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Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September

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5 day backpacking trip in September
July 20, 2015 05:21PM
Hello, I am trying to plan a 5 day backpacking trip for 2 people to Yosemite for early September 2015. We are looking at the High Sierras, have never been to Yosemite, and are both intermediate level hikers.

Any recommended routes for a 5 day trip? Would like to do Clouds Rest, Half Dome (if possible) and/or any other recommendations.

Looking at the permit application, I need to enter 3 choices of Entry and Exit trailheads, and 1st night camp locations. Since I am completely unfamiliar with the park, am looking for any recommendations.

Thank you!
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 20, 2015 07:49PM
Hi paxto13!

Welcome to the forum.

Several of us, Basilbop, Chick-on, mrcondron and I have discussed recent requests like yours about backpacking as their first experience with Yosemite.

We have all backpacked in Yosemite extensively. And by extensively, every freaking mile in the park except 1 maybe, in Chicken and Mike's case. Basilbop and I have been hiking and backpacking there for over 20 years. I was 3 months old on my first camping trip there, and have been going every year of my life since.

And we've all traveled to see other parks, other places.

And we agree. If you've never seen the park, ignore the people and the crowds (or feel good that they are there to see Yosemite instead of watching TV at home, as I do) and do the tourist thing and see the Valley.

My suggestions:
  • Take a day or two to see the sights from the Valley. Walk to Mirror Lake and look up at Half Dome.
  • Definitely visit Glacier Point somehow to get a better sense of the Valley and beyond. Drive/bus up or take a day to hike up the Four Mile Trail and either take the bus back down, or hike back down, or go over the Panorama Trail and down the Mist or JMT to soak up the views of the Valley and the high country from Glacier Point.
  • Take a day to drive up to Tuolumne Meadows. Definitely stop and walk out to Olmstead Point if the weather is decent. The views from the parking lot are fabulous, the short walk even more so. VERY rewarding. One of the best views of Clouds Rest you can get with a short walk. See Tenaya Lake. Take a swim. Go to Tuolumne Meadows and see the high meadows. Take an hour (or less maybe if you are short on time) and walk up Pothole Dome for better views of the surrounding peaks. Drive to Tioga Pass and maybe beyond a bit to soak in the views of the fabulous canyon.
  • If you've never seen the Giant Sequoias... Visit Tuolumne Grove (other years we'd point to Mariposa Grove, but that's closed right now for work). And Tuolumne Grove is lovely, in and of itself.

Sadly, in September, the waterfalls won't be spectacular, but the granite walls of the Valley are worth seeing from below and above.

In September, hopefully you can grab FCFS campsites around the park to make the driving and touring about easier.

The hardest hike on the list above is the Four Mile Trail up to Glacier Point and over the Panorama Trail. I suggest because if you have trouble, you can maybe take the hiker's bus back down, or hitch a ride. Or have someone stage a car up there... options.

You said Intermediate hiking ability, which I really don't know how to interpret. Unless you can tell me how you do on a trail I know, I can't extrapolate and figure out what trails would be good for you. Yosemite trails are well-used and often in rough condition. Where you hike may not really be an indication of how you'll do in Yosemite. Altitude is also an issue. Are you good at 10k'? (Clouds Rest, for instance.) Driving up to Tuolumne Meadows and hiking up Pothole (easy) or Lembert (much harder) Domes is a good litmus test. You may want to start easy and spend a couple days down in the Valley enjoying the views and short walks to Happy Isles, over to Mirror Lake. Maybe going up the Snow Creek switchbacks a bit for views into Tenaya Canyon. Get acclimated. Then either hike or drive up to Glacier Point at 7200'... see how you do there. If you drove out, maybe take the walk to the top of Sentinel Dome. See how that goes. Then go for Tuolumne Meadows at closer to 9000' and do one of the dome walks to see how you are doing... before you attempt the shortest way to Clouds, which is still 14-ish miles and can feel longer, especially with the 1000' climb to the saddle from Sunrise trailhead. And most folks underestimate how much fun dropping 1000' in short order at the end of a 14 mile day can be. I've heard of many who have hurt themselves.

