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[Yosemite]

3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Valley

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

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3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Valley

Postby Skyrawr » Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:59 pm

Hello!

I am in the midst of planning a 3 day backpacking trip through Yosemite and have been struggling to find a good itinerary. This will be my first backpacking trip, but I am an experienced hiker and will be traveling with two friends who have experience backpacking, although none of us have been to Yosemite before.

We will be arriving the evening of July 5th and will to go straight to camp that night, starting into the wilderness on the morning of the 6th. We will leave mid day on the 9th, so that gives us 1 night at an accessible campground and 3 in the wilderness.

I want the trip to enter in Tuolumne Meadows and end in Yosemite Valley or vice versa, for the reason that we will only have one vehicle and will need to utilize the shuttle between those two areas to get back to our car.

Unfortunately I've gotten started planning a little late and most of the obvious trailheads are full for our dates. I'm hoping that someone on here can help me figure out good, less popular trailheads that will still allow us to see some of the attractions I'm interested in while doing reasonable mileage each day. We're probably shooting for around 7/8 miles a day with potentially room for more on easy terrain.

The specific parts of the park I'm interested in seeing are Cloud's Rest, Lyell Canyon, Vernal Falls, and potentially Half Dome.

Some ideas I had were doing Lyell Canyon to Yosemite Valley, or starting in May Lake and curving around to Sunrise Lakes to Yosemite Valley. Do either of these ideas sound like good trips for our purposes? Any comments on these or other ideas are welcome. Thank you!
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Phil » Tue Mar 15, 2016 7:59 pm

Of the choices you mention, I like Lyell Canyon. It looks like there might be some room on the trailhead entry for the 6th as well: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/u ... lheads.pdf

Let's just get this one out of the way first: avoid the hassle and skip Half Dome and use your energy for Cloud's Rest instead. You don't really have the time to do it anyway.


You're schedule, the way I'm reading it is: on-trail, you'll have 3 nights and basically 3 1/2 days before you want to exit in the Valley, right? That's tight for what you're proposing if your deadline is written in stone, you're not accustomed to hiking at altitude, and you want to keep your daily mileage down to what you're looking for. Lyell would be about your only easy going, the rest isn't until you're descending into the Valley. I doubt you'll get in at Sunrise unless you do it on a walk-up basis, and even then it might be a tough one. But that would fit your schedule and itinerary better. You could also try for 3 walk-ups from Cathedral Lakes, but that's bound to be packed.

If you're open to more suggestions, check out 10 Lakes from Yosemite Creek. It's open, a lot less crowded, beautiful, you can get in and out within your time frame, and the mosquitoes there aren't going to be any better or worse than any other high country routes. You can do it as an in-and-out to the same trailhead, or you can loop back around and come out at May Lake, Glen Aulin/ Tuolumne Meadows, or even Tenaya Lake in a couple places.
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 15, 2016 8:25 pm

I like Phil's idea. Get a permit for Ten Lakes---it's a great hike with fabulous views across to Mt. Conness. But here's the deal---you wilderness permit allows you two additional nights in the park, one before and one after your trip.

So get a permit for July 7-8 for Ten lakes.

Arrive July 6, pick up your permit, camp at the Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker campground, and then head off to hike Lembert Dome or Pothole Dome or Lake Elizabeth....or two or three of those. None are more than about 3 miles long.

July 7 and 8 you're backpacking to Ten Lakes. Spend the night of the 8th in the TM Backpackers campground again. ON the 9th, hike Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake, and head home after that.

You will have had four fabulous days of hiking in spectacular country in Yosemite. What else could you want?
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Skyrawr » Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:37 pm

Thanks for the replies, guys!

So Phil, I think you are saying that Lyell Canyon to Yosemite Valley might be too much of a trip to squeeze into my 3.5 hiking days? I've been hoping it wouldn't be, because looking at it further it seems like the best option for us. We're wanting to spend as many nights as possible camping in the wilderness, and the thought of traveling through one continuous trail really appeals to me. This article I found makes it sound like something we'd be capable of, but maybe I'm missing something. http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/264804

We have been considering Ten Lakes/Yosemite Creek Campground trailhead as an option 2. Is there a good way to make that a trip with 3 nights in the wilderness?
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Phil » Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:46 pm

You might be able to pull off Lyell Canyon in that amount of time, but it's a matter of where you're willing to camp, and then, if you're not used to it, climbing and altitude. I don't know you, so I can't say for sure. That trip report leaves out Cloud's Rest, and that makes a big difference on the time. It's not that it's necessarily a hard trail, but it's not quite as easy and watered down as he makes it sound in terms of effort ( from the description, I could almost swear I could just get in the car and drive it). Don't underestimate the trail or overestimate what you have to give.

