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Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes

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Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 09:46AM
I'll be at Hogdon Meadow in a few weeks, and I wanted to drive up to Hetch Hetchy area for some good dayhiking. Any suggestions? The loop to Lake Vernon is just a bit long for a dayhike (for me). I can usually do 12-16 miles comfortably, depending on the amount of elevation gain. I'm not opposed to an out-and-back, but it's more fun to make a loop.

Thanks!
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 11:22AM
In no particular order:
Miguel Meadow to
Gravel Pit Lake
Swamp Lake

Beehive Meadow to
Laurel Lake
(potential loop to Miguel Meadow and out)

Rancheria Falls

Poopenaut Valley

Smith Meadow to
Smith Peak

Not many loops that work for a day hike.

Things can be very hot and the water is scarce now so take at least two liters per person and a method to purify water when you do get to it.

There is a spring at Beehive Meadow, one at Miguel Meadow down the slope from the ranger cabin, Tiltill Creek has always had water in it (Falls Creek will go dry), there is a reliable creeklette at Smith Meadow.





Old Dude
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 11:47AM
Hi,

I hiked the Beehive Meadows/Laurel Lake trail in Hetch Hetchy in July for a two night backpacking trip with my baby and a friend. Our goal was Laurel Lake, but we just stopped at Frog Creek and rested for a day before returning home.

The hike to Laurel Lake is a lot longer than it looks on the map. That's what a couple of people told us before we went up, and it turned out to be true. I believe that it is 7 to 8 miles and 2000ft elevation gain, but the miles really do seem longer than usual.

Another thing to note about the trail to Laurel Lake: It is very dry. I would recommend carrying at least 1.5 to 2 quarts of water per person, more if you will be hiking around noontime. This is if you plan to refill at Frog Creek or Laurel Lake. Otherwise, double this amount.

I have a free map/brochure that I got from the ranger station at Hetch Hetchy, and here's a summary of it. I don't think you'll find any loops that you can do in a day.

1. Wapama Fall, 5mi round trip, moderate up and downhill.
2. Lookout Point Trail, 2mi, moderate climbing, "rocky outcropping overlooking Hetch Hetchy."
3. Rancheria falls, past Wapama Fall, 13mi round trip, long day hike/backpacking, views of valley and waterfalls
4. Poopenaut Trail, strenuous 2.5mi round trip, 1229ft elevation gain
5. Smith Peak (7751ft), highest in area, outstanding views, two possible routes: trailhead at entrance station (16mi round trip, 3300ft elevation gain) OR trailhead six miles past entrance station (13mi round trip, 3700ft elevation gain). This may be the loop you were looking for, but in my opinion, it's too hard for one day! At least I couldn't do it with a baby on my shoulders.
6. Laurel/Vernon/Rancheria loop, multi-day, 29mi. Or, just climb up the switchbacks and back down. That would be a strenuous 8-mile day hike. This is the one I went on. You do get excellent views of Hetch Hetchy. But then again, why would you travel so far into the woods and hike so hard just to get great views of a man made lake? The nice thing about it, though, is that you probably won't run into a single person on most of the trail. They all seem to hike along the reservoir (which, by the way, you are not allowed to swim in).

Also, the spring at beehive meadows that the previous poster mentioned: To me, it looked like a swamp, and I didn't drink the water.



Post Edited (08-08-08 11:52)
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 01:26PM
Tara wrote:
> The hike to Laurel Lake is a lot longer than it looks on the
> map. That's what a couple of people told us before we went up,
> and it turned out to be true. I believe that it is 7 to 8
> miles and 2000ft elevation gain, but the miles really do seem
> longer than usual.

There are two routes into Laurel Lake from Beehive Meadow. One around the north side of the lake and one to the south side of the lake. Since the best viewing point on the lake is at the Frog Creek outlet take the trail to the south. The fork in the trail with the signage can be obscured by vegetation so you have to keep an eye out for it. It is very close to the start of the trail from Beehive. The more obvious trail around to the north is a mile longer to the Frog Creek outlet. If you don't mind a little guck coming up between your toes for a bit while you wade in the swimming is great. The water is quite pleasant.

Six miles to Beehive Meadow +2600' The last mile is almost flat. The switchbacks are not too steep as you would be hiking on an old roadbed.
One mile to Laurel Lake +200'

Tara wrote:
> Also, the spring at beehive meadows that the previous poster
> mentioned: To me, it looked like a swamp, and I didn't drink
> the water.

