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Overnight in late June

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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby TommyD » Fri Mar 28, 2014 5:43 am

It doesn't take 5 hours to get to Yosemite Valley from SF. It's more like 3.5. I'm actually about to do it tomorrow morning! Also, driving to the Agnew trailhead is impossible unless you arrive in Mammoth the day before---you have to pick up a permit from the ranger and they open later than the road closes. As far as what's the best route to hike, it kinda depends on what you like. The River Trail in the valley there is heavily forested and monotonous while the High Trail is exposed, out in the open, with major megaviews the whole way basically (can you tell what I like? )

Depending on exactly how many days you have, I'd suggest something like what's been suggested before:

Day 1: Leave SF as early as possible. If you leave by 6am or so, you'll be in Yosemite by 10am latest. (You're headed opposite of commute traffic. Yay!) I'd head in via the 140 and check out the Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point before driving down into the valley. Drive around the valley with one million billion other people who booked their trips five months ago and are super bummed about the small waterfalls this year due to 30% of average snowpack. Don't bother hiking anywhere, but do see what you can see from the valley and pullouts. Around 4pm, head out of the valley and drive along Tioga Road to the east. This will give you enough light to see some stuff as you drive east. Head to Mammoth Lakes and camp in one of the Shady Rest campgrounds.

Day 2: Pick up your permit from the ranger in the morning and take the shuttle to the Agnew trailhead. Hike the High Trail in to Thousand Island lake. Camp. The sunrise and sunsets at Thousand Island are super nice. Then hike out however you want. If start early and take the JMT to Shadow Lake to the River trail to Agnew (about 8-9 miles), I think you can be back at your car in time to get a couple hours of driving in before shacking up at a motel in BFE.

Day 3: Drive to Zion. You can probably be there by early afternoon, so you have time to check some stuff out around the canyon and sign up for everything for the Narrows trip the next day. It's an amazing, truly unique, experience. I did it as an overnight 8 or so years back. Backpacking up the West Rim trail is super rad also.


This is great info, especially about what kind of scenery we should expect along the High Trail and River Trail. Do you know if the JMT in that area is more similar to the High Trail (exposed) or River Trail (forested)? I do want to use the JMT either going in or coming out, so I'd probably decide on either the High Trail or River Trail based on what was going to give us the most diverse experience.



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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby papercup » Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:53 am

The JMT in that area is very nice. While there are a few forested stretches, you will have some parts with great views, and you will pass by at least four truly stunning lakes. Definitely worth it.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Tom_H » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:54 am

maiathebee wrote:It doesn't take 5 hours to get to Yosemite Valley from SF. It's more like 3.5.


At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning in a Mazeratti loaded with radar detection? :littledevil: It's been awhile since I lived in the bay, but that's what it used to take on average, depending on traffic. As I think about it, there is the new bridge. From Marin, the east end of the Richmond bridge isn't the nightmare it used to be. There is a new tunnel at Caldecot. The intersection crossing 99 used to be awful. Sometimes the traffic climbing up to the valley was a crawl. Maybe all these changes have chopped off that much time. I know I would never have planned on making it in 3.5 hours when I lived there.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:26 am

In the last few years, they have reduced the speed limit on 120 after Groveland - used to be 65, now is 55. They also reduced speed limit in Yosemite - now 45 with a LOT of 25 zones. You may be able to get to the Yosemite border in much less than 5 hours, but getting to the Valley is now slower. The big factor is getting stuck behind an RV. Happens all the time. If you go Hwy 120, take the Old Priest Grade instead of the new highway. You will save about 20 minutes because RV's cannot use that road. If you are leaving the bay area after 3PM, it will be VERY slow. Better to leave 7-8 PM or later. Friday is the worst day to try to get out. I would plan for 5 hours and consider yourself lucky if you do it in less time.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Tom_H » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:58 am

It's also worth remembering that there are a fair number of interchanges on multi-lane freeways. Someone not familiar with the route can take a wrong exit and easily get behind schedule by the time (s)he is back on the right road. You have to be very observant through these interchanges if you aren't already familiar with them.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:53 am

Here is a case, that even if I did not use a GPS backpacking, I would be sure to have a GPS for the car. Even my husband, who is directionally challenged and hardly can read a map can follow "Jill's instruction!
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby tim » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:18 am