We usually like to spend the first night at Ireland Creek, because I like the area, and then do the climb up to Vogelsang the next morning. Ireland Creek is only about 6 miles out from Tuolumne though, so you're short on distance the first day. To effectively get to the next decent camping at Vogelsang, that first day becomes about 12+ miles, and again, don't underestimate the climb and altitude gain. There are some other spots up-trail from Ireland Creek like Ireland Lake and Evelyn Lake, but it's pretty open in both places. We try to avoid Vogelsang and pass-thru to somewhere like Babcock or Bernice Lake anywhere between about 5-3 miles on respectively, so that staying at Ireland Creek again sets us up for an easier second day. Although we could easily push on to Merced Lake ( a big, steep, sometimes painful descent ) and a really crowded backpacker's camp for the night, it really boils down to what's the nicest place to camp, and not pushing through to get somewhere we should be, but don't particularly want to be. That doesn't have to bo the case for you guys, but it's the journey for us. Once you get beyond Merced Lake, you'll enter Echo Valley. There are some scattered sites, but it's going to be marshy and not worth it. From there, you have a choice between going up the trail above Bunnell Cascade to the JMT along Sunrise Creek, then up to the base of Cloud's Rest (water sources are limited), or up Cathedral Fork Creek to the JMT at Sunrise HSC, then on to Sunrise Lakes. It's longer, but I would recommend the latter. Stay that 3rd night at one of the lakes up there. We prefer Upper Sunrise, along the opposite shore from the trail. Second choice is Middle Sunrise. Lower is usually too crowded to bother.

After that, hike up to Cloud's Rest and back down to the junction on the JMT at Sunrise Creek (another big, steep, sometimes painful descent). Either find a site above the trail spur up to Half Dome, or go on down to LYV. I recommend the former- LYV is gross, IMO. The problem is that you guys are probably going to be trashed after Cloud's Rest, regardless of a relatively short distance, and that 4th night is going to be almost a given, or you're more than likely going to come in late and maybe miss the last YARTS shuttle from the Valley back to your car at 5pm and then be stuck at the Valley backpacker's camp until morning anyhow. Seriously, if you're not a backpacker and used to altitudes and lots of climbing with a load on, stay real, it's going to kick your butt. You want to enjoy yourselves, not do a forced death march. Don't screw yourselves into scrounging for whatever lousy campsite you can find because you needed to make those extra few miles to make an already tight schedule. We base our trail placement strategy on where we want to camp and where there's water, and the miles to get there, not so much on where we need to end up to make an over all schedule (we always not only take at least an extra day's food, we add an extra night to our permits, without exception). And by the way, there are LOTS of bears from start to finish where you're going, some very sly and aggressive.

Okay, so Ten Lakes:

It's a climb, but it's not too bad. We usually like to head out cross-country for a few days when we go up that way, but we've done it on-trail in two days from Yosemite Creek to Tuolumne via Glen Aulin. I don't recommend it....we were destroyed. Three days is more reasonable, and each day it'll get you to camp with enough time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the area. Once you drop down into the basin, you'll come to Lake #2. Lots of sites there. You can head left and go to Lake #1 or right to Lake #3. There are a couple nice spots at Lake #3, but 2 and 1 have more and better. That's day 1, night 1. On the second day, go ahead and at least push through to the South Fork Cathedral Creek. I would look for a nice site at the back of the valley in the trees before you begin ascending Tuolumne Peak. Some people might say that going up to the tarns on the other side of the peak is best, but it's usually crowed and there's not much to choose from. There's day 2, night 2. Last day (if you want it to be), head to Glen Aulin and stay the night, check out the falls, or go ahead and exit back in Tuolumne Meadows and either stay the night at the backpacker's camp or try to catch the shuttle back to the trailhead and your car. ***A note about day 3: Once you're up and over Tuolumne Peak, you can move fast the rest of the way (2.5-3 mph easy). If you don't want to stay at Glen Aulin that 3rd night, you can find some sites along the May Lake trail (the one you're on), most notably, where the trail again crosses Cathedral Creek. It's more "wilderness" than the backpacker's camp at GA, and you'll still be in pretty good position to get back to Tuolumne and your car via shuttle before the end of that 4th day (staying on schedule).*** Your total distance is about 22-23 miles from the trailhead to Glen Aulin, then about another 6 back to Tuolumne, and while you'll do some fairly serious climbing and descending, your time out and daily mileage requirements are within what you're looking for. Piece of cake.

