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[Yosemite]

Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

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

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Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby MatrixHiker614 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Hey y'all,

I'm making plans to visit Yosemite for 5 days next summer. Planning to be there around June for my birthday. I'd like to be as secluded as possible, but also would like any trails that include Half Dome. I'm a fairly experienced backpacker, but have never stepped foot in Yosemite, so I'd like to see as much as possible while I'm there. Does anyone know if you can make changes to Wilderness & Half Dome Permits once they are submitted? I have a buddy who wants to go, but isn't 100% sure yet if his schedule will allow it. I've seen some posts about a 60-65 mile southern loop that starts at Sunrise Lakes and finishes at Rafferty Creek/Lyell Canyon?

Also, if I am there in mid-June, how much snow am I likely to encounter? I've hiked in snow before, but I'm from Alabama so I feel like a fish out of water.

Thanks for any suggestions!
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby Phil » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:03 pm

Howdy,

You're likely to run into a lot of snow at altitude in June...and mosquitoes, and high water. Dependent on snowfall and plowing schedules, you might also have some issues with Tioga Rd not being open yet, and therefore, trailhead access along it. It's really something you need to stay on top of as spring approaches in order to see where things are and your plans fitting into it.

Unfortunately, advance reservations are written in stone. You can abandon your reservation by not picking your permits up in time, waiving the fee, but you'll need to start the process all over again or have to rely on getting a new one on a walk-up basis. All depending on the weather, that time of year still isn't too much of an issue though...usually.

Leaving from Sunrise is an option, but you're going to have to cross Tenaya Creek to do it. Snow or not higher up, that can be problematic with the creek level and the ford you're going to have to make to cross. It'll be deep enough and at its fastest around then. In other words, potentially dangerous enough to where you'll at least think twice about it. You're probably better off planning your entry from one of the trailheads in Yosemite Valley such as Happy Isles, Snow Creek, or the Falls Trail. Once you get out of the Valley, any of these trails will quickly step you up to around 7000+ feet, and you can branch out as time and conditions permit. For Half Dome and pretty much all of the high country, you're going to hit the JMT (John Muir Trail) and either hike that through to Tuolumne Meadows (3-4 days, classic and popular though) or see what works and where you want to go from there.

If you have a map, familiarize yourself with the trail networks, terrain and altitudes. It's a lot, but getting there all depends on what's yet to come. Have an ideal route, but keep a lower altitude Plan B in the back of your mind. Once you do that, you'll have no shortage of suggestions for specifics.
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby MatrixHiker614 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:51 pm

Thanks, Phil!

I will definitely keep a close eye on the snowfall in the coming months. Appreciate your help!
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby balzaccom » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:10 pm

Phil's correct--we've taken hikes in June that were a piece of cake (including this June!) but we've also known the Tioga Road to be closed until late June--and surrounded by deep snow.

Each year is different...but there are always options. Check out the destinations on our website--we have some early season hikes that might work for you, since they are at lower elevations.

And speaking of elevation, if you're from Alabama, 7,000 feet is going to be a whole new experience, let along 10,000 feet!
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:57 am

MatrixHiker614 wrote:I'd like to be as secluded as possible, but also would like any trails that include Half Dome.


Mutually exclusive, and no guarantee the cables will be up, as no real indicator of when spring will come - but I suspect it will be possible to see the cables go up in late May if the snow melts faster/we get less than normal snow levels.

Seclusion would mean going anywhere else in the park, more than a day from Half Dome or Tuolumne Meadows. The northern part of the park would be stunning. Hetch Hetchy out to Jack Main would be more seclusion, plenty of scenery, and plenty of fishing.


MatrixHiker614 wrote:I'm a fairly experienced backpacker, but have never stepped foot in Yosemite, so I'd like to see as much as possible while I'm there. Does anyone know if you can make changes to Wilderness & Half Dome Permits once they are submitted?


