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[Yosemite]

Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

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

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Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Floater53 » Wed May 10, 2017 11:25 am

Hello!

I currently have a backpacking trip planned for 6/24 to 7/2. Our group will consist of 4 to 6 people. We had originally planned to hike in from the Quartz Mountain Trailhead in Sierra NF up to Chain Lakes in southern Yosemite, but the Sierra NF ranger has advised us that the trailhead—as well as Chiquito Pass—will most likely still be snowed under in late June. Even if the snow melts, I am concerned that the temperature at night at the altitude of Chain Lakes may be too cold.

So, I am looking at contingency plans. Our plan is to hike into a given location in Yosemite where we can set up a main camp from which we can launch day hikes or overnight hikes. Ideally, I would like to find a location that meets the following criteria:

~ Within Yosemite, a one or two day hike from whichever trailhead we start at

~ A lake that is secluded (i.e. it's ok if there are other campers at the lake, but I would prefer that it not be on a main thoroughfare and that it not be a lake frequented by a lot of people). Trailhead does not necessarily need to start in Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne, since we want a backcountry spot, away from populated trails and popular areas.

~ A lake that we can catch fish in, and one that we can preferably have a fire at

~ A location that offers access to some good circuits for day or multi-night trips

~ Low enough altitude that we won't be contending with snow in the campsite. Temperature relatively comfortable at night. We will, of course, have gear that is sufficient enough to keep us warm, but it would be nice to be able to relax by a fire at night and look up at the stars instead of having to huddle in our tents to keep warm. Also, a trail that does not cross any passes that are snowed under.

Any suggestions regarding a trailhead and a potential main camp location would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Phil » Wed May 10, 2017 1:13 pm

Being based around a lake that early is going to be murderous in terms of mosquitoes. And unfortunately, most of the lakes that fit within your criteria are going to still be in snow. At relatively lower altitudes, you could try Ostrander Lake off Glacier Point Rd, and if Tioga Rd is open, maybe think about the Sunrise Lakes (Upper will be absolutely insane fishing that early!!) if you don't mind some snow since it's just below 9600', and therefore maybe colder and with limited hiking options, but where you can still build a fire in one of the existing rings. Another alternative is to head up to the northwest lakes above Hetch Hetchy; Laurel, Eleanor, Kibbie, or Vernon, since you won't have to worry about whether the trail will be open past the various falls. Again along Tioga Rd, you could even give May Lake a try and hike around up there as conditions permit.

But for distance, altitude, variety, and the ability to pack up and do some day hiking or an overnighter or two without having to take off cross country, I would probably go out of Hetch Hetchy, but, it might also be a case of you and everyone else squeezed down into what's available that works.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby AlmostThere » Wed May 10, 2017 4:19 pm

Away from populated areas is a hard one. Everyone at that time of year with the snow we have now will hike in with high hopes, hit solid snow and congregate right there. You'll have a ton of competition with people who got permits from higher th's and when they get to the park they will be forced to hunt/scavenge for open spots on the quotas for the lower trailheads.

Park employees are posting on the park Facebook page to not expect Tioga Road to be open til mid to late June. It will only open because they plow it. Park plows got to White Wolf this past week from the west, and Caltrans is still working up the pass to the Tioga gate from the east.
Have a look at a helicopter pass over the area: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCNScjhZus0OFy080GqlXpyg
Realize that there are drifts of up to fifty feet RIGHT NOW.
There is 3-6 feet of snow at 7000 feet. There is more, 10-13 feet, at 9000 feet.
Mosquitos are making themselves known already.
There's not really going to be multi day trips without snow for a while. Lakes at higher elevations still have ice on them. I guarantee that Ostrander will be ringed with ice, a thawed spot in the middle, and snow on the ground. I've been there in lesser snow years over Fourth of July for nearly five years running, including the last big snow year 2011, and there was a ton more snow this year than 2011 -- and there was still snow on the ground and ice in the lake. Ostrander is at about 8500-9000 feet.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Phil » Wed May 10, 2017 6:51 pm

That was a nice flyover.

Just trying to throw a few lakes out there as thoughts, but even if it MIGHT be a possibility, it's a crapshoot, at best. Depends on how tough and averse to suffering you are...in one form or another.

I would definitely head toward Hetch Hetchy or wait till later. Everything else but the north and south rims are no better than a questionable maybe, and neither even come close to meeting your desired criteria.

btw- Glacier Point Rd opens tomorrow, 05/11. The trick is going to be walking very far off the road.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Dave_Ayers » Thu May 11, 2017 1:20 pm

IMNSHO, perhaps you are being unduly dissuaded. Chain Lakes is only ~9,000 feet which I suspect will be nearly snow free by the end of June and the road to Quartz Mtn TH almost certainly will be. I'm thinking your original plan still works.

I don't understand a Sierra backpacker being concerned about temperatures at ~9,000 feet the end of June. A big winter snowfall has no correlation to summer temps. Temps peak about one month after the Solstice (~July 21st) and are sweet from mid-June through August. If you don't like the temps at that elevation that time of year, your only useful solution is to stay lower (temps rise about 3.3 F per 1,000 feet) every year. Which means you never get above tree line and never get to enjoy over half the prime stuff the Sierra has to offer. IMV, those temps are simply part of the bargain and well worth it. Any cooler makes for sweaty afternoon hiking.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby AlmostThere » Thu May 11, 2017 1:25 pm

Unduly dissuaded by rangers who live and work up here?

