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[Yosemite]

Mono Meadow to Merced lake

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

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Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby jtmann » Tue Mar 10, 2020 11:05 am

Hello,

I am in the process of planning my summer backpacking trip. I have received some great info on this forum with planning a couple of past trips. I want to get to Merced Lake. I was late getting into the permits, but was recently able to secure a permit for Mono Meadow. I will be hiking with my 11 & 13 year old boys so their load and daily mileage (5-7 miles, although I am thinking they might be able to do more now that they are getting bigger and stronger) is still somewhat limited. We can just manage 4 nights worth of food, but if we get to Merced Lake I am thinking I can order us a dinner/breakfast there which would get us a 5th night.

I was thinking first night camping somewhere along Ilillouette Creek (but I am not familiar with this area), 2nd night at LYV, 3rd and 4th night at Merced, 5th night back at LYV and down to the valley the next day. The problem I am having with this plan is the 3rd day is too many miles for us from LYV to Merced and it is uphill. I am wondering if I can get far enough the first day to hike past LYV the second day, putting us in position to reach Merced the 3rd day. Another option would be to break up the 3rd day, but I would really like a layover day at Merced. I am thinking we can make the hike from Merced back to LYV on the 5th day because it is downhill. Any thoughts on this plan?

Also, If I were to try and get a walk-up permit for the same destination and the same kind of mileage, any suggestions on that?

Thanks for any input. Last year I got some good advice on our Vogelsang Loop Trip and two years ago we did Cathedral Trailhead to the valley and I also got some good advice on this forum.

Jason
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Re: Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:25 pm

Hi Jason

Good to see you back here, and still backpacking with the kids!

In general, the permit for Mono Meadows has one specific caveat: you HAVE to camp the first night in the Illilouette Creek drainage. They (NPS) do not want you using Mono Meadows just to bypass a permit from Happy Isles. So yeah, you have to camp somewhere along Illilouette Creek--and as I recall it needs to be upstream of where the trail crosses the creek. That leaves you with about 11 miles to Merced Lake. If you do it two days, it works out about right---about 5-6 miles each day. Not a problem.

On the other hand, the campsites right at Illilouette Creek get a lot of use, and are not that attractive. But the creek is right there, and it's certainly convenient. My experience from using the Mono Meadows trail head is that by the time you stop to pick up your permit, then drive to the trailhead, it's usually close to lunch time. From there, it's an easy hike down to Illilouette Creek. A perfect first day for acclimatization. And then you can start putting on the miles.

I think it sounds like a great trip.
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Re: Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby jtmann » Wed Mar 11, 2020 11:46 am

Thanks for the response. So you think that on day two we should hike past LYV and camp somewhere along the Merced, correct?
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Re: Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby balzaccom » Wed Mar 11, 2020 11:06 pm

Little Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake is only about six miles. I would just camp at LYV on night two, and then go to Merced lake on night three. Expect plenty of company at both places...
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Re: Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby Phil » Thu Mar 12, 2020 3:14 pm

Mono Meadow trailhead is pretty easy...big downhill at the beginning, maybe a little mushy in the meadow itself, then flatish to downhill all the way to Illilouette. For campsites when you get down to the creek, poking around can yield some good ones, but when you get to the crossing of the creek itself, you'll see a use trail just up the embankment to your right. Less than 100' into the trees you'll find a great site with plenty of space, good proximity to the creek, a firepit, privacy, and, it's actually a better crossing than that on the trail itself. Good, easy enough warm up for everyone's legs.

Depending on when you guys go during the summer, don't expect much if any available water along the trail down to the Panorama/JMT. It's an easy enough hike with moderate ups and downs, primarily shaded but if it's hot, just load up on an extra couple liters of water when you're still at camp for the hike. That little bit of extra weight shouldn't be a problem for the kids at all. Your total mileage from camp to LYV is going to be just slightly over 5 miles.

If you guys do decide to go past LYV, you have to remember that you're minimally committed to go another 2 miles to get into the legal camping area. You also have to keep in mind that the trail is sandy and kind of tough on fatigued legs...but I do happen to believe that it's absolutely worth it. At that 2 mile point you'll see not only a sign, but Moraine Dome to your left. This is called Lost Valley. Here you'll find lots of sites on both sides of the trail, but the ones that are the nicest are to the left toward the dome. If you guys have a bit more in you, you can also go up to the twin footbridges above Bunnell Cascade. Again, poke around for sites, but there are lots uphill left above the first footbridge you come to. This area would actually put you into good position for the next day up to Merced Lake, but you have what you have when everyone decides. Just so you know all the options and where to look for them if you pass LYV. Push them if you can. It'll be worth it.

btw- LYV- Merced Lake is actually just about 8.5 miles.

Past the footbridges you do have a fairly good ascent up the river course, but it's not too bad, the switchbacks are mostly long and easy, and there are some great views of the gorge. At the top you'll cross another footbridge and enter the easy flats of Echo Valley. Past that, you hit the river again and begin a mild ascent up to the lake, where the backpacker's area is on the northwest corner (it will be packed).

My final suggestion is to either go beyond Merced Lake that day or to just spend the night there and then go up to Washburn Lake another 4-5 or so miles upriver. You'll all enjoy that much more!!, and if you need that 5th day's food, just go back to the HSC for dinner. But really do try to not tether yourselves to lesser daily destinations because of lack of food storage capacity, add capacity. A Garcia is only about 2.6 lbs, and it really shouldn't be too big a deal weight-wise to have the kids haul their own or one shared between them. It's crowded in that area, but it's also gorgeous, and you can make so much more of it if you give yourselves to tools and effort to make it more.
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Re: Mono Meadow to Merced lake

Postby jtmann » Thu Mar 12, 2020 8:10 pm

balzaccom and Phil thanks for the input. Phil, I was hoping you would chime in. You are the man! Last year you gave me some great advice about picking up a walk-up Lyell Canyon permit instead of our reserved Rafferty Creek permit for our Vogelsang loop trip and we got it! On our way in the first day we met a guy who told us about a site a little before the Vogelsang cutoff where most of the sites are. It was a sweet site close to the river (not too close) with a fire ring and great fishing. My son landed a monster brown on a fly and bobber set up (that we released btw). We also stayed our 4th night at Boothe Lake which had insane flyfishing. Small to medium sized brookies but they were hitting anything and everything.

This year my 73 year old father will not be going with us so we should be able to cover more ground and are only carrying food for 3. I like the idea of pushing the boys a bit and I know they can do it. Also was thinking about checking out Washburn Lake if possible. Our permit starts July 6. I'll definitely be asking more questions in the near future about parking logistics and such because I would really like to end in the valley.

Thanks again you two,

Jason
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