Just one addition if you do go to Agnew Meadows. Book the permit online at recreation.gov.
Also phone up the day before and ask the rangers to put it in the night box (allowed since you are not going into YNP). Collect it the evening you arrive in Mammoth then drive down to Agnew Meadows before 7am. You can get a cooked breakfast at Reds Meadow before you start hiking.
That way you can avoid taking the shuttle which will add a bunch of hassle, especially on the way out when many shuttles are full by the time they reach Agnew Meadows on weekend afternoons. Assuming you have a national parks pass you just show that on the way out and you avoid the shuttle fee as well.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby maiathebee » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:27 pm

fwiw I just drove from downtown Oakland to Yosemite and back this weekend. Friday morning we left at 6:15am and we were at the day use parking lot in the valley at 10:10am. We also stopped for gas and to take photos on the way down into the valley. We caught the valley shuttle and were on the trail to upper Yosemite Falls at 10:40am. On our way out today, we left the Mariposa Grove at 3:15pm and were eating pho down the street from my place in Oakland at 7pm. We even made a wrong turn and got stuck in horrendous traffic in Livermore. Add 15 minutes for crossing to the bridge from SF and you're still on the trail in under 5 hours.
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby Pietro257 » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:52 am

My two cents worth:

If you're going to Thousand Island Lake, see if you can take the River Trail. This trail follows a creek most of the way and is much cooler than the High Trail, which is exposed to full-bore sunshine and can get very hot in the summer.

Why your interest in the JMT? This trail is crowded! Garnet Lake on the JMT is well worth looking at, but I don't know about the rest of it. If wilderness solitude appeals to you, consider waking up early at Thousand Island Lake and taking a day hike to North Glacier Pass. Since you and your wife are in good shape, you could do it, and if you can't make it, so what. Just turn around and walk back. The cross-country route is easy to follow. The pass is about two hours from Thousand Island Lake without a backpack. At the top, you'll get a glimpse of real High Sierra back-country raw wilderness: Lake Catherine and the backside of Banner Peak.

The following photos show the view of Thousand Island Lake from near the top of North Glacier Pass (there won't be anywhere near this amount of snow in 2014) and Lake Catherine and Banner Peak (there won't be any ice on Lake Catherine).

View of Thousand Island from No Glacier.png


Banner and Lake Catherine.png
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Re: Overnight in late June

Postby oleander » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:05 pm

maiathebee has the perfect plan for you.

My only modifications would be to (a) leave the Bay Area at 5 a.m.; (b) be done with Yosemite Valley earlier than 4 p.m., maybe 2 or 3. (You probably won't have time to drive up to Glacier Point; it will just add to your very long driving day and traffic craziness; just do Yosemite Valley and that'll give you more time to actually get out of the car and walk around.)

That afternoon you could drive all the way to Mammoth and camp there, as suggested. Or you could camp at Tioga Pass, just beyond the Yosemite border. There are several little campgrounds there, Tioga Lake and Emery Lake, that are first-come, first-serve. Even on summer weekends, it is usually possible to snag one if you are there by 5 p.m. The advantage of staying up at Tioga Pass is you'll get altitude-adjusted for the day following. It's at 10,000 feet.

I have done all versions of Agnew to Thousand Island over the years. My favorite TRAILED version is to take the High Trail out and the JMT back. (The JMT is the hardest of the three trails, with more ups-and-downs, so save it for the return day.)

You don't mention whether you are experienced in off-trail hiking. If you are, there is a modification to the JMT that I greatly prefer over the JMT itself. From the northeast end of Thousand Island Lake, where all the camping is, walk along the north side of the lake, then head southbound along its west side, over a little saddle into a basin that is due west of Garnet Lake and that has its own little unnamed lake. From that lake, swing around the north side of Garnet Lake to re-join the JMT. This detour is not difficult if you have x-country navigation experience - it's all Class 1, if I remember - but it WILL add a lot of time. So get an early start if you do this.

Another detour from the JMT, if you have a little time, but prefer not to go x-country, is to visit Ediza Lake. It's as spectacular as Thousand Island, maybe more so.

Surprised no one has mentioned this potential snag in your plan: The Agnew Meadows trailheads (High, Shadow, and River trails) often get reserved up months in advance. (See recreation.gov and do a search for Inyo National Forest, wilderness permits.) And if you're arriving on a summer weekend, you are not guaranteed to get a walk-in permit, especially as they are released the day prior, at 11 a.m.

Twenty Lakes Basin, accessed from Saddlebag Lake at Tioga Pass, would be the more easily accessed alternative if all the Agnew Meadows trailheads are reserved up, and/or if you just want to save the driving time and hassle associated with doing a trip into the Mammoth area. The Twenty Lakes Basin trailhead starts outside of Yosemite so there is no limiting quota; I'd recommend getting that permit from the ranger station at Tuolumne Meadows as you are driving through there. The campgrounds I mentioned at the top of Tioga Pass are the perfect staging areas for a hike into this basin.

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