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[Yosemite]

Yosemite in Late May

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

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Yosemite in Late May

Postby ohiohiker2016 » Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:45 pm

Hello everyone and thank you for your time. I am planning on a trip to Yosemite Around the 20th of May with a number of friends. We will be coming in from San Francisco via a train to Merced, then riding the YARTS buses from there. We are currently planning on somewhere between 5-7 days backpacking in Yosemite and despite some initial research am at a loss for where to start planning this trip, mostly due to the following questions:

1) I understand that most of the snow will be melted below 7,000 feet but maybe not so above. We will most likely want to avoid snow as much as possible. Will this seriously debilitate the prospects of a multi-day hike and seeing the full beauty of Yosemite?

2) We will most likely try to hike 10-12 a day. Within the days we are there will we be able to see everything that you all would recommend (Half dome, Yosemite falls, etc?)?

3) Will hammock camping be a viable option at higher elevations?

Any help, suggestions for routes, and places to see are helpful! Thanks!
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Re: Yosemite in Late May

Postby Phil » Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:47 pm

Avoiding snow in May at any of the higher elevations isn't going to happen, and most of the high country is well above 8000-9000 feet. You'll also be incredibly limited in your available trails- Tioga Rd, and maybe even Glacier Point Rd, may or may not even be plowed and open yet, thereby preventing you from easily getting to the majority of the trails that those roads give you reliable access to. There's also a chance that the cables might not be installed yet on Half Dome, so no access to the summit there either. All the trails available to you will have to originate in Yosemite Valley, or maybe around Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, although your mileage is going to be severely curtailed beyond either as the elevation rises fairly quickly from there and you'll be in snowpack within not too many miles of the trailhead. So yeah, if you want to see all the beauty of Yosemite, without the willingness to do some winter travel and all that goes along with it, you're going to miss out due to access issues. You might be able to climb the Falls Trail and explore the North Rim of the Valley, but that 10-12 miles per day is going to let you cover it in no more than a couple/few days, at most. We've got a lot of snowpack for a change this year, so planning reliably is going to be tough.

Obviously, the higher up you go,, the less trees as you get into the subalpine/alpine zone around 9500-10000+ feet (and there's plenty of that). It also depends on the ecology, the terrain, and the aspect, so if you need your hammock you're probably going to have to take whatever you can get as far as good campsites are concerned, or accept that you're going to have to sleep on the ground some nights. That high up, you might also want to seriously consider a tent or netting to keep the mosquitoes off you, especially if the snow line has only recently receded.

However, if you can wait an extra month, tolerate mosquitoes and at least some snow, some bad weather, and sometimes lousy trail conditions, then you're seeing much more of the park with more certainty. If it's a big trip for you, the delay will be well worth it. We'll all be waiting until around April to plan anything with much chance of being right.
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Re: Yosemite in Late May

Postby ohiohiker2016 » Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:30 pm

Thanks for your response Phil. So mostly we are worried about hiking in the snow, because being from the midwest, its never been something that has been much of an option for us. So I suppose with some direction and proper planning we could take it on. Would this open up our options? What exactly would the conditions be like?

Overall I guess I am wondering if we should kill our plans of visitng Yosemite, and save it for a later date?
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Re: Yosemite in Late May

Postby Phil » Sat Jan 23, 2016 8:54 am

I wouldn't kill your plans to visit at all, just modify them if backpacking the high country is what you're hoping to do. You'll end up missing out on something amazing and an experience you'll never forget.

As you probably know from home, winter travel and hiking in the snow has its challenges and requires a different set of skills and equipment. You could find yourselves anywhere from being slightly inconvenienced and a little wet at times, to seriously risking your lives and desperately lost in the wilderness. If seeing as much of the park as you can with a pack on during your visit is what you want to do, even though it's going to mean more people and a few problems inherent with that, it's worth adjusting your schedule and coming later in the summer or early fall. It's not just a matter of your safety, it's a matter of you having every opportunity to take in as much as the park has to offer because the conditions make that available.
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Re: Yosemite in Late May

Postby Dave_Ayers » Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:42 pm

An option might be to take a trip from one of the trailheads along Wawona Road (Hwy 41) like Deer Camp, Alder Creek, or Chilnualna Falls. You should be able to string together enough segments below ~7,500 feet to make a good hike to places like Ostrander Lake, the Pohono Trail, etc. Turn on the Nat. Parks trails in Google Earth and follow along with your mouse to get a relatively quick idea of the elevations of the various trails.
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Re: Yosemite in Late May

Postby Grzldvt » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:27 am

Based on the current snow level, the fact that the storms have not stopped, and Badger Pass is already reporting a 6 foot base, I suspect the snow will still be pretty deep into mid June or beyond. I think Dave_Ayers has the right idea, or Hetch Hetchy.. The hike out to Rancheria Falls with a heavy snow pack an be spectacular with waterfalls everywhere.Because it is very low, the trail will be clear into the falls. We stayed a couple of days and day hiked the surrounding area. Much easier to deal with a heavy snow pack.
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