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Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

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

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Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

Postby CSK » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:37 pm

Hi all, this is my first time visiting this site. It sounds like there are so many knowledgable folks out there who have experience backpacking Yosemite that I'm hoping someone can answer a question. I'm planning our first backpacking trip in Yosemite, and we are targeting Ten Lakes in mid-July. Already have permits reserved. Been reading about it and it sounds like a tough hike up for folks who are not super-fit. We did the hike down to and back out of Waip'io Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii a couple of weeks ago (steepest part had an elevation gain of 800 feet in 0.6 miles) and had sore legs for four days afterwards. So for our Ten Lakes hike, I was thinking of driving up from the Bay Area to the trailhead and backpacking out to the meadow 4 miles in - I believe it is called Half Moon Meadow - and then camping there the first night. Then we'd do the difficult last couple of miles the next day. Does anyone know if there is water available Half Moon Meadow, and whether there might be any issues with camping there the first night? In all the posts I've read, everyone seems to just hike all the way to the lakes the first day. Not sure why no one seems to camp at the meadow. Thanks!
CSK
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Re: Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

Postby Phil » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:21 am

Hi. Welcome.

I can't honestly say that I'm aware of any established sites within Half Moon Meadow itself or on its periphery, except at the northeast end, where there's obviously one in the trees and by the creek, just before the switchbacks. Other than that, I've never looked. The meadow itself is fairly pristine, but it's heavily forested at all but the eastern side, so without too much disruption, you should be able to find a place clear enough for a tent. Just don't make a big deal of it or build new fire rings. There is a stream winding through it that should still have good flow in mid-July, as well as another on the south end that comes down from Grant Lakes, both main tributaries for Yosemite Creek. There's also a fair amount of bear activity in the area, just so you know.

Here would be my suggestions:

First, if you find yourself getting a later start and frying because it's hot, there's the junction at the Ten Lakes trail and the trail coming in from White Wolf a little over two miles up from the trailhead. Here you cross the creek, walk just a couple hundred feet, then you'll find a few established sites basically trailside on both the right and left. They'll be obvious, and water is pretty much right there. Being established sites, this would be far preferable to potentially creating any new ones up-trail by the meadow.

Secondly, shoot for that site I mentioned above at Half Moon Meadow. If it's taken, as just a suggestion on what would be your best bet in areas to look, backtrack slightly and explore the southern edge of the meadow, skirting the treeline for potential sites. As I said, I'm pretty sure you'll find something that will work for a night, if not already established.

Third, and while this is what I would absolutely call the coolest and most rewarding way to go short of making it to Ten Lakes Basin itself, but entirely dependent on your comfort level in doing so, is to head across the meadow to the east/southeast and climb the slope up to Lower Grant Lake. It's fairly steep and strenuous, so you'll want to unbuckle your hip and sternum straps for safety, but it's short, and you'll stop out at the trail to Grant Lakes at the top, so no way you can get lost. Read the terrain from the meadow, but don't go so far as the rock outcropping you'll see at the south end (both visually and on your map...left of the Grant Lake drainage), or so far north that you end up on the exfoliating slabs. What you're shooting for is just right of middle. Basically, a few degrees south of magnetic east. Lower Grant Lake has a fantastic site on the north end, and plenty of sites back in the rocks to the west. The climb, while steep and strenuous, is short and quick, still better than the switchbacks, and is only going to give you a fairly moderate mile the next morning up to Ten Lakes Pass.

All that said, probably the best way to tackle getting up to Ten Lakes successfully in terms of making it as easy as possible is to get an early start at the trailhead, stay hydrated, and rest as often as you need to. Other than the switchbacks up from Half Moon Meadow, the grade really isn't too bad at all, and once you get over the pass and look down into the basin, with the end in sight, it'll all be behind you and worth every step.

Oh, and one last thing, are you through-hiking this or doing it as an in-and-out? If the former, there's more you should know.
Phil
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Re: Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

Postby CSK » Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:11 am

Awesome advice, Phil. We're just going to do an out and back this first time. We love the sierras - recharges us spiritually. Hoping to build up the strength and experience to do more advanced backpacking in the future. I think we need to do more physical training - knees and backs aren't so good, and neither of us are spring chickens (hit the mid century mark recently). We'll follow your great advice on finding camp sites. Thanks!
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Re: Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

Postby Phil » Sun Jun 24, 2018 6:53 am

You're welcome. Heck, I'm about to turn 57...you can do this. Find some hills at home, walk them a lot. A couple weeks will do wonders for your strength and stamina.

As another suggestion in your logistics, I wouldn't plan to drive to the park from the Bay Area and just hit the trail immediately. You'll have a late start and not necessarily an easy time of any of it if it's hot. Instead, as long as you get to the wilderness office at the Big Oak Flat entry station before 5pm, plan on picking up your permit there. Keeping in mind that you'll have to push back your entry date by a day or get to the park a day sooner to keep your original date, plan on spending the night under your permit at the backpacker's camp at White Wolf.

It's not only fairly close by the trailhead, it'll give you a chance to rest up after the drive, get an earlier start the next morning, and at least some time to acclimatize to the altitude...all of which a lot of people don't effectively consider or plan for, but are critically important if you want to hike Yosemite just about anywhere successfully and have the best time of it.
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Re: Camping at Half Moon meadows before Ten Lakes pass?

Postby CSK » Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:43 pm

Yep, we were out hiking up hills this morning. Definitely need a little more conditioning, but we will get there. I like to think that 50 is the new 30... :-) White Wolf is a good option. Thanks.
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