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Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Florida

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Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Florida

Postby EdelKev » Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:07 pm

Hello Everyone...Great Forum! We are planning a trip to TM in September starting on Labor Day. We live in Florida and it's been 10 years since our last trip (4 days, Tenaya to Sunrise then down Cathedral Fork to Merced Lake and then down to the Valley). We just decided to do the trip and thus were too late to play the lottery for a Wilderness Permit. Since we're flying from Florida I'd appreciate any expert local suggestions on how best to strategize our entry to the Park and trying for a FCFS permit at TM. Our preferred tentative hike plan is TM to Glen Aulin, then to May Lake, then to Sunrise, then down to Cathedral lake and on down to TM.

So far our plan is:

Day 1 Early flight from Tampa to San Jose (or maybe LAX), rent car, drive to Merced, stay overnight in hotel (after gorging on In n Out Burgers, which, alas, do not exist east of Austin TX :( ). We're planning on staying in Merced based on assumption that there won't be enough time to arrive, rent car and drive up to TM in time to secure a campsite at White Wolf, Yosemite Creek or Porcupine (does that sound right???) We havent booked airline tickets yet but I'm assuming that a 6-7 a.m. departure will arrive between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. PST, and a drive to Merced would take 3 to 5 hours.
Day 2 Rise super early, leave Merced, drive up to TM and get in line for Wilderness Permit. Question: For early September (i.e. on Labor Day) how early should I plan to try to get in line for the permit? Since I have no permit now and we're flying in from out of town going home isnt an option. Are people camping out all night for permits in September? If we need to be in line as early as 6-7 a.m., then when would y'all leave from Merced? Or would we be better to simply drive all the way up from the airport and try to get a campsite at White Wolf, Yosemite Creek or Porcupine Flat? My concern there is not knowing if campsites would be available in those campsites by the time we'd make it up the mountain (but leaving at 3 a.m. from Merced to get a decent place in line would be rough too). If y'all were in our shoes, what would be your best plan?

If we don't succeed in getting a permit on Day 2 I'm thinking we'd try to secure a campsite at WhiteWolf/YCreek/Porcupine and try again early the next morning, but is there another strategy or approach?

Also, I seem to remember that the road in to White Wolf campsites was pretty bumpy, and I'm not familiar with the approach roads for Yosemite Creek and Porcupine Flat. Since we'll be in a rental car (not a personally-owned SUV) which of these campsites would be our best first try based on campsite availability for Labor Day and type of road access?

We'd really appreciate any suggestions and tips you could share.

Thanks!
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby WanderingJim » Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:47 pm

Looking at the current trailheads report, there are openings in early September for both Glen Aulin trailheads (sept 3 for staying at the Glen Aulin camp and more starting dates for the pass through option). https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fulltrailheads.htm

I'd give the wilderness reservations line a call tomorrow and go over the route options with them to see what might be doable.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:30 pm

The wilderness permit situation has changed, these days you have to get there the day before you want to start hiking to get the walk in permits.

Here is what I suggest:
Sit down with a map and figure out three trailheads you'd be ok starting at, by checking the full trailheads list and finding dates and trailheads that have open spots. Rank them, and fill out a wilderness permit form. Fax it. If you get one of those options you're golden. Reserved permits can be picked up at any wilderness office.
If you don't get one of the desired routes, you can try for walk in permits the morning before - you have two chances. First chance is for permits for that same day, that were reserved by others who never showed up for them. They release those at 10 am. at 11 am, you have a chance at a walk in for the following day. You need to be at the specific wilderness office that has jurisdiction over the trailheads you want, so your trailhead choices that you ranked in order of preference should be in the same general part of the park.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:13 pm

I'll throw in. Strategically, all the way around, avoid coming on Labor Day weekend. Not only will your airfare be cheaper, rooms cheaper and more likely to be available, fewer crowds in and around the park, less traffic everywhere, but permitting on a walk-up basis should get easier too. Labor Day is the last hurrah for most people's summer.

As far as campgrounds go, Porcupine Flat is the shortest drive in (as in none to speak of), White Wolf isn't bad, and Yosemite Creek is 6 miles of pure suspension beating. I prefer White Wolf.

AlmostThere gives good advice; walk-up permits become available the day prior beginning at 11am. It is best if you go to the permitting station with jurisdiction, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Just keep in mind that if it's a tie between you and someone where they should be, you lose, they get the permit. It's the way it is, but the permitting rangers do have phones and computers to talk to one another, and if there's any question, they definitely will.