Tara is right. The spring looks iffy but in reality the water is very good and butt cold. Be sure to filter it though as you should with any water.

If you decide to go to Smith Peak via Smith Meadow use the trailhead closer to the dam as it is about 4-5 miles shorter one way. The trail that starts from the road is more interesting anyway. When and if you get to Smith Meadow look around to the southwest near the junction to Smith Peak and you will find a concrete slab that looks like the floor to a large camp tent or cabin. There are remnants of an outdoor fireplace also. There used to be a lot of sheep grazing in the park and this was probably a shepherds camp.





Old Dude
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 01:51PM
Thanks for the detailed responses!

Right now I'm leaning toward the hike to Beehive Meadow and looping back along the south edge of Laurel Lake to a trail that goes east along some creek (I'm looking at it on Google Earth), then back along the trail I'd be going out on.

Just based on elevation differences, it's going to be at least 3000' with (I'm sure) some additional elevation change in between. And GE has the trail mileages adding up to 15.1 miles. That may be pushing it, especially if it's really hot.

What about views/things to see, between these three hikes:

1) Rancheria Falls
2) Miguel Meadow/Swamp Lake/Gravel Pit Lake semi-loop
3) Beehive/Laurel Lake semi-loop.

Of those 3, which sounds like the most scenic or rewarding?
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 02:47PM
cthenn wrote:

> Right now I'm leaning toward the hike to Beehive Meadow and
> looping back along the south edge of Laurel Lake to a trail
> that goes east along some creek (I'm looking at it on Google
> Earth), then back along the trail I'd be going out on.

Doing that loop along Frog Creek is about exactly the same distance as backtracking. I'd do that. The scenery along that portion of the trail is about the same as the way in but you will be hiking along a steep creek bank part of the way. A bit interesting. The elevation at Laurel Lake is about as high as you would go so doing the loop won't add any elevation.


cthenn wrote:

> Just based on elevation differences, it's going to be at least
> 3000' with (I'm sure) some additional elevation change in
> between. And GE has the trail mileages adding up to 15.1
> miles. That may be pushing it, especially if it's really hot.

I have it at 7.36 miles in from the parking lot to the junction after the Laurel Lake outlet and 7.62 miles back to the parking lot. (14.98miles - You need a better map!) The hike back to the parking lot from Laurel Lake is virtually all downhill. There isn't any up and down on this route. It's up on the way in and down on the way out. Your dogs will be talking on the way out.

cthenn wrote:

> What about views/things to see, between these three hikes:

> 1) Rancheria Falls

A walk along the shore of Hetch Hetchy. You will pass through various flora and probably still lots of wild flowers. The Wapama Falls are probably dry now. Tiltill Creek will have some water and the trip across the bridge there is cool. Rancheria Falls are probably a mere trickle at this time. It's a long way to go to look at a dry creek bed. It's still a nice hike though.


> 2) Miguel Meadow/Swamp Lake/Gravel Pit Lake semi-loop

This hike takes you along the old roadbed that connects O'Shaughnessy Dam to the Lake Eleanor dam. We think Gravel Pit Lake is the remnants of quarrying roadbed material. Gravel pit is more of a "I've been there." thing. Swamp Lake which is a due south by southeast cross country hike starting from the Gravel Pit Lake junction. You keep bearing south with a couple of degrees to the east and going up and you will get to the top of the little dome that overlooks the lake. It's pretty straight forward. To get back you just head north and you will run into the trail. Swamp Lake gets virtually no visitors. It's remote.


> 3) Beehive/Laurel Lake semi-loop.

A lot of variety as you will be covering a lot of elevation. Scrub, oak, pine, ferns, open rocky stuff, some views to the south, the lovely Beehive Meadow spring, Laurel Lake, etc.


> Of those 3, which sounds like the most scenic or rewarding?

Personally I think the trip to Rancheria Falls would be the least rewarding not that it isn't a great hike but if you have to choose....





Old Dude
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 08, 2008 03:14PM
Thanks again, you are always very helpful on this website.

I'm gonna do the Laurel Lake trip. Believe me, I do have a better map, I'm just using Google Earth while at work (which is still pretty darn helpful).
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 10, 2008 04:49PM
If I had to pick 1 dayhike in the Hetch Hetchy area it would hands-down
be Smith Peak from the Smith Meadow trailhead.
Yes, it is ALOT of elevation gain but the reward is spectacular.
(3750, 13 miles total).. and very very steep from Smith Meadow.
Smith Meadow is very beautiful too... Guess the only bummer is that
you cannot see Wapama Falls or Kolana Rock... you can see Rancheria
though...

