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Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:15 am
by Kleida
Hello everyone, new member here.

I'm a 47 year old hiker from England, I'm staying in Yosemite Village for two nights in mid-July.

I missed out on a Half Dome permit in the April lottery so am looking at alternative hikes in case I am not lucky with the late release day permits.

I have plotted a route from the trailhead at Big Oak Flat Road back to Yosemite Valley via El Capitan using viewranger. The stats of
this walk are: 16.6 miles with ~6300 feet of ascent.

Some information:

I routinely hike these kind of distances and ascents in the Lake District here at home but am not used to hiking in heat much beyond the mid 70s.

My partner can drop me at the trail head early in the morning - 6am or thereabouts - so I hope I can get much of the ascent under my belt before it gets too hot.

I will be carrying a 3l hydration bladder and a water filter - it appears there are places on this hike where I will cross water sources - so don't consider running out a possibility/problem.

So to my questions:

Does this sound like a sensible/feasible undertaking? What is the trail like? Rough?

Bears! We don't have these in England. Will I be endangering myself if I have sandwiches and chocolate in my pack?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:57 am
by AlmostThere
Trails in Yosemite are generally like freeways, well maintained. But full of really "fun" granite steps.

Your food, possibly your gear, are the only things at risk from bears -- the park will rent you a canister to store anything with a scent inside it at night along with instruction on how to use it. Lotions, lip balms, wrappers and toothpaste, things like that, all go inside it. You will need space in the backpack for this canister.

As for sensible, that depends on your level of fitness and how your body reacts to the elevation. It sounds reasonable to me for a reasonably fit hiker. There are those who would hike that in a day, others who would think it's strenuous -- I'm sure you will do okay.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:02 pm
by balzaccom
Hmm. AT has given good advice, that that isn't the most scenic route in Yosemite by a long shot. It's hot, it's an old wagon road that connects into the North Rim for your trip to El Cap, but there are so much nicer hikes to take.

For example:

Starting at Mono Meadows or Glacier Point and hiking to Happy Isles. More downhill than up, and part of this is along the Panorama Trail. There's a reason it is called that. That mileage is only about 16 miles. This one is slightly complicated by the fact that you can't camp in the first few miles....but you might be able to camp in Little Yosemite Valley...depending on your permit. It's an amazing walk along some of the best scenery Yosemite has to offer.

Or start at Sunrise/Tenaya Lake and hike to Happy Isles via Clouds Rest (higher than Half Dome, with better views. When you get to the top of Clouds Rest, you will be looking DOWN on Half Dome.) You could just hike to Clouds Rest and back from Tenaya Lake. Which is only about 14 miles, or you could do the whole enchilada down past the big falls on the way to Happy Isles, which won't be 20 miles total--and again the last eight miles is all downhill.

Those are some of top hikes in Yosemite. As a single person, you can probably get a permit for one of these pretty easily if you are then during the week. A lot of people want group permits, but single individuals can usually find something that works.

Don't worry about bears. As AT mentions will be required to store your food in a bear canister, and they rent those at the wilderness office where you pick up your permit. For a single person overnight, everything will fit in your can with room to spare. If your food is not accessible, the bears won't bother you at all.

One bit of advice is to drink lots of water. The humidity the Sierra is stunningly low. You will not be aware of how much you are sweating because it will just evaporate faster than you can imagine. But drink lots of water (we drink about 1/2 liter per hour, at least, plus more at lunch) and rehydrate in camp until you really have to pee.

We have lots more tips on our website (in my signature line) so feel free to poke around there as well.

Let us know if you have more questions. You're in for a great hike.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:06 pm
by Kleida
Thank you both for the replies.

I will have a look at the other hikes you've suggested and will probably be back with some more questions then.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:22 pm
by Phil
You don't say what your exit point is to the valley. Are you doing it as an out-and-back to Big Oak Flat Rd or exiting the Falls Trail? Your mileage total indicates the latter though. You'll want an early start if temperatures are going to be a factor for you personally, as the majority of the elevation gain you experience is going to be within the first 6-7 miles from the trailhead. Much of your route is shaded, and you're right, you'll have plenty of water sources along it (Wildcat, Tamarack, Cascade, Ribbon, Yosemite Creeks) a matter of fact, you should be able to go lighter than a full 3L, inclusive of the ascent portion. Trails are good. Primarily wide and worn. Granite steps are a drag, but it's the cobbled surfaces that hurt and twist ankles and knees. Bears aren't an issue with food as long as you keep your pack and food on you or within arm's reach at all times. If you are approached, yell at it and it'll go away. Your load and experience should get you through the mileage, as elevation generally isn't a factor at the altitudes you'll be at. The ascents might be slightly strenuous, but it's the descents that'll beat up your feet and joints, so make sure you wear good boots and thick socks.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:25 pm
by Phil
Are we talking a day hike or an overnighter? I got day hike.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:39 pm
by Kleida
Hi Phil, yes I'm talking about a day hike.

I've been looking at balzaccom's suggestions and think I've found a much better alternative to my initial plan.

