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[Yosemite]

4 Day September Trip

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

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4 Day September Trip

Postby hayden92 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 12:14 am

Hello,

I will be visiting Yosemite in mid September and cannot decide what route to take. I will be backpacking 3 nights/4 days with my younger brother. It will be his first backpacking trip. My birthday is the 18th and if at all possible, I would love to ascend both Cloud's Rest and Half Dome during this trip. Seeing as we just recently decided upon the trip, we haven't secured any permits and I'm assuming we're going to have to get first-come, first-serve permits. I realize being able to climb both is probably unlikely, but I'd appreciate some insight on best itineraries. At the moment, this is all I have. I really appreciate any and all feedback!

Sept 14 Arrive at SFO 10:30 PM PST
Sept 15
Sept 16
Sept 17
Sept 18
Sept 19 Drive back and leave SFO 3:45 PM
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:52 am

Couple quick questions: How experienced a backpacker are you? What kind of shape is your brother in?

Couple issues: Check the shuttle schedule for those dates, both the hikers' shuttle and YARTS from the Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. Both stop running for the season somewhere around that time, and you'll need them to get back to the car. What kind of daily mileage are you able to do climbing uphill?

Hopefully you already have a map. Check Cathedral Lakes > Happy Isles, and check Sunrise beginning at Tenaya Lake > Happy Isles. Those are both E-ticket rides in terms of popularity and will be tough to get, but they would also be easy enough for a beginner, keep you within the time you have, and they'll take you to both CR and HD (if you can get a permit for HD).
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:41 am

Of course, if you are taking YARTS from the bay area, you will be on whatever schedule they have....

The Mammoth 120 run which you would take to the wilderness office in Tuolumne Meadows (open til October weather permitting) for the top trailhead (whichever one you choose, Sunrise, Cathedral) stops on the 24th. YARTS will be weekends only for that run. So since the 14th is a Thursday you'll either have a rental car or be coming in on Merced YARTS - Amtrak from SFO and YARTS from Merced would eat up a couple of days if the departure times don't mesh, one day at best if they mesh. Riding up the pass will take about an hour from the valley. You can try to get a permit from the valley wilderness center while you are there.

If a rental car is available, park it in the valley and take the bus up the following morning to Tuolumne Meadows - hiker bus picks up at the Yosemite Valley lodge, I think. yosemitepark.com for pricing, leaves at 8:20 am. If it is still running. If not you'll have to wait for the YARTS on Saturday.

You can't park on Tioga Pass overnight after September 15. So you can't leave it up there and ride the bus back to it.

Your other option is to start and end at Happy Isles, climbing up to Clouds Rest from the valley floor. Do able, yes, very strenuous tho. Doing both Clouds and Half Dome - better you than me, dude, that's just not ever gonna happen, give me time to sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor, you don't get to do both while the sun is up that late in the year - remember days are shorter and shorter toward winter. You can't spend the night on Half Dome either. If you don't get the HD permit don't sweat it, just go to Clouds Rest, better view anyways.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:07 am

I think the parking restriction for Tioga begins Oct 15th. Based on full trailheads report, there's going to be a lot of towing going on if it is now Sept.

Both Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise are fully reserved for the entire month of Sept. That's 60% of the total permits, so 40% are are walk-up. Normally, that late in the season people have done their trips earlier and things start opening up, but given that so many have been shut out from their earlier trips, Sept is now prime time. Also, assuming you want to try to snag a backpacking Half Dome permit in advance, you need a trailhead reservation first to attach it to. May Lake has reservable openings for your entry date, and there are ways to use that trailhead to get to where you want to go, but you'll want to apply for the permit and see if they accept it to be sure. The wilderness office has become somewhat sensitive to working obvious backdoors to the core of the John Muir Trail (JMT) through the use of alternate entry points. You need to think in terms of not appearing that you just want to cheat the system, but that you have a viable and legitimate point-to-point itinerary that makes sense.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby hayden92 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:51 am

Phil wrote:Couple quick questions: How experienced a backpacker are you? What kind of shape is your brother in?

