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Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

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Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:13 pm

Howdy,
I’ve been lurking here for a few months and recently started posting and am now hoping I can get some feedback on trips into the Northern Sierra Nevada. Forgive me if this posting is a bit long; I want to make sure to provide all the info that might be relevant.

Before I get too far, I do want to say how impressed I am with this forum and its members. Both the civil manners employed and the quality of the information provided are a welcome reprieve from the online forums I usually read. I’m truly happy I stumbled across HST a few months ago.

For three years I’ve been organizing an annual backpacking trip with old friends. It’s not a long trip (4 days/3 nights) since aligning schedules can be tough. The group is made up of a core of 4-6 experienced and well-geared guys with a peripheral group of 4-6 less-experienced backpackers. The first two years we had 5 guys make it, with it ballooning to 9 last year.

We’ve kept it pretty tame since not everyone can handle the big hikes with gear, twice going to 5 Lakes Basin (near Carr Lake/Hwy 20) and once to Iceland Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness. (Last year we ended up at 5 Lakes Basin because our trip was scheduled in June and there was too much snow for our original choices: Grouse Lake in the Mokelumne Wilderness or the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.)

While the trips to 5 Lakes Basin were easy in that we hiked in, set up camp, and day hiked for two days, the general consensus is that we’d like to do more trips that have us camping in a new spot each night. Everyone has the desire to become better at this and eventually do longer trips (preferably farther south in the Muir Wilderness or SEKI area).

The majority of the crew lives in the Sacramento area or Bay area, so I’ve tried to find good locations between Tahoe and Yosemite to minimize drive time. With only 4 days, we have to make it count. I’m looking for good trail suggestions in this area that mesh with the following criteria (taken from the sticky post at the top of this forum):

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel


What terrain are you comfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel


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


How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
4/3

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?
<10, with days 2 and 3 being <5, short overland routes on these days are desired.

Did you prefer a loop or out and back trip?
Either is fine, but a loop would be nice.

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that you’re most interested in?
Mentioned above. Western start is preferred, but would consider an eastern start that does not significantly increase drive time (Hoover Wilderness?)

Will you be hiking with a dog?
Good chance of that, but I can ban dogs for a year if means a great hike to an awesome spot.

Additionally, we love getting to higher elevations and bagging peaks when possible. We’ve had the best times doing overland hiking across exposed granite.


Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions. I know this little hike pales in comparison to many of the trips described on these forums, but it’s a new tradition for this group of guys. We want to grow it into one we eventually share with our kids while at the same time challenging ourselves and staying healthy.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.



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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby mokelumnekid » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:37 pm

I'll let others weigh-in, and then provide some details, but generally between Tahoe and North Yosemite you are in the realm of the debris from old volcanoes, most of the peaks (until Tower) are capped with volcanic rock ( of crap quality and so-so views, and I have been on each and every one of them) and there isn't a lot of that high lonesome granite feel once you head south of Hwy. 50 until south of Hwy 108. So maybe start south of Hwy 108 in Emigrant Wilderness and head for Tuolumne if it is open granite you hanker. Heck of a shuttle though and not a lot of real peak action there unless you detour into the Sawtooths.

But three nights- sheesh man can't get far with that if you need to be back at the car on day four. Maybe a short loop in Emigrant Wilderness, or do some kind of loop off Hwy 4 starting and coming back to Highland Lakes say via East Fk. Carson or? Or looping around just east of Sonora pass, that might be the best bet. For me the area between Hwy 50 and 4 (via Carson Pass) isn't interesting.

Having grown-up roaming the Hwy. 50 to 108 area, maybe I'm not as enchanted with it anymore and why I usually head south to point south of Pine Creek. So factor that into my comments.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:08 pm

With a dog, you won't be able to go into National Parks - you can't have dogs on trails. I've seen people escorted out of the wilderness with their dogs... you get a fine and you leave. However, the wilderness areas (most that I've researched/hiked into) and national forests allow dogs.

Have you thought about Desolation Wilderness?
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:19 pm

mokelumnekid,

I figured with that forum handle you'd have some insight into this area. I know the high granite choices are limited, if non-existent in this area. I looked over a lot of maps and Google Earth last year and thought the original two choices had a good peak nearby we could summit (Deadwood Peak near Grouse Lake or Mt. Stanislaus from Clark Fork Meadow). Any thoughts on those two peaks?

