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Half Dome from the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

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Re: Planning 1st Yosemite Backpacking Trip End of June (5 Days Starting at Cathedral Lakes TH)

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I am going on our first backpacking trip to Yosemite with my 16-year old son and my brother. We have permits for the Cathedral Lakes THthe last week of June. My son and I are experienced backpackers, but this is our first trip to Yosemite. My main concerns are snow and mosquitoes. I am also wondering if there are any maps that show water sources on the trails. We are looking to do 25-30 miles, and we want to wake up on Day #5 with 4 or less miles to hike out. Does anyone have any advice on a good route? Since this is our first trip to Yosemite, I am torn if we should do the Mist Trail and end out trip at Happy Isle. Here are a few routes that I am considering.

1. Start at Cathedral Lakes TH and take the JMT to below Cloud's Rest then up to Cloud's Rest then to Sunrise Lakes then end at Tenaya Lake Sunrise Lakes TH. If we can get Half Dome permits we will also do Half Dome.

2. Start at Cathedral Lakes TH and take the JMT to Sunrise Lakes Trail, then take that to Clouds Rest then to the back side of Half Dome, then finish on the Mist Trail at Happy Isles. Again we would only do Half Dome if we could get permits. I am also worried about dealing with crowds on this route. I would much prefer solitude, but I am not sure if the Mist Trail is a "Must See" for first timers.

3. Start at Cathedral Lakes TH and do the HSC loop that includes JMT to Sunrise Lakes HSC, to Merced Lake HSC, to Vogelsang HSC and then end up back at Tuolumne Meadows. I read that the HSC programs are closed this summer. I am assuming backpackers are still allowed to use the campsite.

Since this is our first trip to Yosemite, I want to have the best experience with views, but not be bothered too badly by snow and mosquitoes. Not sure if there are specific trails in the high country that are known for less mosquitoes, or if it is better to stay at specific elevations to avoid them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Thanks,

Bob



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2019 12:14PM by rjzepfel.
All the itineraries you've proposed provide great views, but for all of them (as Chick-On warned the other day) be prepared for snow on the trails: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildcond.htm, which means you may need to do pathfinding even you're trying to follow a trail. There's a reason the HSCs won't be opening this summer. Later in the season, the routes you've proposed wouldn't offer much in the way of solitude, and of course coming off via the Mist trail there will be crowds. But the snow will lessen usage so if you can handle the snow where it exists, you'll get some places to yourselves.

Water shouldn't be an issue for the most part, there will be lots of run-off. If you look at the USGS maps (which you can find stiched together here: https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=37.87998,-119.44868&z=14&b=mbt), all of the indicated streams should be running, plus there will be smaller flows not on the maps. If you come off the trail at Sunrise TH, be prepared to cross a high and very cold Tenaya Creek outlet that will reach your thighs and possibly higher.

If you come off the trail at a different point, how were you going to get back to your car?
Thanks for the info. As far as coming off the trails and getting back to our car, I had a few ideas. I was planning on taking the YARTS bus or the hikers shuttle bus, but not sure if both are running the end of June, or their schedules. We can also drop our car at the exit point, or have one driver hitch a ride back to Cathedral Lakes TH to get the car, but I'm not sure how easy it is to hitch a ride. Any suggestions or tips? Are you allowed to end at the same TH that you start ( I was thinking I read somewhere that it is not permitted)? If so, would it be smarter to re-route and come out at Cathedral TH?

With the chance of ice at Clouds Rest, we will probably not do it. Sounds like finding drinking water will not be a problem. Thanks for the tip about the water crossing at Tenaya Creek. We will be prepared for it if we go that route.

I'll check out your links. I've done several week long backpacking excursions in the backcountry, but never had to deal with snow covered trails. So, that is a definite concern if we can't see the trail. I have been excited about this trip for the last 8 months. I figured there would be snow at 10K or higher, but only in the shady areas. We may have to pivot once there, but will make the best of it and enjoy our time in the park.
We started a hike at Cathedral Lakes in June 2011, going to Sunrise HSC, to the Half dome trail junction, up half dome, then to LYV, and out the JMT to Happy isles (don't take the mist trail with full packs. It's a zoo, and 90% of the people will have no concept of trail etiquette). The snowpack was similar to this year. There will be deep snow, and the trails will be buried, so unless you have great route finding skills, you may wander a while, at least until you drop below the Sunrise HSC. Clouds rest will be icy & more dangerous than half dome in June. But the snow usually keeps the Mosquitos away.

I was surprised that you stated "if we can get half dome permits". What happened when you got the permit?