Couple issues: Check the shuttle schedule for those dates, both the hikers' shuttle and YARTS from the Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. Both stop running for the season somewhere around that time, and you'll need them to get back to the car. What kind of daily mileage are you able to do climbing uphill?

Hopefully you already have a map. Check Cathedral Lakes > Happy Isles, and check Sunrise beginning at Tenaya Lake > Happy Isles. Those are both E-ticket rides in terms of popularity and will be tough to get, but they would also be easy enough for a beginner, keep you within the time you have, and they'll take you to both CR and HD (if you can get a permit for HD).


First off, thanks for the replies everyone. A couple things for me to add, my brother is 15 years old and plays high school soccer so I'm not really concerned about him being in shape, more worried about myself lol. I've been on two trips in the past, but this will be my biggest trip attempted. I workout 5x a week and am fairly confident that conditioning shouldn't be a problem, but don't want to underestimate the backcountry. We'll have a rental car and plan on driving about half way there the night that we fly in so that the 15th we can arrive in the park early. Looks like YARTS won't be of much help since it's weekends only in September. Sunrise or Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles is exactly the route I was thinking. I couldn't find much information, but is there a shuttle outside of YARTS that runs as between Tuolumne and the Valley?

Thanks,
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:48 pm

While it's reassuring that your brother is active, it doesn't do anything to predict how he will do at higher elevations. Kids are generally more prone to elevation sickness than adults and how fit they are has nothing to do with that. It also doesn't predict how he will feel about backpacking once he is doing it -- nothing can predict that for anyone of any age. I've had folks come to my backpacking class and enjoy the outing, and then I have folks who are excited but once on the trail with the pack on they are absolutely miserable -- and thus the class accomplishes its goal of helping them understand whether backpacking is really for them.

There are no shuttles between Tuolumne and the Valley, no. The hiker bus and YARTS are your options. I assume you won't want to hitchhike.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Bighead » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:17 pm

There are still Snow Creek (May Lake->Snow Creek) permits for 15 September which would allow you to do your general route.
Sept 15 - Pick up permit, catch hiker bus to trailhead, camp around Mount Watkins.
Sept 16 - Hike to Sunrise Lakes
Sept 17 - Clouds Rest
Sept 18 - Out Happy Isles

I have a friend who did this route last year and loved it.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:37 pm

Before I go into a big rundown of suggestions for an itinerary, I'm going to again suggest that you begin at May Lake and take Half Dome completely out of your thinking. You would solve so many logistical nightmares this way, not the least of which are a guaranteed reservation that you (and we) can begin planning for in advance, as well as no transportation logistics other than unlocking your car when you walk back to it.

And as AlmostThere mentions, you get to see how things are going to go right off the bat. May Lake is only 1.2 miles from the parking lot, but is close to 9,400 ft in elevation. Cloud's Rest is only about 500 feet more. While at May Lake, on the day you hike in, you can also day hike up to Mt Hoffman that afternoon, the geographical center of the park, amazing views, and it's 10,850. If altitude is going to cause you problems, you'll know then and be able to get out and descend quickly. If not, it'll begin your acclimatization process.

Check your maps, think it over, and realize that trying for Cathedral or Sunrise with walk-ups is a risky proposition without a lot of luck involved, and that Half Dome is not only a lot of extra work and time, it's not a good bet to base a trip around without knowing if it's even going to happen up front.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby hayden92 » Sun Jun 25, 2017 3:59 pm

Phil wrote:Before I go into a big rundown of suggestions for an itinerary, I'm going to again suggest that you begin at May Lake and take Half Dome completely out of your thinking. You would solve so many logistical nightmares this way, not the least of which are a guaranteed reservation that you (and we) can begin planning for in advance, as well as no transportation logistics other than unlocking your car when you walk back to it.

