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Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

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Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby bbmq » Tue May 07, 2019 4:52 pm

I have a 5 day permit starting at Cathedral Lakes Trail that includes hiking up Half Dome, I was looking for decent places to camp the first two nights.

I'm aware of the creek just beyond Sunrise HSC, I've passed by it a few times but didn't stop to look it over. Is this a decent option?

Is there anything in the area of the junction of the JMT and Lake Merced Trails? I would love to set up in this area and do HD as a day hike from here.

I've camped in the area of Sunrise Creek near the junction of the JMT and Clouds Rest Trails. This used to be a pretty good option but it seemed like it's gained in popularity by word of mouth and might be tougher to get a site, do you know if this is true?

Also with the HSCs not opening this year I wonder if there's still tap water available at Sunrise?

Thank you in advance.
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby balzaccom » Tue May 07, 2019 6:02 pm

For five days you could camp at Lower Cathedral Lake and still have lots of time to finish this hike...but if you really want to avoid most people, why not cross country to Echo Lake? It's and easy route to find, and will there is a lot of space, not too many people.

As for campsites with no people, I don't think any campsite that gets discussed on these boards, or any others, can be guaranteed to have no people...

Good question about water at the HSCs. My guess is no, but please call the wilderness office to ask, and report back to us!
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby Phil » Wed May 08, 2019 6:18 am

You have 5 days, and that's a 3 day hike. Does that mean you can take a leisurely pace? You also didn't say when you're going. That can mean a lot on site availability. That's a heavily impacted trail, but weekdays are always better, and water availability gives you more choices of where to camp.

Your first night can be Upper Cathedral Lake. You can poke around on the north side of the lake and find lots of sites there, or you can go over to the south side and back a bit, or you can resign yourself to walk to the water a little more and find something up in the rocks to the east (left side of main trail before you do that last stretch up to the pass). Also, as Balzaccom mentions, head up to Echo Lake.

Again dependent on when you go, that creek past the HSC doesn't flow too far into the summer. Earlier on, count on it. Don't later. That's also where people that want to avoid the HSC are headed. Some sites, but not a lot. The tap at Sunrise is also there only to serve the camp's needs. No opening, and I doubt they'll turn on the water because they chlorinate it. Tastes lousy, but wet is wet. If it's early enough, you can also grab water at Long Meadow Creek, but you're really not allowed to camp there because of HSC proximity.

Yeah, those sites down by the JMTxCR junction get packed. We all know why. If you can time it to where you get there earlier in the day, so much the better for finding something decent, but lots of other people lock them in and use them as base camps for day hiking to the dome and back.

So you indicated that you know the area somewhat. When you descend Sunrise Mountain and come off the rocky switchbacks down to where Sunrise Creek begins and is actually just a seep, sites start in there, both creekside and up above to the left of the trail. Poke around. Where to start looking is where you make the first hop over the creek itself. There are some sites hidden pretty well that'll take some effort to find, but they're there. That area burned, and I haven't been there since. Nice area if it's not torched, and it's primarily outside the area where most people think to stop for the night. It'll be more JMT hikers than HD folks, so the impact will be less.

Again, the second area you mention it that junction for Merced LakexJMTxForsyth Trail. Yeah, there are sites in there, both creekside and just off the JMT in all directions. It doesn't necessarily put you in great position for a day hike of HD, but it is a good alternative.

I guess the final alternative is to go up CR and head out cross country...if those upper creekelets still have some flow. Lots of sites up there, and the terrain and proximity to the dome, along with an earlier start, will put you hours ahead of most other people for the que up the cables.
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby bbmq » Wed May 08, 2019 8:49 am

Thanks a lot, Phil and Balzaccom, this is the type of information I was looking for. I hadn't mentioned the rest of my trip because I was primarily concerned with getting in close proximity to HD and finishing that on the 2nd day. I start on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, I love hiking during that week.

I was looking to get somewhere around the beginning of Sunrise Creek by the end of the first day and maybe stay there two nights and do an HD day hike from there. Or maybe get down to the JMTxCR junction in the morning and then day hike from there.

On the 3rd day I'm going to head tothe Lake Merced area and staying at the HSC is a possibility but I would rather head to Washburn Lake, depending on how far my hike is that day.

Then I'm going to head toward Vogelsang Pass and would love to spend the night at Bernice Lake, that would be my last night. I've haven't been in that canyon before, I've only hiked to Merced once via Rafferty Creek and camped at Babcock Lake. I assume there must be good sights along that creek in the canyon?
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby bbmq » Wed May 08, 2019 1:45 pm

Fyi - I called the Wilderness Center and they confirmed that neither tap water or toilets will be available when the camps are closed, so that means all of this year.
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby balzaccom » Wed May 08, 2019 6:36 pm

Good information! Thanks!
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby Phil » Wed May 08, 2019 6:55 pm

That being the case, the week after Labor Day, and staying on the JMT, you will have no water sources at all from Upper Cathedral until Sunrise Creek. The higher snowpack and resulting increased duration of flows will most likely be out of play by then.
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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Half Dome

Postby bbmq » Thu May 09, 2019 10:55 am

That you for all of this great feedback, I look forward to getting out into that great back country and (fingers crossed) not have to be dealing with any wildfires. Enjoy a great season!
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