Also, anytime you get a wilderness permit, you're automatically eligible for one night before and one night after your trip at one of the backpacker's campgrounds. These are located in the Valley, Tuolumne Meadows and White Wolf. It might be something to consider in planning where to stay, on what night.

Finally for now, whenever you go for a walk-up permit, have several plans lined up and be willing to compromise if need be. This also goes back to AT's advice on doing your research ahead of time. Maps and Google are indispensable when used together. There are better routes than others, but it's hard to not find something incredible to see in Yosemite, no matter where you go.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby EdelKev » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:06 am

WanderingJim wrote:Looking at the current trailheads report, there are openings in early September for both Glen Aulin trailheads (sept 3 for staying at the Glen Aulin camp and more starting dates for the pass through option). https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/fulltrailheads.htm

I'd give the wilderness reservations line a call tomorrow and go over the route options with them to see what might be doable.


Thanks Jim! We will fax in an application today! I'll apply for Sept 3rd, but how does the "pass through" option work? We were going to do a loop of some version of Glen Aulin to May Lake to Sunrise to Cathedral and down to TM...does "pass through" mean starting at Glen Aulin and not returning? I tried to look pass through up on the site and couldnt find it anywhere. Thanks again for your help!
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:08 am

A pass through permit means you won't be stopping to camp at Glen Aulin. You'll take a campsite out along the trail beyond it. There are often two quotas for a popular trail that has a designated campground on it, such as Little Yosemite Valley - for Happy Isles there is a quota for LYV and another for LYV passthrough to give folks who are planning to go beyond LYV a chance at a permit.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby EdelKev » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:17 am

AlmostThere wrote:The wilderness permit situation has changed, these days you have to get there the day before you want to start hiking to get the walk in permits.

Here is what I suggest:
Sit down with a map and figure out three trailheads you'd be ok starting at, by checking the full trailheads list and finding dates and trailheads that have open spots. Rank them, and fill out a wilderness permit form. Fax it. If you get one of those options you're golden. Reserved permits can be picked up at any wilderness office.
If you don't get one of the desired routes, you can try for walk in permits the morning before - you have two chances. First chance is for permits for that same day, that were reserved by others who never showed up for them. They release those at 10 am. at 11 am, you have a chance at a walk in for the following day. You need to be at the specific wilderness office that has jurisdiction over the trailheads you want, so your trailhead choices that you ranked in order of preference should be in the same general part of the park.


Thanks so much AT! I'll fax in an application today, but just in case I don't make out, how early does a Smart Camper show up in the line [I know, I know, the Wise Camper would have applied for a permit months ago.... :)]? I suppose the earlier the better, but I've heard that folks camp out at 2 a.m. for walk in permits, but perhaps that's earlier in the season? I'm just wondering if there is an obvious rule of thumb that you experienced resident hikers know. Since we want to do some version of a Glen Aulin/May Lake/Sunrise loop we'll be sure to show up at the TM station for the permit if we are forced to try for a walk in.

Thanks again for your help!!!
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:31 am

They have "no camping" signs at the wilderness office. They moved the times later - the office opens at 8 am, but they don't hand out permits right away. Don't know if they shoo people who are camping or fine them. Showing up midweek usually helps a lot to diminish the line but on a holiday week all bets are off...

I rarely go to Yosemite any more for backpacking but when I do, I just show up an hour or two before permits are given. Don't remember not getting my first choice as a walk in. Things may have changed, as in the past few years the uptick in requests has skyrocketed.

One year I came to TM office and got a permit for myself for Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, drove to White Wolf, stayed the night in the backpacker camp, got picked up by a friend, drove back to TM with him, hiked back to my car. Stayed the night in the TM backpacker camp, went to the office when it opened, picked up a permit for another trailhead... it was a good few weeks, hiking from popular trailheads and having a resupply at the store and a night at the campground in between. You get one night before and one night after in the backpacker camps, if you have a valid permit.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:00 am

You have to remember that with a Glen Aulin pass-thru it's not that you "don't" camp at Glen Aulin, it's that you aren't allowed to under the terms of the permit. No camping before the HSC, and at least a one mile radius outside of it. That either puts you downriver at least to California Falls, or up the May Lake trail.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:18 am

You want a straight Glen Aulin permit, then state your exit. With the pass-thru, in order to stay on route, you would end up at McGee Lake, which isn't very nice, and will probably be dry anyhow, or up around Cathedral Creek.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby EdelKev » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:25 am

AlmostThere wrote:A pass through permit means you won't be stopping to camp at Glen Aulin. You'll take a campsite out along the trail beyond it. There are often two quotas for a popular trail that has a designated campground on it, such as Little Yosemite Valley - for Happy Isles there is a quota for LYV and another for LYV passthrough to give folks who are planning to go beyond LYV a chance at a permit.