Take the time to see the views from the "touristy" areas. We still visit them every year. Often, several times a year. Granted, we have the luxury of visiting some the busy places off-season, so it's quieter. But I still love going peak season for the views. And I'm happy to see people enjoying Yosemite. Get the overview of the park. Decide what you really want to see... because backpacking will give you an intimate knowledge of the area you are hiking in, but in 5 days of backpacking, you just won't get the overall sense. Yosemite is huge. No way to capture it all in 5 days.

And again. The Valley is not to be missed.

And I didn't even mention the other Valley. Hetch Hetchy, which is worth a visit in and of itself. But will eat a day of traveling, especially if you hike the 6 miles round trip to Wapama falls and back, which is worth doing, imo.

Sorry this wasn't edited as well as I'd like, but I had to say something... I wish you a fabulous trip to Yosemite no matter what you choose to do!!
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 20, 2015 08:29PM
Thank you for the quick reply and all the great information! I will look through it more thoroughly in the morning. I wasn't sure how to describe our ability, definitely not beginners but, certainly not advanced. We live in the midwest, unfortunately, but are very athletic. We participate in Ironman triathlons and spend most of the time swimming, biking and running. We have hiked five 14er's in Colorado and a 15,000 ft volcano in Ecuador and have not had any issues with the elevation.

My main concern from what I've been reading, is how it seems we need a defined plan prior to arriving. Previous trips to other places we played the hiking by ear/weather, etc, kind of what you've described above. If FCFS campsites are not available and we don't have a wilderness permit we could be stuck with out a place to stay?

Would like to make the best use of our time for this first of hopefully many trips!

Thanks again!
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 20, 2015 08:44PM
JKW makes a good point, but I would still understand it if you wanted to do many of the activities he listed...and still do a shorter backpacking trip. It would be pretty easy to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles in the Valley in three days, including a run up to Half Dome---particularly if you are triathletes. But if you want to do that, you'll need a permit. They don't cost a lot, so it's worth getting one, even if you don't use it! Other trips to consider would be simply overnights to Ten Lakes Basin, Up Lyell Canyon and down Rafferty Creek (or vice versa) or Young Lakes. Those are all popular hikes, but you still might get a permit now--or score a walk-in permit the day before your hike.

It's an amazing place, with more hikes than you'll ever be able to take (despite JKW's claim) and you will certainly enjoy whatever you do.

We have all of these hikes on our website, if you want to check any of them out...



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 07:29AM
Quote
balzaccom
It's an amazing place, with more hikes than you'll ever be able to take (despite JKW's claim) and you will certainly enjoy whatever you do.

Some people are crazy. Sometimes crazy people attract crazy people.

So I just have to refute this... I keep track of trips. And have a GPS along all the time...
So for fun did a quick calculation using the tracks this morning...

Just this year... have had the pleasure to hike with Z Old Stick N Fedders... and JKW
(who is not a he... sigh... but Z Blops wifie.. ) ...
and on 18 (yes, m crazy... there's many more... ) ... trips... this year...
495 Miles... 106,000 ft. + gain...
So... if we actually stayed on the trails... could easily cover the entire park this year...

Anywho... as always... Have fun
Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 11:18AM
Quote
chick-on
Quote
balzaccom
It's an amazing place, with more hikes than you'll ever be able to take (despite JKW's claim) and you will certainly enjoy whatever you do.

Some people are crazy. Sometimes crazy people attract crazy people.

So I just have to refute this... I keep track of trips. And have a GPS along all the time...
So for fun did a quick calculation using the tracks this morning...

Just this year... have had the pleasure to hike with Z Old Stick N Fedders... and JKW
(who is not a he... sigh... but Z Blops wifie.. ) ...
and on 18 (yes, m crazy... there's many more... ) ... trips... this year...
495 Miles... 106,000 ft. + gain...
So... if we actually stayed on the trails... could easily cover the entire park this year...

Anywho... as always... Have fun
Chick-on is looking at you!

