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[Yosemite]

Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

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

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Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:00 am

I lived in Seattle and did a lot of backpacking in the Cascades and Olympics. I also spent a little time in the Canadian Rockies. Then, I moved to the southeast US...

I'm going to California in September. My rough plan is this:
9/12-16 LA (friends/family)
9/17-18 Visalia(family)-Sequoia
9/18-23 SF-Yosemite-SF loop - a friend in SF will probably go with me

I have no idea what to do with my time in Yosemite. I'm pretty sure all the reserved camping sites are booked. I'm fine with primitive camping, but I don't know what options there are. I know there are some first come, first serve sites - but not how many or where.

Pretty much all I know about Yosemite is Half Dome, which I have no interest in climbing (due to the popularity of it, etc.). I'm interested in a couple nice day hikes, and possibly backpacking into the backcountry for a night - especially if it means access to particularly awesome views and available camp sites.

I'm just beginning my research. It looks like it'll be $30 for Sequoia and $30 for Yosemite just to drive my car in.

I'm guessing my route will look something like this:
Image

Any tips, suggestions, info would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I don't know where to start. I loved all my hiking in the PNW... show me what Yosemite has to offer!
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:32 am

To see what Yosemite has to offer, just google up some images for all the compelling you'll need.

If it's your one and only trip, there's really no way to justify not spending some of your time day hiking in Yosemite Valley. The only two problems there are crowds and finding a campsite. You can try for a first-come, first-served walk-up site at Camp 4, or you can get in the queue and try for a space in one of the Pines campgrounds. If you have a wilderness permit, you can also stay at the backpackers' camp for one night before and one night after your trip, even if you're only doing an overnighter. None of them really entail any sort of "wilderness experience", but it's still a nice place. It's all what you make it.

For more "primitive" sites that don't involve backpacking, you can also try the campgrounds up on Tioga Rd or Glacier Point Rd, ie: Crane Flat, Tamarack Creek, Yosemite Creek, Bridalveil Creek, etc.

If, however, you do want to get out, and if you can get it as a walk-up permit, go spend the night at Upper Cathedral Lake.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby Dave_Ayers » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:44 pm

Yosemite campground descriptions are at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm . For one, Crane Flat has a number of sites open in September if you want to have something reserved. Reservations are at https://www.recreation.gov/camping/cran ... rkId=70930 . But don't wait long, they may book up.

There are several similar threads on this site in the past few days you'll want to read such as viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4030 and viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4029 . And Yosemite has hiking maps, trailhead mileages, park highlights, and much other info on their web site at https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm . You might start with the Guide at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... yg08-3.pdf or the brochure page at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/brochures.htm .

Since you're going to SEKI and Yose, you may want to get an annual National Parks pass for $80 at https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm . Visit another park or two within a year and it'll be worth it.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:01 pm

Thanks! I am following a few other similar threads here, but their interests are a bit different.

Any thoughts about the route I'm considering? 50 out of Sacramento to 395 to 120?
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:04 pm

Also, when the Crane Flat page says there's a $10 fee to cancel - is that in addition to what I already paid? Or do I get a full refund minus $10?
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:28 pm

I'm pretty sure it's a refund minus the $10.

I think your itinerary involves a lot more driving than sightseeing. LA to Yosemite takes most of a day. Especially if traffic in LA is as bad as it can get -- I sat in traffic once for four hours on a Saturday, gave up, turned around, left without getting to where I was going. It's not predictable - if there's an accident everything stops.

Driving between Yosemite and Sequoia will take half a day. If you pick up the family and take them with you, might have a few hours left to sightsee on the 17, although I suppose you might be driving up the morning of the 18 and returning the same day to stay with family....

Driving to SF depending on where in SF -- oh boy, that could take five hours, or it could take ten... there was a fatal accident on the 120/99 interchange once that had us sitting there for three hours, and then we got to SF right at rush hour -- lots of near misses on the freeway, very tense, very slow. Turn around and drive for five more hours to Yosemite (if traffic is moving along well) then driving around inside Yosemite -- well, by September that should be manageable enough. But it'll be an hour going from one section of the park to another, as well.