Thanks so much AT for all your great input. Based on this I've adjusted my application choices and will fax 'er in today!

Thanks Everyone for the fast comments and input...its really helped us a lot! :)
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby EdelKev » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:37 am

Phil wrote:You want a straight Glen Aulin permit, then state your exit. With the pass-thru, in order to stay on route, you would end up at McGee Lake, which isn't very nice, and will probably be dry anyhow, or up around Cathedral Creek.


OK wow thanks!. That really helps!
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby EdelKev » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:55 am

Phil wrote:You have to remember that with a Glen Aulin pass-thru it's not that you "don't" camp at Glen Aulin, it's that you aren't allowed to under the terms of the permit. No camping before the HSC, and at least a one mile radius outside of it. That either puts you downriver at least to California Falls, or up the May Lake trail.


Again thanks...that's very helpful info. Hey, I was looking on the Yosemite website and only found this https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildregs.htm which does not include that info you listed. Is there somewhere else I should be looking? I see there are arrows on the Wilderness Trailheads Map [url][https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/wildernesstrailheads.pdf][/url] but the detail isnt very clear and I admit that I'm lousy at accurately reckoning my trail mileage.

I want to be sure to read up on all of the regs and I appreciate your patience with questions on the forum...I'd rather ask now and not inadvertently look like clueless jerks on the trail. I did earn my Eagle Scout medal back in the day so I do try to do this stuff the right way :)

Thanks again! :)
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:39 am

Call the wilderness office number, they'll confirm. I use the Superintendent's compendium, which is the only place I know of that shows the more advanced regs, as well as shaded radii for camping restrictions around HSCs. I'm on my phone, and it's a pain to link the site, but give me a few hours and I'll get it posted if AT doesn't get it first.
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Re: Wilderness Permit Strategy for After Labor Day (From Flo

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:16 pm

Superintendent's Compendium: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/manageme ... endium.pdf

Wilderness office: 209-372-0826

In the compendium, the no camping radius for Glen Aulin is on page 34.

And while the regulation regarding pass-thru permits isn't addressed, it is a regulation that's enforced. The idea being that the Glen Aulin permit and the Glen Aulin pass-thru serve different needs and ultimate destinations. If those hikers on a pass-thru were to stay at the backpacker's area, it would exceed the quota, and might as well just be called a GA permit. Most people that are doing the traditional HSC loop to any degree are going to want to stay at GA, then go on from there, stating their exit trailhead, with the first night's camping assumed to be/filled in on the application as GA itself. To be clear, with the GA permit, you CAN stay at the backpacker's area, but aren't required to. All it's doing is giving you the right to enter at the trailhead and be there overnight. You can stay anywhere, as long as it's outside that radius for undesignated sites, or at one of the designated sites within the campground.

With the pass-thru, you're staying anywhere but the campground, again, as long as it's the legal distance out. For your purposes, it makes the most sense to stay on-route, which puts you up the May Lake trail. You obviously also need water. McGee Lake is closest, but it's shallow and usually dries up to a stagnant pond in August. You should be able to pump though. It also doesn't offer many good sites, but there are some if you look. Needing water, your next logical location is just north of Cathedral Creek, before you cross. You'll find some remote sites if you drop down trail-right and go looking off trail. In that, you also need to consider that, when deciding what your hydration needs are going to be, it's all uphill, and your next likely water source is going to be Raisin Lake, because that area also dries up in late summer, even Murphy Creek. If you go dry in between, your only other guaranteed source is a fairly inconvenient diversion over to Polly Dome Lakes.

How you handle a reserved permit is all a matter of what's available. If you can get in on the GA permit, do. If all that's available is the GA pass-thru, take that and adjust based on the regulations and considerations I've listed. All you want to do is have the right to be on that trail to begin with, not get cited by a ranger, and go on from there with whatever piece of paper you end up with determining your itinerary. After that first night, none of this is going to matter. Pure technicalities, but still important. If you don't have a good map, get one now. Most of us would strongly recommend the Tom Harrison 1:63,360 "Yosemite High Country" for your needs.
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