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[Yosemite]

4-5 day backpacking trip

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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4-5 day backpacking trip

Postby erincp » Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:44 pm

Hi,

I'm looking for advice on a backpacking route that's approximately 4-5 days in length for a few friends and I in mid June. Our rough idea is to backpack for several days, potentially a trail that includes Half Dome, and then spend a few days camping and doing day hikes, maybe kayaking on Mono Lake.

Any suggestions for a trail of that length in June? I'm looking for something away from crowds and that really shows off the views of Yosemite. (This will be everyone's first time at the park.) I want to cover a good amount of distance without rushing, so I'm ball parking that we'll hike about 10 miles per day on average, depending on terrain.

Also, should the wilderness permit include the time that we'll be in the park after our backpacking trip? I assume so, for flexibility if nothing else. I also read on another post in this forum that permits have to be picked up by 10am the day that your trip starts. Can you get this the day before and camp at a campground that first day? What's the latest for permit pick up? We're expecting to get into the park around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and had intended to start hiking ASAP, but it sounds like maybe that's not an option.

Thanks for any suggestions and tips!
erincp
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Re: 4-5 day backpacking trip

Postby balzaccom » Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:17 am

Hi Erincp

A few thoughts:

Depending on the weather, June can be either warm, sunny and dry, or snowy and slush. It all depends on what happens over the next seven months...and a foot of snow on the ground will obliterate just about all traces of a trail you might want to follow. Most of Yosemite outside of the valley itself is over 7,500 feet.

If we get the predicted El Nino big wet winter, then you could be in for snow levels at 7,500 feet or so---and that includes the top of Half Dome. If that's the case, they won't let you climb it. On the other hand, in most years they open it up around mid to late May...just saying it would be a good idea to keep your options open.

A couple of loop ideas that might work for you:

1. Take the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles to Tuolumne Meadows, then hike back down to Happy Isles through Rafferty Creek, Tuolumne Pass, and Fletcher or Lewis Creeks.

2. For far fewer people, take Mono Meadows to Red Peak Pass, then go down the Merced to Nevada Falls, and across the Panorama Trail and back up to Mono Meadows (or Glacier Point)

3. Another option is to start at Tuolumne Meadows (if the road is open!) and hike the loop mentioned in #1, without Happy Isles: Rafferty Creek to Little Yosemite Valley, then back up past Half Dome and Cathedral Lakes back to Tuolumne Meadows.

4. Go off the grid a bit: Hike past Glen Aulin on the first day from Tuolumne Meadows. From their hike up Cold Canyon to Virginia Canyon or McCabe Lakes. Hike cross country by contouring past Roosevelt Lake to Young Lakes. And then back to Tuolumne Meadows. You won't see many people on that route.

Bear in mind that the number of people you will see in the back country is directly related to two things: How close you are to the John Muir Trail and Half Dome, and then how close you are to a trailhead and on a trail. On a trail and one day in from a trailhead, and you will have lots of company. Off trail, or two days in, and the number of people you will see will drop by about 80%. And that is also true of the availability of permits. Avoid the busiest trailheads, and you should be able to get a permit.

Wilderness permits allow you to spend one day BEFORE and one day AFTER the dates on your permit in a backpackers' campground. There is one in Tuolumne Meadows, and another in the Valley. If you want to spend additional time sightseeing in the park, you can usually find a campsite if you start looking early in the morning for a first-come/first serve sight in some of the regular campgrounds. That's easiest to do if you spend the night before in a backpackers campground. So:

1. Reserve your wilderness permit in advance.
2. Arrive in the park early the day before your permit starts, and pick it up at a wilderness office.
3. Set up camp in a backpackers' campground and enjoy the day sightseeing in Yosemite.
4. Start your backpacking trip with your permit on the date specified.
5. End your trip on the day specified....and spend that night in a backpackers' campground.
6. Get up early the next and prowl the regular campgrounds looking for someone who is packing up. Reserve their space and you're good to go.

There are fabulous hikes in Yosemite that don't involved Half Dome or the John Muir Trail. If you want a true wilderness experience, you'll have to go where other people don't go. We have a long list of backpacking trips on our website.
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
balzaccom
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Re: 4-5 day backpacking trip

Postby Phil » Tue Nov 17, 2015 6:23 pm

Balzaccom hit all the right points, Except, and aside from weather and snow pack, this is going to be the biggest consideration for anytime in June and into July: mosquitoes that are going to be insane like you've never imagined swarming insects could be. They're going to follow closely behind that snow melt and be voracious. Probably 7000-9000+ feet is going to be prime time, and they will not stop until it either rains, it's well past dark, or you head into your tents to escape them. I hate to be so dire, but, assuming you're not going the live behind a face net every moment you're out, the corners of your eyes will be bleeding before you can apply enough DEET to even begin to stop the onslought. If you're hardcore enough, it is doable though...just not very pleasant. This is the entire reason why most people that know the park don't go up to higher elevations yet in June. Snow is easy by comparison.

But, if Tioga Rd is open and the snow pack cooperates to where you're not having to post hole every step or carry snowshoes, Lyell Canyon to Vogelsang, then up to Red Peak Pass and the south end of the park would give you guys a trip to remember. You'll have incredible views and won't see many people at all. If the trails up that high are still impassable and Tioga Rd is indeed open, head out from Tuolumne Meadows toward Glen Aulin, then on to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and Pate Valley, maybe doubling back or exiting White Wolf and shuttling or using a second car to get back to where you started. Even at lower elevations, the views are awe inspiring, and the falls along the river in that area are world-class and at about peak flow that time of year.
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Re: 4-5 day backpacking trip

Postby erincp » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:42 am

Thanks so much for the suggestions! I really appreciate the tips.

Is there a specific map that you'd recommend to review the routes and figure out total mileage?

So the mosquitoes will calm down later into July and August?
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Re: 4-5 day backpacking trip

Postby Phil » Thu Nov 19, 2015 3:31 pm

Yes, later in July and August are the best times to go in order to avoid the mosquitoes. I'll say this though, even though that mid-June time period has its issues with bugs and snow at higher elevations, if you can stay at or move quickly into lower elevations such as the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, the trade-off is spectacular waterfalls. If you're not traveling across the country or world and in California or close by, it's worth planning two trips; one lower and earlier in the season for the water (maybe even by car through Yosemite Valley), and a second for the higher altitudes.

IMO, the best general topo map for the majority of the park that shows elevations of trailheads/junctions, as well as mileages between them, is the 1:63,360 scale "Yosemite High Country" made by Tom Harrison Maps. It's waterproof, and you can find it easily just about anywhere online and at most REI's for about $11. It'll give you a really good sense of things in planning and is indispensable for the trail.

We should all get a better idea of what to expect by late April or early May.
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