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Early season King's Canyon?

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Early season King's Canyon?

Postby tim » Fri Jan 07, 2011 11:06 am

I know it will be a while before we see how quickly the snow melts out in April/May, but I'm wondering about the feasibility of a short overnight early season trip in King's Canyon, either to lower Sphinx Creek Camp (on Bubbs Creek) or Paradise Valley, one weekend in the first half of May. It looks like Rancheria Falls in Hetch Hetchy might not be possible this year (because the Wapama Falls bridge was taken out by floods in October) so I'm thinking about other options for a brief trip once the snow level is back to 6000ft or so.

I wondered if others had been to lower Paradise Valley or lower Sphinx Creek Camp in early season? It looks like there aren't any unbridged stream crossings on those routes - is that correct and does the trail (particularly the Bubbs Creek switchbacks) melt out fairly well (and is it safe even if there are a few patches of snow left in the shade)? Also are the campsites well drained in both locations or would they be a boggy mess (or a lake) in May? I'm not looking to go high or off trail, but just thinking of a quick overnight on a weekend with the kids, up one day and back the next. If not then we would probably just stay at the campground in Kings Canyon and do a day hike to see how far we get, but I'd be interested to know if an overnight is feasible at that time of year.

I guess Little Yosemite Valley would be a similar option, but it looks like more of a haul to get up there, especially if you have to go up to Clark Point and back down to Vernal Falls (I remember having to do that in May 1998)? Any other suggestions of lowish wilderness camps with nice mountain scenery that are only a few miles from the trailhead?



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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:03 pm

All I can tell you is that in mid June last year, ranger told us the Bubbs trail was snowed in at Junction meadow, and when we were dayhiking into Paradise we ran into a bunch of backpackers who had tried to hike the Rae Lakes loop and found five feet of snow on the JMT, so turned around rather than posthole/wallow up the trail. (Not at all sure they were depicting the situation accurately - asking other hikers to estimate things like mileage or snow/water depth is kind of a hit and miss thing. I've had people say half a mile and checked my map to find they had totally mis-estimated...)

If this year is like last year, the Kings will flood out the lower part of the Paradise trail, after it branches off from Bubbs, and will recede in late May/early June. There were still standing pools of water here and there across the trail when we went through. There were use trails higher on the slope where people had obviously gone around high water.

I'm afraid it's just a wait and see. You might consider Jennie Lake, it's not on a major river, any stream crossings will be easy enough to manage, and it's a pretty nice area without permitting issues or difficult bear issues. If the road is open it would be a great kid friendly hike, six miles with a 9000 foot pass, if the snow recedes... I seem to recall the pass is pretty open. I would be nervous taking kids near the Kings in early season, partially because it would be someone else's kids, partially because that much raging water makes me nervous - I don't know the ages of your kids but younger ones need a lot of supervision there IMO.

Another fun place to go would be the Lakes trail - not sure how early that will open, it's pretty high, but if you could go later this is a nice series of alpine lakes. There's established campsites and the permits are not reservable. A low key place to go overnight would be Redwood Canyon - this is a neat area and you can make one ten mile loop or choose one of two six mile loops, with potential to explore further down the canyon. For a really easy hike you can take the trail down the middle, if the kids can manage some gain one of the ridge trails would give you great views and you'd walk through some of the sequoias. Campsites along the creek off the end of the middle path past the loop, and there's a large sequoia down to use as a bridge to get across.
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby balzaccom » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:29 pm

Almostthere gave great advise, as usual. The only thing I would add about Paradise Valley is that it is one of the first trails to open...and as a result it's one of the first to get booked up solid. I agree about Jennie Lakes...The other option is to head for some lower elevation adventures further north.

