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Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2021 9:29 pm
by DontTreadOnJC
Hello all,

My 4 day, 3 night backpacking trip is coming up in a few weeks, but one (big) question remains: where the heck should I go? I'm unfamiliar with the area, this will be my first time hiking north of Tioga Rd in the Tuolumne Meadows area. My permit is for the first night in Glen Aulin, and returning via the same trailhead. So basically I'm confined to an out-and-back 1 day beyond Glen Aulin. There are a few different directions we can go, what is the most scenic option? What's in reach (about 8-13 miles) within a day of Glen Aulin?

We're 3 guys in our 30's all in good (but not star athlete) shape. A strenuous hike is not a big deal, but not looking to kill ourselves either. A nice place to take a dip in the water would be a huge plus but not a hard requirement.

On day 2 I was thinking to just head north on the PCT for as long as we feel like hiking and find a nice site to settle into for the night. Or another option (which is starting to grow on me) may be to do the Grand Canyon as an out-and-back, going possibly as far as Pate Valley for night 2. Is that overly aggressive? I think it would make it about a 15 mile day which is probably more than any of us want to do. Are there other good places to stop and camp maybe a few miles short (i.e. east) of Pate Valley? Then I was thinking to camp around California Falls on night 3, giving us 8 miles the final day back to Tuolumne Meadows and our 4-5 hour drive home.

What would be your suggestion if you were me? Thanks a bunch!

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 6:21 am
by AlmostThere
I'm not sure what you want to do, but I think you might consider a couple of things - water sources, and weather.

It's summer, and it's frickin' hot. In the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne you're going downhill when you hike out from Glen Aulin, and uphill (in open granite most of the way) coming back. The lower you go, the hotter it will be. Potentially 90s or 100F at the bottom. aka Pate. The river will be there for water, however, jumping in it will not be without its risks.... it's a river. Water is one of the top two killers in the park (the other is rock).

Most of my outings in the Sierra this summer are going to be lake driven, ie, water sources I can count on. Not sure how much water is really out there at any given time, in the streams, and the later it gets, the more careful I'll be. Have already seen streams that are typically year round end up a string of stagnant puddles.

There are other campsites in the GCT. I can't give you guidance - have not been there in a long time, and trees and rocks tend to fall, rearranging available campsites. I believe there are sites at Return Creek.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 8:14 am
by WanderingJim
McCabe Lakes may be a 1 day hike from Glen Aluin for you to consider or somewhere in Virgina Canyon.

There are (or were at the beginning of July) some water sources along Cold Canyon as ypu climb up the canyon.

You could also go down into the Ten Lakes Basin from Glen Aluin. If you have two cars, you could leave one at Yosemite Creek or Luken's lake trailheads to do a through hike of the basin. (the ext trailhead is not that important and they won't care if you have to exit from a different one due to circumstances/changes of route)

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 6:22 pm
by ChrisA
You are not required to actualy exit at the trailhead toy sid, nor spend the exact number of days on the trail. The quota is oonly for the trailhead entry. You can do what you like after you are on the trail.

So one option is to hike the entire "Grand Canyon of the Toulomne". What you do is keep hiking down river Night #1 is as planned at Glen Aulin, #2 down river some plece and #3 in Pate Valley. Then you hike up the big hill to White Wolf. This is one of the best hikes in the Park I prefer the higher elevations in this August heat but the trail as mostly down kill (except for the last day) and near the water. Hike in shorts and jump in the water when you can.

One other option is to exit at May Lake, Camp the last might at May lake and you will have an easy walk out to the hiway. Catching rides one 120 is not that hard.

With three nights it is even possible to get to Ten Lakes and exit Yosemite Crk trailhaed.

Last year I hiked White Wolf to May lake in 4 nights but most people seem to like hiking down river. In either direction the WW to Pate trail is a big hill, takes 8 hours, bring lots of water, there is none

As soon as you realize you do not need to exit the same trailhead as you went in the optionopen

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 7:29 pm
by Phil
If you're adamant about heading farther down canyon I would stop and overnight around Waterwheel/Le Conte falls, but it is insanely hot and a long, hot climb back out. Pate is too hot right now to bother with going all the way down to, only to turn around and slog miserably out of. California Falls has pretty limited camping, and even though the falls below are going to be way off peak, it's still nicer terrain, the gorge is wider and therefore somewhat cooler, and the camping better and more pentiful down around the lower part of the falls complex WW/LC. Without exiting the Glen Aulin/TM trailhead and voiding your permit, you might also want to head up to Young Lakes for a night or two, then drop back down and exit the same trailhead or out below Dog Lake. The latter should be within the bounds of your permitted route. Check it out on your map, but remember, if you have a Glen Aulin permit, you stop there and go no further legally (and they work it). To keep going down the GCT you need a Glen Aulin pass-thru.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 7:43 pm
by DontTreadOnJC
Phil wrote:... but remember, if you have a Glen Aulin permit, you stop there and go no further legally (and they work it). To keep going down the GCT you need a Glen Aulin pass-thru.


