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Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip

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The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 09, 2017 10:29AM
Like many others I'm sure, I've been eagerly watching the road and snow reports in hopes that our planned trip out of Tuolumne Meadows on July 18th will become a reality. I saw the latest news that CalTrans and Yosemite have met from both ends of Tioga Rd at the gate, so I'm feeling more confident at the moment that everything will be clear and safe in 5 and a half weeks. Tell me if this is just wishful thinking. I am aware that the trail conditions may be snowy, wet, muddy, icy, mosquito infested. We are willing to trade for July in PHX.
Our permit res is from Cathedral Lakes, 3 nights, and out at Happy Isles. Originally, I wanted to take Cathedral Lakes, cross over to Sunrise Lakes, do Cloud's Rest and head back out through LYV to Happy Isles. With the snow and ice, I'm guessing Cloud's Rest is going to be out. Also not really interested in climbing Half Dome. So my question to this forum is, given our permit restrictions, what would be your suggested trip plan to get the most out of the 4 days we have in the park. The logistics of planning around our work schedules, our kids' college and sports and general teenage drama has me thinking that future family trips like this may be few and far between, so I want to maximize this adventure. I would love to hear your favorite itineraries and preferred campsites. Thanks!
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 09, 2017 02:53PM
I did a very similar trip starting June 22, 2011, and we had to forego Clouds rest. However, I believe that the extra time you have this year will make it doable. I say go for it, but be prepared to revise your route around Clouds rest if good judgment tells you to do so.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 10, 2017 09:09AM
There shouldn't be any problems getting up to Cloud's Rest in a month. It's a very exposed area, so snow will melt off there faster than forested areas lower down. Your biggest challenge is likely to be dealing with swarms of mosquitoes, so be prepared for them.

Upper Sunrise Lake is one of my favorite lakes in the park, but it is a long day to get there from the Sunrise/Cathedral Lakes trailhead. You might want to consider leaving your backpacks at the trail junction with the Forsythe Trail (where there is a nice spring) and climbing to the top of Cloud's Rest with a day pack. The trail on the north side going down is extremely steep, so carrying a heavy backpack down it is very hard on feet/knees. The Forsythe Trail is longer, but has a nicer grade to it with switchbacks, and you can camp along the creek in a few places that are reasonably flat. You are almost guaranteed to have a visit from a bear at least one night, so make sure everything that smells fits in your canisters.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 10, 2017 02:22PM
Thank you both! I had pretty much written off Cloud's Rest, but now I'm hopeful. The pictures I've seen from the top are unbelievable. I like the Forsythe trail suggestion as I was wondering how much more difficult and maybe dangerous hiking up CL with a heavy pack would be. So given we have 3 nights how would you suggest we break up the hike (where to camp each night) so that it's manageable each day? While we could certainly do 10 mile days, there is at least one in our group who likes to take things a bit more leisurely.
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 11, 2017 07:33AM
Please be aware that The Forsyth Trail was nearly completely burned in
The Meadow Fire from a few years ago. The burn is nearly 100%
and I wouldn't recommend camping in that area without REALLY looking
at all the trees and REALLY picking a spot with great care. It's pretty
much burned from here:
all the way to the CR/JMT junction:

Here is what is looked like August of 2016...

I have camped along the Forsyth when a winter storm came in one year... but
I personally wouldn't recommend it right now...

You should really keep a eye on the Webcams... the one from Glacier Point really
will give you an idea... Right now if you look you can see white left of the top of
Clouds Rest... so... you gonna be in snow a LOT... This will obviously go down some
but if it doesn't disappear by the time mid July rolls around...

So... is there any way you can simply dayhike CR? And do a different backpack?
If you do decide to hike Clouds... then I would recommend Upper Cathedral the
first day... about here:
or maybe here:

That gives you time to explore... rather than 9 miles hike to Sunrise Lakes
Anywho... next day would be near CR here:

This allows you to setup and go up Clouds Rest that day ... and then decide if you
want to take your pack up and over or take the bypass trail here:

That trail is very gentle and is the horse bypass trail... so ... should be no problems.

Anywho... um, yeah, if you decide too much snow... then I'd do what I'd suggest
anyway and go down Echo Creek to Echo Valley and down the Merced River.

But that's me.

Have fun and enjoy the adventure!

