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Questions about Clouds Rest

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

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Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Thu Jul 07, 2016 5:12 pm

I’m going to Tuolumne for the first time around the end of July and I have a few questions. I’d appreciate it if anyone could respond.

1) I cannot make up my mind where to camp overnight on my way to Clouds Rest from May Lake. I was thinking about Sunrise Lakes (not Sunrise HSC), but not sure if it is permissible and if there are any decent sites. I also need to get back to Tuolumne Meadow to catch the Hikers Bus at 2:15 pm the next day. If I leave Sunrise Lakes at 8:00 am and go back via JMT, would I be able to get back in time? I’m an average hiker, but if there’s a lot of uphills, obviously it will slow me down. And has anyone been to Clouds Rest recently? How was the condition of the trail? Any more snow?

2) Are there bear boxes in Glen Aulin, May Lake, and Sunrise HS Backpackers campgrounds? If so, do I still need to bring a bear canister if I only stay in these campgrounds?

Thank you.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby transponster » Thu Jul 07, 2016 5:54 pm

Sunrise Lakes is a good place to camp if coming from May Lake. If I remember correctly, it's about 7 miles from May to Sunrise lakes, give or take, depending on which lake you camp at. Then it's about 5 miles to Clouds Rest from there.

Clouds Rest to TM via JMT is going to be about 15 miles. That's on top of the 5 miles from Sunrise Lakes to CR. That's a long day of hiking, and it would be very difficult to complete this by 2:15 unless you left very early in the morning. Your better bet is to exit at Sunrise TH and take the shuttle to TM - this would cut off at least 5 miles.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:01 pm

Yes, camping is allowed at all the Sunrise Lakes. There are some sites at Lower (usually very crowded), plenty at Middle, and more at Upper along the shore on the opposite side of the lake.

Alternatively, if you want to go towards and partially up Cloud's Rest, you can find sites in the trees to the right of the trail on the flats just before the trail narrows as you begin your final push up to the summit. Although, you will need to carry water in with you from the stream you pass about a mile or so back.

The trail is definitely going to be clear and completely free of snow by the time of your trip. Don't ever forget that there are lots of bears in all these areas though, and they can be both wily and aggressive.

It's hard to say if you can make that bus in time. The uphills are minor, with a short one from Sunrise Lakes over to the HSC, and another out of Long Meadow up and over to Columbia Finger just before Cathedral Pass. Being "average" might not be quite good enough, unless you enjoy things like panicked sprints for flights and being late for your own wedding. Transponster's points about mileage and the alternative is entirely valid... and if the car is at the upper May Lake parking lot, there's a 1.5 mile trail just up the road from the Sunrise trailhead that will get you there the fastest and easiest.

Yes, the camps at all the HSCs have at least a few bear boxes available (they are likely to be absolutely packed though), but, since it doesn't sound like you're going to be strictly staying in any of them and potentially camping in the wilderness, you will be required to carry a canister. You will have to hike out your garbage anyhow, and the permitting ranger will not compromise on the subject. Regardless of regulations, if you're staying anywhere near Sunrise or CR, don't even begin to mess around with improper food storage. I promise you that, without it, you will have every ounce of it eaten or torn to shreds long before you get up the next morning.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:41 pm

Thank you both for your replies. Really helpful although now I am a bit worried about bears. I will carry a bear canister for sure. But still, I don't know how I will react if I see one (I've never seen one in the wilderness). Oh my.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:22 pm

They want your food, not you. You just need to be aware and respectful of their presence is all. If you see one, yell at it. If that doesn't run it off, yell again louder. Still doesn't do it, stand up, take a few steps toward it and yell some more. I won't go into the throwing rocks thing, but the whole point is; they want easy, not confrontation. I'm sure you'll be more fascinated than frightened. You might get a little anxious at times, but it's more fun and interesting than anything else...as long as they're not eating your food or wrecking your stuff.

I've woken up in the middle of the night looking at a bear's face under my rain fly a couple times, chased them with my gear in their mouths, been huffed at and bluff charged, caught one half way up a tree and had a one-sided conversation explaining how pointless it was going to be with me standing there back when we used to be able to hang our food (that was hilarious...you should have seen the way it nervously looked at me as it backed down and ran off!), watched them beat the crap out of my cans too many times to count, been three feet away from a 385 lb boar that refused to stop licking someone's grill up at White Wolf, and once tried to kick a pissy little cub that absolutely refused to get off the trail up by Merced Lake. Not always too smart of me, but I somehow lived to tell about it every time. I either let them get their ya-yas out and satisfy their curiosity, or convinced them that I wasn't in their best interests.

Just be smart, keep your food close at hand, and use your canister how it was meant to be used. They'll do their job, you do yours.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby MadDiver » Fri Jul 08, 2016 7:11 pm

Could you tell us your full intended route? Since yu want to catch the hikers shuttle it makes me think you want to get back to the Valley. If so why backtrack? May Lake To CR, camp near CR, hike out to the Valley. No worry about catching the bus.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Fri Jul 08, 2016 7:35 pm

That was my thought, too. That shuttle schedule is ridiculous. I counted about six people on the 2 o'clock return trip to the Valley while sitting outside the Tuloumne store. Hitching a ride back to our car last week was actually the better way to go.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:15 pm

MadDiver wrote:Could you tell us your full intended route? Since yu want to catch the hikers shuttle it makes me think you want to get back to the Valley. If so why backtrack? May Lake To CR, camp near CR, hike out to the Valley. No worry about catching the bus.