Since you are looking at Google Earth you can see Laurel is a lake which
is "enclosed" by trees. Albeit beautiful... it is not spectacular.
Lake Vernon on the other hand... is spectacular. (I don't recommend
you dayhike to Vernon though!)
If you do decide to go to Laurel just keep in mind you can "bail" after
the switchbacks and head over to Gravel Pit Lake. There is almost
always alot of wildlife there... seen skunks, and my favorite, the Dragonfly...
The switchbacks can be brutal in the heat ..

Anyway, whatever you do... have fun...

update:

Just asked the wifey... and she said "ooo... Laurel.. I never even understood why you wanted to go there all the time? Vernon! ... oops,
but that's not a dayhike"
"Wapama in early spring... when the waterfalls are screaming and Smith Pk"



Post Edited (08-11-08 07:06)



Everything I know I learned from Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 11, 2008 05:04PM
bill, where is the trailhead for Smith Peak? Is there roadside parking at the trailhead? Looks like the trail hits the road quite a ways from the dam.

Also, do you get a full view of Hetch Hetchy from the peak? Looks like there could be some obstructions (Google EArth view) to prevent a full view.



Post Edited (08-11-08 17:20)
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 11, 2008 06:00PM
The Trailhead is approx 2 miles from the Dam. It is very very clear, a Brown sign
with Smith Meadow on it. There is enough room for only a few cars on the
right hand side of the road.
As I mentioned above it's a bummer you cannot see Wapama or Kolana Rock from this locale.... you can however see all the way to the Muir Gorge.
I can put a picture if you really want...
At this time of year it may actually be the nicest view since Wapama may
be a garden hose at the moment
If you want to see all of Hetch Hetchy you'd need to cross country to
peaks 7219 and 7093 almost directly south of Kolana Rock.
There are other great views of HH/GCT near Harden Lake... about
5 miles from White Wolf.. on the topo just look west of Harden for
the high points... and head to the north... you can actually see all
of Wapama from here and part of Kolana Rock..
The other great vantage point is on your way to Pate Valley just
before you cross Morrison Creek.

If I haven't said it or it hasn't been said... If you haven't been you
should check out Wapama when it is dry... and then come back
Late May/Early June and see the difference for yourself...
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 12, 2008 05:00PM
bill-e-g wrote:

> The Trailhead is approx 2 miles from the Dam. It is very very
> clear, a Brown sign
> with Smith Meadow on it. There is enough room for only a few
> cars on the
> right hand side of the road.

what are the other parking options if there are already cars here? Are there other pull-outs on the roadside, or would I have to start from the Mather ranger station trailhead?
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 12, 2008 06:26PM
I would bet that you'll be able to park there. If not I believe there may be
parking a little up the road on the other side.

If you don't feel comfortable with parking your car there then I would just
say "ok, not to be...". And then proceed to dayhike to Wapama Falls, then
head back to the Entrance Station and dayhike to Lookout Point.
Just take it in stride...
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 13, 2008 02:16PM
OK, last question, I swear! smiling smiley

Of the 2 routes to Smith Peak (from Mather Ranger Station, or from Smith Meadow trail head), which is the more scenic or the nicer hike (if you know)? One route is longer, and the other has more elevation gain, so it's really a toss-up in those terms. Which will be more enjoyable?
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 13, 2008 03:48PM
No problem at all.

From the Ranger Station/Entrance you have Lookout Point and Cottonwood Meadows to check out... those are both very nice IMO.
There is also an interesting water tank just before Cottonwood Meadow.

The other trail has an interesting pond with loads of lillies and you hike
along Cottonwood creek for a bit which is nice.

Mind you, both of the hikes are in the woods alot. (you probably checked
them out on Google Earth...)

At this time of year I would pick the Ranger Station since you have
Lookout Pt and Cottonwood Mdws. The other route is very pretty early
spring because there are a huge number of wildflowers as you make your
way to the Pond. Bear in mind that you will be walking thru some old
Burn areas... (also the case on your way up up up to Smith Pk after
Smith Meadow).
The area after Lookup point to the water tank may be very hot and dry.
And after the water tank it is a trudge up to Cottonwood Meadow.
Early this year saw a Rattlesnake in that area... (it was near 100 that weekend).