At least you'll get a few days in Yosemite to breathe... I think I would have the friend ride Amtrak out to Merced and pick him up there, tho. It'll save a day.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:46 pm

AlmostThere wrote:LA to Yosemite takes most of a day.


Sounds like you aren't following my plans (which are still flexible). I'm leaving LA around the 16th to visit family in Visalia. We'll run out to Sequoia for a few hours, take them back to Visalia, then I'll try to get to San Francisco that night. Around the 19th, I'll head to Tahoe area, camp a night or two on the way down and around through the valley on the 21st. Back to San Francisco on the 22nd. Is that really a potential difficulty?
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:55 pm

ergalthema wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:LA to Yosemite takes most of a day.


Sounds like you aren't following my plans (which are still flexible). I'm leaving LA around the 16th to visit family in Visalia. We'll run out to Sequoia for a few hours, take them back to Visalia, then I'll try to get to San Francisco that night. Around the 19th, I'll head to Tahoe area, camp a night or two on the way down and around through the valley on the 21st. Back to San Francisco on the 22nd. Is that really a potential difficulty?


LA to Visalia can take most of the day as well. It all depends on traffic, which is pretty darn bad sometimes. So no, I don't know that it will take six hours, or sixteen, but I've seen it go long more often than short. Trying not to be on the freeway in rush hour helps.

You're going to be in the car for a long while on the 16th. That's a lot of driving.... And then taking on traffic in SF, brave man to do that while you're tired. At least it gets less chockablock the later it gets. WHen I drive to Point Reyes from Fresno, I allot a full six hours and try to time it so I leave at 5 pm, which puts me in SF area after 7 so I'm not stuck in rush hour.

When you say down and around through the valley do you mean Owens Valley? Going to Yosemite Valley is a side trip off the 120. Going over Tioga Pass there is a 35mph limit, and you go slower if there are RVs, or tourists who stop in the middle of the road. (I've had that happen, they get overwhelmed and jump out of the car to take pictures.)

I would expect to spend an hour in Tuolumne Meadows -- that's a gorgeous place to walk around - and then another couple hours in the valley floor, because that too is another gorgeous place to walk around, and a very slow drive until after 5 pm.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:13 pm

AlmostThere wrote:LA to Visalia can take most of the day as well. It all depends on traffic, which is pretty darn bad sometimes. So no, I don't know that it will take six hours, or sixteen, but I've seen it go long more often than short. Trying not to be on the freeway in rush hour helps.

You're going to be in the car for a long while on the 16th. That's a lot of driving.... And then taking on traffic in SF, brave man to do that while you're tired. At least it gets less chockablock the later it gets. WHen I drive to Point Reyes from Fresno, I allot a full six hours and try to time it so I leave at 5 pm, which puts me in SF area after 7 so I'm not stuck in rush hour.

When you say down and around through the valley do you mean Owens Valley? Going to Yosemite Valley is a side trip off the 120. Going over Tioga Pass there is a 35mph limit, and you go slower if there are RVs, or tourists who stop in the middle of the road. (I've had that happen, they get overwhelmed and jump out of the car to take pictures.)

I would expect to spend an hour in Tuolumne Meadows -- that's a gorgeous place to walk around - and then another couple hours in the valley floor, because that too is another gorgeous place to walk around, and a very slow drive until after 5 pm.


Thanks for the input! I spend a lot of time driving long road trips to see shows around the eastern US - sometimes driving home for 4 hours after a show that ended at midnight, etc. So, none of this seems difficult at all. I have also driven from LA to Visalia, leaving Friday afternoon - bumper-to-bumper crawling traffic - so I get it. Definitely worth warning someone about!

Regarding the valley, I don't really know. I read people saying that traffic can get slow in the valley and assumed that was 120, but I guess they were referring to the smaller(?) roads leading to Yosemite Valley. Looking at a map, I wasn't sure how big "Yosemite Valley" is - but apparently it's smaller than I thought.