I will basically hike half of the High Sierra Camp loop starting from Glen Aulin. Your suggested route would make much more sense, but for some reason, I feel I must go to Clouds Rest and also see Cathedral Lakes on this trip. I eventually came up with this plan, kind of silly but it might work. After leaving May Lake, I will camp near Sunrise Lakes. The next day, hike to CR by noon, then backtrack, gather my stuff in my campsite and go about 2 miles to Sunrise HSC. The following day, take the JMT back to TM. It's about 8 miles. If I leave by 8am, I should be able to catch the bus around 2. I could potentially hitchhike to the Valley if I miss the bus, but I'm relatively shy. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Tue Jul 12, 2016 6:30 am

As far as shy goes, don't be. As long as you feel safe with the person/people that stop, we've always found everyone that we've ever gotten a ride from incredibly friendly. As a matter of fact, the majority of them have either been fellow backpackers or foreigners, most of the latter not speaking much English, and being very shy themselves.

I take it you already have a permit reserved? If you're leaving from Soda Springs for Glen Aulin, for not only convenience in parking initially, but for a much better ending when you exit at Cathedral Lakes trailhead, you should just go ahead and leave the car in the parking lot below Lembert Dome. I'm not sure why you would leave it in the Valley and have to shuttle both to and from your starting point?

The trail to Glen Aulin is easy enough...flat, about 6 miles, pretty. After that, the May Lake trail doesn't always climb steep, but it climbs steadily and almost the entire way up to May Lake in some form or another. With a plan to loop back to Tuolumne, this direction up to Sunrise is fine, but it can be made far easier and logistically better within the scope of the trip as a whole.

Now let me suggest an alternative:

So, think about this: Keep your current permit (just in case), but when you go to pick it up in person (get there early), see if a walk-up for May Lake is available. If so, exchange the first for that. Tell them your exit is Sunrise, and explain your route. With the new permit in-hand, then park up at May Lake, walk the first day for only 1.2 miles up to the lake to the campground, get used to the altitude a little, stay there and knock that part of the loop out, then have a nice primarily downhill to Glen Aulin on Day 2. From Glen Aulin, head towards TM and then pick up the JMT at Cathedral Lakes trailhead. It'll be legal as long as you're just basically crossing the road and passing-through, and with permitted blessings. You've only walked about 6 flat and easy miles so far, so another 3.6 of uphill to Upper Cathedral Lake should be no big deal. Boom! You've now ticked off Cathedral Lake and that part of the JMT from your loop. You get to enjoy camping the night at the lake instead of storming through in a mad dash for the bus. And trust me, if you can't camp at Upper Cathedral, you will wish you had the time to, and you will feel the need to return to do just that. From there, it's a relatively easy day up to Sunrise HSC/Lakes/ north side of CR...whatever you decide and are up for. Next morning, climb up CR. When you descend, either camp again in another site, return to the same, or hike out down only to Sunrise trailhead (you'll be the envy of everyone coming up that you meet, I promise!) and then only 2-ish miles of easy uphill to the car at May Lake. You save A LOT of climbing, see everything you wanted to see, stayed at Upper Cathedral Lake instead of flying past it, and you get to do it all on your own time and schedule. Also, since you now have the time, you could stay in your camp wherever that is, leave your backpack (with proper food and gear storage, obviously), and do CR as a day-hike with far less backtracking than you would have to do to get back to the HSC from there in a veritable run for the stupid bus.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:29 am

***Another big advantage to the alternative I proposed above is food storage and pack weight. We're talking maybe 4-8 lbs based on an average of about 2lbs per person, per day, so it's significant enough to seriously consider since the opportunity presents itself so nicely with your route.

If you start at May Lake, you can cut your food weight about in half if you load your canister with only what you'll need through the Glen Aulin/Tuolumne leg of your trip and store the rest for the second leg in one of the lockers at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. When you get there, take ten minutes and simply reload your can and go.

However, even if you keep to your original plan, you can also do the same by storing the next leg's food at the Sunrise trailhead ahead of time.

Less weight always be good.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Wed Jul 13, 2016 12:20 am

Thank you so much, Phil. The alternative route you suggested would work much better except that I won’t drive to Yosemite. That’s also why I kind of rely on the Hikers Bus. It sounds like it’s worth spending some time at Upper Cathedral Lake, so I am going to camp there for a night. That should give me plenty of time the next day to catch the stupid bus. As for Clouds Rest, I’m sure the view is breathtaking, but it seems a bit out of the way no matter how I adjust my plan. I even thought about camping as close to CR as possible so that I could go straight down to the Valley after CR on the same day and forget about the bus. But it would be a total of 15 miles on one day; I’m not sure if I would be that strong at the end of the trip. I might just have to save CR for my next trip.