Hmmm. Seen pictures taken by people who are snowmobiling those roads. I wouldn't bet on them either way. Because once the snow melts, they drive out there and cut out the fallen trees, patch the erosion -- there will be LOTS with the runoff -- and fix rock slides. And THEN they will open the roads to the public. In the national forest, the crews are usually volunteer, as the 4x4 group that does the roads into Dinkey Wilderness for example.

As for summer temps, I know lots of people carry 30F bags around that time of year. I'm packing for comfort at 20F, and have had numerous occasions when I was the only one in the small group comfortable at night, as it can snow any day of the year up high. I'm not really into gambling.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Floater53 » Mon May 15, 2017 12:40 pm

Thank you all very much for your input. I think that we may have to postpone this trip until August 2018. Your advice helped me greatly. I appreciate it!
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Phil » Mon May 15, 2017 7:23 pm

I hate to see you put it off until 2018, but it is going to be a tough one this year, so maybe it's best. I'll tell you though, if you can get a reservation for the lake/ trails above Hetch Hetchy, you should do it. It is going to be wet, and there will be mosquitoes, but with the number of lakes and campsites in the area, you can find plenty that are still remote enough that there can be almost a crowd and you wouldn't notice. You can get pretty isolated if you try, and the fishing should be incredible. You also can set up a base and day hike trails, or even move randomly for an overnighter here and there, see some incredible rapids, falls, and the really big and snowy peaks to the NE, and you can do it all as an in-and-out that's only around 25 miles. You won't get your high altitude Pacific Crest and big granite wall Yosemite experience so much, but you will see an amazing part of the park and catch a lot of big fish.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Floater53 » Thu May 25, 2017 1:57 pm

Thanks Phil!

So, I have another potential plan brewing. My idea is to start at a Yosemite Valley trailhead and do a big, multi-night circuit around and above the Valley, but below the snow line. I don't know the elevation profile outside of Yosemite Valley well enough to gauge how far out we will be able to hike and camp in the wilderness without hitting snow.

Can anyone provide guidance here? How far out will we be able to get before hitting the snow line? I have abandoned the idea of being isolated due to the circumstances, so having to camp near other people is ok. What do you all think? Is this plan doable? If so, do you guys have a suggestion with regard to where to start and end, trailhead-wise? Any cool locations that we can check out under the snow line?

Thanks!
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby AlmostThere » Thu May 25, 2017 2:57 pm

That won't work for two reasons. You have no connecting trail at the west end of the valley on which to cross to either rim. You have to hike all the way up to Teneya Lake to walk a trail around the other end, and that will put you in some snow for a while. Or, you will go down Snow Creek, walk across the valley floor, climb back up through Happy Isles and over the Panorama trail -- which will mean a stop to get another wilderness permit since the valley floor is not wilderness and therefore you are obligated to get a permit for a second backpacking trip as you will have nullified the first permit by leaving the wilderness - which is the other problem with the west end of the valley, as if you do that you are walking out of the wilderness and back into it again.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Phil » Thu May 25, 2017 3:48 pm

AT is absolutely right about the logistics. East end, sure you can grab a new permit and head up, but the far west has no trails that won't require either a shuttle ride or driving to get up Hwy 120 (Big Oak Flat Rd) to the next trailhead or back where you began the North Rim.

With the North Rim, you have to either hit Trailhead #8 at Big Oak Flat, or if Tioga Rd is open, come in at Trailhead #9 at Tamarack Flat. Exiting that side, your max distance is Snow Creek.

With the South Rim, assuming you enter at Happy Isles, you either have a very short day in which you go to LYV, or up Panorama and past Glacier Point for legal sites, or a fairly long and arduous day where you pass GP and go down the Pohono Trail to the only legal camping at the area around Bridalveil Creek.

For your dates, you should probably assume that Tioga Rd still won't be open. Therefore, you should think about the Big Oak Flat Trailhead (#8), then exit Snow Creek. I'm not a big fan of the South Rim because of the limits on camping, lots of day hikers, and because it's probably going to be crowded with people because of the conditions up higher. My tendency would be to try to get a LYV pass-through permit, and head up the Merced to the bridges above Bunnell Cascade. It's a nice area with lots of sites. If possible, from there you could see what the situation is further up the river and cut across back to the JMT from Echo Valley, then drop back down and out. Otherwise, it's an in-and-out.

Besides snow, if you want to get some idea of the conditions at roughly those altitudes, check out the Badger Pass webcam and look at the drainage...slop, more slop, shit tons of slop. Sorry, it's a mess, and putting it nicely isn't doing anyone any favors.
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby Floater53 » Fri May 26, 2017 8:15 am

Thank you, Phil and AT!

We are just gonna postpone our big Yosemite backpacking trip until August 2018. Instead, we are gonna do three nights in Big Basin near Santa Cruz and then head to the Sierra to do three days of day hiking in Yosemite Valley.

I appreciate your help!
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Re: Trailhead from Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne

Postby AlmostThere » Fri May 26, 2017 8:28 am

Have fun.

Good luck, there are closed trails in Big Basin. Some of the trail camps are also closed. But you'll find out when you call to make reservations which are open.
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