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Another newbie looking for guidance...

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Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby krism » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:49 pm

Hello everybody! First post here, yay. I am looking for advice on backpacking/camping destinations anywhere remotely close to Yosemite. I'll do my best to provide some info.
We are two married couples in our early 30's from the midwest who will be visiting CA in mid-June. We are flying into Frisco and traveling from there. Our main destination is Yosemite. We plan on backing our backpacks along but not packing too heavily. Where are some good backcountry backpacking/camping sites that we stand a good chance at getting permits (if needed) and having a water source? We need to stay below the snow line for reasons of both temperature and altitude acclimation.
I'm doing a lot of reading, but we have never been to the Sierra Nevadas before and Yosemite looks like a real headache for getting any good camping permits. We want to see some good scenery along the way, or else we would rather just get a motel and do day hikes. We will stay in motels the majority of the 6 nights more than likely anyway, unless there are shower facilities or streams we can bathe/do laundry in.
Also, the ladies are reasonbly fit but won't be up for anything too overly strenuous. I don't care if the hikes you suggest are real close to Yosemite or not, but just consider that we will prob spend 1.5-2 days there so closer may be better. I am also up for suggestions closer to Lake Tahoe or further south at Sequioa Nat Park.
We have a fair amount of mountain hiking/backpacking experience between all of us, as we all lived at one time or other in either Montana or Washington State.
Oh, also please suggest either 1 or 2 night trips. We won't do anything longer than that, although we may do multiple shorter trips.



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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:06 pm

First, any backpack out of Yosemite Valley will involve about 3,000 feet gain before you get to a spot you can legally camp. Given your request of "not too strenuous" avoid going up out of the Valley. That said, the day hikes from the Valley are spectacular. Anything you would do from TIoga Road will have snow in mid June. This leaves Glacier Point and Hetch Hetchy.

A scenic one-way mostly downhill overnight would be to take the Panorama trail to Little Yosemite Valley and then the Mist trail or John Muir trail down to the Valley. Little Yosemite Valley is not the most aesthetic camping - too many people, but it is convienient. You can day-hike up Clouds Rest from Little Yosemite. Or you can do the cables on Half Dome.

Another scenic one-way hike from Glacier Point is also mainly downhill- Pohono trail. Instead of taking the last half mile to Wawona Tunnel, turn down the old Glacier Point Road and walk to the Bridalveil parking lot. From here you take the south side trail to to Yosemite Lodge. There is a bus to Glacier Point several times a day from the Lodge and good shuttle bus service within Yosemite Valley.

The best thing with an overnight permit is that it allows you to stay in the backpacker's walk-in campground the night before and the night after your overnight permit date. It is a nice campground, costs $5 per person. That takes care of 3 nights. There are good showers at Curry Village (about $5). So the day before and day after your backpack you could day-hike in the Valley and have a place to stay.

Hetch Hetchy - overnight to Rancheria Falls is nice. Again you also get to stay at any backpackers campground night before and night after your permit date. There is a campground at Hetch Hetchy, one in the Valley and one at Tuolumne Meadows. Definitely take the drive to Tuolumne just for the scenery off the road. Often the Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds are still closed mid-June even if the road is open. There are good car-camping campgrounds both on 120 by Groveland and near Lee Vining . If you go to Tuolmne , then it is a short drop down to Lee Vining. May be good plan for driving out. Take 395 north and then Sonora, Monitor and Carson Pass, or Monitor-Luther-Echo (near Tahoe) back to the west side and SF.

As for motels, they are hard to come by in mid-June without a reservation and very expensive. There are also nice B&B's in the Groveland area (on Hwy 120).

Yosemite Valley in June is spectacular with teh waterfalls. The only down side is the traffic and crowds. But if you use the busses, the traffic is not a problem. Threre is a 12-mile trail around teh valley, some suitable for bicycles too. Actually, the scenery from the roads is just as good as anything you can see backpacking. What you get bakpacking is up and close to the waterfalls and less people.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby BSquared » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:09 pm

...and smile when you call it "Frisco." :D
—B²
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:48 pm

Yes, the permitting is rather more complicated than calculus for a first time Yosemite goer. :(

Rather than struggle with reserving permits, I'd make a list of destinations you want, prioritize it, and go show up at the wilderness office to try for walk in permits, moving down the list until you get the first four permits available. If you show up midweek your chances are pretty darn good for getting one of the first few choices. Another thing people don't consider - if reserved permits aren't picked up by a certain time of the morning the day of, those reserved permits are released for someone else to use!