You can get from the valley back to Tioga Pass if the YARTS bus, or the Tuolumne Hikers buses are running, but double check the schedules, and then check again if relying on Aramark. Their info is not always accurate. Finally, you might have to lengthen your day 5 requirement. You and your son are in for an awesome experience, as the Cathedral Lakes trailhead is hard to get, however, the trek will be more High Sierra's than typical Yosemite, unless you do get half dame, and hike to nevada and vernal falls on your way out.
I checked the box for Half Dome day permits when I submitted the Backpacking Permit application. I received the confirmation email and paid for the backpackers permits, but there was nothing that stated we received the Half Dome permits. Maybe we do actually have them. I will have to call the park to confirm.


I don't think I want to take the risk and venture to Cloud's Rest if it is icy. Thanks for the tip about avoiding the Mist Trail because we will have full packs. If we choose to exit at Happy Isle, we will stick to the JMT. Would you recommend ending our trip a day early and just planning a day hike on Day #5 to see nevada and vernal falls? We could avoid having full packs.

What is the best route to take form Cathedral Lakes to get to lower elevation and the LYV?

I will check out the bus schedules.

Thanks again for the info.
TM hiker's shuttle didn't operate last summer, even though the printed info from YNP and Aramark said it did, and I'll be shocked if it runs this year. YARTS bus will be operating once a day each direction to/from Mammoth, if you come off at Happy Isles you can catch the bus at 5 pm. Hitchhiking might work, especially if it's just from Sunrise (west end of Tenaya Lake) to Cathedral Lakes TH. And yes, you are allowed to come off at the same trailhead.

The one plus to coming down the mist trail (at least the portion below vernal) on a hot day early in the season is...the mist (duh)...but not fun if it's crowded (which it usually is) and you've got a full pack. Since you get a night in the backpacker's camp after you come off the trail, your idea to come off in the TM area, then spend the night in the valley and do the mist trail the next day might not be so bad. Or you could get up in the morning, take the bus up to Glacier Point (need to reserve in advance and it costs like $25 each) and hike back to the valley via the panorama trail. That's one of the most-bang-for-the-buck hikes in the park, especially when the water is flowing strongly.

BTW, you don't necessarily have to go the very top of CR, which scares some people. There are some pretty good views on the way up. Then you could backtrack and follow it around from the south, eventually hooking up with the JMT to HI; or head back toward sunrise lakes and then down to the sunrise lakes TH.

Poke around this forum, the questions you're asking have been asked and answered many times in the past, lots of the information is already here.
Thanks for the response. I'll poke around the forums for more info. As long as Tioga Road is open by 6/23, sounds like we should have a few options leaving from Cathedral Lakes TH. We will keep our options open based on what we encounter and the conditions.
I agree with NQTG on most things, but to be clear there were 2 diffierent types of shuttles which were loosely called the Tuolumne Hikers shuttles. One was the shuttle that ran back and forth between Olmstead Point and Tuolumne Meadows. That one did not run even though Aramark posted that it did, the operators on the phone said that it did, and one even sent me the supposed schedule: all of which was simply wrong. The other Shuttle is a paid one way trip between the valley and Tuolumne or vice versa. I believe that one operated last summer, and is scheduled for this year. It is more expensive than YARTS, and takes a lot longer because it is also a tour bus, but the timing might work better for you.

There is a really cool mapping tool which can help you explore different option for your hike here: https://www.traillon.com/map/yosemite-national-park . You have a ton of options with that trailhead & 5 days.

There are some really cool campsites with fire rings and water at the halfdome junction with the PCT.

You might consider staying in LYV 2 nights and dayhiking to Vernal and Nevada Falls, and then hiking out the JMT. There will be some overlap, but that just means 2 opportunities to see some amazing views that have to be earned, as there is no way to see these by car.

The panorama trail is one of the best in the World, but crossing Illilouette Creek may be hazardous this early, this year. But it is another breathtaking fall.

Good luck, and your first timers will be awestruck.
Quote
Coolburn
I agree with NQTG on most things, but to be clear there were 2 diffierent types of shuttles which were loosely called the Tuolumne Hikers shuttles. One was the shuttle that ran back and forth between Olmstead Point and Tuolumne Meadows. That one did not run even though Aramark posted that it did, the operators on the phone said that it did, and one even sent me the supposed schedule: all of which was simply wrong. The other Shuttle is a paid one way trip between the valley and Tuolumne or vice versa. I believe that one operated last summer, and is scheduled for this year. It is more expensive than YARTS, and takes a lot longer because it is also a tour bus, but the timing might work better for you.

Good point, here's the schedule: https://www.travelyosemite.com/media/690120/hiker-bus_shuttle-rates-schedule.pdf

And unlike the YARTS bus, this one not only drops off but also picks up at trailheads.

