno and driving to TM. Will have check out that possibility.

Vidalia, yep, Georgia born and raised. I got that name in 2000 when I hiked the AT. I was a southbounder and was climbing Katahdin with one of the friends joining me in this hike. We started the 5.2 mile hike to the summit at 5 AM, May 28th to ensure we made it up and back before afternoon storms blew in. It was cold and windy with a slight drizzle falling (perfect way to start a hike!). As I climbed it got warmer and the drizzle stopped so I started shedding layers. After taking off several layers my frined looks at me and says, "Damn, you're peeling out of your clothes like an onion!" Well, that's how I got my trail name. Vidalia, the georgia onion!
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby Vidalia » Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:31 pm

Thanks for all the feedback and because of it I am very close to the end of the planning effort \:D/ . We were able to obtain the follow permit reservation:
Entry Date: 09/12/2010
Entry Trailhead: Lyell Canyon
Exit Date: 09/18/2010
Exit Trailhead: Happy Isles->Little Yosemite Valley

We’re flying into Fresno and driving to Yosemite Valley (dropping the car) and plan on taking the YARTS bus to Tuolumne Meadows and stay at the backpackers Campground. We will head up the Lyell Canyon and shoot for Vogelsang with a stop along the way. Then down to Merced Lake to camp and on to Little Yosemite for a camp. We’ll stay two nights somewhere along the way and day hike. We have plane tickets, hotel (Fresno on way out) and car reservations so this is coming together!

If anyone can answer a couple more questions I would be forever indebted!
1. Any site suggestions for camp sites along the way?
2. Do the planned camp sites sound like the best idea considering the entry and exit points?
3. What would be a good 2 night camp to day hike from?
4. Is there any requirement for reservations at the backpacker’s campground at Tuolumne?
5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
6. Do the indicated camps at Vogelsang, Merced and Little Yosemite Camps require any reservations?
7. With the permit I have could I possibly follow Rafferty Creek or is the Lyell Canyon past Evyelyn Lake just as good?

I promise to post a full trip report with photos when I get back!

Thanks, Vidalia
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby The Other Tom » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:15 pm

Vidalia wrote:If anyone can answer a couple more questions I would be forever indebted!
1. Any site suggestions for camp sites along the way?
2. Do the planned camp sites sound like the best idea considering the entry and exit points?
3. What would be a good 2 night camp to day hike from?
4. Is there any requirement for reservations at the backpacker’s campground at Tuolumne?
5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
6. Do the indicated camps at Vogelsang, Merced and Little Yosemite Camps require any reservations?
7. With the permit I have could I possibly follow Rafferty Creek or is the Lyell Canyon past Evyelyn Lake just as good?


Thanks, Vidalia

OK, sounds like a good trip. I suggest you hike up the Rafferty Creek trail to Vogelsang and camp there two nights. I wouldn't stop over between TM and Vogelsang, just go directly to Vogelsang. There are many options for day hikes and this is a very beautiful area. No permit required other than the wilderness permit you will get before you start. After your layover at Vogelsang, hike to Lake Merced and camp there, no extra permit required. Next day to LYV (or nearby) and camp. I believe an extra permit is required for LYV, but you can always camp at the Sunrise trail junction without an extra permit. Then hike half dome the next day (permit required for weekends I think), and then to the valley.
This will be a great trip and I wish I could go with you.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby markskor » Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:08 pm

Vidalia writes:
If anyone can answer a couple more questions I would be forever indebted!
1. Any site suggestions for camp sites along the way?
Looks like 7 nights and starting up the Lyell fork...a nice trip. FYI, Rafferty Creek and the Lyell Canyon are both nice - different canyons...at the Ireland Cutoff, both treks can wind up at the same place - and since you already have a valid permit for the Lyell, (and the rangers do check coming out of Tuolumne Meadows)...lets start there. The first 7 miles are almost flat through a meandering meadow...a signed junction on the Lyell, the trail splits - Donahue or Ireland. You can camp here (bears aplenty), or head up to Ireland and make that the first night. Lots of places just North of Ireland...fishing is good too. Next day, rather than go Evelyn (not a spectacular lake IMHO), just pop over the crest - west - and follow the canyon (and the well used trail) past Hanging Basket and Townsley/Fletcher...the Voglesang HSC lies nestled in the high canyon...just below Voglesang Pass.
You do not say if you are fishing but...at the HSC you have two trail options. One down - Boothe and Emeric trail south, or up and over the pass and Bernice...Both trails subsequently drop down heading toward Merced HSC...meeting up a few miles above the cobblestone switchbacks heading steeply down to the HSC.
Got your TOPO handy?
2. Do the planned camp sites sound like the best idea considering the entry and exit points?
OK...sure...why not?
3. What would be a good 2 night camp to day hike from?
Anywhere!
4. Is there any requirement for reservations at the backpacker’s campground at Tuolumne?
No reservations needed...one night only...must possess a wilderness permit...$5/pp, but...I was there 4 times last summer and never saw a ranger - not once.
5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
That is what most everybody does who overnights HD. Get up pre-sunrise, leave the tent set up - food in bearboxes...atop the Dome by 10:00, and back to LYV by noon.
6. Do the indicated camps at Vogelsang, Merced and Little Yosemite Camps require any reservations?
I do not think you understand Yosemite...It is one giant honking place. Other than the few rules about camping far enough away from the road (HWY 120)...there are no rules/campgrounds/nothing...Just camp almost anywhere you want (just be far enough away from both trail and water...200 ft.). There is nobody up there to take reservations...lucky to see a ranger after the first day...money is worthless in the backcountry...The wilderness permit is your gold ticket.
7. With the permit I have could I possibly follow Rafferty Creek or is the Lyell Canyon past Evelyn Lake just as good?
Sorry, the rangers often check at these trailheads...Rafferty and the Lyell both start out at the same place, but they are different trails. If caught they will turn you back and possibly fine your ass too. Be also advised...a bear can is mandatory in YNP.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby rlown » Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:33 pm

markskor wrote:Vidalia writes:

5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
That is what most everybody does who overnights HD. Get up pre-sunrise, leave the tent set up - food in bearboxes...atop the Dome by 10:00, and back to LYV by noon.