You can only add people to your permit if any spaces on the trailhead are available. Your wilderness permit IS your Half Dome permit, if you are backpacking - there is a box to check, and no guarantee you will be able to do it. You can't change the date but might be able to change trailheads IF there is space available on the new trailhead. Quotas are strict and you must start on the day you are scheduled to start - not earlier, not later. If you have a popular trailhead, good luck adding people -- competition is pretty fierce. Lines form in the morning and wait for hours in Tuolumne and in the Valley at the wilderness offices.

To see as much as possible of the classic Yosemite -- don't backpack. Spend a few days day hiking out of the valley. Spend a few days day hiking from Tioga Road. Drive over to Hetch Hetchy and day hike to the falls. The majority of the BIG NAME views are not easily strung together in a backpack trip.

Clouds Rest, IMO (and many other's opinions) is far superior to Half Dome, as are some of the other places one can find to go without permit hassles. North Dome is camp-able as well as easier to hike to, and far less crowded. The best views in the park are OF Half Dome, not necessarily from it.
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby MatrixHiker614 » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:49 am

Thanks for all the feedback. I guess after reading all the responses, my next questions should be this: If I have 5 days to spend in Yosemite, how would my time be best spent? After more reading and thinking it over, I'm not really willing to spend a major portion of my time fighting crowds and would much rather enjoy a true backcountry experience.
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby Phil » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:07 am

Still during June though? If that's still the plan, your options are going to be limited, but, for a less crowded, more isolated wilderness experience, I would recommend either the trails in the far north of the park or an entry from Wawona (Chilnualna Falls) in the southern part of the park. As we've all mentioned, getting out of the core of activity like the JMT, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, and the High Sierra camps loop is the key.

From Chilnualna, you can head up to Merced Pass, Ottoway Lakes, Red Peak....In this part of the park you can loop around endlessly and exit where you started, or you can exit out back into Yosemite Valley via Merced Lake and pick up some of the sights like Half Dome, Cloud's Rest, etc, on the way out, then shuttle back to Wawona and the car. High altitudes and lots of climbing though. And again, you'll be shut out if the snowpack is deep, not to mention that early in the season, being the Pacific Crest and where fronts collide, this is where the storm systems really form up significantly, so full rain gear is a must.

Another thought would be Ten Lakes. Five days with full day's hiking would be hard to pull off, but if you go up and set up a base camp, there's lots of day hiking to some of the more remote lakes. Depending on weather and conditions, you might see a few more people, but usually nowhere near the numbers you'll run into on the JMT, and it's an incredibly scenic area.

The north is it's own animal. You need to really be committed, plan your route carefully to have it make sense and not go miles out of your way if backtracking isn't an option, and reasonably expect that the best way is more often than not going to be at least some cross country. In other words, it's a good place to go only if your wilderness skills are solid.

And last but not least, Balzaccom is absolutely right in pointing out that Alabama is not 10,000 feet above sea level. Don't take the need to acclimatize to the altitudes you plan on being at lightly if you plan on enjoying your trip.
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:42 am

For a true backcountry experience, I go to Sequoia/Kings Canyon NPs or the national forest wildernesses. Not Yosemite. And I stay away from the Rae Lakes Loop or the High Sierra Trail. If a trail shows up in a bucket list or guide book, I look for other trails if solitary hiking is more my goal. Yosemite by default is not the place to be to avoid people.

If you would like to get away from crowds, see the Sierra high country, etc... rent a big light bear canister from Wild Ideas (online, by mail) and load it up with your food, get a permit from one of the trailheads (from the Sierra National Forest offices) up highway 168 (Edison over Silver or Goodale Pass, for example, though that's touching on the JMT - or Maxson trailhead out of Courtright Reservoir) and go out for a loop.

The odds are great if you are anywhere near the JMT, you will see one person after the next, but anywhere else in the Ansel Adams or John Muir wildernesses more than a day's hiking from the trailhead, you will see a couple people at most for most of the week.