Quote
Coolburn
The panorama trail is one of the best in the World, but crossing Illilouette Creek may be hazardous this early, this year. But it is another breathtaking fall.

Unlike, say, the Mono Meadow trail, which requires wading through Illilouette Creek to cross it, the Panorama Trail features a sturdy footbridge over the creek that's high enough to be unaffected even in heavy snow years. There's a good view of Illilouette falls from the swtichbacks descending toward the creek, and although the bridge is maybe a quarter mile upstream from the brinks of the falls, if you've got time and are adventurous (and sure-footed and not scared of heights) there's a use trail from the south side of the creek by the footbridge to the falls' brink.
NQTG, You're right, I forgot about the bridge!
It sounds like you're assuming that Tioga Road will be open on the day of your permit. I haven't seen anything to suggest that.

If you come down the "Mist Trial", you can avoid some of the zoo by starting early in the day from the LYV zoo.
I hadn't considered Tioga Road being closed. I'll have to keep my fingers crossed that it is open by 6/23, but it doesn't look good that it will be. If it is closed, I guess we could try to get there early to get a permit from another trail head for that day. Does anyone suggest an alternate trail head to try and get? I am assuming it would have to be one in the LYV.
The scenery at upper cathedral lake is hard to top. Might want to camp there. If too crowded at upper, hike on trail, through the upper meadow to the next ridge. Killer views up there too. Best views in yosemite don't race through there. The second day shoot for sunrise lakes or sunrise HS camp area depending on you progress. It's a long push to clouds rest but that is also one of the best views in the park. Better than half dome. I've always wanted to camp there. There will be snow and it will affect you distance and stamina. After cathedral and clouds rest- LYV can be a final camp before you hike out to the valley past Nevada and vernal falls if you're exhausted. There won't be snow going down from LYV. If you have energy and extra time you could go back towards Tenya lake or something but that would involve snow and more mileage. You can't go wrong with cathedral and clouds rest. Just my 2 scents
Thanks for the advice. I think we will definitely do Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isle......as long as Tioga Road is open by 6/23.
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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/10/2019 10:29AM by rjzepfel.
Does anyone have alternate routes in the LYV area? How about a loop from Alder Creek TH to Chilnualna TH. Any of these options would obviously depend on available permits or the ability to get a permit the day we get there.

I checked the Trail Head Report this morning. I can re-submit for new permits. These trail heads in the LYV and Wawona area still have available permits for June 23rd & 24th. Which trail heads do you recommend for a 4-5 day backpacking trip?

23-24 Bridalveil Creek
23 Chilnualna Falls
23 Happy Isles > Illilouette
23 Happy Isles > Sunrise / Merced Lake
23-24 McGurk Meadow
23-24 Old Big Oak Flat Road
23-24 Ostrander (Lost Bear Meadow)
23 Pohono Trail (Glacier Point)
23-24 Pohono Trail (Taft Point)
23 Tamarack Creek



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/10/2019 11:20AM by rjzepfel.
Yes. If you can'y get a "3A" permit from Glacier Point to LYV, then try for a "3B" permit from Glacier Point to Illilouette. You will have to spend the first night past the panorama trail junction, but then you can backtrack to the Panorama Trail, and spend night 2 at LYV. There is a beautiful creek to camp near on night one.
There are no permits available for either Glacier Point TH. We could try and get one the day we show up though, but I would rather have them in advance. Please take a look at my earlier post. I updated it with TH that still show availability for permits. Do you recommend any of those TH? Thanks for your help!
I can't recommend any of those trails to get to LYV. Maybe someone else can suggest a better alternative than walk up permits, as this late thaw is creating havoc with lots of plans, including mine. I have three different plans, just waiting to see if any pan out...
Get Happy isles to Sunrise/Merced lake pass through. Take to sunrise lakes. Maybe dayhike to cathedral from sunrise. Loop over to clouds rest then down to LYV



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/10/2019 07:53PM by Yosemrick.
Thanks for the recommendation on starting at Happy Isles. I submitted a new wilderness permit application tonight.

1st choice: Happy Isles to Sunrise/Merced Lake Pass Thru > Sunrise Lakes > Cathedral Lakes > Loop back to Happy Isles

2nd Choice: Pohono Trail (Glacier Point) > Taft Point > McGurk Meadow > Deer Camp > Ostrander Lake Junction > Bridalveil Creek Campground > McGurk Meadow > Taft Point > Pohono Trail (Glacier Point)

3rd Choice: Bridalveil Creek > Ostrander Lake junction > Deer Camp Junction > Turner Meadow > Chilnualna Creek Junction > Buena Vista Lake > Illilouette Basin > Mono Meadow TH

Any thoughts on these 3 routes?
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