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help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:15 am
by reeddt1
I am looking for some suggestions and advice.
I will arrive in the Yosemite Valley on Monday, August 15 at around noon. (I might be able to get there a day earlier on the 14th, which would change things a bit)
I have a reservation for a canvas cabin in the formerly named Curry Village for that night.

I will need to get a walk-up backcountry permit to do a 2-4 night backpack with my 22 year old daughter. We are both experienced hikers/backpackers.
We will need to leave Yosemite early on August 20th. My daughter has a 2:30 pm flight out of San Francisco.
I have been to Yosemite once before, in late July few years back, camping at Tuolome meadows and doing epic day hikes and a short solo backpack from there.

I am a little afraid of how crowded it will be at this time in August and I want to make sure all the logistics work out with our limited time frame. I will have a car.

Ideally, my schedule would look something like this:
(there is also the chance that I could arrive on Sunday, 8/14 … which would be excellent)
Monday, 8/15: arrive at noon, go on afternoon hikes from the valley, talk with permitting rangers to see what will work. (stay the night in the valley cabins)

Tuesday, 8/16: get permit to start the next day, 8/17, do more acclimatizing hikes, stage/prep for our backpack and sleep at backpacker campground that is near/convenient to our trailhead.
Tuesday, 8/16: get permit early, and leave to start backpack hike that morning, on Tuesday

Wednesday, 8/17: start hike
Thursday, 8/18: hike
Friday, 9/19: hike out >> spend night in backpacker campground
Saturday, 9/20: leave early for SFO.

Which backpack hikes should I consider? I guess I am looking for a great hike that will likely have good walk up permit possibility. Probably in the 24-30 mile range. Here are some that I have in mind:
1) Balzcom’s recommendation for the Illilouette Canyon to Ottaway Lakes from the Mono Meadow trailhead looks like a winner
2) Ten Lakes Basin looks like a good possibility -- will it be very crowded?
3) One of the High Sierra camp loops -- very crowded ??…
4) making it to Boundary Lake? I can’t see how to get there on the map I have …
5) Rafferty Trail down to Merced Lake, over and up to the John Muir and then back to Tuolome … what would that be like?
5) Buena Vista Loop?
6) others??

Don’t want to be tooo hot. Would love to not have to carry too much water between springs/creeks/lakes.

Where to pick up permits? When? For walk-ups >> do all permitting ranger stations handle permits for all the trailheads? When does one get in line for permits?

What am I not thinking of or forgetting?
Thanks in advance.

Reed T.

Re: help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:39 am
by Phil
You can pick up your permit at any wilderness station, but each one will have preference for their respective areas. If you're in the Valley already, use that station for convenience. If it's not immediately obvious in the system, they'll call the other station for a real-time availability update.

Illilouette>Ottoway Lakes via the Mono Meadow trailhead is always a winner. Loop via Merced Lake or in-and-out back.

Ten Lakes is too, but the biggest crowds are in August (just like anywhere though).

Anywhere on the HSC loop is going to be very crowded.

Make sure you can handle the mileage, heat, and altitude in the time you have no matter what route you decide on.

Unless you go up high and remain there, acclimatizing in and around the Valley by taking day hikes isn't going to do you much good. But if you want the best chance of it, spend your time day hiking and staying up at the backpacker's camp in Tuolumne.

Re: help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:14 pm
by balzaccom
The secret will be finding a route that has space in the permit quotas. That's why Mono Meadows often's not a top five trailhead in terms of popularity. You could also look at Murphy Creek to Glen Aulin and beyond....Tuolumne Canyon or up towards Virginia Canyon...

And you should be able to get a permit after 11 am for the next day. Just be prepared to be flexible. There are no bad hikes in Yosemite. If you want to do some cross country for a few miles, look atBudd Lake or Nelson Lake trailheads.

The Boundary Lake hike requires a permit from the Grove land Ranger Station because the trailhead isn't in Yosemite --it's in the National Forest next door , off Cherry Lake Road.

Re: help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:35 pm
by Phil
Rafferty Creek>Merced Lake is considered part of the HSC loop, and it's guaranteed to be one of the more crowded segments.

I would probably opt for the Mono Meadow route, but if you want a trailhead that's not crowded and with a backpacker's camp that's right next to it, White Wolf> Ten Lakes is the one.

Re: help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:17 pm
by reeddt1
Thanks for all of your input.

Where is the Mono Meadow trailhead? Is it on the Glacier Point road? Will there be parking there?
Which backpacker campground could I use the night before leaving from the Mono Meadow, for example?

Also, what is your take on getting a Tuolome Meadows campground spot around that time in August? I would love to camp up there as compared to the valley ..
Last time I was there in July, I just waited a few hours in line and a spot came up the first day I tried.
When does the Tuolome Meadows campground let walk ups in for the campground each day? 8 am?

Or maybe if I am looking for a South Yosemite trail, like the Mono Meadow, being up at Tuolome is a too much driving .....

Re: help needed with backpack in August

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:35 pm
by Phil
Yes, the Mono Meadow trailhead is on Glacier Point Rd. Plenty of parking and bear lockers.

The times I've been to YNP this year have been exceptionally crowded. More so than I think I've ever seen on non-holidays. That said, and since you know the line up drill for available spots at TM already, expect to do it again. They open at 8am, so be there earlier to get a good place in the queue. Your time is better spent elsewhere, IMO.

For better walk-in options in either the regular car campground or a backpacker's camp along Tioga Rd, White Wolf is much nicer than Tuolumne. For a first-come, first-served drive-up site, get there early and look for good sites that people appear to be getting ready to leave. You can also check the tags on the posts at each site. The camp host is usually really good about making the day's changes fairly early for just such circumstances. Yosemite Creek is another viable option up that way if you don't mind a 6 mile drive into it.

Rather than the Valley for camping (the closest backpacker's camp to GP Rd), also check out the BridalVeil Creek Campground. No backpacker's camp, all first-come, first-served, and the same rules apply on getting there early to find a site. It's a beautiful campground that's also on Glacier Point Rd. and obviously much closer to the Mono Meadow trailhead.

And yes, if you camp at Tuolumne and hike the Mono Meadow Trail, it is a lot of driving. Maybe a couple hours with traffic.