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Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

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Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby jartelt » Wed Mar 06, 2019 5:02 pm

Hello everyone! I am just hoping to ask for some advice on a backpacking trip in Yosemite I am planning. Any feedback (positive or negative) would be greatly appreciated!

I have a wilderness permit for the Mirror Lake -> Snow Creek trailhead leaving July 4th and returning July 7th. The overall plan is as follows:

Day 1 - hike mirror lake trail to snow creek trail and then up out of Yosemite Valley. Camp along the snow creek trail near where the Snow Creek Ranger Cabin is located on my map.This is about 4,000 feet of elevation gain over 6 miles, so I am not sure we want to push much further on day 1.

Day 2 - continue along snow creek trail to Tenaya Lake (take a lunch break at the lake), then head up the trail to Sunrise Lakes to set up camp. This is about 8.5 miles and +2,500 feet of climbing.

Day 3 - hike up to Clouds Rest and then down to the JMT. Then take the JMT east for 2 miles, then turn right at junction and take trail down to Echo Valley, set up camp around Echo Valley for night 3. 12.5 miles and +2,400 feet this day.

Day 4 - hike from Echo Valley through Lost Valley then through Little Yosemite Valley. Take the JMT to Clark Point, then take trail down to Emerald Pool and cross onto the Mist Trail, then follow the Mist Trail back into Yosemite Valley and the mirror lake trailhead. 11.7 miles and +1,000 feet.

What do you all think of this route? My hope is that we get to see many of the Yosemite highlights along the route, yet still keep the mileage to around 10 miles a day on average. My group typically gets a little cranky after the 10 mile mark in a day.

I expect to see crowds given we are going on some of the popular trails, but am hopeful we can get over Clouds Rest early before many day hikers get up there. We will just have to deal with crowds in LYV and the Mist Trail, but at least we will be heading west while most day hikers will be heading east in the morning.

Any thoughts on potential snow levels? We hiked Clouds Rest a few years ago on July 4th and there was no snow, but that was during the drought. Things will definitely be different this year, but I am not sure how much snow is normal in July.

Also, any idea on whether or not Echo Valley is a nice place to camp? I am not sure how much further my group would want to push on the Day 3 hike given it is already at ~12.5 miles. But, I also don't necessarily want to camp in a swamp filled with mosquitoes.

Thank you in advance!
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby balzaccom » Wed Mar 06, 2019 6:14 pm

Worry about crossing Tenaya Creek. It can be really high and really cold in July in a high snow year. The alternative, hiking around Tenaya Lake, would add about 4 miles to your route..

And this year you just might run into snow well before you get to Cloud's Rest. We've been in Yosemite in late June when the Tioga Road was closed, and that's because of snow around Tenaya Lake at 8500 feet. If we don't get some warm weather in May and June, it could be even later this year.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby jartelt » Wed Mar 06, 2019 6:38 pm

Great point - I wasn't thinking about Tenaya Creek since the last time we did Clouds Rest it was very low.

Perhaps our backup plan in case that creek crossing is a no-go and Clouds Rest is too snowy would be to hike around Tenaya Lake and camp at Sunrise Lakes.

The next day, we would skip Clouds Rest and instead hike over to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, then either:

(a) hike down the JMT along Sunrise Creek and then over to Echo Valley.
or
(b) hike a mile North and then transition to the trail that runs from Echo Lake to Echo Valley. Follow that trail down to Echo Valley.

Thanks again. I guess I'll just keep and eye on the snow and trail reports through June!
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby dgilman » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:19 am

Just some advice on your first night -

After you come up Snow Creek, and after you cross the bridge that gets you out of the area where the bear is (or used to be - it has been a few years), as you're hiking along there is a great camping spot on the left side of the trail, opposite a stream. You may want to consider camping there. This is west of where you'd leave the trail to go find the Ranger cabin.

The Ranger cabin is super hard to find. And if you're planning to stay in it (which I think at that time of year you can not do), I'm not sure there is much value in camping near it. I'd make camp in that closer campsite near the trail, and then if you want to 'bag' the cabin, go off and do that.