I'm now thinking of doing the 4 mile hike to Glacier Point (start at shuttle bus stop E7), then return to the valley along the Panorama Trail. About 14 miles. It looks amazing.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:53 pm
by Phil
It is. You should do that or the Pohono Trail on the South Rim. However, if you have a ride to your trailhead, skip the climb up and spend the extra time just wandering the area at a leisurely pace and taking in the views.

As a dayhike, you won't need the bear can, just keep your food tight and be aware that bears aren't really dangerous, just fast and tricky. And daytime isn't nighttime, so the only issues you would ever have would be any that you create.

Have fun.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 4:25 pm
by Duane
One bit of advice from someone with young legs but old knees: Investing in a good pair of trekking poles will be a big help descending the sandy, stair step trails, particularly the John Muir down to the valley. They really help!

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 7:40 pm
by WanderingJim
Well, I just did that hike over 4 days this past weekend.

Granted, I started with a 37 pound pack with my gear, so your mileage will be better with only a day pack and carrying only minimal water (no shortage of water on that trail right now-I'd say 1-2 liters between the well flowing creeks).

Some of that time was due to my getting a late start on the first day, spending a half day enjoying the top of El Captain, and I also went up beyond Yosemite Point to camp for the final night and enjoyed a fantastic sunset and sunrise from there.

Just don't assume that the trail from Old Big Oak Flat Trailhead to El Capitan is easy. It's over 4,000 feet in elevation gain, with the start being fairly steep (not as steep as the Yosemite Falls Trail, of course). That and the hot days slowed me down to the point I decided to return via the Falls Trial instead of Snow Creek.

I'd say you can do it if you're in good shape and have done other hikes with similar elevation gains in a day. Really have to book it and maybe even start before sunrise to beat the heat (the first part of the trail is fairly exposed, so lots of sun beating down on you).

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:56 pm
by Kleida
Hi all,

I did my hike in Yosemite on Tuesday. Absolutely amazing. I set off from Half Dome village at 7:30am, walked the two miles on the Valley Loop Trail to pick up the Four Mile Trail. Very happy to have done that ascent in the morning and also in the shade. From Glacier Point I walked the Panorama Trail and joined the Mist Trail to take me back to the valley. Very busy on that last stretch down into the valley but pretty quiet for most of the hike.

According to viewranger it was 16.2 miles with 6910 feet of ascent. Finished in 8 hours 2 minutes, probably an hour of that resting, was very pleased to see a cold beer (or two) at the bar back in the village.

Thank you all for the suggestions. Appetite truly whetted and now thinking about coming back next year to do the John Muir Trail.

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:31 pm
by WanderingJim
Over the July 4th weekend, I just Hiked from the Old Big Oak Road Trailhead on 120 to El Capitan (you could also start from Tamarack Flat. I ended up having to stop about 6 miles into the hike (had hoped to get to the top of El Cap on the first day-10 miles). The first part of that trail IS very open and you will get hot this time of year. That and I got a late start (9:30am) probably caused it to take longer than I planned.

View wise, there are some nice things to see, but it's not as spectacular as other parts of Yosemite. I did go off trail a bit to find a GREAT view of Turtleback Dome and the Merced Gorge for my first night's camp, so it wasn't a huge letdown.
I did have to spend more time on El Cap than planned (a full afternoon and night) to enjoy the next night's sunset and sunrise from the top of El Capitan. (I'd have been able to go all the way to Eagle Peak or past Yosemite Falls if I hadn't wanted to camp at the top of El Capitan as a key goal of this trek).
The next day was enjoying Eagle Peak (it's VERY worth the detour from the trail). The top of Yosemite Falls is a little crowded with tourists, but great views and a view of the falls from the very top. :)
I had planned to go all the way to North Dome and exit down Snow Creek, but the extra night getting to El Cap kind of sapped my strength. I did go beyond Yosemite Point a little way and found a fabulous area above Yosemite Point where you can camp and see the sunset and sunrise over Half Dome and the Clark Range. Spectacular.
I decided to go down the Yosemite Falls trail instead of going to North Dome.

The first time I did this hike, I came up Yosemite Falls trail, got hit with a big hail storm at the top of the falls :) (had to hike through the hail to Eagle Peak Meadows to find a campsite to hide from the hail for the rest of the day). The next day was Eagle Peak and over to El Cap, then return and over to North Dome. Exit via Snow Creak. That's one of the reasons I decided not to continue to North Dome this time, since I'd done it already once.

So if you want to try going up Yosemite Falls trail, over to El Cap, then backtracking to Yosemite Point and North Dome and exiting via Snow Creek, that's also possible. A little more scenic for the whole trek. Although it's steeper going up (but the start of the trail from the Old Big Oak Road TH is a bit steep as well). You could start from Snow Creek as well. Little easier to get back to your car this way (you cna use the valley shuttles-I had to hitch back to mine).

As for campsites, the top of El Capitan, near Eagle Peak, above Yosemite Point (you aren't supposed to camp at the top of the falls or at Yosemite Point itself), and near the top of North Dome are spectacular camping spots. All very recommended.

Here's some pictures:

(oops... didn't see your last post before mine. Guess it's too late now...) :)

Re: Big Oak Flat Trailhead to Yosemite Valley

PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 11:14 pm
by Kleida
I'll be back. :D