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Need Advice - Doing a Loop from Happy Isles > Sunrise

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

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Need Advice - Doing a Loop from Happy Isles > Sunrise

Postby abdulhadi » Mon May 18, 2009 11:28 am

Hi Folks,

I've got a wilderness permit for Happy Isles to Sunrise starting on Friday, June 5th and plan to exit some time on Monday, June 8th, so 4 days and 3 nights total. I'm thinking of doing a loop up to Sunrise using Echo Creek trail and Cloud's Rest trail in some order (avoiding the JMT because I've heard its busy and the views are better on the other two trails).

This is the first time I'm backpacking in Yosemite (only done day hikes in TM), so would appreciate any and all advice. In particular, though, I'm wondering about the following things:

1. Difficulty - How strenuous is this itinerary for 4-day/3-night itinerary? My wife and I are in good shape, although its been a couple of years since I've worn a 30 lb. pack.

2. Start/Finish - Is is better to start out toward Cloud's Rest and then come back down on Echo trail, or vice versa?

3. Camping locations - Looking at the distances, I'm not sure if we'd want to stop at the official Sunrise camp--any suggestions on good alternative stops for each of the 3 nights? Also, looking for a good stopping point on the first night since my permit is a pass through and can't stay at LYV.

I know that's a lot of questions but I've been reading the other posts on this forum and sounds like some folks really know their way around Yosemite. Look forward to the trip, and benefiting your advice!

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Better to start from Tenaya Lake?

Postby abdulhadi » Mon May 18, 2009 12:51 pm

Also, can anyone comment on starting the trip I outlined above (Happy Isles to Sunrise loop via Cloud's Rest/Echo Creek Trail) from the Tenaya Lake area instead?

Wondering if there's any advantages to starting there, still space available on the NPS website for a permit on my start date. Let me know! Thanks.
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Postby AlmostThere » Mon May 18, 2009 3:41 pm

Going from Happy Isles, you will be walking in masses of dayhiking tourists bound for Vernal and Nevada Falls. On the mist trail you will walk up steps, steps and more steps, and from the top of Vernal after some roundabout trail walking, more and more steps. Granted, this will take you past the waterfalls and on a hot day the Vernal Falls mist will give you a cool drenching. However, people consistently underestimate this stretch of trail and I have met the SAR team at the top of Nevada Falls pumping water for the underprepared.

The JMT from Happy Isles is a series of switchbacks on which the horse/mule traffic travels. Not so hard on the knees, but a bit dustier and less scenery until you reach the top and level off to find yourself hiking toward the top of Nevada Falls.

I am doing Cathedral Lakes trailhead to Happy Isles in late August, as in that direction, it is mostly downhill and the older hikers in my group appreciate that. We will also do Clouds Rest and probably Half Dome.

There is supposedly a few established sites to camp near the junction of the main trail and the spur to Clouds Rest, but it's unclear as to the reliablility of the water source supposedly nearby. You might ask the ranger at the wilderness office.

Another wrinkle might be whether or not Tioga Road actually opens before June 5th. There is still a lot of snow up there. You may be able to walk the trails through the patchy snow, but what if you get there and there are no busses running? Another question for the rangers.
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Postby mikecain3 » Mon May 18, 2009 6:24 pm

Your plan sounds ambitious for the first day. By going in that counterclock wise direction the first night would be somewhere between LYV and Sunrise. That might be more mileage than you want. I don't think you'll want to go all the way from Happy Isles to Sunrise in the day.

We just got back from a similar hike and we camped at the "spur" that the previous person talked about. It is near the junction of the clouds rest and sunrise trails, just north of LYV. There are two good streams and it is great location for doing Clouds rest as a day hike. The established campsites (fire pits) are few though. On a weekend it might be hard to find one open.

This is also a good location for a Half Dome hike. You are close enough to go late in the day after most of the valley day people have thinned out.

Have fun.
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Change of plans

Postby abdulhadi » Mon May 18, 2009 11:29 pm

Thanks for your advice guys. Hearing about the crowds in the valley started to concern me, so I decided to change my plans and switch my permit from starting at Happy Isles to starting at Sunrise Lakes trail head now (got the last one!).

I'm actually getting in on Thursday, a day before my permit starts so will have enough time to still see the falls and do a day hike in the valley area.

Is there anyway to do Half Dome and Cloud's Rest in the same backpacking trip? They look fairly close together, and doesn't look like you can camp in between the two (either because the map says that is a no-no area or because I keep hearing about water being scarce). Any thoughts?
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Postby bill-e-g » Tue May 19, 2009 7:25 am

Well... I woulda said that you should have just stuck with your original
permit. HI->Merced/Sunrise Passthru... and hike to Moraine Dome the
first day.. then up to Merced Lake the 2nd day... then up Echo Crk
and back the high trail the 3rd day... out the 4th...
The section from Moraine Dome to Merced Lake is just spectacular.
IMO it's sorta a shame that sooooo many people go to LYV and
only head up towards Clouds or HD. Especially earlier in the year
when the river, falls, and cascades are really screaming.
HD and Clouds should definitely be done but my point is that there are
alot of other things to see in the park that are pretty spectacular.
(Bunnell Pt., Bunnell Cascade, Moraine Dome, Unnamed Dome e. of Moraine... Merced Lake.. etc..)

Anyway, have fun. Don't worry about water in early June. There is plenty all around. Any water feature/stream/crk on your map will have water in it then.

Have fun
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