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TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

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

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TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby jartelt » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:16 pm

Some friends and I backpacked a 40 mile loop in Yosemite NP over last weekend. The rough itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 - Mirror Lake TH to Snow Creek Trail to campsite north of Mount Watkins
Day 2 - Campsite to Olmsted Point to Tenaya Lake to Sunrise Lakes
Day 3 - Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest to JMT (Sunrise Creek) to High Trail leading towards Merced Lake to campsite on bluff before Echo Valley
Day 4 - Echo Valley to Lost Valley to Little Yosemite Valley to JMT to Mist Trail to Happy Isles to Half Dome Village for pizza/beer

I had previously asked for advice about this trip plan and you all gave some helpful tips. Thank you for the help! Overall we had a great time with few if any issues. Tenaya Creek was only knee deep (using the stepping stones) and was actually reasonably warm. There was still a descent amount of snow between Tenaya Lake and Sunrise, but we were able to navigate this area without even consulting our GPS. Plus the snow was hard enough that we never postholed. Sunrise Lakes was mosquito infested, but we came prepared with DEET and bug nets. Our two other campsites were very nice with not too many bugs.

Here is the full trip report I wrote up with all my pictures: https://backpackers-review.com/trip-rep ... ckpacking/

And here are some highlights:

Snow Creek Trail view
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Olmsted Point view
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Tenaya Creek crossing
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Snow on way to clouds rest
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Lookout near sunrise
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High Trail view
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Lost Valley Sunset
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Lost Valley river
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Little Yosemite Valley
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby damu21 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:24 am

sweet! hows that snow creek trail? im doing two 7ish mile days on it, albeit not climbing out of the valley, but coming over from porcupine creek/north dome on to sunrise lakes
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:36 am

damu21 wrote:sweet! hows that snow creek trail? im doing two 7ish mile days on it, albeit not climbing out of the valley, but coming over from porcupine creek/north dome on to sunrise lakes


That route makes no sense. You would continue on past Olmstead, not down Snow Creek, to Sunrise Lakes. If you come down Snow Creek and cross the valley floor your wilderness permit is null and void. Your route would need to be down Snow Creek, up the valley to the wilderness center for a Happy Isles permit which is pretty difficult to get, then up toward Sunrise Lakes....
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby jartelt » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:17 am

I imagine damu21 is talking about crossing the Snow Creek footbridge and then heading east on the trail (labeled the Snow Creek Trail on some maps I have seen) that passes north of Mount Watkins and leads to Olmsted point, Tenaya Lake, and then Sunrise Lakes.

If so, the trail between the Snow Creek bridge and the area north of Mount Watkins where we camped was relatively boring. The trail is through the forest so the views are not great and there are some downed trees along the trail. Definitely check out the vista point near the Snow Creek bridge though - it has a great view of Half Dome and the valley.

After you hike past Mount Watkins, the trail goes by a ridge that has a great view of Tenaya Canyon. From here to Tenaya Lake was an enjoyable section of trail with some nice views. There is a nice meadow towards Tenaya Lake, which was pretty but had a lot of mosquitoes. The trail from Tenaya Lake to Sunrise was snowy in places, so I would load an offline map onto your phone or have a GPS. The mosquitoes at Sunrise Lake were epic. I don't know how long that will last, but bring some repellent for sure.

Hope that helps!
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:19 am

I hope that's what he means, and not what people usually mean... he would not be the first to think shortcutting across to Happy Isles is legal.

I would take a map. GPS have been inaccurate as electronics have the occasional tendency to do, maps are the essential and GPS is but a tool to go with the map.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby damu21 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:26 am

yes yes, heading east over the footbridge towards olmstead and sunrise and up from there. exiting to the valley via happy isles after half dome
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby jartelt » Wed Jul 10, 2019 10:10 am

Yea, then the snow between Tenaya Lake and Sunrise is probably your main concern, though it is melting fast. Bring a map/compass and have a map on your phone. It wasn't much of an issue for us, but we had hiked the trail before and had a good idea of where to go. When we picked up our permit, the ranger scared us by saying the Tenaya Creek crossing was waist deep and ice cold and said we should hike around the lake. It was nowhere close to that, so don't be scared.

Otherwise, prepare for mosquito prevention since that area is very wet right now.

