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Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

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

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Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby mistmoose » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:03 pm

I'm planning a 5 - 6 night trip backpacking to Yosemite for August 23rd - 28th. I've applied for my Wilderness Permit to enter at Glen Aulin and exit via Happy Isles - Little Yosemite Valley.

I'm just trying to make sure that the route I think will work, is actually going to work. :) There seem to be so many different options, I'm not sure where to start. I know Sunrise Lakes trailhead is booked for the days I want to backpack, so looking for an alternative way in as we want to go over Cloud's Rest.

8/23 – Land and drive to Tuolomne Meadows – Camp and park at Toulumne Meadows
8/24 – pick up wilderness permit and get to Glen Aulin trailhead – camp in Glen Aulin
8/25 – Glen Aulin to Sunrise Lakes – Camp around Sunrise Lakes (10 miles)
8/26 – Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest and down into Little Yosemite Valley – Camp in Little Yosemite Valley (10 miles)
8/27 – Half Dome to Yosemite Valley – Camp at Backpackers Camp in Yosemite Valley (13 miles) ??? Can I do that with this permit?
8/28 – sightsee in the Valley and then drive back to airport

Would appreciate tips, comments, advice on this plan. It will be just my husband and I and we applied for our Half Dome permit with the Wilderness Permit. I also know I will need to book Tuolumne Meadows campground online on April 15th.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby dan » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:45 pm

8/27 – Half Dome to Yosemite Valley – Camp at Backpackers Camp in Yosemite Valley (13 miles) ??? Can I do that with this permit?


When you get a Wilderness Permit you need to specify that you also want to climb Half Dome.
[Edit: Clouds Rest doesn't need a permit, but Half Dome does need a permit, but you can request it as part of your Wilderness Permit application.]

Also if you have a Wilderness Permit you can camp at the Backpackers Camp in Little Yosemite Valley. LYV tends to be crowded, but they are all backpackers and enjoy talking around the campfire into the night.

Instead of LYV I prefer to camp at a campsite where the Clouds Rest Trail and John Muir Trail meet, just east of another junction with the CRT. It's quiet and you have a head start to Half Dome.

Consider reducing the length of your days. I would keep them under 10 miles.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:20 pm

Odd Itinerary, in that you are hiking to Glen Aulin, and then coming right back out of the wilderness to hike to Sunrise....make sure you tell the ranger that when you get your permit. They may require two permits for this hike.

And you do not need a permit to climb Cloud's Rest. YOu will need a permit if you want to climb Half Dome.
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby Phil » Tue Mar 20, 2018 4:46 pm

After you leave Glen Aulin you'll be on the May Lake Trail. There are two ways to then get to Sunrise Lakes: 1) exit at Murphy Creek. This may cause some problems in terms of permitting as you technically leave designated wilderness, travel along Tioga Rd for about a mile, then pick up the trail again at Sunrise. I've heard of it going both ways...yay or nay on working under a single permit. Walking along the road is the issue. 2) Via May Lake itself, you head down past it to the parking area, then down from there to Tioga Rd, only crossing, not walking along. That's perfectly legal and acceptable, no problem. Try it both ways from the standpoint of permitting.

10 miles is easy enough, but bear in mind that you have a pretty good climb up from Glen Aulin, then another hefty 1100 ft one up to Sunrise Lakes that you shouldn't underestimate, especially on a late August afternoon. You're not at an especially high altitude for the most part, but depending on your stamina and how you're feeling, you may want to split that down since you either hold up short or have no choice but to keep going because you won't be able to legally camp anywhere from May Lake or within a mile of the road along Murphy Creek....you come down past either of those two points, you're fully committed to push on. Depending on your route, and approval of it, that can be May Lake or perhaps Raisin Lake, or if you get approved for exit at Murphy Creek, Polly Dome Lakes. You may or may not need it, but just so you know that options exist and what they are.

