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Fern on the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park

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Upcoming trip...

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Upcoming trip...
April 24, 2007 09:44PM
Hey everyone... I'll be taking a road trip with the ultimate destination of yosemite. 4 college buddies and I are travelling out there and looking to spend about 5 days total in the park and mostly day-hike. We'll be there approximately May 3-8. I've got a ton of questions, so any help is appreciated...

Camping:
So it looks like Camp 4 is our only option. Are we likely to get a spot there this time of year? What time is reasonable to show up, and where would we register for a campsite?

Also, if we take a 2 day overnight trip while we're there, can we keep the campsite at Camp 4 even if the car isn't there?

Any specific sites within camp 4 particularly nice or less populated?

Backpacking:
We've got 3 backpackers on the trip, and 2 who have never been. The plan right now, from what I've read, is to hike from Hetch Hetchy to Lake Vernon and then back via the rancheria falls trail.

Is this reasonable for 2 days?

Will the snow be out of there (or is it already with snow levels at 6000-6500)?

Are there designated campsites at lake venon, and if so, where?

Are there any other hikes you'd recommend instead of this one for 2-3 days during this time of year?

Should I reserve wilderness permits now, or wait so I can be flexible with which days we hike depending on weather?

Thanks so much for any help. Everyone here as already been so helpful, as I've been reading a ton of previous posts! Take care..

-Mike
avatar Re: Upcoming trip...
April 24, 2007 10:10PM
mjbUmich wrote:

> Camping:
> So it looks like Camp 4 is our only option.

Really? When will you be there?

> Will the snow be out of there (or is it already with snow
> levels at 6000-6500)?

There's no snow at those alttudes right now. Unless some big storm comes through you won't have a problem.

> Should I reserve wilderness permits now, or wait so I can be
> flexible with which days we hike depending on weather?

If you are flexible, permits shouldn't be a problem.

avatar Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 01:44AM
Mike,
Camp Four may have sites is you get there on May 3rd which is a Thursday. It's a pretty big area mostly inhabited by rock climbers and since it's pretty early in the season you might have luck there. Be ready to go outside the park and camp in a NFS campground. There are a few around the park. Dimond Campground is on the road to Hetch Hetchy and there is at least one near Groveland. I believe that the Hodgdon Meadow campground by the Big Oak Flat entrance is pretty unused in early May. The Bridalveil Creek campground on Glacier Point Road may be open by then also.

Once you have a space I think you can keep it for up to two weeks. I don't believe you have to actually be there every night but you would want to have a tent pitched to keep somebody from moving into your space while you are gone.

Flexibility is the key to camping on a first come basis. You never know for sure what will be open.

If you decide to go on an overnighter at Hetch Hetchy you can stay at the backpackers campground near the dam the night before your hike and can stay at the backpackers campground on the night after your return from the overnighter. This would take care of three nights. There is always space there. You must have a wilderness permit to stay at this campground. The gate on the road to the Hetch Hetchy entrance may still be closing at 5pm in early May so you would have to be sure to get there prior to that time. You would get your wilderness permit at the Hetch Hetchy entrance kiosk. At this time of year you will have no problem getting a permit.

Your plan of going to Lake Vernon and then over to the Tiltill Valley and out via Rancheria Creek in two days is ambitious. It's a little over nine miles into Vernon
with +3000 feet elevation gain. The hike from Vernon out via Ranchera is almost fifteen miles with another +1000 and -3000 elevation gain. A very tough hike for any first-time backpacker.

I would suggest going into the Rancheria Creek area following the trail along the north edge of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. You would not be disappointed and this is a very doable yet tough enough hike for a first-time backpacker.

I hope this helps and I'm sure you will have a lot more questions.





Old Dude
Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 07:33AM
I agree, hiking to Lake Vernon and back with one overnight is too far. I did that hike a few years ago and we stayed TWO places before we got to Lake Vernon. We stayed near Rancheria Falls one night (buggy in June/July - bring mosquito headnets) and after the second day hiking uphill (it's a long switchbacked ways up as Mike said above) we stayed above Lake Vernon. This was a good choice because once we got to Lake Vernon we had to hike all the way around the other side of Lake Vernon to find a campsite.

The Hetch Hetchy backpackers campground is empty for a reason.. there are no trees from what I could see. So if it's hot and it's daytime, you'll probably be hot. We decided to drive 4+ hours home after a 12 mile hike rather than stay there smiling smiley It's probably an ok place to stay if you just need a place to crash. But we have stayed at the Dimond O National Forest campground Mike mentioned on Evergreen Road outside Hetch Hetchy and that's a very decent campground, very wooded and fairly large sites.
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/stanislaus/groveland/camping/dimond.shtml

Here are some photos of a weekend we spent at Dimond O campground
http://www.flickr.com/photos/2carolyn/sets/72157600090916042/


I also have pictures of that Hetch Hetchy hike here (includes Camp 4):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/2carolyn/414980539/in/set-72157594577780871/

I, too have a feeling you would probably be able to get a site at Camp 4, but don't hold me to it smiling smiley You might have to show up early and wait in line (some people sleep in line). Then again, you could show up later after the line has gone down and sometimes still get a site. Camp 4 is convenient, but you will be sharing a site with 3 or so other tents. The climbers I met were friendly Curry Village leftover pizza stealers. Don't let them make you feel like a lesser person because you're not a climber! They had a cool impromptu climbing slideshow on the side of the bathroom one of the nights we were there (though I'm glad my site wasn't near there!). You can walk around and see what available sites look better than others -as someone else stays in line- but we basically took what we could get.

