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Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:34 pm
by Genevieve
Hi guys!!

I'm so glad that I found this forum! PLEASE help me to try to plan my trip in Yosemite! There is too much information I'm so overwhelm right now. I'm a young women very active and I will be all by myself.

I will be in Yosemite in the beginning of May 2017. I plan to to backpacking for at least 4 or 5 days. But I'm so confused with the weather condition and all the trails that I could hike. I'm not a pro with map and want to make sure that the trails will be okay to follow.
I need also a backpacking permit and I want to make sure that I will ask for the good one!

Do you have any suggestion for at least 4 or 5 days of backpacking in Yosemite. Note that I can't put another car further on my way lol.

thanks you so much in advanced!


Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:35 pm
by WanderingJim
Ever been to Yosemite at all?

May is pretty early in the season, so some of the higher elevations are likely going to be still snow covered.

I'm actually planning on a Memorial day weekend hike along the northern rim of the valley. Start at Big Oak Flat Road, then hit El Capitan, Upper Yosemite Falls, and North Dome. I figure that's 2 nights there (Camping at the top of El Capitan and North Dome).
Depending on snow coverage, I'd either go up to Omstead point and circle down to Sunrise Lakes and Clouds Rest (2-3 more nights). If that route isn't hike-able yet, I'd go back to the valley via Snow Creek (maybe another night up in that area somewhere).

You can also go up the Mist Trail and JMT to Little Yosemite Valley, then down to Merced Lake. I did that last Memorial day weekend. A little early, but that just means not as many people there. I had Merced Lake to myself for a day (and 3 hours of rain, but what are you going to do? :) ).
I returned up towards Clouds Rest along the ridge overlooking the Merced River. Then back down to the Valley after a quick hop up Half Dome. 5 nights.

The road to Glacier Point might not be open yet, but you could go up via the 4 mile trail (closer to 5 miles :) ) or Panoramic Trail to Glacier point and return via the Pohono Trial to the Valley (or the other way). That could be a nice 4-5 days.

Hikes around Hetch Hetchy and Tioga Road are hard to predict if they'll be accessible that early. The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River is a great 3 day hike if Tioga Road is open.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:58 am
by Genevieve
Good morning!

Thank you so much for your answer! I saw your post regarding your last trip in Yosemite!
It will be my first time in California.
Thank you for your help as I'm little bit confuse with all the information...
could you help also with the trailhead backcountry permit that I would need for every journey that you talked about... If I ask for a backcountry permit and I want to change my destination I would need to submit another request right?

will it be possible also to park my car and come back at the same place that I start with your suggestion?

Thank you so much in advanced!


Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:25 am
by AlmostThere
First time backpacking? Don't go more than one night. Spend time in the valley itself since it's first time in the park. Camp and day hike -- you don't need to go freeze in the snow, all the big sights are a day hike away. Tioga road may still be closed. No need to drag a backpack around all week.

There is only one legal place to camp on the panorama route and you have to leave the trail for two miles. Panorama and four mile trails are day hikes, no camping on them. Most of the Pohono is also no camping once the snow is melted. A lot depends on snow levels - the four mile trail may still be closed.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:59 am
by Phil
May is usually pretty early to begin high-country hikes, and being a beginner (even if that's just to Yosemite and the Sierras), I would call it a bad idea, if not just plain dangerous. And 4-5 days out puts you squarely into that situation in a very big way. AlmostThere is right about how you should plan and start. You also have to take into consideration that car access to higher elevation starting points that you would reach from Tioga or Glacier Point Roads is likely to be next to impossible because of winter road closures still being in effect. As a matter of fact, I don't think Tioga Rd even opened to traffic until Memorial Day weekend last Spring, and Glacier Point re-closed because of snowstorms at least once after they officially opened it for the season.

Assuming you do drive or can hike up for your trip, where there isn't still snow, there will be mosquitoes...heavy mosquitoes! Then there's also snow melt runoff in the creeks. This can turn you back sometimes, and if you're alone, if you fall in, it's cold, it's fast in some cases, and you're completely on your own. Water crossings kill people every year.

All this and more considered, you're likely going to have to start your trip out of the Valley. You get to climb, a lot, and you don't get to stop if you can't do it. You turn around, be this because of lack of places to camp or because of regulations. That climb, in case you were wondering, is roughly 3,000 ft. Even if you're used to it and in-shape, it's not easy or fun.