And it really does depend on the weather and the snow levels. We'll know more in April!
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby maverick » Sat Jan 08, 2011 12:33 pm

Hi Tim

Just to early to make any prediction, but if you are trying to get big mountain scenery
with only one day in, than neither Bubbs nor Paradise will give you that, and the
switchbacks up Bubbs is not much easier than up to LLV.
The only quick access to the high country scenery from the west in SEKI would be the
Lakes Trail which goes up to Pear Lake, and then on into Tablelands, but this trail will
not be open and the HST which will have snow issues, and stream crossing issues.
Also as mentioned earlier these places are the first to become accessible so every one
who wants to get out, especially Little Yosemite Valley, which is a zoo that time of the
year, and if you can get a permit, will be packed.
Jennie Lake, or the Golden Trout areas may be your best bet.
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby oldranger » Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:03 pm

Tim,

Sorry to disagree with everyone else but I would not consider Jennie Lake as an early May alternative. My experience in the area is that except for a couple of unusually dry years you don't want to count on that area until Memorial Day. In big snow years you might consider doing a Memorial Day trip to Jennie on skis! Redwood Canyon is an excellent suggestion and unless regs have changed one of the few places where you can camp amongst the Sequoia.

Mike
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby lambertiana » Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:04 pm

Even the bridges at the start of the Bubbs Creek trail (right above where it branches from the Woods Creek trail) can be flooded in May. Last May I went there on a dayhike, and although the bridges themselves were above water, the trail areas between the bridges were flooded. It took some creative footwork to get past that stretch without wading. And I was there in late May 2006 when there was very heavy runoff and I would not have even attempted it then.

In May the Lakes trail will still be under snow. I went to Emerald Lake for the Memorial Day weekend in 2007, which was an unusually dry year (around half normal snowpack). There were still some patches of snow on the Hump Trail, and the Watchtower trail was still closed due to snow.

I did the Redwood Mountain grove loop as an overnight early season trip a few years ago, and it was very nice.
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:55 pm

I wasn't really thinking May for Jennie either... I don't think any of the high Sierra trails will be suitable for backpacking with kids in May. Or for adults without adequate snow gear.

But, as everyone says, it's just too soon to know what it will really be like, period.

The coastal backpacking trips will be great for kids, however, and totally snow free. Big Basin would be awesome. The trail camps will be open in May.
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How about a wildflower hike to Hite Cove?

Postby snusmumriken » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:45 pm

The poppies are really spectacular at Hite Cove in the spring time. The hike into Hite Cove is 4.5 miles of easy trail that goes along the river. Best flowers are within the first mile of the trailhead, no camping for that first mile as it is private property, beyond that anywhere - no permits required.
Spend the next day hiking some of the valley floor trails and enjoying the waterfalls of Yosemite. If you want to spend a second night Camp 4 is open year round with no reservations.
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:19 pm

A great overnight trip into mountainous scenery is to go to the rock structure in Tuttle Creek from the east side of the Sierra. Even if you cannot get to the trailhead, you can easily walk into the rock house. It is an old Ashram that was constucted in the 1930's and the scenery is fantastic. It would be all road and trail to the structure. There is no water at the house but you can get water at a creek a quarter mile before reaching it. Since you were interested in Kings Canyon, not sure you want to go all the way to the east side. But from So Cal or LA it is really not that much farther.
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Re: How about a wildflower hike to Hite Cove?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:24 pm

[quote="snusmumriken"]The poppies are really spectacular at Hite Cove in the spring time. The hike into Hite Cove is 4.5 miles of easy trail that goes along the river. Best flowers are within the first mile of the trailhead, no camping for that first mile as it is private property, beyond that anywhere - no permits required.
quote]

Yep--we have a trip report on this one on our website. The poppies won't be blooming for quite a while yet, but it's still a nice hike, and I loved the old mining equipment, too!
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby East Side Hiker » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:15 pm

I'm planning to go to Tehipite Valley May 13th through 23. I'm really hoping that the route into Crown Basin is relatively snow-free.
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Re: Early season King's Canyon?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:53 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:I'm planning to go to Tehipite Valley May 13th through 23. I'm really hoping that the route into Crown Basin is relatively snow-free.


Would not take kids that way tho. Mean switchbacks, lots of snakes, really high river.... Maybe to Crown Valley itself.
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