The backpacker's campground in the Valley is very nice. Does anyone know if you can stay there with a Hetch Hetchy permit.. does it matter? The Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker's campground is also nice, but it may not be open then.

From what I've heard, another good low elevation early season hiking spot is the Chilnualna Falls area south of the Valley, Wawona area. So that could be an option too. I don't know about distances.. do you have a trail map with mileage? I think for Hetch Hetchy and other permits outside the main Yosemite Valley & Tuolumne Meadows area, you should be ok to wait for your permits. Go to the office early, though. Can't you get your Hetch Hetchy permit at the Hetch Hetchy gate? I can't remember. Do you have a Yosemite Guide Book? If not, get one. I like Lonely Planet (as I'm sure everyone is sick of me saying).

As more questions if you have 'em!
Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 03:57PM
Thanks so much everyone for all the useful information. Where would we wait in line/register for the camp 4 campground? Is there a station actually in camp 4?

The information has definitely helped in our planning. We may do the originally planned overnight, but in 3 days, or the recommended one just to rancheria creek area. Where is a nice place to camp by rancheria creek? Also, where exactly are the campgrounds at lake vernon? Are they designated in any way, or just generally nice, flat ground?

I'm also curious to know if a hetch hetchy wilderness pass will allow us to stay at the backpacker's campground in the valley. Anyone?

Thanks again for all the info. Anything else that you think would be useful would be appreciated!
avatar Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 04:53PM
Mike,
There is a kiosk just west of the parking lot. You can't miss it. (this campground used to be the Sunnyside Walk-in Campground but I guess that name was not rock-climberish enough) No wilderness permit is required and it is a first come first served campground.

I would bet that the backpacker campgrounds located near trail-heads are for the use of hikers actually using the trail-heads near the campgrounds.

Elaborate on what you mean by "but in three days". Does this mean hat you want to backpack for three days and two nights or three nights?

Lake Vernon does not have designated sites. The northwest side of the lake has plenty of sites. I usually camp on the south side of the lake across the footbridge that crosses Falls Creek. The are camp sites all over the place.

The Rancheria Creek area has a designated camping area that you might say is slightly improved but I prefer the area just down stream of the cascade. This spot is reached by turning right just after you get to level ground after coming up the switchbacks after crossing the footbridges over Tiltill Creek. This is an obvious area when you get to it.

Another great spot is Smith Meadow. The trail-head is off the Hetch Hetchy Road. There is a sign showing the trail-head. Great campsites at the meadow and a great short hike to the top of Smith Peak. The view from Smith Peak is one of the best in the park.

If you were to do two or hree nights in the Hetch Hetchy area you could do both Rancheria and Smith Peak.

If you decide on Vernon Lake then I would suggest going to Beehive on day one then to Vernon on day two then back all the way out on day three.

Some cautionary notes:
You must use bear canisters in these areas. PERIOD
Do not get into any of the moving water in Falls Creek or Rancheria Creek. It will be butt cold and the granite can be so slippery that you may not be able to get out. I have stories I can tell about this.





Old Dude
Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 05:10PM
There is a kiosk in front of the Camp 4 parking lot, at the entrance to the campground, where you register to camp in Camp 4 (you can see it in my pictures that I linked to above).

This probably isn't very helpful, but you can camp in the woods along Rancheria Creek wherever you want. I think I remember crossing the creek/small falls and then camping somewhere on the right. When you go into the woods, you'll encounter the creek and more falls. I'd have to look at the map, but I think we lost ours.

If you look at my pictures, I've put a note box on the spot we camped at Lake Vernon. I also marked the general area you'll want to camp. There isn't a campground. You'll want to camp on the opposite side of the lake that you've hiked in from. So once you get to the lake, prepare to hike another mile, (or a little less depending on where you want to camp), to hike to a campsite. You'll probably see where other people have camped before, look both to the left (uphill) and right (towards the lake) of the trail. You'll want to look for those spots because other areas are smooth rock (which may not be bad to sleep on if you've got an air mattress) or swamp. You might have to look a bit for a site that's close to the water (if that's what you want) that's not swampy.

It's wilderness, you can camp wherever you want! Though they say it's best to choose a spot that's been previously disturbed or an obvious campsite, so you don't make an excessive impact on the wilderness. Leave No Trace!

I'm going to guess if you have a wilderness permit, you can stay in any backpacker's campground the night before your trip and the night you hike out from your trip. How can the rangers do anything if you have a valid permit? There are no signs or anything saying "you must hike in yosemite valley to stay at this backpacker's campground in the valley". If anyone else has thoughts, feel free to chime in.

Do you wilderness trip on the weekend so you don't have to look for a site on the weekend. You'll have a better chance of finding a site in a first-come-first serve campground that way. Usually people are leaving on Sundays.

Have you ever been to Yosemite before?
Re: Upcoming trip...
April 25, 2007 08:26PM
Letterknit - I watched the slide show of your summer of 2005 camping trip that you attached to one of your replies on this thread.
Very beautiful photos. You are a good photographer. I enjoyed viewing it as I have other photos of yours.
I am looking forward to photographing Yosemite.
Re: Upcoming trip...
April 26, 2007 07:36AM
Thanks Penny. I live in Oakland and my family lives in Chicago, so I take my photos & add the captions to help them feel like they're along for the journey. I'm glad they're benefiting other people, too!
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