So you're not discouraged and absolutely have to do it in spite of all that? Because you're probably going to have to start out of the Valley by default, you're looking at either the North Rim or the South Rim. These are by far the two most highly recommended trip areas that any of us would suggest for the time of year you want to go. Take some time and look back through the threads on this site to see what those are all about. Lower elevations, less snow, if any, bite-sized itinerary, and relative safety with cell coverage in most places. All good things for the probable conditions, and especially for a beginner.

And if you can't navigate with a map and compass, or by knowing how to read blazes (assuming there are any on your trail), you absolutely should not be hiking in the snow.

We're not trying to be discouraging, just informative and realistic. The best trip you could have is the one that's later in the season, not in May. We want to help you. It's what we try to do. Do a bit more research and pin it down. You get a little further along, and we'll help you do just about everything except walk it for you.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:20 am
by AlmostThere
If you were going to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, I would say backpack -- people miss a lot going to those parks and just driving through. The spectacular stuff is on trails. Hiking through the Sequoias and hiking to Pear Lake or to Alta Meadow or camping and day hiking in Mineral King, you see more of what those parks have to offer.

If you have never been to Yosemite I think the first visit really should be just camping or hotel room, and seeing everything the valley itself has to offer. Going up Glacier Point Road to see views from there, doing day hikes to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome -- hiking up to Upper Yosemite Falls from the valley floor -- hiking up the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls -- those are all MUST DO things. Half Dome cables will be down until after Memorial Day, BUT -- the best things are views OF Half Dome. Forget long arduous things -- go do the short stuff and you will get FANTASTIC views. Go to the visitor center, walk the trails in the valley floor. Ride the tour tram. Visit the Ahwahnee. Backpacking you will miss it all!!! That will suck.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:44 pm
by Phil
I would again tend to agree with AT fully in her recommendations. Aside from everything she mentions, May is the time for waterfalls flowing at peak. Whether you see them from above, below, or at a distance, an entire week could easily be spent day-hiking around doing just that. And the best place to do it is in and around Yosemite Valley.

With that, you look back and say "Yeah, that was amazing!" With backpacking that early, more times than not, you look back and say "Ugh, never again. Wish I waited until July."

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 1:40 pm
by WanderingJim
Please let us know what your backpacking experience is so we can point you in the right direction.

I have to agree with the others that spending some time down in the valley and Glacier Point would be the best way to get introduced to Yosemite, but there's no reason not to enjoy the wilderness as well if you've backpacked before and are confident in your skills.

Read through the Yosemite Wilderness pages at:

This PDF shows all the trailheads and the general places you can camp (the colored arrows at the trailheads indicate how far you have to hike before you can camp).

As you can see from that, the trails around Glacier Point do pose a challenge to backpacking through that area since you can't camp many places.

As for the Big Oak Flat trailhead for the ElCap/UYF/North Dome route, you can park there and then once you're back in the valley, hitch a ride back. Or the YARTS buses could probably take you back that way as well (although I've never asked them if they can drop off people like that). As an alternate, you could leave your car in the valley, go up Yosemite Falls trail, over to El Capitan, then double-back to North Dome. That way your car is in the valley when you return.

A phone GPS map is very useful for navigating (as long as you have enough extra batteries to recharge it), but you should also buy a paper map for emergencies.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:14 am
by Phil
WanderingJim wrote:A phone GPS map is very useful for navigating (as long as you have enough extra batteries to recharge it), but you should also buy a paper map for emergencies.

I would reverse that. The paper map should always be your navigational default. Maybe the phone for emergencies...maybe. Relying on phones and GPS are the reasons why people can't perform basic wilderness skills like reading maps and compass navigation properly anymore, and often, the reason they get lost in the first place. Batteries die, electronics malfunction, but the paper map is a bigger picture right in your hand, and the earth's magnetic field is always on. Too many people carry a compass because they're told they should, but for most, it might as well be dead weight when it comes time to pull it out and use it. Dangerous, and lazy.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:49 am
by AlmostThere
Always use paper maps myself, but SAR trained me that way. GPS gets people into trouble more than you think. We verified everything with the map and it pays off in eliminating wasted time - not following the GPS in the wrong direction and finding out the hard way it was glitching.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 9:06 am
by Phil
Yeah, old school is still the best school. You get into cross referencing maps and GPS, and people run into data snafus all the time. Map datum, screen orientation, declination, just plain bad mapping software. And a big part of the time, they couldn't read the map anyhow, and think that because Apple makes it, it must be right and offers salvation by picking up their slack for them. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've been out in the sticks and had people whip out their phone and ask where they are. I pull out my actual map and they suddenly get it, because it's not a 2.5x5" format that only shows them what's going on in the next 1/4 mile. And we get people out here at the house all the time that relied on their car's GPS, which shows a through road when it isn't. It's one of those times when you can tell them that they can't get there from here, and it's completely true.