Awesome scenery overnights I have done:
Ten Lakes - you are enticed to sit on the pass for an hour or so just staring - the panorama is pretty awesome. Then you drop a mile into the basin and pick one of the lakes. The upper lakes in the basin are above the fireline of 9600 feet. Alternate campsites on the south side of the pass at Grant Lakes. This trailhead is not one of those on the corridor to Half Dome, so will not be reserved to capacity most of the time.

Saddlebag Lake loop - this is technically not in Yosemite, but it is the same great scenery, and you go as far as you like. Permitting is not through Yosemite but through Inyo NF, thus infinitely easier.

Lyell Canyon out of Tuolumne Meadows - or Glen Aulin. Either direction on the trail and you are walking along the PCT/JMT and enjoying some awesome scenery. Permitting at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Office, more of a chance of either being unavailable, but I have gotten a permit on a walk in basis before. Going down Lyell you can take a hike down Rafferty Creek or the trail to Vogelsang, and there are a variety of potential campsites that direction.

Clouds Rest - camp near Sunrise Lakes/Creek and summit Clouds - From Cathedral Trailhead or Sunrise Trailhead this is an awesome overnight, with great views from the top of Clouds, especially of Half Dome. Permits for these trailheads can be hard to come by tho.

Another good overnight trek with some views that will most certainly have permits available any time after Glacier Road is cleared - Ostrander Lake. Most of the hike is through meadows and forest, but once you climb the last ridge you start to get views of the back of Half Dome and other peaks local. Good fishing at the lake, and relatively less trampled than anywhere along the trail between Happy Isles and Tioga Rd. This would be an out and back hike of 12 miles round trip.

Then there's North Dome. The dome itself is 8 miles out and back from Porcupine Creek trailhead on Tioga Rd. If you want to camp with a view you may want to stop and tank up a good water supply on the way in. I'd place a decent bet you'd be able to get an overnight permit for it, and it's probably the best close up of Half Dome you'll get in the park.

An oft overlooked corner of Yosemite is accessible from Sierra National Forest - you would stop in Oakhurst at the Bass Lake Ranger Station for permits from the Quartz Mountain trailhead. This is accessed via Sky Ranch Road, and the ranger who gives you the permit can also highlight the route to the trailhead for you. Part of the roads are unpaved but passenger car friendly. 1/4 of a mile from the trailhead you cross a fence and suddenly, you are in Yosemite! follow the trail through forests until you come to a fork, the right hand fork taking you to Chain Lakes, a series of three subalpine lakes tucked away from the crazy crowds, and you just might have the place to yourselves. This is around 8 miles round trip.

None of these will be any problem so far as water sources, but take a filter. Pick up a topo map before you start hiking, ask the ranger for any updates on trail conditions or other concerning issues, and don't forget your bear canister from the approved list!
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby maverick » Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:42 pm

Hi Krism

Welcome to HST!
Most of the places mention are great choices but not in June with above average snow
which means Tioga Road may not be open yet, and a lot of the mention places
are above 9000 ft which means they will have a lot of snow still.
Rancheria Falls is pretty and fine for a 1-2 night trip if you really want to backpack
as is Little Yosemite Valley out of the Valley, but it will be full since the high
country will still have several feet of snow and this is the closest and easiest
backpackers campground to reach so getting a permit will be almost impossible
unless you pick one up the day of your hike (get there before the permit office
opens since they have a quota), plus there is not a lot to see in LYV unless your
planning to hike to Half Dome or Clouds Rest from there.
I would really recommend that you see if you can get a reservation for one of the
campgrounds or even Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, and do some day hikes from there.
If you cannot get a reservation on-line for the dates you want there is Camp 4 which
is first come first serve climbers campground, but you have to be there early in the
morning to get a spot (you will have a better chance during the mid week).
The waterfalls will be spectacular, and if you get up at sunrise you can have the Valley
to yourself since most folks don't start getting up till 8 am or later.
You 1-2 night limit for backpacking and in June makes the choices limited, but if you all
have never been to Yosemite Valley before then your choice is easy, if you can get
a place to stay.
All that said, if Tioga Road is open, than hiking down to the campsite above Waterwheel
Falls out of Tuolumne Meadow would be a beautiful trip and the best time to see WWF
LeConte Falls, and Tuolumne Falls.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby sparky » Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:52 pm

BSquared wrote:...and smile when you call it "Frisco." :D


Lmao GREAT advice :p
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby tim » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:43 pm

If you're looking for a mid June trip, then I think (especially in a high snow year) Rancheria Falls would be hard to beat. I did this with my 9 yr old twins in mid June last year:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5136

My recommendation would be to stay for 2 nights at Rancheria Falls and do a day hike to LeConte Point - its very easy and has spectacular views. I would recommend getting a permit now - its very straightforward to call them up and get it reserved, and there is availability every day except May 28 at the moment, see http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm for more details.

