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[Yosemite]

First trip to Yosemite from UK

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

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First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:16 am

Hi everyone,

I am planning to visit Yosemite on the last leg of a western trek we are doing in the USA this year. We will be renting a car in LA and driving up to Yosemite around mid June staying there for about 3 or 4 nights before heading to San Francisco to fly home.

During the trip we would like to conquer half dome and would prefer to camp the night before to acclimate and get an early start on the crowds, rather than do it as a full day trek. Now from what I have been able to uncover so far, the usual route to do this would be to apply for a wilderness permit and half dome permit then trek up to little Yosemite valley backpacker campground.

However, we are really hoping to get a bit more of a wild backcountry camping experience under the stars where we have a little bit more seclusion and ability to have our own small camp fire, which I believe isn't really the setting at the LYV campsite from what I have seen.

What would you all suggest as the best and easiest option for this?

I have seen a place called Sunrise Creek mentioned a few times, but I am not finding much information on this area. I am also not sure if we would also need additional permits to do this or not.

Thanks in advance for any help!
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Phil » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:41 am

The first issue in mid-June is likely to be snow. It may or may not be a problem, but we have an incredible snowpack this year that's approaching 200% of normal.

Assuming you're even able to get a wilderness permit from the Happy Isles trailhead, to go up past LYV, you need an LYV pass-through permit. VERY tough gig to get, no matter how you slice it.

The cables might on Half Dome might be up, and they generally shoot for Memorial Day weekend, but again, snow might be an issue.

At LYV, individual fires aren't permitted, but there is a community fire ring.

"Conquer Half Dome".... I guess, you and about another million people. If you can't get a HD permit, but can get an LYV pass-through permit, and trail conditions allow, Cloud's Rest is a better alternative.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Sun Feb 12, 2017 10:12 am

Hi Phil,

Thanks for the response. So without both permits you speak about, we would not be able to camp outside of LYV camp ground? (Assuming we can actually get the wilderness permit to get there and snow is not a major problem still). Seems like a complicated affair. I was aware that LYV had some communal campfires but we do a lot of wilderness camping here so was hoping to get a bit more seclusion as I hear the LYV site gets rather busy!
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Phil » Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:26 pm

It's not that the process is complicated, it's that any permit reservations from the Happy Isles trailhead (the one you want to use), regardless of destination, are incredibly hard to get, as well as fully impacted for your desired window. It's a gateway to much of the high country wilderness, and if Tioga Rd is still closed because of snow and plowing, one of the few that will get you there without several days of hiking. The other option is to try for a walk-up permit the day before (after 11am) your planned departure date. To stay in LYV or the wilderness nearby HD, and then ascend HD, you have to apply for a backpacker's HD permit as opposed to a day-hiking permit (both decided by availability and lottery), and then, you're right back where you started from in trying get that Happy Isles entry. The walk-up wilderness permit is also problematic from the standpoint of planning in that, if you're coming from the UK, then diverting from the Bay Area just to do that hike in particular, you may very well find yourself shut out and disappointed. The keys to getting backpacking permits anywhere in Yosemite are either dumb luck, incredible timing, or flexibility in where you start.

If you haven't seen this, check it out: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.pdf

As you can see on the link, where you want to start is fully impacted for your dates.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Justin-T » Sun Feb 12, 2017 1:11 pm

The reason why most people ascend HD as a day hike is because of the difficulty of getting a wilderness permit that includes HD. As Phil says, most people who've done both agree that Clouds Rest has a better view (its a full 360°, 1000 feet higher than HD), and can be done as a 14 mile day-trip from Sunrise trailhead, without a permit. As mentioned though, its quite likely the Tioga Road won't be open by mid June this year, so all those trailheads will be inaccessible. Check out this page to see what date Tioga Rd has opened since 1980, BUT note the dates for >150% snowpack because thats probably going to be the case at Apr 1 this year - they're all mid-late June (even July).

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tiogaopen.htm

Your trip is just early for the backcountry, which is mostly over 7000 feet, so you may be limited to the valley and the trails on the south side accessible from Glacier Point, depending on how the weather goes from here on. As you'll see from the above link, the Glacier Pt Rd is almost certain to be open by mid-June, even this year.