I think if you want to go up Half Dome, i think you now also need that special permit as well as the basic wilderness permit. Info at: https://pwrcms.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm

Also, the trip up lyell always seems "steeper" than the rafferty creek trail. And personally, for fishing, I really like Evelyn but am not so crazy about Boothe..
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby markskor » Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:54 am

rlown wrote:
markskor wrote:Vidalia writes:

5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
That is what most everybody does who overnights HD. Get up pre-sunrise, leave the tent set up - food in bearboxes...atop the Dome by 10:00, and back to LYV by noon.


I think if you want to go up Half Dome, i think you now also need that special permit as well as the basic wilderness permit. Info at: https://pwrcms.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm

Also, the trip up lyell always seems "steeper" than the rafferty creek trail. And personally, for fishing, I really like Evelyn but am not so crazy about Boothe..


I do not think that even Yosemite knows yet how this is going to work regarding Half Dome. I was there last week (in the Valley) and asked about this at the main Wilderness Permit office (which unfortunately is not open until May 1 - budget cuts) - so all wilderness duties/paperwork is now either being done only by phone or badly by what seemed to be junior rangers in the larger stone building front desk. From what I could ascertain, something about new rules on weekends only, additional permit needed but these are free when picking up regular wilderness permits, but some mention of a quota...
(It got a bit confusing/conflicting as to what happens if you happen to be on a long trip and forget what day it was...how they were going to enforce this.) It seemed that the gray areas were mostly with those doing trips of multiple nights originating elsewhere than Happy Isles.
Stay tuned.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:23 am

Vidalia wrote:

If anyone can answer a couple more questions I would be forever indebted!
1. Any site suggestions for camp sites along the way?
2. Do the planned camp sites sound like the best idea considering the entry and exit points?
3. What would be a good 2 night camp to day hike from?
4. Is there any requirement for reservations at the backpacker’s campground at Tuolumne?
5. Is it possible to hike to Half Dome from Little Yosemite Valley camp, reservations?
6. Do the indicated camps at Vogelsang, Merced and Little Yosemite Camps require any reservations?
7. With the permit I have could I possibly follow Rafferty Creek or is the Lyell Canyon past Evyelyn Lake just as good?

I promise to post a full trip report with photos when I get back!

Thanks, Vidalia


there are actually two options for bus to TM, look at yosemitepark.com for the guided tour bus to Tioga Pass - this is the hiker's bus in addition to the tour bus, and they will let you make reservations unlike YARTS. The hiker bus will stop at trailheads other than the main stops FYI.

You don't need reservation for any bper campground in the park - just a wilderness permit starting the next day, or you can stay on your last night coming out of your trip. Unlike others I have seen a ranger checking permits each time I have been there.

Yes, the High Sierra Camps require reservations - if you are eating there or staying in the tent cabins. If you are simply backpacking through you are required to stay within the designated sites for backpackers but it costs nothing and no reservations are needed. Look on the Yosemite regulations to see how far you need to be from the HSC to disperse camp again. I may be incorrect but I believe it's the standard two miles. In Little Yosemite you are required to stay within the designated area unless you are two miles up the trail. Outside these areas you have the run of the park for camping, tho rangers will ask you to re-use established sites in heavy use areas, like Rancheria Falls near Hetch Hetchy.

If you are doing Half Dome on a weekend (friday-sunday) or on a holiday, you will need the permit, but mention it to the ranger when you pick up your wilderness permit and they will add the HD permit, no reservation or fee necessary.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby adam » Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:23 pm

this is only somewhat on topic, but since the backpacker campsites are being discussed: Is it legit to stay there if you arrive after the wilderness permit offices have closed, but you plan to get one and start hiking the next morning? I've done this a few times, and usually end up setting up a tent in the dark and leaving early without encountering a ranger, so I suppose that practically it's not an issue. But theoretically, it occurs to me that it could also function as a blanket excuse even if you weren't planning on getting a permit the next morning.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking advice for this summer/fall?

Postby gary c. » Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:48 pm

On our trip last year we were checked twice before getting too far out fromTuolumne. We were checked again at the trail junction comming down from Washburn Lake by an armed forester (I think he even asked to see fishing licences, can't remember for sure) and then again in our camp at the Sunrise Creek junction. The girl that came into camp at Sunrise was very nice, she even got on the radio and checked with someone about the bus schedule for us. While setting up camp at the valley backpackers camp a young lady came by and asked if we had our permit but didn't ask to see it. She said that someone would be bye later and sure enough about an hour before dark a man came and asked to see the permit and make sure everything was square. Kind of a hassle but I'm glad they check for permits. Can't imagine what things would be like if they didn't.
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