We basically did this route (skipped Sunrise Lakes and just camped east of Cloud's Rest near the rim) with the addition on Half Dome on the way down. It's a great hike and once you get done with Snow Creek it's easy going (IMO).

Have fun!

David

PS - Don't forget your bear canister.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby balzaccom » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:32 am

dgilman wrote:
PS - Don't forget your bear canister.


He won't get a permit without one...
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby jartelt » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:46 am

dgilman wrote:Just some advice on your first night -

After you come up Snow Creek, and after you cross the bridge that gets you out of the area where the bear is (or used to be - it has been a few years), as you're hiking along there is a great camping spot on the left side of the trail, opposite a stream. You may want to consider camping there. This is west of where you'd leave the trail to go find the Ranger cabin.

The Ranger cabin is super hard to find. And if you're planning to stay in it (which I think at that time of year you can not do), I'm not sure there is much value in camping near it. I'd make camp in that closer campsite near the trail, and then if you want to 'bag' the cabin, go off and do that.

We basically did this route (skipped Sunrise Lakes and just camped east of Cloud's Rest near the rim) with the addition on Half Dome on the way down. It's a great hike and once you get done with Snow Creek it's easy going (IMO).

Have fun!

David

PS - Don't forget your bear canister.



Thanks for the info on the Snow Creek campsite! We'll probably end up looking for the spot you suggest. The area with the bear is still closed at the moment. I was mostly just using the cabin as a landmark, and hoping there was a stream nearby.

When you camped near the rim of Clouds Rest, was there a nice site with a view and a water source nearby?

Lastly, any advice on campsites near Echo Valley? I'm just curious if the Echo Valley area is actually a nice spot to camp or if it is a swampy mess in early summer.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:53 am

FYI, for general purposes, camping in or near those wilderness cabins is generally a bad idea due to rodents and various other things that can take up residence in them. Says the gal who stayed near a cabin in John Muir Wilderness and was kept up all night by a chewing porcupine in the cabin...
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby dgilman » Sun Mar 17, 2019 11:48 am

jartelt wrote:
When you camped near the rim of Clouds Rest, was there a nice site with a view and a water source nearby?


For the top of Snow Creek, the spot I mentioned is like 50' from a nice running creek.

For east of Cloud's Rest, no water. You'll pass a stream much lower that is the last spot to fill-up until you come down from Cloud's Rest on the other side and hit the JMT. You should be able to spot this stream on the map. Pretty much everywhere on the right side of the trail as you're approaching CR will have a good view - it's just about finding a good spot you like.

I can dig up some old GPX files if you're having trouble visualizing this on your map.

David
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby balzaccom » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:31 pm

Just to be clear: It's illegal to camp within 100 feet of a stream or lake in Yosemite...and most of the rest of the Sierra.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby dgilman » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:52 am

balzaccom wrote:Just to be clear: It's illegal to camp within 100 feet of a stream or lake in Yosemite...and most of the rest of the Sierra.


Apologies - 50 yards.

It's a well-used camping site with an established fire ring.

David
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:46 pm

balzaccom wrote:Just to be clear: It's illegal to camp within 100 feet of a stream or lake in Yosemite...and most of the rest of the Sierra.


Except where the rangers say otherwise, as they sometimes do. The well used campsites at Rancheria Creek for example - they will ask you to stay in them, instead of creating new campsites in that area. Sometimes reducing resource damage means breaking the letter of LNT "law"
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby Grzldvt » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:43 am