And as AlmostThere mentions, you get to see how things are going to go right off the bat. May Lake is only 1.2 miles from the parking lot, but is close to 9,400 ft in elevation. Cloud's Rest is only about 500 feet more. While at May Lake, on the day you hike in, you can also day hike up to Mt Hoffman that afternoon, the geographical center of the park, amazing views, and it's 10,850. If altitude is going to cause you problems, you'll know then and be able to get out and descend quickly. If not, it'll begin your acclimatization process.

Check your maps, think it over, and realize that trying for Cathedral or Sunrise with walk-ups is a risky proposition without a lot of luck involved, and that Half Dome is not only a lot of extra work and time, it's not a good bet to base a trip around without knowing if it's even going to happen up front.


Ok, that's fair. This is exactly why I wanted to hear everyones feedback. So lets take HD out of the trip. Being able to not have to worry about getting back to our car would be a big relief. As long as we can get Cloud's Rest, we'll be happy. From everything that everyone says, it's better than HD anyways. So the next step I should take is to apply for the May Lake permit, correct?
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Sun Jun 25, 2017 10:42 pm

That's great Hayden. We know that CR is your main objective, so everything is going to be about that and making it all come together, if at all possible.

As of yesterday, there have been a couple changes in the Full Trailheads Report. Entry at May Lake is no longer available for your dates. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.htm

You can still get to CR, but you're going to have to walk a little farther and reverse directions. As Bighead mentioned, you can enter at May Lake > Snow Creek with your first night in the area of Mt Watkins. That's a gorgeous area, btw. Your exit will be Sunrise Trail at Tenaya Lake. This route does give you some extra hiking back to the car (over 8 trail miles), or some hitchhiking that shouldn't be too hard.

The second option is to enter at Murphy Creek. First night at May Lake. Again, exit at Sunrise. At the end, this will only add less than a mile back to the car. What you'll do is go up Murphy Creek, walk about 6.7 miles up to May Lake, spend the first night there (09/15). From May Lake, you continue your loop for another 4.9 miles to the top of the Sunrise Trail and spend the second night up at one of the Sunrise Lakes (09/16). If you examine the route the High Sierra Camp (HSC) people hike, this is the one you'll also use. At this point you have the option of either maintaining camp where you are at Sunrise and day hiking to CR, or you can haul your packs with you and establish a new camp on the flats just below the north side of CR (09/17) . Either option will be fantastic, but with the second you will need to hike back down to the stream you crossed for water though. Also, if you do the second option at the north slope, you can first make camp, leave your packs, then day hike up to the summit that afternoon, and even again early the next morning for the sunrise. And if you're comfortable staying another night in the area, you can again on 09/18, considering that it shouldn't take you more than a few hours, tops, to get back to the car and drive back to SF for your flight home on the 19th. If not, you can go ahead and do your 3 nights and 4 fairly easy days on the trail, head back to the backpacker's camp in Yosemite Valley on that night of the 18th, then leave for SFO directly from there.

Apply for your permit for option 2 as your first choice, entry at Murphy Creek. First night: May Lake. Go ahead and state Happy Isles as your exit in order to have the run of the area (exit trailheads aren't enforced, but some look better than others for applications). Use May Lake > Snow Creek as your second choice. First night: Mt Watkins. Exit also Happy Isles. For your third, pick something random, but that you wouldn't mind as a backup plan (Ten Lakes Basin?). They'll either give it to you or not. We'll see what comes back within about a day. If you don't have one, get a map (Tom Harrison 1:63,360 Yosemite High Country). Whatever you get, spend some serious time familiarizing yourself with bear canisters and food storage regulations.

Good Luck!
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby hayden92 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 5:53 pm

Phil wrote:That's great Hayden. We know that CR is your main objective, so everything is going to be about that and making it all come together, if at all possible.

As of yesterday, there have been a couple changes in the Full Trailheads Report. Entry at May Lake is no longer available for your dates. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.htm

You can still get to CR, but you're going to have to walk a little farther and reverse directions. As Bighead mentioned, you can enter at May Lake > Snow Creek with your first night in the area of Mt Watkins. That's a gorgeous area, btw. Your exit will be Sunrise Trail at Tenaya Lake. This route does give you some extra hiking back to the car (over 8 trail miles), or some hitchhiking that shouldn't be too hard.