What? Is that true? What everyone has been telling me is that all that matters is that I camp the first night at Glen Aulin, and after that I'm free to venture anywhere, and camp anywhere on subsequent nights as long as it's not prohibited.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 7:45 pm
by AlmostThere
Many of the trailheads have two quotas that way - yes, it is true. A pass through permit you must pass through, the other kind your first night is at Glen Aulin. Same with Happy Isles (LYV vs LYV pass through). Two quotas. Can't get a permit for pass through and stay at Glen Aulin. It'll say which you have on the permit and in the email confirmation.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 7:50 pm
by DontTreadOnJC
Maybe I'm misunderstanding what Phil is saying. I read it as: without a pass-thru perit, I am not allowed to hike beyond Glen Aulin, period.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2021 8:08 pm
by WanderingJim
DontTreadOnJC wrote:Maybe I'm misunderstanding what Phil is saying. I read it as: without a pass-thru perit, I am not allowed to hike beyond Glen Aulin, period.


Yes, there are two Glen Aluin permit types.

Glen Aluin PASS_THRU means you have to go beyond Glen Aluin and can't camp there. I think you have to be at least 1 mile past Glen Aluin.

Just a "Glen Aluin" permit means you have to spend the first night at the Glen Aulin camp. After that, you're free to roam wherever.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2021 7:18 am
by Phil
No, it's not you misunderstanding, it's me misconveying. Sorry for the alarm and confusion, but it's the first night I'm referring to only. Knowing the difference in requirements and limitations between the two permits is important. There's a lot going on in that area; people without permits, wrong permits, camping violations, canister violations...hikers from within the park and coming in from the PCT all converging make for necessarily heavy enforcement. I've been shaken down more in that area, more often, and seen more citations written than anywhere else in the entire park combined. It's just worth emphasizing that it's where arbitrary decisions to stop or keep going that might seem harmless at the time but don't exactly fit your permitting type can easily come with consequences. But yes, Jim laid it out correctly.

I'm not sure if they'll let you camp up to and including the top of California Falls or not on just the straight GA permit, but that is where the 1 mile no-camping radius ends. All before that after the HSC is what's known as Glen Aulin proper, and even though you might see campsites, it's not technically legal camping. I've seen them waffle on this one if the backpacker's camp is crowded, but I never count on it and don't care because I'm always headed down canyon to better places.

But besides all that, if you can find the use trail shortcut down from behind Pothole Dome you'll save yourselves about 3 miles the first day. If you can get a pass through permit, skip the campground altogether and go downriver. That campground is okay, but why if you don't have to...it is still a campground. I guess it depends on what you're looking for. Like I said though, the top of Ca Falls is where you can first legally camp beyond the HSC. There aren't really many good sites between the trail and the river to your left, but if you go right and up into the rocks there are some nice private ones. Below the falls the canyon narrows down and the sides get steeper. There really isn't much to choose from in that stretch at all, so going ahead and pushing down to Le Conte/Waterwheel is the best way to go at that point. It's also the most picturesque and complicated stretch of continuous waterfalls that side of Muir Gorge. Much better than the short stretch at Ca Falls. Honestly, without a full commitment to the entire GCT from TM to White Wolf or vice versa, Le Conte is really all you need out of any of it. I would skip the campground, make that my first night if I could, limit my climbing back out, and then just go up to Young Lakes.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2021 7:26 pm
by balzaccom
If you're comfortable with basic cross country, you can follow Conness Creek up from Glen Aulin and discover a lovely area...all the way to Roosevelt Lake if you like. And from there, you can cross country again over to Young Lakes, and then back to Tuolumne Meadows.

There's a full trip report on this hike on our website...link is in my signature line.

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2021 7:28 pm
by DontTreadOnJC
I will certainly consider it! Thanks for the additional option, I'll read up on it tonight

Re: Where to go after night 1 in Glen Aulin?

PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2021 12:14 pm
by AlmostThere
I'm sure they'll update you when it's time to pick up the permit. But there are lightning fires in the area, including one in Pate... having had the lovely experience of hiking south of the Creek Fire when it blew up and closed down the entire mountain range, I'll offer an additional caveat. A two way device such as SPOT, InReach, Bivy stick, or similar would be a great tool, not just in case you need a 911 button, but in case your family notices a big fire has started and can text you about it, so you can evacuate in a different direction than you planned to exit. Which is what I had to do - even though I wasn't in the fire itself, my car was trapped by a road closure down the hill from the trailhead I was supposed to exit at. So I had to exit the wilderness elsewhere.

A mask is not just a covid precaution, but a handy thing to have when ash is falling all around you, and you don't want lung cancer in the future.

Safe travels.