By the way, I just looked at the page below and Yosemite is already at almost normal rainfall for the whole month, with more then half the month to go, and a whole bunch more precipitation forecast over the next two weeks:

https://weather.com/weather/monthly/l/Y ... A1269:1:US
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:30 pm

Phil wrote:It's not that the process is complicated, it's that any permit reservations from the Happy Isles trailhead (the one you want to use), regardless of destination, are incredibly hard to get, as well as fully impacted for your desired window. It's a gateway to much of the high country wilderness, and if Tioga Rd is still closed because of snow and plowing, one of the few that will get you there without several days of hiking. The other option is to try for a walk-up permit the day before (after 11am) your planned departure date. To stay in LYV or the wilderness nearby HD, and then ascend HD, you have to apply for a backpacker's HD permit as opposed to a day-hiking permit (both decided by availability and lottery), and then, you're right back where you started from in trying get that Happy Isles entry. The walk-up wilderness permit is also problematic from the standpoint of planning in that, if you're coming from the UK, then diverting from the Bay Area just to do that hike in particular, you may very well find yourself shut out and disappointed. The keys to getting backpacking permits anywhere in Yosemite are either dumb luck, incredible timing, or flexibility in where you start.

If you haven't seen this, check it out: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.pdf

As you can see on the link, where you want to start is fully impacted for your dates.


Hi Phil - I just want to make sure I understand all this correctly as there seems to be various different permits mentioned here. So from the link you shared I see that there are no available wilderness permits available for the Happy Isles trailhead (bummer! which I assume is the only way to access Little Yosemite Valley and subsequently Half Dome, assuming you also have a permit for this one too)

It is also my understanding that 40% of permits are held back on a first-come-first-serve basis so there could potentially be an opportunity to still get the permit, although we would need a plan B in case we didn't. Therefore, my only options if I want the chance to do Half Dome and camp the night before would be to arrive the day before and queue up before 11am for a wilderness permit with half dome access (in the hope we can get one) - is that right?

Sorry, I'm a little bit lost when you said "you're right back where you started from in trying get that Happy Isles entry. " - could you explain what you mean by that?
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Phil » Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:30 pm

Ah, sorry. What I meant to say was that to get the HD permit as a backpacker, you have to first get the wilderness permit on which the HD permit is going to be supplemental to. Without another entry point (Happy Isles being the closest and most common for climbing Half Dome) you're right back where you started with having to figure out how to get there in the first place. In other words, you must have a wilderness permit for backpacking to have any chance at all for a backpacker's Half Dome permit. The only other alternative from a departure point in the Valley is to go all the way up and back to HD in the same day with the day-hiking permit.

One other possible plan is to enter at Glacier Point, camp at LYV on your first night, climb HD if it's granted, descend back to LYV for another night if that's what you prefer, or either hike back up to the car at GP or exit in the Valley and catch a shuttle. But that particular trailhead reservation is also booked solid as of now.

Queueing up at 11am at the Valley Wilderness Center probably isn't going to cut it. You may get lucky with a cancellation or a no-show, but for hot trailheads like Happy Isles, those 40% can go in minutes. It's not uncommon to find people in lawn chairs spending the night or standing in line before the sun comes up. A first-come, first-served walk-up permit is also very, very, VERY unlikely to net you even a remote chance to get your Half Dome permit. No way to ever be sure how it's going to go on any given day.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Mon Feb 13, 2017 9:16 am

Thanks for your clarification. We would be aiming to stay during the week rather than weekends, so I don't know if that usually makes any difference to the queues the day before? As you say, it's probably a long shot queuing up to get wilderness permit + half dome on the same day.

I can see there is some availability on the trailhead that leaves from either Glacier Point or Happy Isles to llilouette. I am not sure I am understanding the permit system correctly here but on the website it says:

"The trailhead quota system limits use based on where you begin your hike, and in some cases, on where you camp the first night of your trip. After the first night, you may camp wherever you can hike to within the wilderness."

Does this mean if we could get a wild permit for one of these trails we could camp in the wilderness on this trailhead area the first night and then we would be free to go up to LYV the following night?
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Feb 13, 2017 9:37 am

If you get a wilderness permit from Glacier Point or Mono Meadow, the only place to camp will be up Ilillouette Creek somewhere, not along the Ilillouette or Panorama trail, where camping is illegal. Or you hike on to LYV.