It always kills me when people want to, first, camp at Little Yosemite Valley unless they absolutely have to, and secondly, after coming down from CR, going all the way down to LYV for the night, only to have to re-climb back up the next day. If you're doing HD (and even if you don't get the permit to do it) seriously consider camping for the night along Sunrise Creek after descending Cloud's Rest instead of at LYV. Same exact place that Dan mentioned: JMT x CR junction/Sunrise Creek.
Last edited by Phil on Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby Justin-T » Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:24 pm

I think you'll be fine with the permit you have, because that route is more or less what anyone will do if they're on the HSC loop. Definitely agree you shouldn't go all the way down to LYV to camp after going over Clouds Rest, you're adding a lot of descent that you'll have to regain to go back up to HD, making that last day much longer/tougher than it needs to be. The place dan mentioned is the way to do this, there are some good spots off the trail pretty much right where the trail from CR hits the JMT. Sunrise Creek is close by and should still have some water in it at that point in the season (but you should try to confirm this closer to the time).

One potential issue I can see is that you're allowing no time to acclimate to the the elevation, but maybe you live somewhere in the mountains? TM and Glen Aulin are around 8,000 feet and you'll notice it with a full pack unless you're ready for it.

Also, how are you getting back to your car? An alternative might be to park in the valley, hitch a ride up to TM so your car is waiting for you at the end. I would also think about taking an extra night in the wilderness and do shorter hikes, more time to enjoy the backcountry (maybe camp at Raisin Lake after GA, or near the CR summit). I think the valley will seem a little tame after being out in the wilderness, so for me that would be a good exchange to make. However, if you've already booked your flights this might not be possible.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby Phil » Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:48 pm

Forgot to also mention that you have a couple nights at backpackers' camps built-in to whatever permit you end up with.

No need to book at Tuolumne campground if you have a permit. With it, for $6 per person, you get to stay in their backpackers' area for one night prior to your trip, and then again the night after. Regardless of permitted trailheads or routes, this is true for any and all backpackers' camps throughout the park. With that in mind, also consider White Wolf, or, you can even stay in the valley the first night, leave the car there so that you have it handy at the end of your trip, and then take the hikers' shuttle up to Tuolumne the morning of your hike.

And if you have a reserved permit and are driving in from SF or Oakland along Hwy 120, stop and pick it up at the wilderness office at the Big Oak Flat entrance station when you pass through. It's easier and usually faster, you can rent your bear canister there if you don't already have one (required!), and it gives you the run of the park without worrying about the time the permit offices close (5pm) or which backpackers' camp you still have to drive to/end up in. Choices be good...bird in-the-hand and all that.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby mistmoose » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:31 pm

Thanks everyone. This was really helpful. Glen Aulin was booked, so I ended up getting the permit starting at May Lake. We are going to do the short hike in to May Lake on day one and spend that night getting acclimated. Then head across the road to Sunrise the next day. The advice to come down Cloud's Rest and then camp along Sunrise Creek and the John Muir Trail rather than going all the way in to LYV is much appreciated. I did get my Half Dome permit along with the Wilderness Permit and confirmed the route with the permit office when I called. They also mentioned that I can camp at Tuolumne Meadows Backpackers camp the night before. I will need to figure out how to get back up to my car at May Lake when we are all done, but don't expect that to be too much of an issue.

I live outside of Seattle, so although I've got lots of good mountains to train on for elevation gain, I won't be training much at altitude.

I'm guessing the mosquitos can get pretty bad in late August???
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby Phil » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:08 pm

mistmoose wrote: I will need to figure out how to get back up to my car at May Lake when we are all done, but don't expect that to be too much of an issue.


Actually, instead of parking up at the lot right below May Lake, park down at the Sunrise trailhead and walk up to the lake that way. It'll be a couple miles longer, but the return shuttle from the valley will drop you off right at the car, so no need to worry about hitching the 1.5 miles or so back up at the end of your trip. No biggie either way, but you're just swapping ease at the end for ease at the beginning, when you're still fresh. Look at your map and you'll see what I'm talking about.

mistmoose wrote:I'm guessing the mosquitos can get pretty bad in late August???


No, not at all. Pretty much a non-issue. Maybe one small bottle of repellent between the two of you for the entire trip, if even, and just around the lakes in the evening.

And while at May Lake, take the time to hike up Mt Hoffman. It's almost 11k feet, the trail is only two miles up, beautiful 360 views of the high country, and it's the geographical center of Yosemite. Worth a few hours, and you can do it in the morning or evening after you set up camp, sans packs.
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Re: Confirm my backpacking route makes sense?

Postby mistmoose » Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:46 am

Thanks Phil! Sounds great. Really looking forward to it.
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