The second option is to enter at Murphy Creek. First night at May Lake. Again, exit at Sunrise. At the end, this will only add less than a mile back to the car. What you'll do is go up Murphy Creek, walk about 6.7 miles up to May Lake, spend the first night there (09/15). From May Lake, you continue your loop for another 4.9 miles to the top of the Sunrise Trail and spend the second night up at one of the Sunrise Lakes (09/16). If you examine the route the High Sierra Camp (HSC) people hike, this is the one you'll also use. At this point you have the option of either maintaining camp where you are at Sunrise and day hiking to CR, or you can haul your packs with you and establish a new camp on the flats just below the north side of CR (09/17) . Either option will be fantastic, but with the second you will need to hike back down to the stream you crossed for water though. Also, if you do the second option at the north slope, you can first make camp, leave your packs, then day hike up to the summit that afternoon, and even again early the next morning for the sunrise. And if you're comfortable staying another night in the area, you can again on 09/18, considering that it shouldn't take you more than a few hours, tops, to get back to the car and drive back to SF for your flight home on the 19th. If not, you can go ahead and do your 3 nights and 4 fairly easy days on the trail, head back to the backpacker's camp in Yosemite Valley on that night of the 18th, then leave for SFO directly from there.

Apply for your permit for option 2 as your first choice, entry at Murphy Creek. First night: May Lake. Go ahead and state Happy Isles as your exit in order to have the run of the area (exit trailheads aren't enforced, but some look better than others for applications). Use May Lake > Snow Creek as your second choice. First night: Mt Watkins. Exit also Happy Isles. For your third, pick something random, but that you wouldn't mind as a backup plan (Ten Lakes Basin?). They'll either give it to you or not. We'll see what comes back within about a day. If you don't have one, get a map (Tom Harrison 1:63,360 Yosemite High Country). Whatever you get, spend some serious time familiarizing yourself with bear canisters and food storage regulations.

Good Luck!


Awesome, I appreciate the thorough explanation! Just want to confirm that I'm sending in the correct information. The exit is a little confusing since there are 3 different Happy Isles options. Also for the third option, what are your thoughts on

Choice 1: Murphy Creek, 1st night: May Lake Exit: Happy Isles
Choice 2: May Lake -> Snow Creek 1st Night: Mt Watkins Exit: Happy Isles
???Choice 3: Ten Lakes 1st Night: ? Exit: Happy Isles

Will be faxing it in tonight, thanks everyone!
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:17 pm

Use exit Happy Isles from the JMT. What you're seeing in the three different options is using Happy Isles as an entry trailhead.

To have it make sense to the rangers, for the third option on your application, it'll be Ten Lakes, entry at Yosemite Creek, first night at Ten Lakes, with an exit at Murphy Creek. You won't get it with a reservation, it's full on the 15th, but it's a throw away in your case anyhow. You'll get one of the others.

Be sure to let us know what trailhead you end up with. Regardless, there are a few other things you should know before your trip.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby hayden92 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:53 am

Good news, just got the email back confirming the wilderness permit. We got Murphy Creek as the trailhead on the 15th. Thanks again for the continued help, I'm extremely excited now that I'm starting to see the plan develop.
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Re: 4 Day September Trip

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:00 am

Awesome! That's a nice route. You and your brother will have a great time. Since your daily distances will be short, take a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery.

Any more questions, ask, but I think it's all been laid out pretty well already. Be sure to get that map ahead of time.

***And I'll add: When you see the proximity of the Murphy Creek trailhead and the Sunrise trailhead up to CR, you're going to possibly be tempted to just go up Sunrise and skip the rest. DON"T do it. Sunrise is popular, so therefore it's patrolled regularly by wilderness rangers. Their MO is to stop you, check your permit, knock on your pack to see if you have a bear canister. If you get caught going up the wrong trailhead on the wrong day, they yank your permit, escort you out, and write you a big ticket.
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