On a different note, I’m curious how to store the next leg’s food at a trailhead ahead of time. Do you just leave it in one of the bear boxes? Sounds a bit risky. What if it’s taken by fellow hikers or tossed away by rangers?
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:47 am

Food storage:

There's no risk. I've never had my food stores taken or even rifled through. People using trailhead lockers understand that others rely upon having food when they need it, and most of them are in the same position. I've left small coolers from time to time, but you obviously don't want to be storing your drops in a $30 compression sack or the likes. Just use a grocery bag or a small box. For the length of your trip, no need to even date it or write your name on it. The rangers won't bother it for quite some time, if at all. Just plan your menus, take what you need for the days you're out, leave the rest. Thousands of people do it in hundreds of lockers every year. It's one of the few places that the honor system is still intact.

As I said, with your route, you're going to do A LOT of climbing. Not that it's not entirely doable, but can it be done better is the real question. If you tell us more about your overall travel plans, ie: where you're coming in from, how you're getting to the park, when you're arriving and departing...the works in as much detail as possible, we'll see what we can apply that might help. I will say this though; it would be a shame if you were up near CR and didn't manage to work it in somehow. It's a great area, and I tend to think and work in zones, covering as many trails and seeing as many sights as possible within them while I'm there. Another trip for you could and should be another area too, and what you might be able to save by doing it the most efficiently this time might make all the difference in what you get to see and do next time.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Wed Jul 13, 2016 10:40 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience using the food lockers. It sounds like a great way to reduce backpack weight.

And here’s my travel plan:
D1 Arrive in the Valley at 1pm by YART. Camp @ North Pines Backpackers Camp
D2 Take Hikers Bus at 8am to Tuolumne Meadow. Camp @ Glen Aulin HSC
D3 Hike to Waterwheel Falls in the morning. Camp @ Polly Dome Lake
D4 May Lake & Mt. Hoffman. Camp @ May Lake HSC
D5 Sunrise Trail. Camp @ Middle Sunrise Lake
D6 JMT. Camp @ Upper Cathedral Lake
D7 Back to TM by 2pm. Take Hikers Bus to the Valley. Camp @ North Pines
D8 Leaving the park at 9:00 by YART

This is similar to my original plan, except for Day 6. I was going to go to CR as a day hike, but now just take my time to loop back to the Meadow. I also don’t think I will be able to get a walk-up permit for May Lake (the alternative plan you suggested) because I will be taking the Hikers Bus at 8, about the time the permit center opens, I believe. By the time I get to the meadow at 10:30, the daily quota is probably already filled.

Ideally I want to hike around 8 miles a day. Any distance longer tends to hurt my feet. Seeing as many sights as possible isn't exactly how I work, but if there’s any way I can work CR in efficiently, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for going above and beyond to help me. I really appreciate it.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Phil » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:32 am

I'll put some more thought into what might work and get back to you if I think of anything else. You also have the option of leaving the Valley on Day 1 via the 5pm YARTS shuttle up to Tuolumne and either pushing through to Glen Aulin with what daylight you have left and maybe some headlamp walking if you're a fairly fast hiker, or staying at the backpacker's camp up there so the next morning is an earlier start. I take it you're either coming in from Fresno or Merced on YARTS, and that the Valley is the end of the line?

But even if you do only get to the Valley, with arriving at 1 pm, if you were at all inclined to swap out for a May Lake permit, you would have plenty of time to do it at the Wilderness Office in the Valley that's right next to the YARTS stop in Yosemite Village. If one is available, the whole process would only take about 10 minutes, and you're going to be there picking up your Glen Aulin permit anyhow, so it can't hurt to ask. They can issue walk-up permits for the following day any time after 11 am the previous day, so no worries about what time they open on Day 2. If you had the driver drop you at the May Lake turnout, you would have plenty of daylight left to make the fairly easy 3.2 mile hike up to May Lake HSC or catch a ride and be there even faster with only that short 1.2 mile walk from the parking lot up to camp before dark. Hike Hoffman first thing in the morning, take a break, then go on to Glen Aulin, having knocked out May Lake on Day 1...well ahead of schedule, and with nothing but a fraction of the time and effort that Plan A entailed.

You're the one that's going to be hiking it, so me sitting here and putting forth a little more effort to try to make it better is no big deal. You're more than welcome. Sorry if I'm complicating this too much, but it's the minutiae that might make the trip easier and get you up to CR with time to spare.
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Re: Questions about Clouds Rest

Postby Alchemist » Thu Jul 14, 2016 12:44 pm

I forgot that they can issue a walk-up permit for the following day. Thanks for reminding me! I will try to get a May Lake permit on Day 1, and if successful, I will follow the alternative plan you suggested earlier. I'll have my fingers crossed.

Now, I couldn't find any information about the 5pm YARTS shuttle from the Valley to Tuolumne. I thought the Hikers Bus is the only shuttle service between the Valley and TM, and there's only one bus to TM each day.
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