Thanks, Chick-on! I'm definitely a "she" .. I have a hiking shoe "problem" for starters...so many shoes...but go through them too.. but that's a side issue...

Also, thanks for the stats! I haven't been keeping detailed records... I track when I can remember to do it.... but I'll add our 70+ miles and 12,660' of gain to the 495 mi/106k' we did together (missed you on that trip, btw) for a total of 565 miles and ~119,000' gain then so far this year? And a lot of them were XC, most definitely! Kinda fun to look at the total like that... but I digress.

I'm not sure what "claim" Balzaccom is saying I made.?.? confused smiley Chick-on, you and mrcondron have done almost all the trail miles in the park, and you know what's out there. And it's my opinion, not a claim, that first time visitors should see the Valley which is truly unique and take the bus or drive to get an overview of the park from the various locations I mentioned above. And then come back on future trips to savor various areas. I never said anyone and everyone could do all the miles in the park. I was just pointing out that the people I know personally who know the park REALLY well*... well, we seem to agree that visiting the Valley, Glacier Point, Olmstead, Tuolumne to get a sense for the park (and that's still a tiny area comparatively) would be better for a first-time visitor. See the highlights.

That's the advice I give. And the advice I've taken myself when visiting other national parks and areas. For instance, we did a two week driving/dayhike tour through Washington's Olympics, Rainier, North Cascades. Reviewed, discussed and decided and flew in and did a backpacking trip in the Olympics in the area that was most intriguing to us. And when I finally get around to Yellowstone (trip that has been postponed several times), I'm definitely gonna go visit Old Faithful and the really famous "touristy" spots and do some dashikis. BEFORE I decide on which backpacking trip I might want to do.

paxton13, you indicate in a response that you hope this is the first of many trips. Then I highly recommend you get that overview the first time. Play tourist. Use your fitness to try out some of the day hikes which have stellar views almost the entire way. Maximize your time. The 4 MT/Panorama hike sounds easily doable for you and will give you a great sense for the Valley and for the trails. No permit needed. Just go and enjoy. Yes, with the many other people you will run into. They are there for a reason. The Valley is incomparable.

Again, good luck and safe travels no matter what you decide to do!

*Both Chick-on and mrcondron have hiked almost every mile of trail in the park. I think they are only missing about 1 mile or so each. Again, it just speaks to the fact that they know the variety in park. Something really dinky like that. It's not just covering 820 miles of trail, btw, because of connectors and such, you end up having to do sections more than once... Anyway, Basilbop and I haven't decided to cover all the miles...yet, anyway, but we have covered many... and many of them many times. Many Many times. Worth multiple visits. Different seasons, different years, different friends. Always worthwhile.
avatar Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 12:18PM
Quote
JustKeepWalking

And it's my opinion, not a claim, that first time visitors should see the Valley which is truly unique and take the bus or drive to get an overview of the park from the various locations I mentioned above. And then come back on future trips to savor various areas. I never said anyone and everyone could do all the miles in the park. I was just pointing out that the people I know personally who know the park REALLY well*... well, we seem to agree that visiting the Valley, Glacier Point, Olmstead, Tuolumne to get a sense for the park (and that's still a tiny area comparatively) would be better for a first-time visitor. See the highlights.


And I agree with your main point too, see the highlights of Yosemite first. Where I sort of disagree is that paxton13 is planning to spend five days in Yosemite and one can see and experience the "tourist highlights" of Yosemite EASILY in two days. In fact, as you know, one can hit all the main highlights of the park in a SINGLE day during the summer if they set out early enough.

So I would suggest for their first two days, camp at a FCFS campground in Yosemite and tour and experience all the main highlights of Yosemite, including Yosemite Vally, Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Taft Point, Tuolumne Meadows and the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, and of course do the first activity that any Yosemite first-time visitor should do, watch the film “The Spirit of Yosemite” at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center Auditorium.

Then for the next three days, go on the backpacking trip that would most appeal to them after gaining some firsthand knowledge about Yosemite.

On a five-day visit to Yosemite, there's enough time to do both: see all the highlights and then escape to the backcountry.