You can get to LYV on your second night out and camp there, or the third, etc. You will be entering from another trail and not be impacting the hordes of hikers coming up from Happy Isles on that quota. LYV is a zoo tho, full of noise and people who never backpack at all, and bears are particularly bad - sneaking out to grab any unattended thing that smells like food.

You can't camp at trailheads, you can't camp within a mile of a road, and many trailheads that are very busy, you have a two or four mile limit on camping -- cannot camp within two (or four) miles of that trailhead. And some trails you cannot camp on them at all like the Panorama trail. It's a big adjustment for folks who are used to camping anywhere, sleeping the car at a trailhead for example, but if they didn't have these rules this area of Yosemite would be even trashier than it is.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:36 am

AlmostThere wrote:If you get a wilderness permit from Glacier Point or Mono Meadow, the only place to camp will be up Ilillouette Creek somewhere, not along the Ilillouette or Panorama trail, where camping is illegal. Or you hike on to LYV.

You can get to LYV on your second night out and camp there, or the third, etc. You will be entering from another trail and not be impacting the hordes of hikers coming up from Happy Isles on that quota. LYV is a zoo tho, full of noise and people who never backpack at all, and bears are particularly bad - sneaking out to grab any unattended thing that smells like food.

You can't camp at trailheads, you can't camp within a mile of a road, and many trailheads that are very busy, you have a two or four mile limit on camping -- cannot camp within two (or four) miles of that trailhead. And some trails you cannot camp on them at all like the Panorama trail. It's a big adjustment for folks who are used to camping anywhere, sleeping the car at a trailhead for example, but if they didn't have these rules this area of Yosemite would be even trashier than it is.


Is Ilillouette Creek a nice place to camp for the first night? How long would it take us roughly to get there and then from there to LYV on the second day? If this was all feasible then I would still like to avoid LYV on the second night for the reasons you have mentioned. If we are doing Half Dome on the 3rd morning we'd like to be in a advantageous position to do it. As it would be our 2nd night, from my understanding we are able to camp anywhere in the wilderness, where would you suggest as an alternative to LYV which would be within good reach of Half Dome?
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:55 am

That all depends on how far you can hike at 6000-7000 feet elevation with a backpack. It also depends on when you start hiking. You have to be a couple miles up the creek from the trail to camp, if you take Ilillouette from Glacier Point, so a couple miles down to the bridge, another couple miles up the creek. Next day you come back to the trail and go another 6 miles or so to LYV, then another two miles beyond it to camp again - or three or four miles, if you have to camp near water. You can't camp until you're 2 miles away from LYV in any direction.

Some people have difficulty hauling a backpack a few miles. I usually do 8-10 miles per day, but I do that all the time. Not knowing whether you have even backpacked before with a bear canister and everything? I'm not able to give you much in the way of definite answers. These trails are often in full sun and at lower elevations so can be quite hot in the middle of the day, which can also slow you down a lot.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:32 am

AlmostThere wrote:That all depends on how far you can hike at 6000-7000 feet elevation with a backpack. It also depends on when you start hiking. You have to be a couple miles up the creek from the trail to camp, if you take Ilillouette from Glacier Point, so a couple miles down to the bridge, another couple miles up the creek. Next day you come back to the trail and go another 6 miles or so to LYV, then another two miles beyond it to camp again - or three or four miles, if you have to camp near water. You can't camp until you're 2 miles away from LYV in any direction.

Some people have difficulty hauling a backpack a few miles. I usually do 8-10 miles per day, but I do that all the time. Not knowing whether you have even backpacked before with a bear canister and everything? I'm not able to give you much in the way of definite answers. These trails are often in full sun and at lower elevations so can be quite hot in the middle of the day, which can also slow you down a lot.


Yes that is quite a fair point! We are in the UK so don't do a lot of high elevation hiking. I think the highest we get here is around 4000 feet. Neither of us have ever visited bear country either so the bear canister isn't something I have experience with, but we do go wild camping here a fair amount so I am used to carrying a fairly heavy pack and a few pounds shouldn't be too much of an issue if we take lightweight gear and a water filter. I would say we are both fairly fit, I work out every day, in good shape and (fairly) young at 30 and 27.