I don't visit much here anymore due to moving to Orange County and have other areas to explore, but this year there is no way in hell you can do this trip in early July unless the high country sees 100+ degree temps for weeks. The snow level in Toulumne Meadows is almost 9 feet right now and it is actually one of the lower areas for snow level. Based on going into that area for 30 years, following trails for the uninitiated is going to be impossible and down right dangerous to follow. Plus the Sierra/Yosemite is still not out of the major snowstorm situation yet, so more could get piled on.
Coming out of Tenaya, to Clouds Rest the snow level is only going to be much higher.
I have been into the park in early July when the snow level was as high as this winter and I was standing on the roof of the May Lake High Sierra camp(15 feet high at 8500 feet).
Plus really, no one gave the OP advice on the Snow Creek climb... 4000 feet of steps???? Been there done that even as a day hike it is a bitch of a hike, let alone a 35+lb pack.
Does the OP understand what it is like going up Clouds Rest with a full pack and the narrow ledge they will be on? It is not for the faint of heart.
Not trying to wreck the hike but if the OP has never been in the park or in those areas, they could be in for a huge shock and end up in serious danger.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:25 am

By July, 8-9k will be clear of snow, but prolly underwater... that's my guess.

We'll be doing trail crew at 7-8k in June.

John Dittli: In 2017 the snow pack was not only heavier over all, it was skewed to the higher elevations. This years snowpack is not only lighter, but skewed to the lower elevations. The lower snows will be gone by summer and not effect higher stem runoffs. If we take the actual JMT elevation snow pack for the various watersheds this is what we are looking at: 2017 compared to 2019 percentage of average. Tuolumne R. 149%/191% Kings R. 160%/203% Kern 182%/226% So as you can see, 2019 is ~75% of 2017 at trail elevation. That said, a 146-182% year is a good one so still be prepared for bugs and high water!
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby jartelt » Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:06 pm

Grzldvt wrote:I don't visit much here anymore due to moving to Orange County and have other areas to explore, but this year there is no way in hell you can do this trip in early July unless the high country sees 100+ degree temps for weeks. The snow level in Toulumne Meadows is almost 9 feet right now and it is actually one of the lower areas for snow level. Based on going into that area for 30 years, following trails for the uninitiated is going to be impossible and down right dangerous to follow. Plus the Sierra/Yosemite is still not out of the major snowstorm situation yet, so more could get piled on.
Coming out of Tenaya, to Clouds Rest the snow level is only going to be much higher.
I have been into the park in early July when the snow level was as high as this winter and I was standing on the roof of the May Lake High Sierra camp(15 feet high at 8500 feet).
Plus really, no one gave the OP advice on the Snow Creek climb... 4000 feet of steps???? Been there done that even as a day hike it is a bitch of a hike, let alone a 35+lb pack.
Does the OP understand what it is like going up Clouds Rest with a full pack and the narrow ledge they will be on? It is not for the faint of heart.
Not trying to wreck the hike but if the OP has never been in the park or in those areas, they could be in for a huge shock and end up in serious danger.


Thank you for the advice. I've hiked Clouds Rest, and do not anticipate this being an issue with a pack. The narrow ledge was not a problem for our group the last time. I have not hiked beyond Clouds Rest and descended into the valley though. I guess if the trail gets narrower in this section, we could have issues (I'm not sure if this is what you are referencing or if you are referencing the area near the Clouds Rest summit). Anyways, if there is too much snow, we plan to skip Clouds Rest and take a slightly different route.

Regarding the Snow Creek climb, I have not hiked this trail but am aware that it will be an uphill slog. Our current itinerary only has us going like 6 miles that first day, so we will have plenty of time to take it slow along the way up. The Mirror Lake/ Snow Creek trailhead was not my first choice, but it still had permit availability when I got around to reserving a permit. Our group decided we just suck it up the first day and deal with the climb!

Regarding snow, I'll definitely take your words of cautious seriously. We'll give the rangers a call before heading out and will bail if things sound too hairy. Worst case, we'll skip Yosemite this year and go to a lower elevation national forest that doesn't have permit quotas.
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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:31 pm

jartelt wrote: We'll give the rangers a call before heading out and will bail if things sound too hairy. Worst case, we'll skip Yosemite this year and go to a lower elevation national forest that doesn't have permit quotas.


I'm going to wonder where you'll find such a thing as lower elevation and no quotas that won't also be heat stroke inducing. I've only tried to carry a backpack at 100F+ and I'll never ever try again. Honestly, the route you are planning isn't all that high to begin with.
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