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Memorial Day Weekend Wilderness Hikes

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

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Memorial Day Weekend Wilderness Hikes

Postby WanderingJim » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:04 pm

Got a question for people who've hiked late spring in Yosemite:

Assuming an average snow fall this winter, what 3-5 day hiking routes would you recommend?

I did the Valley to Merced Lake and back via Clouds Rest and Half Dome last year (too much snow to go north or south from Merced Lake to make a loop), so wondering what trailheads would likely be accessible via car and what trails would be hikable. I could do snowshoes, but don't particularly want to have to use those that late in the spring. Still planning on an actual snowshoe backpacking trip up around Glacier Point/Taft Point, etc in the winter, so not sure I'll want to do a spring snowshoe trip on top of that.

Big Oak Rd to EL Cap, Yosemite Falls, North Dome is one possibility. Maybe even swinging up to Olmstead point, Clouds Rest, and down to the valley from that direction to make it a real challenge.

Grand Canyon of the Tuoumne River would be nice, but unless we have a low snowfall winter, would be a crap shoot if Tioga Road would be open or not. Starting from Hetch Hetchy and ending down in the Valley via Snow Creek might be an option, but still is pretty dicey snow-wise.

Anything around Hetch Hetchy likely to be clear enough to hike? I do have the Emigrant Wilderness on my list for next year, which may start/end at HH, but figure that there isn't likely to be much open to hike through that early.

Any other areas I'm overlooking? Wawona area, perhaps?
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend Wilderness Hikes

Postby balzaccom » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:32 am

Ah yes. The old problem of how soon can I get into the high country?!?

Hetch-hetchy will probably clear to Racheria Falls, but Tiltill Valley will be something between a snow morass and a swamp. Not recommended in May--usually post-holing paradise. Check to make sure that the bridge over the bottom of Wapama Falls is open.

North Rim might be open--but all it takes is one good storm to leave those trails snowbound, at least for a few days. Same is true for Glacier Point/Bridalveil/Badger Pass. We did a lovely trip there two years ago in April and saw no snow---but that was a meteological disaster. I sure as hell hope that isn't true this year.

Hite Cove is lovely with the flowers, but they will have bloomed and gone by then--and that's really only an overnight at best. More of a day hike.

A final option might be something off the Hetch-hetchy road towards Smith Peak and then return via the Tuolumne River---but you would have to cross the Middle Fork to make this a loop. And Yowza....that's a big IF in spring!
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend Wilderness Hikes

Postby Phil » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:00 pm

This is will be a weird route, and a hard one, and it might take a couple extra days more than what you planned for your max, but you should be able to pull it off without much trouble with snow or water crossings that are completely undoable.

Go up Yosemite Falls from the Valley. Head over to North Dome and Snow Creek. From there, if snowpack is low, head up to May Lake. If it's still largely impassable up higher, go over to Olmstead Pt and on to the Sunrise Trailhead to stay lower. From either route, then go up Murphy Creek Trail or past Murphy Creek along the trail from May Lake and on to Glen Aulin (get clearance for the short trail jump along the road from the rangers for option #1, but I doubt they'll take issue). From Glen Aulin, hike the GCT back up to White Wolf. Finally, from there head back to the Valley along Yosemite Creek via either the Lukens Lake or YC trailheads and exit where you started.

Maybe 6 days if you book it, but it would give you a fantastic big loop that wouldn't require car access on Tioga Rd, or having to go very high up unless you go by May Lake at just under 10k.

You can shorten the route in a couple places. One being by ascending Snow Creek instead of Yosemite Falls to save a day. Another would be to loop back from May Lake if the snow level is workable up there. And if GCT is a real problem with river/creek crossings, you can eliminate that as well, but you really only have a few problems with flooding along the Tuolumne River in a few places, and Register Creek, which has a couple tricks involved in crossing on high water.

Like Balzaccom mentions, and any of us will agree with, it's kind of a crap-shoot to project conditions this far in advance. But my theory is that if you get up there and into it, you can make strategy calls on routes and what's in front of you as the need arises and you see it for yourself. At that time of year, what the YNP website and snow models say compared to what people find in reality are sometimes a long way apart because everything is in a major state of flux from day to day, elevation to elevation, aspect to aspect......
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