Looking at the report - It would seem Happy Isles > Ilillouette has more availability than from Glacier Point so I'm guessing this would add a bit on to our trip. The first day sounds easy enough I suppose, but the second day sounds tough if we have around 12-14 miles to tackle up hill.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby MadDiver » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:31 pm

[/quote]
Is Ilillouette Creek a nice place to camp for the first night? How long would it take us roughly to get there and then from there to LYV on the second day? If this was all feasible then I would still like to avoid LYV on the second night for the reasons you have mentioned. If we are doing Half Dome on the 3rd morning we'd like to be in a advantageous position to do it. As it would be our 2nd night, from my understanding we are able to camp anywhere in the wilderness, where would you suggest as an alternative to LYV which would be within good reach of Half Dome?[/quote]

If going the Illouette route for night #1, starting from Glacier Point or Mono Meadow rather than Happy Isles will save you some climbing (it's mostly downhill actually) leaving you fresher for the big day #2. It also allows for a late start giving you extra time in the Valley or to just not feel rushed (very important - if you're planning to pick up your permit late be sure to call the wilderness office before 10AM and tell them to hold it for late arrival or they'll give it to someone else!). For camping night #2 take a look at the trailhead map https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.pdf Where the red arrow is east of the Half Dome/JMT/Cloud's Rest/Sunrise Creek junction North of LYV is the general area you would be aiming for (lots of threads here describing campsites in the area). Climbing a bit more towards Cloud's Rest will likely get you more solitude if you have the energy. Enjoy!
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Phil » Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:08 pm

To make it easy on yourselves from the standpoint of a trailhead reservation, camping, route selection, distance, less restrictions than any other trailheads (other than setbacks from road and as shown by the colored arrows in the wilderness trailhead link the MadDiver posted)...I would come in at Mono Meadow, camp along Illilouette Creek the first night, drop down along the Panorama Trail, head up past LYV up to Sunrise Creek, then exit back in the Valley at Happy Isles when you're done. From there, shuttle or one of you hitchhike back to the car. You get a better "wilderness experience", can make a fire, have mostly downhill and thereby save yourself for a climb up Half Dome if you get that permit, and you see some better sights en-route rather than from just the top of the dome (that's why they call it the "Panorama Trail").

Yes, Illilouette is nice (better than LYV), Illilouette Falls is gorgeous, then Sunrise Creek is far better than LYV (well...pretty much everything is nicer than LYV), and Sunrise has water, lots of private campsites, you can build your own fire in an existing ring, and, it puts you in far better strategic position for climbing HD if you get that permit. If not, and the trail is clear and conditions good, it also gives you a good placement and opportunity to visit Cloud's Rest as an alternative.

Since you have no experience with bears, bear canisters and food storage protocols, do yourself a big favor and visit the Yosemite website and familiarize yourself with everything you can, including regulations, because I can virtually guarantee that you're going to see at least one in the area where you're going.
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Re: First trip to Yosemite from UK

Postby Coolguydudeman » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:47 pm

Thanks for all the helpful advice so far on this guys!

So would you suggest Mono Medows as our primary choice for entry point, then Glacier Point as 2nd choice with then maybe Happy Isles to Illilouette as our final choice on the permit application order?

The only thing I'm unsure about with Mono Meadows is on the trailhead map it says (No LYV, Sunrise Creek or JMT camping) - I am assuming this only applies to the first night?

I have been reading up on the correct protocol for bears and looks like we can rent a canister for $5 a week which saves us buying one. I plan to eat away from our tent and keep all food / scented things / clothes worn to cook in, in the bear canister at least 100m from the tent.

When you say "the places we are going", do you mean both Illilouette and Sunrise Creek contain a lot of bears? Would you recommend any specific precautions other than the ones mentioned above in these areas?

Not having experience with bears before, I suppose the prospect of bumping into them is a little nerve racking. However, from what I read they are not usually aggressive. Should we expect the bears to be wandering into our camp during the night or do they generally stay away from tents (providing there are no scented items/food lying around)?
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