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 11, 2017 06:48PM
Yeah, the burnt forest doesn't really appeal. OK, so I will keep an eye on the Cloud's Rest situation, but I'm intrigued by Chick-on's alternate route down Echo and Merced. Looking at the map, this is what I might do. 1st night at Cathedral Lakes, cross over to Echo Creek trail and find a campsite around halfway down to the Merced Lake junction (looks like about a 6.5 mile day?) Are there decent spots along the trail to camp? Are creek crossings going to be an issue? Ok, then the next day do down through Echo Valley over to the Merced and camp near Lost Valley (map shows a campsite). Next day out Happy Isles (another 6-7 miles). Does that sound about right? Am I maximizing scenery given our permit restrictions? I really would like to avoid camping in LYV if possible. You guys are awesome by the way! Thanks so much!
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 11, 2017 08:07PM
You should read this:

There are footbridges ... although you do have to ford the Dolly Domes outlet ...
but that shouldn't be a problem...

It wasn't an issue in mid June in 2011 ... at least I was able to find logs and such to
cross... hmm... I probably have a picture smiling smiley

Ask more if you like...

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 11, 2017 08:24PM
Just to be fair... it could be soupy around Dolly domage area...
this is what I deal with in mid June of 2011

and further down...

But that either will be much drier... and or... well... it will be nice ...


Anyway... whatever you do... have fun... it's all good baby

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 09:16AM
Thanks for the photos! You seem to have a picture of every spot in every situation. Must have an incredible filing system! This has been really helpful. I probably just need to chill a little and be ready to be flexible given all the unknowns. Quick gear question....we have four in our group and will be out 3 nights. What's the best bear can strategy? 2 small or 1 large? I tried the larger Bearikade in my pack at REI and it seemed to take up a huge portion. The ones they rent in Yosemite look pretty big.
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 12:29PM
He actually remembers just about every picture and place and time.

Old Dude
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 01:54PM
You don't need to put your first day's worth of food in the bear canister since that will be consumed before you go to bed that night, so that's about 2.5 days' worth per person or about 10 people-days' worth in total. That's at or beyond the upper limit of what people can fit into standard bear cans so your best bet is two canisters, which also allows you to split the load. As you progress through your trip the bear canisters will empty up, and you can store some of your gear inside the empty space so that your overall packed starts off big but then reduces over the course of the trip.

Most bear canisters will be about the size of that BV500 or the Garcia's that the park rents.A pair of BV450's probably would work for your party, and they are smaller as well.

There are extra-large canisters that could fit all of your food into one, but they are very expensive and custom ordered so may not be available to be delivered to you in time regardless.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 03:18PM
OK, that helps. I was looking at the BV450 option as well...getting 2. I found a local place that rents them pretty cheap. Thanks!
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 03:00PM
Yup, always amazed with range and depth of information that chick-on has on his fingertips...

What's the best bear can strategy? 2 small or 1 large?
I carry a BV500 inside my pack, either vertical in the middle or horizontal, above the sleeping bag. Vertical placement is supposed to be better as the heaviest weight is centered around the middle of the spine. My bear can usage is not the most efficient as I carry team's first aid gear in my bear can but I would be surprised if you can fit all that food in one BV500, unless you are thinking of the XL size Bearikade. Either way, two can system gives a bit more flexibility.

Another option is to latch the bear canister on top of the backpack, ideally under the top lid or with a couple of straps/bungee cords.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 12, 2017 03:20PM
OK, yeah I think I will go with 2 BV 450s. Either that or get the XL and make my 16 year old son carry it!
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 13, 2017 10:06AM
I looked all over the map to find "Dolly Domes" with no success. Then I read some old strings and finally get it! Now looking at the topo map, your Dolly Domes are quite obvious. I would guess your soggy pictures would apply this year as well. Do you think that will lead to mosquito hell any more than if we take the JMT or Sunrise options? I really don't have much experience with mosquitoes as I live in the desert, but what is the worst case scenario? I was in South Florida once where there were plenty, but somehow I managed to stay bite-free while my companion got eaten alive.
avatar Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 13, 2017 10:37AM
Assume mosquitoes. A lot of people think Deet will keep them away from you. Not true. It will keep them from biting but they will land on you for a try. A small amount sprayed into the palm of your hand and then rubbed over exposed areas will suffice. Wear a long sleeved woven (not knitted) fabric shirt and long pants. Now only the back of your hands and your face and neck need Deet. Deet will dissolve some plastics. Get a head net too. Wear a hat.

