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[Yosemite]

White wolf trip ideas

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

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White wolf trip ideas

Postby drew.mudge@gmail.com » Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:57 am

Hi all,

So glad to have a Yosemite trip to look forward to in this weird summer. Heading out with White Wolf --> Smith Meadow reservations for three nights next week, hoping to get any ideas from someone familiar with the area (I haven't spent time in this part of the park before.)

1. Current conditions: I know to prepare for the mosquitapocalypse, but I'm wondering if anyone has a sense of the mosquito conditions in that area right now, or at those elevations of the park in general (looks like we'll generally be around 8000 feet for much of this trip.) Any good info about current water/snow/whatever else would be much appreciated too!

2. Trip planning ideas: three nights seems like a lot of time for this quieter trailhead. One trip description I found online was simply a one night out-and-back to camp at the summit of Smith peak, so obviously two additional nights means we have a lot room to play with. Maybe we'll just play it as a low mileage trip and just wander on some day trips from a home base in the Smith peak/meadows area. But I'm curious if anyone has ideas for exploring the area, maybe multiple areas to camp that make sense for starting and ending at White Wolf with three nights. Is there a sensible way to encapsulate some time in the Hetch Hetchy area?

Thanks!
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby Phil » Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:19 am

Yeah, that area doesn't get a lot of action. Not big on views, but some nice forested trails. I wouldn't bother with dropping down to Hetch Hetchy on this route, because you have a BIG and thankless climb back out to rehit your WW trailhead. WW to Smith is generally considered a day hike unless you want otherwise. Bugs shouldn't be any real problem at that elevation this time of year, even at Smith Meadow, and I don't have to be there to tell you that with confidence. Things (meadows/ secondary water sources) will be drying out by now, and there will be zero snowpack. Conditions aside, what I would strongly recommend though is that you cut out at the junction over to Harden Lake and go spend the night at the top of Morrison Creek, overlooking Hetch Hetchy; great sites, water, sublime view down to the reservoir...maybe the highlight of the trip. The trail from Harden down might be a little overgrown and possibly hard to follow in short sections, but all in all, it's a cakey climb back up to your trail that's worthwhile.

I would make it a loop around with Aspen Valley if you want a casual 3-dayer out of it. You'll have your best sites anywhere along Cottonwood Creek (inclusive of just west of the junction to Smith Peak...secure your packs and food, dayhike the last section up to the peak itself) and then dotted along the middle fork of the Tuolumne on the way back.

Oh, and also be aware that there are a pretty fair amount of bears in that area. As a matter of fact, around Aspen Valley was where the used to dump all the conditioned problem bears from all over the front-country that they try to relocate vs euthanize. And then there's White Wolf itself, which is basically its own thing where bears are concerned.
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:43 am

White Wolf is closed - you should spend little time on the park website reading about how it all works in 2020 before planning further. Using one of those trailheads will mean parking in a pullout on the highway, no bear locker in which to store things so a bear doesn't break into the car. Then walking the miles on the road before you reach the trail. Better to use the trailhead for the Aspen Valley trail or Ten Lakes at that point.

It's a dry year - the mosquitoes haven't been bothersome, as I treat my clothing with permethrin instead of relying on DEET. Sometimes they are bad enough that I need DEET on my face but that has not been the case yet. And last weekend they were less bothersome than the previous weeks. So take a little something, but it's unlikely they will be pesky til dusk.
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby Phil » Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:17 pm

Yep, the backpacker's camp at WW is closed this year too, so I'm supposing the AT is right, and the gate down to the campground/trailhead is also closed. If you do park on the road, it's only about 1.3 miles in, and the closest bear lockers are at the Lukens Lake trailhead a couple miles east on 120, inclusive of a larger, safer parking area. Given everything going on, and since Lukens is day use only, I would imagine that the rangers wouldn't have a problem with you starting from there either (always best to confirm), since parking on the shoulder of the road comes with its own set of risks besides that of bears breaking in, and WW is your next logical route point.
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby WanderingJim » Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:56 pm

Actually, Lukens Lake IS a wilderness trailhead that you can get a permit for. I did it years ago and it is still is listed as a trailhead.

As for White Wolf, I imagine there are bear boxes still down the closed road. You'd have to carry whatever you want to put in them down the closed road, but they should still be there. Heck, there much be dozens of empty ones in the closed campground.

And you can always drop stuff in bear boxes at other trailheads if you need to and drive back to get them after your hike.
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby Phil » Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:46 pm

Thanks for adding clarity to that, Jim. I know it's a wilderness trailhead, but the lake itself and anywhere between there and WW is off-limits to camping. If it's a matter of parking on the road or not, Lukens would be an easy switch to make since it's not heavily impacted by demand, at least I've never seen it anywhere near maxed on quota. Great point about the boxes at WW, but I had assumed they might want to conveniently clean out the car.
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby drew.mudge@gmail.com » Sun Jul 12, 2020 1:51 pm

Phil wrote: Conditions aside, what I would strongly recommend though is that you cut out at the junction over to Harden Lake and go spend the night at the top of Morrison Creek, overlooking Hetch Hetchy; great sites, water, sublime view down to the reservoir...maybe the highlight of the trip. The trail from Harden down might be a little overgrown and possibly hard to follow in short sections, but all in all, it's a cakey climb back up to your trail that's worthwhile.


Thanks so much for the reply, will definitely have to check this out. We might do the suggest loop with Aspen, or might just keep things simple/lazy with two campsites over three days. Follow-up question for you, or anyone else who has done smith peak: is the trail up smith peak reasonable to do as a night hike? One of my favorite Yosemite memories is camping on sunrise creek, then getting up in the wee hours to night hike up half dome and catch the sunrise. Obviously some peaks are more night hike friendly than others, in terms of well marked trails and all that. I won't mess around with this if it doesn't seem simple, but to get up there and maybe even get a twilight comet sighting before a sunrise... that would be great. Thoughts?
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Re: White wolf trip ideas

Postby Phil » Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:17 am

No problem. You're welcome.

Yeah, you can do it in the dark. It's a hefty climb of about 1400 ft over a mile and a half, but it's pretty open and clear until you get to the very last push up to the summit itself. At that point it narrows down and there are lots of brushy little paths that might or might not be grown over to different degrees. Find the best one, but left-ish was what I recall being the clearest and safest the last time I was there. The summit itself is pretty rocky, and there are solution pockets all over the place, so you want to be able to see where you're stepping, so bring headlamps, and don't let your batteries die on you. That'll be cool to watch the comet from there, but it's also another incredible view down to Hetch Hetchy, so try to get up there with at least some daylight left so that you can enjoy the view.

Have a great time. Stay safe and hydrated.
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