"Bienvenidos a Mexico"...but wait a minute, I'm still in San Diego! :roll:

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:27 pm
by Caminante
Genevieve, regarding your question on permits: I recently made my first trip to Yosemite with help from this forum, and I will say that the logistics can seem overwhelming. I'm even considering writing a "primer" for first-timers on getting a permit, where the backpackers' camp in the valley is, where to park, etc.

My steps for securing a permit in advance would be:
1. Determine your planned route which will determine your entry and exit trailheads. Trailheads: ... lheads.pdf

2. Determine the start and end date of your hike: first, you need to determine the day and time that you will arrive in Yosemite:
2.a) If you are arriving after 10am, you will either need to start your hike the next day or call the office to hold your permit for late arrival. After 10am, the permits are canceled and released to walk-ups unless you call. At 4:30pm, the office closes for the day. You are allowed to stay in a backpackers' campground the night before you pick up your permit (
2.b) If you are arriving before 10am, you can pick up your permit at 8:30am and start your hike the same day the same day that you arrive.

3. Now you know your entry and exit trailheads, as well was what day your hike will start and end. Fill out the reservation form online and print it out: ... itform.pdf

4. Determine the day that you need to fax in your reservation form based on your anticipated start date (do not ask me why the system is based on a fax machine, I don't know): ... tdates.htm

5. Based on step #4, fax in your form on the appropriate day (about one month from now for an early May hike). You should know within 24 hours if you got your permit, or not, by e-mail. Celebrate or cry, depending.

6. When you pick up your permit at the Wilderness Office, you can try to change it. I changed my permit when I picked it up, and the rangers were very accommodating and helpful. I was not charged any additional fee for that.

Good luck!

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:40 pm
by Genevieve
OMG thank you all for your advises!!! I REALLY REALLY APPRECIATE IT and all of your recommendations will help for sure!
Wandering Jim: I;ve done a lot of hiking but not a lot of backpacking my laste experience was in Grand Canyon I went down, slept a night and went back to the top after... I'm in a really good shape but I haven't a lot of experience with backpacking (And I really suck with navigation lol)

So the best option would be to camp in the parks : Yosemite, King and Sequoia and do some day hikes around there and maybe select a 1 night backpacking trail...
I;m sure it could be very great too!!!!

thank you soooooooo much for the step by step for the backcountry permit submission it helps a lot !!! I'm so overwhelm with all the information.

As I guess, I could stay in the campground in the park instead to go backpacking though.

If you have any other places that you know and that I need to see let me know!


thank you thank you thank you again!!!

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:58 pm
by WanderingJim
Genevieve wrote:So the best option would be to camp in the parks : Yosemite, King and Sequoia and do some day hikes around there and maybe select a 1 night backpacking trail...
I;m sure it could be very great too!!!!

For one Night, climbing Yosemite Falls trail and camping at the top of El Capitan or North Dome (probably not enough time to do both in 2 days and 1 night) might be a good choice. The sunset and sunrise from the top of both is breathtaking. Look both east and west at sunset and sunrise, because sometimes the best show is is the light reflected off the granite walls of the valley and not the actual sun itself. :)

Not sure I'd recommend Little Yosemite Valley or that area for a 1 night trip, but if you want to do Half Dome, it's easier to do that when you camp nearby.

An added benefit if you have a wilderness permit, you can camp in the backpacker's campground in Yosemite valley for the night before and after your wilderness trip. It's just to the north of North Pines campground. Considering how hard the other campgrounds are to get space at, this might be a good choice.

BTW, you will need a bear canister (or can rent one). They will ask if you have one and will ticket you if they find you without one. You can get by without on if you stay at LYV since they have bear lockers there.

Re: Backpacking in solo-May 2017

PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:51 am
by Genevieve
Thank you so much for all your answers!

I will start to plan seriously my trip!! soooo excited!