The scenery of the front country in Yosemite is worth the crowds - at least once. You will be missing out if you don't see it. For a backcountry Sierra experience, though, it's not really where I'd go. A loop from Ansel Adams into the park will be more likely the thing -- say, heading up from the Clover Meadow trailhead through the niche to Cora Lakes and beyond, crossing into Yosemite and heading round Red Peak Pass then back, will get you more solitude and less permitting headaches than anything permitted through the park. Going from the Fernandez trailhead through Liliian/Lady Lakes then up Isberg Pass into the park would be absolutely splendid hiking, classic Sierra scenery -- if the snow levels are such that getting into the trailheads on those roads would be possible that early. And, you need a good rough road car -- either high clearance or skill in getting low clearance cars in places where people with trucks get nervous.

As much as I love Yosemite, as beautiful as it is, any time someone says 'true backcountry experience' it is the last place that I think to send them. For me, rarely-used trails in faraway places where the yellow columbines flourish in granite and pika yell at me and we see wildlife only briefly before it runs away is true backcountry. Tame herds of deer that walk within four feet of you, bears that walk away when you yell at them and return an hour later in hopes that you've left out a sandwich, chipmunks that sit on your foot and unprepared people who ask for directions because they managed to hike out to a backcountry lake and can't remember what trail they came in on, that's been a Yosemite experience for me. I did 8 and a half days from Florence Lake (along the JMT, one of the resupply points) to Courtright - the first two days were on the JMT. We left it and saw one person with a dog for the entire rest of the trip, wandering over trails that were falling into such disuse that sometimes we had to look around for it. It was fabulous -- quiet -- beautiful -- most of all, without people around, peaceful for just the three of us. We did not want to come out at all. But, we had a ride coming to pick us up, and I was nearly out of food... one of the best trips ever, and not possible in the parks. And I walked in and got the permit for free, no reservation.

Go to Yosemite, hike a five day out of Hetch Hetchy -- that's about as untrammeled as Yosemite will get. People will be thronging to hike the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, the JMT from Tuolumne Meadows, the area around Half Dome and Clouds Rest. They will be hammering the phones and fax machines to get permits from Happy Isles, Glacier Point and Mono Meadow. The one-nighters will occupy Ten Lakes, Young Lakes, Saddlebag Lakes (just outside the park on Tioga but no quotas and pretty much the fallback for all the people who are unable to get permits out of Tuolumne Meadows). A loop over Red Peak Pass and back down would be good as well, but your first couple of days will be quite busy with day hikers then with people doing the High Sierra Camp loop (tent cabins and showers make that accessible to the non-backpacking crowd).
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Re: Yosemite in June: Suggestions Needed

Postby balzaccom » Tue Dec 01, 2015 12:06 pm

As stated here before, it will all depend on snow levels. This year we did hikes in the High Country in Yosemite in APRIL and didn't see any snow at over 8,500 feet. But that was during our worst drought in the last four years of drought. We've also seen it snowing at 5,000 in mid-June. So you do just have to play it by ear.

If it were me, and I had five days to see some great part of the Sierra, I would do the following:

2 days in Yosemite Valley and the front country to see the waterfalls, which will be booming that time of year. Hike up the Merced to see Vernal and Nevada Falls (11 miles r/t). Drive to Glacier Point of the stunning view, hike out to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point 4 miles (r/t) and Wawona to see the Giant Sequoia (6 miles r/t) That's a full two days. If you have extra time wander out along the trails into the meadows on the valley floor--where you'll be amazed at how much solitude there is in such a crowded place. Or take a cross-country route up to the base of Illilouette or Ribbon Falls for an adventure.

If the snow levels allow it, spend the next day hiking out of Tuolumne Meadows: Gaylor Lakes, Lembert and Pothole Domes.

Take a two-day backpacking trip cross country to either Nelson Lake or Echo Lake---trail quota is six per day, so you won't see many people. But you'd better know how to navigate on these. If not, stay with dayhiking to Cathedral Lakes, Lyell Valley, Young Lakes, or Rafferty Creek for bigger views. Even if you don't make it to Young Lakes, the trail across from Dog Lake to Young Lakes is stunning...

Again, on our website we have lots of tips on how to have fun in Yosemite and not stand in lines all day long...
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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