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Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite

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Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 11:29AM
Hi there,

I'm looking for some advice on a backpacking trip to Yosemite in a few weeks for a total of 5 nights, hopefully including climbing Half Dome. We both have never been to Yosemite and are going to take a trip there right after Labor Day. My wife and I are experienced hikers and trail runners and I have intermediate backpacking experience, with a few trips taken to Sequoia. My wife is as fit as I am, but doesn't have much backpacking experience outside of a few 2-night trips in the Los Padres Nat'l Forest. I'm hoping that this trip awestrucks her with the beauty of the High Sierra and gives us a little bit of a workout (we like the pain...).

I've been scouring these forums, blogs, and the NPS website for good advice but I'm still really confused as to what we should do. Right now we have 2 general plans:

1. Car camp at Crane Flat for the first 2 nights, then backpack for 3 nights. We'd hit some major sites like Glacier Point and the Sequoias the first day; the second day we'd climb half dome; the third day we'd head out backpacking for 3 nights.

2. Car camp at Crane Flat for the first night. That day we'd hopefully arrive in the early afternoon so we would try to still see Glacier Point and other sites. The second day, we'd head out to backpack for the next 4 nights hopefully including an ascent of Half Dome.

For plan #2, I was thinking we could leave our car parked in the Valley and take a shuttle to Tenaya Lake or Tuolumne, then backpack down to Half Dome, ending at our car. What would be a good route for this trip and where would we camp? There are still a few permits available for our dates leaving from those spots, but not going the Cathedral way. I suspect getting walk-up permits won't be a big deal though. Also, would this trip be a great first-time trip to Yosemite? Is the backpacking from Tenaya Lake or Tuolumne Meadows to Half Dome great?

For plan #1, After doing half dome, what would be a good 3 night backpacking trip?

Also, should I not worry about planning every detail and just plan on going to the ranger station when we first arrive and asking them for advice?


If you're still reading this far down, thank you! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 12:15PM
Makes more sense to me to do Half Dome as part of a backpack. Easier to get the permit too.
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 02:43PM
Hmmm...several thoughts...
If you are trail runners, wear your sturdy trail running shoes. Keep your feet happy. You don't need anything sturdier for the Yosemite trails imo unless you have ankle problems.
Crane Flat Campground...centrally located, you can get to lots of places, but otherwise...meh. If it works in your plans, try to camp at Tuolumne.
Tenaya Lake, over Clouds Rest and Half Dome and down to the Valley is about 24 miles...I have done it as a long day trip. If you wanted to, you could make it a little longer by going Tenaya to Sunrise on Day 1, down to LYV day 2, Half Dome day 3 and out day 4.
Even better if you want some more miles...Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang/Emeric Lake day 1, LYV day 2, HD day 3, out day 4.
Best for you...get the walk up for Cathedral Trail to Cathedral Lakes for a swim at lunch, Sunrise to camp day 1, LYV day 2, HD day 3 and out day 4.
For Half Dome you MUST try to get up there for the sunrise if at all possible. If you do, you could also hike out that day, plenty of time.
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 04:08PM
Quote
Bearproof
Even better if you want some more miles...Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang/Emeric Lake day 1, LYV day 2, HD day 3, out day 4.

Wow, I like this idea. Is there a good way to extend it to 4 nights though?
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 28, 2015 09:31AM
Extend to 4 nights...sure. Not sure of you want the same route with less miles per day, or a similar route with same miles per day and just more days. I will assume the former, after all, this should be a fun trip and the first of many, right?

Day 1, TM to Vogelsang Lake (8 miles +/-) area (could be Vogelsang Lake, Boothe, Fletcher, or Bernice)
Day 2 take Lewis Creek Trail down to Merced Lake area (another 8 miles +/-, depending)
Day 3 to LYV, via the Merced River Trail, for water, swimming holes, and granite (9 miles +/-)
Day 4 Half Dome and another night at LYV (8.5 miles +/-) or out.

Check with the permitting rangers about where to camp...some of the HSC's have their own backpacking camps, others, like Merced Lake...as I recall we had to camp some distance away from the camp. LYV is a required stay in the group camp, which can be either fun or overwhelming, depending on your attitude.

And btw re the HSC's, Merced Lake and Vogelsang close on 9/7, Sunrise (not on the route above but if you go Cathedral Route it could be an option) on 9/13, TM on 9/20, all weather permitting. There is a possibility that you could get meals at them (you would need to check), runs about $70 per person for dinner and breakfast. Bring some wine in a bag, it can be a nice break from backpacking food.

