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[Yosemite]

Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

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

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Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:40 pm

Hi all. We were planning a car camping trip later this month but I don't think that's happening in Yosemite. We camp a bit and the older kids (4, 6, 9, 12) can carry packs. My 12 and 9 year old daughters have done some backpacking trips overnight. We're looking for something for 3-5 nights. With the 4 year old we'd rather just set up camp somewhere and do some day hikes. Or just a loop putting in no more than 3-4 miles a day.

We're open to anywhere in the park. Thanks for your help.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby balzaccom » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:13 pm

That's tough in Yosemite, because except for one location, you have to be four miles from the trailhead before you can camp. That one exception is May Lake, which would meet your criteria perfectly---but it's also very tough to get a permit because....it meet your criteria perfectly, and that's what everyone else wants, too.

You could try hiking up Lyell Canyon for four miles and then add on miles up-canyon, or up towards Vogelsang, etc.

And one other option would be Glacier Point (or Mono Meadows, which is an easier permit) to Illilouette Canyon. From there you can hike around or just play in Illilouette Creek.

South of Yosemite, you can look at Chain Lakes from Fernandez Trailhead, or in Emigrant Wilderness Camp Lake out of Crabtree, or Powell Lake and beyond out of Gianelli.

Near Silver Lake there is a nice loop around the back country that would add up to about eight miles if you did the whole thing...hiking to Hidden Lake and Granite Lake.

The easiest hike of all is the trail up to the small lakes out of Carson Pass. You'll need a difficult to get permit for Winnemucca or Round Top Lakes, but north of 88 you can hike in to Showers or Round Lake and poke around there just fine.

On the east side of Carson Pass, you could also look at Glacier Lake out of the Blue Lake trailhead--but once you get there (and it's only a couple of miles) there isn't much else.

And there are tons of options for this kind of hike in Desolation Wilderness.

You should also look at Grouse Ridge of Highway 20 before it hits I-80 below Donner summit. There are a lot of lakes there, and easy hikes to most of them.

All of these are on our website: backpackthesierra.com
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:38 pm

Thanks.
The three options I've entered the lottery for are Sunrise lakes, Ten lakes, and Cathedral lakes. I was figuring we could do the Ten lakes in two legs on the way out. Can you camp at May lake? I would have picked that as an option.
Maybe I'll have my wife make and attempt as well and include May lake.

Also are the backpacker's camps at Tuolumne meadows open? That would make those options a little easier for the kids.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:09 pm

You'll have to look at the website for which camps are open right before you go. It's a really strange year for parks. All the developed campgrounds will be open but we aren't sure when, and they aren't talking. The road to TM opens next Monday, I'd expect to hear about the backpacker camp sometime next week but - can't say for sure.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby Phil » Sat Jun 13, 2020 4:16 am

You had mentioned May Lake. Yes, you can camp there at the designated backpacker's area. That said, I would think that's a good trip for the kids. Beyond that, you can take them in short bursts to some really nice places along the May Lake > Glen Aulin trail. There's Raisin Lake, Poly Dome Lakes, then exit Murphy Creek, or you can continue on toward Glen Aulin itself and exit at TM.

Another simple option which is the one I first took my own kids on is Yosemite Creek. From there you have the option of dropping down into the Valley via Yosemite Falls, or you guys can bop around the North Rim as the mood strikes you.

Ten Lakes Basin is gorgeous, with lots of views and of plenty of camping that works well as good base camp locations for exploring and day hiking, but you might want to make very sure that all the kids are going to be able to make the ascent or you run the risk of an abandoned trip.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby balzaccom » Sat Jun 13, 2020 8:01 am

Exactly, The reason I did not mention either Ten Lakes or Sunrise Lakes is that they both involve significant climbs at altitude on the first day--tough on little kids.
Check out our website and blog at: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/home
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Mon Jun 15, 2020 8:54 am

Well, we gt a Ten lakes permit for 6/21 for our family of 6 + 4 more for my brother's family (they're experienced backpackers). The email we got said the backpacker's camps will be open the night before so we're going to stay in white wolf Saturday.

The kids are tough and I'm hoping to make it all the way up to Ten lakes in one go (I think my wife is planning on telling them it's my father's day present). We'll spend 2-3 nights there and then head down to May Lake before coming out. It looks on the map that you can camp once you get to the White Wolf trail junction. If they can't make it to Ten Lakes we'll just camp there and maybe bail back to White Wolf.

We have our meeting with the ranger coming up and I'll update with more info.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:07 pm

Yes, there are a few trailside sites at that junction that'll be large enough for a group that size, and with easy water access within yards. Gentle grade of just over 2 miles from the trailhead. Beyond that, steeper grade, so if anyonyone isn't cutting it, bail there back towards WW, although that's 5 miles of blah hiking. Beyond that junction toward Ten Lakes, just a few smaller sites at the base of the switchbacks at Half Moon Meadow, but probably not big enough for 10 unless you're jammed in. The switchbacks up to Ten Lakes Pass can get rough and hot, on top of being a hefty enough climb. You 'll need to commit beyond that, and definitely if you go out the other side of the lake basin.

So, even the littler kids are pretty tough, huh? They'll need to be to make it over to May Lake from there. Are you interested in what lies past the basin? Get early starts, manage the distances (take more time if need be), keep the kids light. Also, no shortage of bears in that entire area, so make sure everybody knows and follows the food storage protocols fiercely, then double check them at the end of the day. And, you definitely don't want to skimp on the mosquito repellent or not invest in head nets!! The basin is usually pretty bad until mid July.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:48 am

So I made a last ditch effort to switch the permit to May lake or Murphy creek. We'll see if it goes through. They don't take new reservations within 9 days even if there are slots available but apparently they'll take changes within nine days so if someone else cancels we may have a shot.