.
avatar Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 20, 2015 10:58PM
Quote
paxton13

If FCFS campsites are not available and we don't have a wilderness permit we could be stuck with out a place to stay?


Nowadays, most California public schools begin their new school year in late August, so by the time September rolls around there are far less crowds in Yosemite, especially during weekdays and more so after Labor Day. So I wouldn't be too worried about not finding a FCFS campsite either in Yosemite or nearby (along Hwy 120 east of Yosemite in the Inyo National Forest). The only time it would probably be difficult to do so would be during the 3-day Labor Day weekend itself. All other days in September, not so difficult.

And as long as you are willing to be flexible, you should have no problem in obtaining a wilderness permit, on a FCFS basis, the day before your backpacking hike. Every Yosemite TH has a quota of FCFS wilderness permits that are available the day before starting at 11:00AM. So if you are willing to be flexible with your itinerary, you can secure a wilderness permit the day before, which would then permit you to stay overnight at one of the backpackers campgrounds before the start your hike and then again at the end of your hike.

Here's a link to the web page that shows how many first-come, first-served wilderness permits are available for each of Yosemite's trailheads:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/trailheads.htm

.
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 22, 2015 03:46PM
Thanks everyone for all the great information! I am still not sure I'm comfortable with the FCFS campsites. I was thinking planning this sounds do-able based on all your comments, but looking at Yosemite's website, I start to think it seems like a place to sleep may be a gamble without reservations. To get a FCFS campsite, I understand you have to check-in at potentially each campsite separately, early, but after a ranger is there, so maybe around 8a? And we'd have to do this each day possibly? I also read somewhere you have to come back at 1p or 2p to see if you got a spot, but I'm not sure if that's correct information. We are early risers and would like to start hiking early, preferably prior to 8am.

This is why I was initially thinking the high sierra camps or back country might be our only option. We are really flexible, but also don't want to spend time looking for a campsite that could be used hiking on the trails. We initially were thinking of going over labor day (to use a holiday instead of a vacation day), but can push that back to the Tuesday after if it makes more sense.

Hesitant to book a flight until I know a trip there makes sense, since we are starting to plan this so late in the game. Not sure if I'm just worrying unnecessarily though?

Also, we will have 7 days to be at the park as well...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2015 03:56PM by paxton13.
avatar Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 22, 2015 05:07PM
Quote
paxton13
Thanks everyone for all the great information! I am still not sure I'm comfortable with the FCFS campsites. I was thinking planning this sounds do-able based on all your comments, but looking at Yosemite's website, I start to think it seems like a place to sleep may be a gamble without reservations. To get a FCFS campsite, I understand you have to check-in at potentially each campsite separately, early, but after a ranger is there, so maybe around 8a? And we'd have to do this each day possibly? I also read somewhere you have to come back at 1p or 2p to see if you got a spot, but I'm not sure if that's correct information. We are early risers and would like to start hiking early, preferably prior to 8am.


That information isn't correct.

Due to the demand as the only FCFS campground located within Yosemite Valley, Camp 4, itself has a unique registration policy which is a as follows:

“From spring through fall, a campground ranger staffs Camp 4 each day. You must register with the ranger in order to stay at Camp 4. The ranger arrives at the campground kiosk around 8:30 am, although, a line has often formed well before then and the campground may fill before everyone in line is registered. Space is available on a per-person basis and each person wishing to register must be present. Six people will be assigned to each campsite; people in one group may be assigned to different campsites. You can register for up to the maximum stay limit (you don't need to register every day).”

The only other Yosemite campground that has FCFS campsites available with a ranger on duty is Tuolumne Meadows (where half the campsites are FCFS). If there's a FCFS campsite available at the Tuolumne Meadows campground, one will be assigned to the specific campsite by the ranger at the entrance of the campground.

All the other FCFS campgrounds in Yosemite usually do NOT have a ranger on duty. For those "non-staffed" campgrounds, you find a vacant campsite, park your vehicle there and then walk over to a central location where you will fill out the self-registration envelope where you specify how many nights you'll be staying at the campground, write down your campsite number and enclose the required payment (cash or check).