One thing about the routedescribed above...it does generally follow the HSC loop (except for the Lewis Creek bit). Some folks stay away from those trails because they tend to get beaten up by the pack animals that service the camps...you know, dusty, horse###, that kind of stuff. But the HSC loop is where it is for a reason...its very scenic and accessible.
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 05:45PM
EDIT: oops, I moved my post to where it was supposed to be...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/26/2015 05:48PM by JRinGeorgia.
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 02:37PM
I agree with Eek. And yes to the rest of your questions. This is a great time to visit Yosemite (hope the smoke from the Rough Fire clears up some by then) and you have a number of choices for hiking from Tuolumne Meadows down to the Happy Isles trailhead in the Valley, with a stop to climb Half Dome:

1. Yes, Cathedral Lakes is the obvious one--the John Muir Trail--and it is usually full of people. But you might have some luck with a walk-up permit the day before for just the two of you.

2. Another option is to get off the bus at Sunrise/Tenaya Lake, and hike from there---you could also include climbing Cloud's Rest, which has even better views than Half Dome!

3. A third option would be either Lyell Canyon or Rafferty Creek up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp the first day. Then to Merced Lake or beyond on the second day...the from there Half Dome and Happy Isles

ONE of those should certainly have a permit or two available, and they are all great hikes.

I like your idea of seeing Glacier Point--It's spectacular--but if you are planning to include a visit to the Wawona Grove of the Sequoias, they are closed this season. You could see similar trees at the Tuolumne Grove not far from Crane Flat. Remember that the waterfalls will be less impressive in September---they are really roaring in May--so maybe spend less time looking at those. From the Glacier Point road, I highly recommend the hike to the top of Sentinel Dome and Taft Point---maybe four miles total, but stunning views. And you really should give yourself a little time to explore Tuolumne Meadows. You'll do just fine if you hike the Rafferty Creek or Lyell Canyon trails, but if not, take a quick hike up Pothole Dome for the views...

And If all else fails in terms of permits, you can always just hike from Glacier Point up into Illilouette Canyon for a day, then down across the Panorama Trail, climb Half Dome, and exit Happy Isles. That trailhead (and the nearby Mono Meadows) usually has some space

And if you have an extra day, tack on a high up to Mt. Hoffman, Gaylor Lakes, or Mt. Dana.

Should be a fabulous trip.

We have info on just about all of these hikes on our website.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 04:14PM
Quote
balzaccom

3. A third option would be either Lyell Canyon or Rafferty Creek up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp the first day. Then to Merced Lake or beyond on the second day...the from there Half Dome and Happy Isles

How do the High Sierra Camps work? I understand they have food and tents for you, but can we still stay there if we dont want to buy their food or stay in their tents?
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 26, 2015 05:48PM
Yes, HSCs you can stay in the tent cabins (if you have reservations) and can get breakfast and dinner there (and boxed lunches to go). $$$ for each of those choices. Or, each one has an area for backpackers that you can camp in, you have to stay in the designated backpackers camping area or else not at the HSC at all (no going 100 yards away and setting up your own camp). No fee to do that. They have pit or in some cases flush toilets and potable water. They also have bear lockers, so if you were staying only in HSCs you would not need a bear canister, but if you plan even one night in the backcountry where there are no bear lockers then you need the canister for all food and smellables. You could try to order meals at a HSC as a backpacker (for $$) but priority is given to those staying in the tent cabins.
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 27, 2015 09:41AM
We never stay in them, because they seem crowded. But we love the fact that we can fill up out water bottles there quickly and for free :^)



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 27, 2015 08:38PM
Quote
JRinGeorgia
Yes, HSCs you can stay in the tent cabins (if you have reservations) and can get breakfast and dinner there (and boxed lunches to go). $$$ for each of those choices. Or, each one has an area for backpackers that you can camp in, you have to stay in the designated backpackers camping area or else not at the HSC at all (no going 100 yards away and setting up your own camp). No fee to do that. They have pit or in some cases flush toilets and potable water. They also have bear lockers, so if you were staying only in HSCs you would not need a bear canister, but if you plan even one night in the backcountry where there are no bear lockers then you need the canister for all food and smellables. You could try to order meals at a HSC as a backpacker (for $$) but priority is given to those staying in the tent cabins.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but is it only at may lake and merced lake that requires backpackers to camp at the hsc sites? The rest you can camp "far" away like at vogelsang?
Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 27, 2015 10:12PM
At Glen Aulin there is a specific area for backpackers to camp, if their permit allows that. if you don't camp in that area, you are asked to move a mile past the HSC before camping...I suspect the other HSCs are the same



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Backpacking trip advice, first time to Yosemite
August 28, 2015 12:00PM
From YNP: "Camping is permitted at backpackers' campgrounds near Glen Aulin, May Lake, Sunrise, Merced Lake, and Vogelsang High Sierra Camps...All other camping should be away from each HSC." So it depends how you interpret "away" from the HSC, but I think it generally means you either camp in the designated HSC backpacker area or else out of the area of the HSC itself. If you're close enough to avail yourself of the toilets and water then you should be in the camp proper, something like that.
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