Northern Emigrant Wilderness is a definite possibility. We loved the trip up to Iceland Lake and other than the horses on the lower portion near Kennedy Meadows, the trail was nice. After that trip, I've been curious to see if we can get up into the Grouse Creek drainage NW of Relief Peak and then summit said peak from there.

And I know 3 nights is not long enough for a high quality trip. This was born from the fact that just about everyone in the crew has started families in the last 4-5 years and leaving the wives for more than 3 nights with one or more toddler and/or newborn does not fly. The kids are getting older, and starting this year I'm going to start pushing for adding more nights on the trail. The hope is to lengthen the trip to eventually be a proper 7-10 day trek. I might get 4 nights this year, but that depends on the group.

Thanks for the feedback.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Hetchy » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:25 pm

Howdy!
I agree with you that this forum has some of the most civil and awesome folks to be found anywhere on the internet. Eric and the Moderators run a tidy ship!
Anyhow i have a suggestion for a hike in the western sierra of 4 days three nights.
You did not say exactly when this hike would take place but i surmised from the details of your previous excursion it would be June perhaps.
I can recommend a hike from HetchHetchy--> Laurel Lake--> Lake Vernon--> Tiltill Valley--> Rancheria Falls and a return to the Dam.
This is known as the Lake Vernon Loop.
It is in the Northern Yosemite Wilderness. Dogs are not allowed.
It is quite a popular hike in Northern Yosemite but don't let that fool you. If you are there any other weekend besides Memorial day or Labor day you will see only a handful of folks on it everywhere except Rancheria Falls (Thus I recommend camping the last night at tiltill valley).
In some years the snow will be gone from lower Moraine ridge and Mt Gibson as early as the first week of June. Other years you will have to navigate 2 feet or more of snow for several miles in those places. By July the mosquitos can be intense. All things considered the most pleasant time IMHO is early fall either after or before Labor Day.
It is perhaps not the most original suggestion but it is a fine area. The granite flats below Lake Vernon are spectacular for exploration. Branigan Lake is easily reached as a day hike from Vernon's shore. Laurel and Vernon have usually excellant fishing (Laurel is a natural fish hatchery and Lake Vernon is fed by Falls Creek which is loaded with trout).
Aside from the first day's climb the trail is moderate to easy. The rocky switchbacks up Gibson mountain from Vernon are wonderful.
Views of Tiltill valley and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne from atop Gibson are likewise superb.
The single "hitch" in this hike could be crossing falls creek at the Lake Vernon Bridge. Early season it is normal for the creek to swell well beyond the outlet often rendering the bridge useless. However the slow moving flood waters between the bridge and lake (WELL ABOVE THE FALLS!) make for easy wading. All this depends on the timing of the snow melt so I can't say for sure when in June the crossing will be easily passable.
Icidentally there is a backpackers campground at the OShaunessey Dam. Hikers are allowed one night when they are either entering or returning from the backcountry so it is not a true campground. The parking is about as secure as you can get. They lock the road at mather after 9PM and open it after 7 AM each day. Thus I recommend everyone in your group rendevous at Mather (Evergreen Lodge Store perhaps)and get your permit early in the afternoon before the hike. Then just drive down to the dam and camp that first night in the BP campground. Then you can get an early start on the switchbacks..you'll need that. The sun can be brutal on the south facing slopes above Hetchhetchy resevoir as you climb 2,000 feet in 4 miles. The reward that first day is Beehive spring.. Described as "The Gem of the Northern Sierra" and rightfully so. Hey! i am giving too much away!
Anyhow I am sure there will be other suggestions. The folks on this site have an astonishing array of experience in the Sierra.
Happy trails :D
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:38 pm

Have to say with a name like Hetchy your suggestion caught me completely off guard. :D O:)
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:39 pm

AlmostThere,

Yes, I am aware about the NP policy for dogs. I should have made it clear in my original posting that I tend to gravitate to wilderness areas. NPs tend to be busier (in my experience) and I really like getting out there and not seeing any other humans for a few days.

I've considered Desolation and studied it, but like NPs, I've read that it gets a fair amount of traffic, and the FS imposes a limit on the numbers of campers in most areas. Considering I had 9 guys last year, I want to avoid having to split the group up to make sure we aren't breaking any rules. I may take another look at it; I know some of the scenery up there is amazing. I guess once I have a firm number on the group size I can make the call to go there or not.