Old Dude
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 13, 2017 11:59AM
Thanks for the bug advice! I just bought a repellent-treated long-sleeved hoodie that covers my hands and plan to wear zip-off pants. I've heard they are attracted to darker colors too. This is all coming together very nicely. Just crossing fingers for Tioga Road and the TM backpackers campground to be open in time. Thanks for all the great tips and advice!!
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 17, 2017 04:56PM
Anytime you are near any sort of water or in a shady area with a lot of trees (or both), you should expect mosquitoes if it has been above freezing at night prior to your trip through there for a few days. For example, the weather this weekend will stay above freezing to about 9K feet, so that will probably hatch mosquitoes at lower elevations where they are not at full strength yet. If it freezes again for several nights after they hatch, it will kill many of them. They usually start dying off in August, but this year it will be September or later. Worst case is a swarm of 100-200 mosquitoes following you everywhere you go and ready to land when you stop to rest or slow down. In the past a head net and deet has helped me, but it doesn't eliminate the problem. Clothing made of heavy materials can prevent the stinger from getting through to your skin (like jeans, flannel shirt), but it can be uncomfortable to wear on a hot day. There is special clothing treated with chemicals for mosquitoes, and it is expensive, but it sounds like you have invested in some. This year I'm going to try the Thermacell device to see if it will create a 15' square area free of mosquitoes that they claim, since in camp doing cooking can be hard unless you have a tent made of mosquito netting to cook in. Windy and exposed areas with no trees have much fewer mosquitoes.

The best campsites along Echo Creek are near the first footbridge over it about halfway between Sunrise HSC and the Merced River. There are other places along it that you can camp, but they are all prior to that bridge. You can also find a nice spot to camp between the trail and the Merced River on the east end of Echo Valley. Echo Valley is probably a swamp right now, so that won't be fun to walk through. The trail along Echo Creek dumps you into the center of Echo Valley, so you have to go through it no matter which direction you go.

I've camped in burned out areas before, and the smell is not nice for the first few years after the fire. You do have a higher chance of a tree falling as well. I would expect fewer mosquitoes than before the fire, since the burned trees expose the area more to wind and sun.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 19, 2017 10:31AM
Thank you! I checked out that Thermacell device but learned from reviews that it doesn't work above 7K. Seems like it works well otherwise, so if you know differently let me know because I would be willing to try it. Yeah, Echo Valley looks beautiful, but I am worried it may be a swamp now that things are heating up. I guess pretty much all the trails will be wet and muddy, if not flooded. My plan is to go with the two route options and get the advice of the ranger once we get there.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 11, 2017 02:54AM
I highly recommend Upper Sunrise Lake for the first night. The best campsites are near the middle area of the lake on the south shore, farthest from the trail. This lake is popular, so try not to arrive late in the evening, as all the good sites can get taken. It is a long hike to get here from the Sunrise trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows. If you run out of gas for the final 400 foot climb, you can stop at Sunrise High Sierra Camp, which is usually more crowded. Since the camps won't be officially open this year, the water faucets probably won't be working and you would have a long way to go to get water out of Echo Creek in the meadow below. Whatever you do, do not camp near Upper Cathedral Lake. This area is like a pass and winds frequently blow through there day and night at high speeds, making an otherwise warm day totally freezing cold.

The second night you want to pick a spot on the Forsythe trail along Sunrise Creek where it is fairly flat. It will be about a half to 3/4 mile before the junction with the JMT. You have a very high chance of a bear visit here, but you probably won't see anyone else around. You can reach Yosemite Valley from here in a day, but if you want to add another night, the only place left that you can camp for the final night is LIttle Yosemite Valley, the most overused place in the Yosemite backcountry. Bring earplugs so you can get some sleep if you camp here. I personally enjoy camping in LYV during the winter, when few others are around.

I recommend you stay off the Mist Trail and stay on the horse trail for the decent from Nevada Falls to the valley. The grade on this less popular trail is much nicer and there are no granite steps, so your knees and feet will be in much better shape when you reach the valley floor. There are two places that you can switch between the trails. One is halfway between Nevada and Vernal Falls, and the other one is just after the bridge over the Merced below Vernal Fall.
Re: The best 3 night Yosemite Backpacking trip
June 14, 2017 01:15PM
Thanks for the advice on the Mist Trail. I'm all for saving knees!
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