Anyway, have fun.
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 18, 2008 07:32AM
This is in regards to the Smith Peak Hike:

I refrained from mentioning this before because I wasn't sure.
But I notice on the Trail Description / Quota page
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/trailheads.htm
they have quota for Base Line Camp Road.
If you can drive all the way to the boundry of the park this would save
you over 800 ft. of climb and close to 4 miles of trail.
On a map I have it is called Fr1S32. It is a dirt road and at the park
boundry there is a gate. I was on this road earlier this year
via cross country hiking...
(On Topo! it is 1S32 and then you turn to 1S19)

Anyway, if you are going before next Sunday (8/24) then maybe you can inquire
at the entrance station... otherwise I plan on finally going into
Poopenaut Valley this weekend so (if that does happen) I'll try to
drive the road and see how it is...

(My guess it that they don't advertise it because it is a dirt road, it's
hard to follow, it's not well maintained, they have enough S&R to do
as it is...)
As they say... use at your own risk...
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 19, 2008 04:29PM
Bill, thanks for all your help. I actually went this past weekend. I ended up doing none of the above hikes tongue sticking out smiley

We ended up just hiking up the switchbacks and then going off-trail to the east, ending up at Falls Creek above Wapama. There's a killer near-vertical ledge about 50-75' above the falls which offers awesome views east and west, and Half-Dome-esque views straight down to the water. We were going to try to make it to Hetch Hetchy Dome, but looking at the terrain, it looked like there'd be about a 100' section of near vertical, or at least class 3-4 bouldering. Plus, it was HHHOTTT as hell this weekend, and you were right...I was melting on the switchbacks, even going up at 9:30 AM. We had to filter water from Falls Creek, and we still ran out near the bottom of the switchbacks on the way back (we started with 2L plus a 1L Gatorade each).

Anyway, it was a pretty fun hike (although it was more of a bushwack than I thought it would be getting to, and back from, Falls Creek). I'll definitely be back in spring to check out the falls.

And BTW, Hodgdon Meadow is actually decent. I thought it would be a dumping ground for people unable to get day-of campsites in the Valley, but we had good neighbors, and the sites were nicely spaced out in our area. (I think we had the best area...the outside of the outer loop, sites ~13-23).



Post Edited (08-19-08 16:32)
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 19, 2008 05:16PM
If you go to "Share your Yosemite Photos" just below and look for the "Mike Condron" album ( #20 on the list) ( http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php?g2_page=3 )you will find some pictures that Bill-e-g took earlier this year when Falls Creek was flowing good.



Post Edited (08-19-08 21:13)



Old Dude
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 21, 2008 06:22AM
mrcondron wrote:

> If you go to "Share your Yosemite Photos" just below and look
> for the "Mike Condron" album ( #20 on the list) (
> http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php?g2_page=3 )you will find
> some pictures that Bill-e-g took earlier this year when Falls
> Creek was flowing good.
>

>
> Post Edited (08-19-08 21:13)

Is that you crossing Tamarack Creek with full gear? Yikes! Good on ya.

Here's some photos I've taken in Yosemite (yes, shameless self-promotion grinning smiley )

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24855872@N03/sets/72157606873438924/



Post Edited (08-21-08 13:32)
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 19, 2008 05:40PM
Nice. Didn't mention that on account most people don't stray far
off of the trail. Glad you enjoyed it. Hetch Hetchy Dome is pretty
interesting... there is a bunch of wire/cables and some HUGE Eye-Hooks on
the top of it... talked to the Ranger after getting back and he said
that they actually had a cable strung across HH from HH Dome to
Kolana Rock during WWII. I think he said anti-aircraft stuff...
Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 20, 2008 11:10AM
> they actually had a cable strung across HH from HH Dome to
Kolana Rock during WWII. I think he said anti-aircraft stuff...

Makes sense to me. Dams were strategic targets during WWII. They
are very difficult to hit with "dumb" bombs.

The movie "The Dam Busters" details the development of bombs that
were designed to skip over the water to hit the top of the dam.

So having a cable across the reservoir makes sense to prevent the
low flying aircraft from striking the dam.

Fortunately Japan never got their bombers close the the US. Although
they did float ~ 1000 bombs over on balloons. Most of them
were never found. They are occasionally found by hikers. There was
one instance where hikers were killed by one when they tried to move
it.
avatar Re: Hetch Hetchy Dayhikes
August 21, 2008 03:30PM
> Is that you crossing Tamarack Creek with full gear? Yikes! Good on ya.

Yup. That is Mike.

(He makes me go across first to test the "waters" smiling smiley )

The other log crossing pict is the Piute Creek in beautiful Pleasant Valley.
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