We just did 4 miles last night with packs with 500ft elevation gain in the first 1.5 miles and the kids did really well - we're at sea level though. 4 year old might be tough. But we'll take plenty of breaks. I'm actually thinking of playing sherpa and heading up first thing in the morning with a heavy pack and coming back to help make another run. Probably not. During the 2-3 days we plan on staying at ten lakes we'll explore and consider whether we can make it down to May lake in a day (that's ~10 miles right?). If not we'll just head back to the Ten lakes trail head at the end and let the older kids go down via May Lake.

In the ranger meeting we were told the White Wolf road and camp (including the backpacker's camp) are closed for the summer so it looks like we'll either stay at Tuolumne Meadows or in the Valley. I'm tempted to stay in the Valley while it's empty. Might never get the chance again. They're having people stay in the back of North Pines so you have better access to water for washing. I guess we could stay in TM on the way in and in the Valley on the way out.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:01 pm

Let us know how it ends up and we can go from there if you like.

For the Ten Lakes trip though, I would probably not take a 4 year old along for this one, and knowing the route, I would also hesitate before taking the other kids, up to and including the 12 year old.

Assuming that everyone gets up to the basin and lakes #1, 2, 3 close in, beyond that the trail climbs up about 500 ft to Lake #6 where it flattens out and then begins to climb slightly again to about 9500 ft, then begins a relatively consistent, but at times steep descent for about another 3/4 mile, and then it drops off for about 1200 feet of hard switchbacks down to the South Fork of Cathedral Creek (You can look at topos all you want, but it won't do justice to the magnitude of what you'll see from the top....and then look across the gorge and realize that you'll be climbing that in a few hours). Beyond that, you travel a little over 1.5 miles on a gentle upgrade parallel with the creek, then regain that 1200 feet and then some (+/- 9800) on the other side of the canyon you just descended. It's a hard and steep climb in places. This aspect of this section is shaded, so it's also extremely likely to have some snow cover still hanging around. Don't underestimate the difficulty of this section. If anyone hits the wall here, you have no choice but to push on or go back, and going back still puts you in that gorge, which has to be climbed out of in one direction or another. Continuing on, there are some sites with water on that western slope, but they're nearer to the top of the climb. Beyond the pass just below Tuolumne Peak, you have a hard and steep descent to the two tarns on the eastern slope, where there are lots of sites, some better, some junk. Past that, the descent down to the May Lake > Glen Aulin trail varies in gradient, but it's still solid downhill. The trail junction there has a few scroungy desperation sites here and there, and there should still be some water, if not snowpack and postholing this time of year (not to mention, mosquitoes), but your best bet here is to make your way either to Poly Dome Lakes or Raisin Lake. I doubt everyone will feel like going all the way to May Lake on that day. And besides, as lovely as May Lake is, camping is still better and more private at Raisin and Poly Dome.

If your kids are tough, God bless 'em, but the full Ten Lakes route is one that can either motivate them in a big way for the future, or it could destroy any love of backpacking that they might otherwise have, forever.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Tue Jun 16, 2020 2:21 pm

That's great info. Thanks.
If the permit doesn't get switched to May lake of Murphy Creek we'll make a go of Ten lakes. I hope if we get an early start we make it into the basin the first day. I was going to scout out the trail down to May lake one of the days we're up there to see if my 12 and 9 year old can make it. That, fishing and a trip over to Grant Lakes are the plan. Sounds like the littles will just head back down Ten lakes trail. They're tough but climbing up and down through two passes with melting snow might not be the best way to spend a day.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby jvquarterback » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:55 am

The trip was a success for some first time backpackers. We only made it up a few hundred yards passed the white wolf trail toward ten lakes. The kids had a blast. Some cousins got eaten by mosquitos and we were going to run out of DEET so we left without making it to the top. My 4 year old made it up the 2.3 miles, played for a couple hours and then fell asleep for 13 hours straight. The older kids probably would have made it up but I didn't want to risk making the trip miserable with the mosquitos. Everyone is excited to go back and I got May lake passes for Labor day weekend. Grandma may even join us on that one.

We stayed at the "backpacker's camp" in upper pines which was really nice and spread out both the night before and the night after the trip. I felt like we had Tioga road to ourselves. We stopped at both Olmstead point and Tenaya lake and we were the only people there from 3-5pm on a Tuesday afternoon in perfect 75 degree weather. We all went swimming in the lake. The valley was busy but nothing like it usually is. Tubing down the Merced river and jumping off the bridges was nice. Hot though - in the 90s.

I told my kids it was the best Father's day present ever and they loved that. My wife got home and bought a bunch of new gear for the kids so I think we will be doing a lot more backpacking.

I'm going with my brothers from Agnew Meadows to the valley in a couple weeks, then May lake for Labor day.
Last edited by jvquarterback on Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:01 pm

Very cool! Any trip where everyone has a good time and you can crash and burn your 4 year old for 13 hours is a good one!

That initial upgrade from the parking lot to the camp at May Lake is easy and only about 1.3 miles...a perfect new backpacker/kid trip. Just watch it past Raisin Lake for water. There's a small spring that may not be more than a seep on the downslope of the pass beyond, and Poly Dome Lakes, but Murphy Creek will be long past completely dry by Labor Day.

If you need any suggestions for the kids' gear, let us know. Just be sure to actually fit them in person at the store if you buy them packs. Good fit, good carry v bad fit, bad carry can make or break a trip, especially for kids.
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Re: Suggestions for a short backcountry trip with my 4 kids

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jul 01, 2020 3:23 pm

That's a great report. Thanks for sharing it!
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