And if you don't already have one, get a good topo map so you guys can check out the details of the routes before you reserve your permit!! And bring lots of bug spray, no matter which you decide on.
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Skyrawr » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:31 am

Ok, thank you so much. This info is helping a lot.

So, I actually submitted a permit application early this morning before reading the latest reply, just because I was getting anxious about everything filling up. I put Lyell Canyon and Yosemite Creek Campground as my top 2 choices, but I just got an email that they granted my 3rd request.

They gave us entering May Lake > Snow Creek on July 6th, exiting Happy Isles > Little Yosemite Valley on July 9th.

This is the route I've researched the least, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around how the wilderness permit system works. So, the hike from May Lake to Yosemite Valley is very short. Can we make it longer by doing some loops that require going through other trailheads? For example, going down to Yosemite Valley, then curving around and doing Sunrise Creek/Clouds Rest before coming back to the Valley on the 9th?

I'm sure that whatever we do is going to be an amazing adventure. We're driving 25 hours to make it to the park, so I'm just happy that we have something in the books. But I am open to changing our permit reservation if we can't make these trailheads into a good length trip.
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Skyrawr » Wed Mar 16, 2016 11:05 am

Ok, so I talked to someone from Yosemite and they said that our itinerary could work if we started at May Lake, camped at Snow Creek the first night, we could then loop up to Tenaya Lake and come down Clouds Rest to Happy Isles. Looking at a map this looks like it would work really well for us, but does that sound like a decent trip for 3.5 days?
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby balzaccom » Wed Mar 16, 2016 11:35 am

That is a creative solution to what you are doing. It won't get up much high country except Clouds Rest--the hike from May Lake to Snow Creek is mainly in the forest, and includes crossing the highway. Take time to go out on top of Mt Watkins for some amazing views...

Then from there down it's a piece of cake.
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Phil » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:47 pm

Cool. I like that way in and camping at the top of Snow Creek Falls. Cross the bridge when you get to the creek and turn left. A hundred +/- yards down the trail on the left again, in/through the trees, are the best spots. From the trail, you'll see at least one big site in the trees, but if it's taken, walk out towards the open flats. There are a few great spots there as well. I wish I stored my photos online for you to see, but the view of Half Dome, Cloud's Rest, Watkins Pinnacles, and Tenaya Canyon are incredible. Wedge your canisters in somewhere safe and away from the cliffs, and be very careful getting water from the creek.

A couple slight details: You're going to add quite a few miles to your trip. Definitely. From the trailhead to Snow Creek adds 5+ miles, with a very steep downhill for the last mile and a half. Then you get to do that 1.5 mile climb again in the morning to get back up. It's just as steep and a real thigh burner. Then you stay right at the junction and go another 6 miles to Tenaya Creek and the bottom of Sunrise. The trail gets fuzzy when you pass Olmstead because of all the people wandering around randomly, so look for what's most obvious. So yeah, you've added over 12 miles that you'll have to do the first two days just to meet regulations and the conditions of your permit by using that entry. You don't get to camp any closer- too close to the road. Then, after climbing up from Snow Creek and making it to Sunrise, you get to do some form of fording the creek, then another 2.5 mile climb up to the CR/ Sunrise Lakes junction at the top. Go left to Sunrise Lakes for camping. After your 10 miles on day 2, a lot of it doing some grueling climbs, you're going to be so ready to crash. :twisted: Train!! Lower Sunrise Lake is closest, but you might have to keep going to one of the others if it's too packed. Great fishing (catching) that time of year!! Serious bear issues, too. Another option is to go right toward CR at the junction. There's a tarn you can camp on the far shore of at about 3/4 mile past the junction.

When you arrive at your trailhead, there's a dirt turnoff with a couple bear lockers where the trail begins on the right side of Tioga Rd, not too far to the east past the May Lake parking area. Dump your packs and your buddies there, drive back down to the paved lot, leave car stuff in the bear lockers there, then just hoof it up the shoulder of the road to get back to where you dropped your friends. Don't bother to go bushwhacking through the trees to get there.

Load up on Deet in a big way!!!!!
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Re: 3 day 4/5 night backpacking between T. Meadows and Y. Va

Postby Phil » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:46 am

Oh, and if you guys are going to be eating in the car during that 25 hour drive, make absolutely certain there's no garbage or food left inside if you want windows when you get back. Don't be slack at all!
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