Would it be worth skipping Sacramento/Tahoe and instead head through Manteca from SF to do a smaller loop from 108? Do you think I would be able to cut down some driving and enjoy more sites that way?
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:20 pm

No, it gets slow in Yosemite Valley. It is a one way loop. You get on the loop, there is one opportunity to cut the loop short by going across and turning south, but you miss the Mirror Lake end of the valley. The section between Half Dome Village and Yosemite Village gets very slow - I sat in traffic for three hours to go less than two miles there one afternoon. It's small, but very, very slow in the afternoon. The lines at the gates can stretch for miles as well -- going out the Tioga gate down to Lee Vining we drove past a couple miles of cars one morning. The 140 has been getting really backed up lately. 41 gate has three booths and still manages to get lines a mile long. We went in for a day hike and it was an hour waiting at 140 gate, and that was nothing compared to the four miles of cars waiting there when we left in the afternoon.... Timing is definitely everything. And this year has been atypically busy for some reason.

Sonora Pass is gorgeous and significantly less impacted -- it would be a lovely drive and it would definitely give you more time to spend in Yosemite if you wanted to allot that to the park. Tahoe is also gorgeous... but it is definitely a long drive around.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:31 pm

Thanks! You lost me when you started talking about gates. I'll have to research to learn what you're referring to. I'm learning, though. It's starting to make sense.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:44 pm

If you're already in Sacramento, just jump on I-5 and head down past Stockton, then jump on eastbound 120 and go right to the park entrance (gate) at Big Oak Flat. Or if you're in Tahoe, head over the hill to Carson City and take 395 to westbound 120 and you'll then come in through the East gate at Tioga Pass.

Anywhere you go; LA, SF, points in between,Yosemite Valley...anywhere in park, time it wrong, sit in traffic. Sometimes very heavy, sometimes sitting in one place, sometimes crawling. Normal commute times are when to avoid the roads, accidents notwithstanding. In the Valley, anytime after 8 am, until late afternoon through evening about 6 pm. Basically, get the driving done early, ditch the car, do your thing, wait until everyone goes back to their campsites for dinner to leave.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:54 pm

Phil wrote:If you're already in Sacramento, just jump on I-5 and head down past Stockton, then jump on eastbound 120 and go right to the park entrance (gate) at Big Oak Flat. Or if you're in Tahoe, head over the hill to Carson City and take 395 to westbound 120 and you'll then come in through the East gate at Tioga Pass.

Anywhere you go; LA, SF, points in between,Yosemite Valley...anywhere in park, time it wrong, sit in traffic. Sometimes very heavy, sometimes sitting in one place, sometimes crawling. Normal commute times are when to avoid the roads, accidents notwithstanding. In the Valley, anytime after 8 am, until late afternoon through evening about 6 pm. Basically, get the driving done early, ditch the car, do your thing, wait until everyone goes back to their campsites for dinner to leave.


I'm starting from SF, and planning to go 108 over to Lee Vining, then back on 120, staying the last night at my reservation at Crane Flat. I'll have 2 or 3 nights before that to figure out.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby ergalthema » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:07 pm

Here is a little more detailed itinerary:
9/12 10:10am arrival LAX
9/13 LA
9/14 LA
9/15 LA
9/16 LA to Visalia
9/17 Visalia-Sequoia-Visalia-San Francisco
9/18 San Francisco
9/19 Yosemite hwy108
9/20 Yosemite hwy395 (Mammoth Lakes?)
9/21 Yosemite hwy120 - Yosemite Valley - Crane Flat camping reservation
9/22 Crane Flat to SF - midnight departure
9/23 flying

Still flexible though. Could leave SF on the 18th. Could leave LA on the 15th and bump it all up another day or two.
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Re: Possibly my only trip to Yosemite - help with planning?

Postby Phil » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:43 pm

That's a lot of time in the saddle. More like a mission than a vacation. Why 108 and coming in from the east when you're already west?

AlmostThere wrote: Going over Tioga Pass there is a 35mph limit, and you go slower if there are RVs, or tourists who stop in the middle of the road. (I've had that happen, they get overwhelmed and jump out of the car to take pictures.)


See a bear, all rules of the road are suspended. Once the terror of it all subsides, it kind of makes me happy to know that there are people like that in the world.
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