Make sure you don't camp in the Snow Creek bear zone. The rangers were very adamant that the bear that lives there is great at stealing bear canisters and throwing them off the cliff (to break them open). The ranger said we should leave our bear canisters only 20 feet from our tent so we could hear if the bear came after them... We camped north of Mount Watkins and found a nice site there. You have to search to find good sites (they are not marked or designated), but we found some near where a stream crossed the trail.

At the first Sunrise Lake there were several dry spots for camping. We camped on the southwest edge of the first lake. I can't comment on the conditions near the other Sunrise Lakes.

Hope you have a good time!
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby Phil » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:34 pm

None of what I saw in the pics would indicate to me that there's too much snow cover.

But anyway, that trail section just past the the bridge at Snow Creek isn't actually all that "boring". Trailside and close in, sure, but move out toward Tenaya Canyon in the direction of Watkin's Pinnacle, and those views open right up to the canyon walls, with sites to be found (legal ones).

We used to camp on the flats exclusively when we passed through where you took that pic before the bear closure because the view and face of Half Dome are amazing and humbling when you get close and slightly lower in elevation nearer the edge of cliff, but be what may now in that area because of the restrictions, as always, and in most situations, the sites and the exciting views aren't usually trailside anywhere you go. Finding the "gems" takes more patience and work than just moving forward and a cursory scan only.

Your shots from that upper JMT/Forsyth spur looking down on the Lost Valley/Bunnell section of the Merced are cool. That's always been a view I've enjoyed.
Last edited by Phil on Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby jartelt » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:44 pm

Phil wrote:None of what I saw in the pics would indicate to me that there's too much snow cover.

But anyway, that trail section just past the the bridge at Snow Creek isn't actually all that "boring". Trailside and close in, sure, but move out toward Tenaya Canyon in the direction of Watkin's Pinnacle, and those views open right up to the canyon walls, with sites to be found (legal ones).

We used to camp on the flats exclusively when we passed through where you took that pic before the bear closure because the view and face of Half Dome are amazing and humbling when you get close and slightly lower in elevation nearer the edge of cliff, but be what may now in that area because of the restrictions, as always, and in most situations, the sites and the exciting views aren't usually trailside anywhere you go. Finding the "gems" take more patience and work than moving forward and a cursory scan only.


I only said the section between the footbridge and Mount Watkins is boring. I mentioned that the views are great once you pass Mount Watkins and reach the ridge.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby Phil » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:51 pm

That trail section is just a moment where you pass through it on your way to somewhere else, but with the restrictions, I just didn't want anyone to think that there wasn't more to it, especially since that's now where the camping is at Snow Creek.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby damu21 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:27 am

sweet, great info!

ive always been nervous about venturing off trail to find camp, i dont want to ruin any vegetation or anything like that so my sites are usually rushed and not very creative.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby Phil » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:49 pm

damu21 wrote:ive always been nervous about venturing off trail to find camp, i dont want to ruin any vegetation or anything like that so my sites are usually rushed and not very creative.


LNT......somebody probably already made a good site...use that if it's obviously established and legal.

Cliffs and major creeks are great boundaries for some off-trail exploration, hard to miss and get lost in if you're boxed in and not prone to falls. Basic occasional compass references aren't too bad either The best sites are usually hidden and back a ways, and besides, you do want privacy and there are rules about distance off trail, etc. Drop your pack, pull your can, walk in a little bit and around....always.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby WanderingJim » Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:51 pm

I was thinking of doing your loop as an extension of my north rim hike last week.

I did go from Old Big Oak Flat Road Trailhead to Snow Creek, but decided that was enough.

https://wandering.earth/index.php/2019/07/14/yosemite-july-2019/

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Plus I had a date with Mt Shasta.
https://wandering.earth/index.php/2019/07/14/mt-shasta-july-2019/

Didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but was a nice combination with my Yosemite trek.
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Re: TR - 40 mile loop in Yosemite Valley over 4th of July

Postby SharksFinAddict » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:12 am

Thank you for sharing this trip. I am planning on soloing an almost identical loop in 4 weeks. Same start with the loop around and over Clouds Rest. Only change is I will be spending night 3 between Clouds Rest and Half Dome. Day 4 will be the Half Dome cables and then the mist trail back to the valley. :D :D
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