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North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

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

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North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby Dusty » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:18 am

Hello! Looking for some suggestions, insight, help for our first backpacking trip to Yosemite and we are planning to hike along the north rim of the valley in early August. This was my son's graduation wish so it will just be the two of us hiking from Aug 3rd - Aug 8th. We will be heading out from Tamarack Creek and planning on coming out at Mirror lake/snow creek. We are both in good shape but will be coming from low elevation, so I would imagine the first 1-2 days are going to be brutal with full packs.

Looking at other forums, it looks like a 20 degree sleeping bag would be a good idea for the night, mosquitoes can be bad, there is some bear issue with the snow creek trail so camping is not possible in that area. We are used to camping in the boundary waters - bears and motquitoes don't really bother me, but this long distance planning is a little stressful.

My major questions are:
1) We will be renting a car in San Fran and driving it in, I will have to call and have them hold our permit ahead of time because we will not be able to be there right at 10 am, I don't think. We are flying in and will have to get propane for our stove and a few other items en-route. Is there a good store for that on our way into the park?
2) Is there parking at Tamarack Creek? It looks like we will take Tioga road to Gin Flat and then hang a right.
3) When we come out on the east end of the valley at Mirror lake, will we be able to take the shuttle back to our parking spot? or at least close to it? Do I need to get tickets ahead of time, or can be pick some up when we get there?
4) Looking at the map, it appears that we will be doing a total of 20 - 25 miles so I think we should be able to take it slow and enjoy some camping - are there any good day hikes along that trail that we should consider? If we do decide to come down to the valley earlier than our exit date, will that be a problem?
5) Water sources - are the streams adequate at that time of year to stock up?

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions.
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Re: North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:32 pm

1. Unless your stove is actually the larger two burner Coleman type people use for car camping, you are looking for isobutane propane blend, in a 3 or 8 oz canister, with the appropriate valve for a backpacking stove. I've had people show up with the propane in the green canister and a pocket rocket - be careful. Get Snow Peak, MSR, Olicamp, or Brunton brand - Not a Coleman brand in a big green canister.

You can get appropriate fuel in a Big 5, REI, Dicks, Bass Pro or other outdoor sporting good store.

2. There's a campground down there but if they issued a permit for you there will be parking and a bear locker for backpackers.

3. No shuttle to Tamarack Campground. You might get the hiker bus or YARTS to drop you off at the turnoff to the campground tho.

4. Your entire route is nothing but good day hikes. I have day hiked most of the route, from different trailheads, through the years. You have short side trips possible to the top of El Capitan, North Dome, or up to the Indian Arch.

5. You should be all right as there are streams at regular intervals. Look at the topo map - streams that are solid blue lines are year round, broken blue lines are the seasonal streams that dry in summer.
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Re: North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby Justin-T » Fri Jun 29, 2018 2:28 pm

Not much to add to AT's post, but here's another recommendation for a place to stop if you need any fuel or gear on the way from SF: Sunrise Mountain Sports in Livermore. Independent outdoors stores are struggling to survive the onslaught of internet stores and they just moved to a new spot this spring, 2184 1st St. No website yet but you can find them on Facebook. Its been our go-to for white gas on the way over for several years, as well as other bits and pieces for camping/backpacking we forgot to bring.

For day trips don't miss out on North Dome, really spectacular spot to drink in the majesty of Half Dome, and great views beyond (unless there are storms in the area, when you should steer well clear...)
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Re: North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby balzaccom » Sat Jun 30, 2018 7:29 am

1. Very specifically, there is an REI and some other sporting goods stores around Livermore...this is directly on your route from SFO to Yosemite. None are more then a couple of miles off the highway.

Other notes:. Your route should give you lots of time to explore..check out the Devil's Dancefloor and the Natural Bridge/Indian arch..but if you want to camp along a creek with water you may only hike 3-5 miles per day between camps, particularly if you have five days to do this trip.

With a backpacking permit, you are entitled to a night camping at a backpackers campground (they're in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows) both before and after your backpacking trip. If it were me, I'd hike the route in fewer days and use the campground permit to check out more of the park on day hikes...
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby Phil » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:08 am

You have plenty of good advice to work with already, but I want to add a few things.

First, when traveling from SFO, you'll eventually be on Hwy 580. For gear, there's an REI in Pleasanton not far off the freeway, but for the sake of sheer convenience, continue on until the end of 580, a short mile or so on I-5, then on to Hwy 120. Several miles past that interchange is a Bass Pro Shop on your right. Easy on, easy off, and no navigating through cities and mazes of freeways. This is definitely also your easiest option since it's right on your route to the park already and they're sure to have any last-minute equipment you need, including isobutane fuel. Further along, there's also a Big 5 Sporting Goods in the city of Oakdale that's right along the road through town.

In August, you're also not going to need to even think about mosquitoes on that route at all. And if you guys are used to hauling packs, and that's not the biggest factor in and of itself, the altitudes are generally considered at or below where most people have problems.

For transportation concerns with shuttling back to the car and getting dropped off at it, instead of driving down into the campground at Tamarack Flat at the beginning of your trip and then having to hike back down there anyway when the shuttle only drops you at the road, leave the car up on the road and hike the few miles in at the start of your trip. I believe they should have at least a bear locker or two at the trailhead, and this also won't require any permit alterations at all.

And yes, that trail has almost endless side-trips, but your camping is going to have to primarily revolve around where you find water, so you either haul it or camp close to it. That's becoming a limited resource in August. As mentioned, this generally shortens your daily distances. Off the top of my head, for viable camping in fairly close proximity to water, this puts you in the vicinity of, Cascade and Ribbon Creeks, Yosemite Creek above the falls (hike back a mile of so for some nice sites), Lehamite Creek , maybe Royal Arch Creek, and then of course, Snow Creek for creeks that will still have flow.

I would also agree with Balzaccom in that you should push a little, shorten the trip slightly, and take a day to hike some of the trails in the valley if it fits in with your shuttle scheduling; the YARTS shuttle leaves the Valley Visitor's Center at 5pm and will drop you where you need to go.
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Re: North Valley Hike Questions for Yosemite Newbies

Postby Dusty » Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:43 am

Thanks for all in insights! I will check those suggestions out!
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