Thank you for your suggestion.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:52 pm

Hetchy,

Awesome suggestion, many thanks. Looking it over on Google Earth right now. Do you know if getting a permit for this loop can be an issue (ie. should I book one well ahead of the hike)?

And your reply points out another thing I missed in my original post: time of year. Really, the trip could be anytime during the summer. First year was July, last two years have been June. I take a poll of the entire crew and we pick the weekend that works for the majority (even if that leaves me out.) So I won't know a date until I send out the first email next month and get some replies. We have always gone Thursday-Sunday. If I can add a night, we'll probably go Wednesday.-Sunday.

Thanks again.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby Hetchy » Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:25 pm

I have never had a problem getting a permit in Northern Yosemite. Most of the people that go there gravitate to Rancheria Falls. In fact the vast majority of people do.
The most crowded i ever saw the place was one year in August when the overnight parking area was full. Even that time I saw very few people above the switchbacks. I am guessing here from past experiences but i would say on a 4 day weekend in August the Vernon loop might see 20 to 30 people traverse it's length. If you plan your trip for mid week you will virtually have the place to yourselves.
In fact before Memorial day i have spent 8 days along falls creek and saw not one single soul out there.
Northern Yosemite is a superb place. Like I said, the switchbacks are challenging that first day. By staying at the BP campground at the Dam and leaving early you will have at least a 2 hour jump on anyone arriving that day since the road opens at 7AM and it takes 40 minutes to travel from Mather ranger station to the Dam(You will want to stop along the way for the views :D ). And the tourists around the dam don't show up till 10 AM.
By the way, you can get your wilderness permit at the Mather Ranger station as well as rent bear resistant canisters there.
Yes, this is why I chose hetchy as my name on this forum. I was introduced to this area at a young age and have been hiking solo there several times a year for almost 20 years. Despite the presence of O'Shaunessey Dam or perhaps because of it.. the Northern Yosemite Wilderness is a relatively untravelled part of the Park full of secrets. I still dream about the place even after having hiked thousands of miles on other trails.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby sirlight » Thu Dec 30, 2010 8:58 am

I have always had a great time in desolation, but with a group of that size permits might be a problem.

This past summer was my first experience with emigrant wilderness, and I had a great time. Plenty of granite, meadows, lakes and the fishing is good. Perhaps you might want to try a variation on the hike I did in October.

Scoot down the 108 and grab your permit in Pinecrest. There are no quotas, just walk in and get one. Start the hike at crabtree trailhead. You can spend your Piute lake. It's about 8 miles in and has plenty of room for a group of your size. Then continue on from there to perhaps deer or wood lake. Spend the last night at grouse lake. That will leave you with about 4 miles to cover on the last day.

Check out my trip report from October:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5579
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Dec 30, 2010 9:01 am

I have been slowly making my way out there to Hetch Hetchy from different angles as well - this year it was from the overlooks heading up from Pate to White Wolf, when the fire on the slope over the lake was burning. Awesome options for hikes. I want to make it to Kibbie Ridge this year.

That's another awesome trip - Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Leave a car at White Wolf, shuttle everyone to Tuolumne Meadows, and hike down past some pretty awesome waterfalls - classic Yosemite. We did it in three days/two nights but it would have been cool to slow down and spend extra time in the bottom, before getting to Pate. We went so late in summer there were some good fishing holes in the lower part of the river. There was a lot of scat on the trail - the bears were really busy on the berries - and it would have been fun to see what came out at dusk. We ran across a rattlesnake on the trail and I lost count of all the different kinds of birds. I actually managed a first come first serve permit for a Glen Aulin passthrough to join my friend with his reserved permit.
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Re: Trail suggestions between Tahoe & Yosemite for 3-night trip?

Postby East Side Hiker » Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:02 am

From Hwy 88 at Caples Lake, you can go to 4th of July Lake and that area. Very beautiful and many x-country trips to be had. The Pioneers say that 4th of July Lake, and that area, was the best place they saw on the trip from the East.

From Hwy 4, Ebbitts Pass, go south and you may not come back its so beautiful.

Or from Sonora Pass, go south, and for 4 days you will think you're in the land of the Hobbits. Or better, start from Leavit Mdw and head for Emigrant Pass or Tower Peak.
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