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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice

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Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 06, 2019 03:27PM
Hello everyone! I am just hoping to ask for some advice on a backpacking trip in Yosemite I am planning. Any feedback (positive or negative) would be greatly appreciated!

I have a wilderness permit for the Mirror Lake -> Snow Creek trailhead leaving July 4th and returning July 7th. The overall plan is as follows:

Day 1 - hike mirror lake trail to snow creek trail and then up out of Yosemite Valley. Camp along the snow creek trail near where the Snow Creek Ranger Cabin is located on my map.This is about 4,000 feet of elevation gain over 6 miles, so I am not sure we want to push much further on day 1.

Day 2 - continue along snow creek trail to Tenaya Lake (take a lunch break at the lake), then head up the trail to Sunrise Lakes to set up camp. This is about 8.5 miles and +2,500 feet of climbing.

Day 3 - hike up to Clouds Rest and then down to the JMT. Then take the JMT east for 2 miles, then turn right at junction and take trail down to Echo Valley, set up camp around Echo Valley for night 3. 12.5 miles and +2,400 feet this day.

Day 4 - hike from Echo Valley through Lost Valley then through Little Yosemite Valley. Take the JMT to Clark Point, then take trail down to Emerald Pool and cross onto the Mist Trail, then follow the Mist Trail back into Yosemite Valley and the mirror lake trailhead. 11.7 miles and +1,000 feet.

What do you all think of this route? My hope is that we get to see many of the Yosemite highlights along the route, yet still keep the mileage to around 10 miles a day on average. My group typically gets a little cranky after the 10 mile mark in a day.

I expect to see crowds given we are going on some of the popular trails, but am hopeful we can get over Clouds Rest early before many day hikers get up there. We will just have to deal with crowds in LYV and the Mist Trail, but at least we will be heading west while most day hikers will be heading east in the morning.

Any thoughts on potential snow levels? We hiked Clouds Rest a few years ago on July 4th and there was no snow, but that was during the drought. Things will definitely be different this year, but I am not sure how much snow is normal in July.

Also, any idea on whether or not Echo Valley is a nice place to camp? I am not sure how much further my group would want to push on the Day 3 hike given it is already at ~12.5 miles. But, I also don't necessarily want to camp in a swamp filled with mosquitoes.

Thank you in advance!
Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 06, 2019 04:54PM
Poke around this forum for reports from other heavy snow years (2010, 2011, 2017) to get a feel for what might be this year, and check historical opening dates for Tioga Road, which is a proxy for snow levels. And keep in mind that a warm spring and rain could significantly change things.

Also, is your permit for coming off the trail at Happy Isles? If not you'll need to change it to that.
Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 06, 2019 05:11PM
The exit point of your permit isn't really an issue. Once you have a legal permit for legal trailhead, the rangers will allow you to leave the wilderness just about anywhere you want, for some obvious reasons. They don't want people who are struggling to have to hike another ten miles to make their permit exit point.

Two thought about your itinerary:

Make sure you are legal to "leave the wilderness" at Tenaya Lake and then re-enter with the same permit. This shouldn't be a problem, but it wouldn't hurt to make sure the permit includes your entire itinerary. (For example, if you decided to take a quick hitchhike up to Tuolumne Meadows to get a sandwich and then resume your hike, that would be forbidden.)

But the real question will be how much fun you will have crossing Tenaya Creek below the lake. It will be icy cold, and could be waist high or higher this year. Brrrr!



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Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 07, 2019 08:20AM
Thank you for the advice. Regarding the exit trailhead, we are ok to exit at Happy Isles on our permit. The permits only specific the trailhead and direction you need to start hiking on. You also cannot double back and hike through your original trailhead (e.g. can't start at Mirror Lake TH and then hike over to Happy Isles and start trekking there). We won't be doing that, so we should be totally ok!

That is good to know about leaving the wilderness. We'll keep this in mind when we get near Tenaya Creek and Lake. Though it may be against the rules, I wouldn't feel bad if we hiked around Tenaya and followed the road for a bit. We would be hopping back on our original itinerary, so not much would change (other than us covering an extra 4 miles). Things would certainly be different if we were hoping to drive to a completely different TH and starting a new trek from there (that would be a no-go).

I'll check out reports from 2017 to look at snow levels. Otherwise, fingers crossed for a reasonably warm spring!
Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 07, 2019 05:12PM
I'm more of a day-hiker than a backpacker so you'll want to get other folks' opinion on this but the Mist Trail below Vernal Falls is very wet (aka "slippery" ) and, at the time you're going, will most likely be VERY crowded...It's a little further to take the JMT down to the bridge below Vernal but it'll be less crowded and provide you with better footing. And, BTW, the fact that most hikers on the Mist Trail will be going in the opposite direction seems to me something of a problem rather than an advantage...you'll have a sea of (largely) inexperienced hikers coming right at you on slippery stone steps (probably wearing flip-flops or equally unsuitable footwear)...several stretches of which have not-insignificant exposures. Just my 2 cents.

Other than that and the aforementioned Tenaya Creek crossing, it sounds like a great trip (I've day-hiked pretty much every segment of your course at various times of the year).

P.S. Once you cross over the bridge below VF, the Mist will still be crowded but it's typically dry and, although still steep in spots, a continuous paved path rather than stairs. FWIW, the JMT DOES continue all the way down to Happy Isle but it's designated for stock-use only below this junction (unless that's changed recently).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/2019 05:12PM by DavidK42.
Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 10, 2019 02:58PM
Day 3 advice: Don't go all the way down to Echo Valley and camp... instead, stay on the high trail and camp on the flat granite that overlooks Bunnell Point above Little Yosemite Valley. Water should be still available in that small tarn near the trail. Echo Valley is wet and will have lots of mosquitoes.

This being a heavy snow year, will very likely have snow on the northern approach to Clouds Rest and through the woods approaching and leaving Sunrise Lakes. The Tenaya Creek Crossing near Tenaya Lake will be deep and cold. July 4th is usually mosquito crazy above 9500...... this year expect to be 6 weeks behind.. so that means the mosquito belt could be from just under 8500 ft..

We won't know for another month, but looking at Memorial Day reports from a normal snow year might be a good proxy for what to expect around July 4th this year...

Don't want to scare you off as the route you describe is really nice, but just be prepared for more difficult conditions this season, and if they are better than expected, then great!!
Re: Yosemite backpacking trip planning advice
March 12, 2019 08:56AM
Thanks OL! I think I see the area you are describing near Echo Valley on my map, so we'll try to camp there instead of in EV. Is this the area you were speaking about (https://goo.gl/maps/WRT2WkL4XBv)? It looks like there is a lake/pond for water and possibly some good views of the Lost Valley. It also would make out hike on Day 3 shorter, which is nice smiling smiley

We are going to keep an eye on the snow levels through spring. If things don't seem like they are melting, our backup plan is to skip Clouds Rest and get to Echo Valley via Sunrise Lakes and Sunrise High Sierra Camp. We also have enough room in the itinerary to hike around Tenaya Lake if the creek crossing looks too sketchy or miserable.

Thanks again for the advice!
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