Note that at all the FCFS campgrounds in Yosemite National Park, you only need to register at the campground on your first day. At that time you specify how long you'll be staying at the campground. You can stay a maximum of seven days at Camp 4 (and all other campgrounds inside Yosemite Valley) and up to 14 days at any of the campgrounds outside of Yosemite Valley. You will not have to re-register during each day of your visit.

In September, I'm very confident that you (or anybody else) would be able to find a vacant FCFS campsite in Yosemite if you arrive early on a weekday (especially Monday through Thursday). In the first two weeks of September, Porcupine Flat, White Wolf and Tamarack Flat would probably be your best bets, followed by Bridalveil Creek and then Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2015 05:10PM by plawrence.
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 22, 2015 07:35PM
Perfect, this helps a lot. Thanks so much!
avatar Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 08:41AM
Yes, the wilderness permit requirements can seem a bit over the top, and you have to be especially flexible in the high season (now) in getting a permit as the demand is pretty high and trailhead quotas fill up pretty fast. But like plawrance says, September should be much easier. And I think they want specific campsites for every night maybe? If so, do the best you can in filling out the form as the specific campsites are only important in reality for some special situations...for example hiking out of Happy Isles you have to get at least to Little Yosemite Valley.

The more important questions...where to go? I would suggest a Clark Range loop...starting at either Happy Isles, Glacier Point or Mono Meadows trailheads, and going counterclockwise to Lower Merced Pass Lake, Red Peak Pass, Triple Peak fork of the Merced River and follow the river down to Echo Valley, from there up to Cloud's Rest and Half Dome, and back to the start. There are a zillion variations on this trip that could make it longer if you want, or shorter with some cross country (which is often pretty easy with some common sense as the high country is pretty wide open. Some trip report that include parts of this are
The southeast area of the recommended hike, done last Labor Day weekend, here.

A great report on the loop itself from a couple of years ago is here and here.

Take a look at that loop...if you like it we can provide lots more info re side trips, cross country, etc.
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 01:11PM
On other backpacking sites I've also like JKW been recommending first time visitor's to Yosemite always visit the valley first. One of the wonders of the planet no one ought pass up. With 5 days you could spend a couple days in the valley seeing the sites while getting a certain walk-up next day permit for any backcountry destination simply by being first in line on the second morning when backpacking office opens.

In September especially in this extremely droughty year, a lot of places are not going to be appealing because streams dry up, meadow grasses dry to browns, and summer wildflowers have long gone to seed. Thus better to focus on somewhere with an alpine lake and nice peaks up in the high country. At the top of the scenic list would be Upper Cathedral Lake out of Tuolumne Meadows. Short pack hike but once tented at that lake, days worth of nearby easy offtrail venturing in open timberline country about some of the most impressive rock features in the range.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.84094,-119.41456&z=15&t=T

An interesting plant during september in the Sierra high country is dwarf bilberry, vaccinium caespitosum, a turf high plant related to blueberries that densely covers many landscapes. By early September it turns from green to reddish purples thus adding fine color to landscapes. There is much of that about the Cathedral Lakes.

You could just do that as a one-night trip and then have at last day to dayhike Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake that ought be easy for a Triathelete. Or could include it in a backpack loop by going the 7 miles or so from Upper Cathedral to Clouds Rest and then back down to Tenaya Lake.

David



http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2015 01:21PM by DavidSenesac.
Re: 5 day backpacking trip in September
July 21, 2015 01:51PM
Just to clarify:

1: Apologies to JKW for suggesting that she was a he. I stand (and hike) corrected.

2: I didn't say anything about trails. I said that there are more hikes and things to see in Yosemite than you can ever see---even if you do hike all the trails. Between seasons, route, and adventures, there is always something new to see---and that's why so many of us keep going back. You don't have to be crazy---just enthusiastic.

3: The fact that the OP really wants to backpack led me to suggest that it is possible to see a lot of the really good stuff in a couple of days of car camping, and still fit in a backpacking trip.

And I stand by those comments.

That's all.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2015 01:52PM by balzaccom.
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