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June or September?

Travelling to and visiting Yosemite National Park. How to get there, what to see or do, and other Yosemite trip advice.

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June or September?

Postby gtpoohbear » Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:13 am

(Posted this on another board as well, sorry if you frequent both and are seeing it twice!)

I am trying to plan a trip to Yosemite for next year (2012) and am hoping someone here can give me some advice. I am a major planner when it comes to vacations, and depending on when we go, the window for reservations could be opening up very soon, so I need to get this worked out!

A little info...We are a family of 4 (kids will be 1/2 and 8/9 depending on when we go). We all enjoy hiking, and that is the main reason we want to go. My husband is planning to do a 1 or 2 night backpacking trip with my daughter while we are there (she is an experienced backpacker and can hike about 9 miles now on moderate terrain, probably more by the time we go) Other than that, we will probably stick to short, relatively easy hikes as we will have the little one with us. Though my husband might take off for a day on his own to to half-dome. We will stay inside the park, probably at Yosemite Lodge or maybe a cabin at Curry Village. We homeschool, so are not limited to school schedules as to when we can go. That is where we are having trouble though. One of our main priorities is to avoid the heavily crowded times, as we find that very stressful. But we also want to be able to do some hiking.

So we were initially thinking late September. Everything would be open, it would still be warm, and the crowds should have lessened. I know the waterfalls will be mostly gone, but we can live with that. However, from doing some research, it seems that September is a prime month for prescribed burns, and possibly natural fires as well in the park, both of which create a lot of smoke. Or so I have read. Both my husband and daughter are pretty sensitive to smoke, and I'm afraid that will be a real bummer if it is going on while we are there. Has anyone been there during this time? Is the smoke really bad????

The other time we were considering was late May or early June. But what are hiking conditions like then? Will most trails still be snowpacked? We have Kahtoola microspikes, so we could deal with some icy trails but I don't want to be wading through tons of snow all the time. And will there be any options for a short backpacking trip? (They wouldn't need a ton of options since they are only doing one short trip anyway.) And what are the crowds like the first couple weeks of June? I am assuming it is more crowded than late September, but is it enough to be a hassle?

I'm afraid July and August would be miserably crowded, and October might be getting too cold for backpacking, so I'm not sure what else to do. I know there isn't a "perfect" time, but want to have as much info as I can before we decide. If we were to decide on May or June, I need to be ready to make reservations in just a few weeks. If anyone can give me any feedback or suggestions I would much appreciate it!

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Postby AlmostThere » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:24 pm

If you want to backpack anywhere you like, and be assured stream crossings (if any on your route) will be manageable by all, and not have snow, September is better.

If you want raging waterfalls and day hikes, and are willing to take the chance that Tioga/Glacier rd is/are not open, and are okay with mosquitos, June is okay... you won't have a guarantee since there is no way to predict what kind of snow year it will be.

Remember that dayhiking Half Dome you need a permit - they are available 5 months in advance through recreation.gov, tho if you don't get a permit, you can still go all the way to the foot of the cables without one.

Since little kids can have big reactions to mosquito bites, and you may not want to dose them with DEET, I'd pick September.

There are no short easy backpacking trips out of the valley - all involve some elevation gain and climbing. Look on the Yosemite website on the trailheads/wilderness permitting page and note that most trailheads require you to be 4 or 2 miles from the trailhead, and Happy Isles requires 8 miles. The easiest backpacks are from Tioga Rd - May Lake, Polly Dome Lakes, Lyell Canyon, all great for kids who want to do some easy hiking without 2,000+ feet of gain. So for this facet of planning, again, september would be easiest, if you want to backpack.
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