100_1370.jpg
View from LeConte Point
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:35 am

Are you confused yet ? So much advice....
I would say that if you have never been to Yosemite, you should do the "biggies". For accommodations, I would echo Maverick's advice and say stay in the valley, either in one of the camps or Curry Village. In June, especially this year (heavy snow) the falls in the valley will be spectacular. Spend at least a day in the valley, walk to Yosemite falls, hike up to Nevada falls. Take another day hike to Half Dome (permit required). Take a day trip up to the big trees in the Mariposa Grove (Wawona area). Also take a drive up to Glacier point, with a side trip hike to Taft point.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:12 am

I assumed that with 6 days but only doing an overnight backpack they would hit all the tourist stuff too.

One other thing - do not ever bathe or launder with soap or do dishes in streams or lakes!! Take water at least 100 feet from the source to wash up with biodegradable! soap. Do not be one of those people who is responsible for the atrocity of finding leftover food debris in alpine lakes - I have been on the verge of racing over and smacking people with a stick for that. We (my hiking group) have a fourth of July overnight every year at the same lake in Yosemite, and I saw the same pasta the following year - it doesn't go anywhere, doesn't get eaten, just sits there - yuck. We waded out and fished it out and packed it out because some lazy jerk left it in our favorite cove.

Fair warning - if you are out scraping cooked-on oatmeal into the creek and some middle aged lady comes over and starts screaming incoherently, it's probably me, driven to crazy by the endless examples of people using what were pristine water sources for a kitchen sink!

A friend used her bear canister for a washing machine - you can get a pretty good game of soccer out of it, and fairly soapy clothes. Took a couple more rounds to get them rinsed completely. Can only do this during the day with someone to sit with the food.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:47 am

I think it is still a bit early to predict a big snow year even with current conditions. I generally wait until May 1 to make firm plans for a trip. I would not be surprised to find the Tioga Pass Road open by Mid June regardless of the amount of snow this year. That said a great and easy over nighter with spectacular view is to hike from White Wolf down toward Pate Valley but stopping just before the trail crosses Morrison creek. Actually there is another pretty nice site a few hundred feet higher that would lessen the amount of elevation gain required on the hike out. This is not a "High Sierra" trip but if the road is open is a good, relatively low elevation alternative. The view from the site I described is similar to the one in Tim's photo but the hiking distance is much shorter and the hiking temps will be much cooler.

You can't go wrong anyplace in Yosemite, though. All the advice/suggestions given is good!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:46 am

I will second the goal of seeing the "biggies". My philosophy when I go to Yosemite in early June is to simply put up with the tourists and see the spectacular sights. You do not go to Yosemite for isolated wilderness backpacking; you go to Yosemite for the waterfalls and spectacular cliffs. I can have woodsy solitude anywhere. I think people who have never seen Yosemite, who are from far away, and who may never get a chance to see it again, make a bit mistake skirting around the edges just to avoid people.

Camp4 is often full. It is also a shared site campground and the climber's campground. It can be quite boisturous and crowded and is very international. Some find it a unique and positve experience, others are really put off. You will not have privacy. If you mingle well with people, it can be a lot of fun. The backpackers campsite is a lot more mellow, less crowded and off in a nice little nook away from crowds. What you need to legally camp in the backpacker's campground is a backpack permit. Whether you actually use that permit is up to you.

A trip to Waterwheel Falls in mid-June this year will be very wet. The falls will be spectacular but you likely will have to wade through much knee to thigh deep ice cold water as the valley above the falls often is flooded. A trip from White Wolf down the trail towards Pate Valley is less spectacular for the same effort than the Snow Creek Trail. Yes, Snow Creek trail has a lot of switchbacks to get to the rim but you can go slow and the view of Half Dome is great all the way up. Once you reach the buttress on top there is wonderful camping on the sandy flat about a quarter mile off the trail. The Snow Creek trail is not crowded once past Mirror Lake. I have never had trouble gettiing a permit for Snow Creek trail.

Be aware that when you get your permit, some rangers will propose some trails that are really not worth the effort. You really need to pick up a good guidebook and read about the trails. I like "Yosemite National Park; a Natural Hisory Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails" by Jeffery Schaffer. It is an older guide but has good difficulty and scenic ratings for the trails, as well as lots of information about flora, fauna and geology. I have the 1994 version. I do not know if there has been a more recent update.
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Re: Another newbie looking for guidance...

Postby krism » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:38 am

Thanks so much guys/girls for the quick replies. First of all, I would never mess with the wilderness/polute things in a way that was against regulations. But boy o boy, California seems to take that stuff pretty seriously compared to a lot of places (understandable due to higher population densities).
Keep the replies coming!
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