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Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May

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Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 10:27AM
Hello folks! I'm heading to Yosemite by train the second week of May. The reason for this is because I have to be back in Chicago by mid-June, after which I won't be able to travel for a while, and I REALLY need to experience Yosemite. Otherwise I would probably push it back until more trails are open. I have some backpacking/camping experience (not in Yosemite) and love the outdoors regardless of conditions. I'll be arriving solo with my pack.

That said, I have a few questions.

What trailheads are usually open in May? Permit reservations necessary?
Is wilderness camping going to be mostly winter/snow conditions?
Are the free shuttles running?

I have heard that this is the most beautiful time to visit because of the waterfalls, but also heard that its not very practical to backpack. Either way, I have made the decision to go, and figure some of you informed folks might be able to help me make the most of it. Any other advice is more than welcome too, thanks!
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 11:02AM
Quote
tjs180
What trailheads are usually open in May? Permit reservations necessary?
Is wilderness camping going to be mostly winter/snow conditions?
Are the free shuttles running?

I don't think any trailhead is theoretically "closed" although the ones along Tioga Road might be difficult to get to until the plowing is complete. I'm not sure what the rules are on skiing/snowshoeing during the plowing. I'm sure all the valley floor trailheads will be easily accesible. You can check for fully booked dates to get an idea of how popular the trailheads are. If you're really cheap, the walk-up permits are free. However - if you want to do Happy Isles-LYV, there are still reserved spot for half he dates in May.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/trailheadmap.pdf
http://www.yosemiteconservancystore.com/DSN/wwwyosemiteassociationorg/Content/Webcam/rptFullTrailheadDates.htm

I think the camping conditions will be variable. You probably want to ask about conditions before you leave and check the trail conditions web page. The other big thing will be stream crossings with lots of snowmelt.

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

The Valley Shuttle runs year round.
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 11:24AM
Quote
y_p_w
If you're really cheap, the walk-up permits are free.

(or smart!)

Get the HI->LYV. And go as far as your heart desires.
Don't think about going over Red Peak Pass then though.
We'll be heading to Merced Lake in mid-April or earlier with snow shoezies.

Prob. only the 4 Mile trail will still be closed in Mid-May.
Everything else is what you are willing to go thru or your sense of adventure.

You can't go wrong... but first timer... go up Merced River Canyon.
It's sweet.
If you got more time... go up Yosemite Falls... poke around... and come back down.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 11:23AM
Thanks VPW! I think ill try and reserve a Happy Isles-LYV for some time during the trip and look for walk-up permits the rest of the time (yes I am cheap!).

Any idea as to a very detailed trail guide or map-pack I can buy? I would like to get a hold of one soon to become familiar with it. Thanks folks, any knowledge welcome!
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 11:29AM
All kinds o info on the trails here:

Along with maps:

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

If you know how to read a topo map... I wouldn't bother buying anything...
Lots o maps on the web...



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 11:44AM
Thanks chick-on!
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 02, 2011 01:10AM
I recently downloaded an Android App for Yosemite that supposedly has maps, trails, and works with the built in GPS of the phone. I haven't tried it yet, but if you have a smartphone, you might be able to just download everthing on there. Turn off your signal though to extend the battery life.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 02, 2011 10:43AM
I have tried a similar app, but my battery would die halfway through the trip. I suggest bringing backup paper maps.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 02, 2011 08:19PM
Quote
camper68
I recently downloaded an Android App for Yosemite that supposedly has maps, trails, and works with the built in GPS of the phone.
What's the name of this app? Is it available in the Android Market?

I have a handheld Garmin with the National Parks West maps for all the trails in Yosemite but I only carry that when I'm hiking...would be nice to have the maps in my phone for reference.

--David
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 04, 2011 10:50AM
I don't remember off the top of my head. I found it by just search Yosemite in the marketplace.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 30, 2011 05:10PM
I think it might have been BAckpacker GPS Trails.Chimani might work too.
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
January 27, 2011 01:09PM
Quote
tjs180
Thanks VPW! I think ill try and reserve a Happy Isles-LYV for some time during the trip and look for walk-up permits the rest of the time (yes I am cheap!).

Any idea as to a very detailed trail guide or map-pack I can buy? I would like to get a hold of one soon to become familiar with it. Thanks folks, any knowledge welcome!

Also - you can stay at the Valley Backpackers Campground the night before your start and the night you get back. It's $5 per **person** per night. I mentioned the Happy Isles-LVY permit, which is generally the most popular in the park. I was also incorrect - reserved permits are still showing available for most of the dates in May although there is a concentration towards the end of May. This permit is of course popular because it's an easier way to visit Half Dome by breaking it up into two days. The permit also serves as the Half Dome hiking permit, now that there is a permit system. There's no guarantee that the cables will be up though, although it's typically by the third week of May.

I like the National Geographic Traills Illustrated maps. They're made of a waterproof plastic sheet material and are extremely tough. The ones for NPS areas typically show where it is or isn't legal to camp in the backcountry. I've got the big one (#206). The scale is a little bit smaller than the section maps they have, but it found it was good enough. The SW Yosemite map ends a little bit east of Little Yosemite Valley. You can click on the little magnifying glass for the map detail and zoom in/out to any section you want.

http://www.natgeomaps.com/ti_206
http://www.natgeomaps.com/ti_306

If you have an REI near you, they might have it in stock, or you could at least order one online and have one shipped to your closest store for no extra cost.

http://www.rei.com/product/773136
http://www.rei.com/product/776035

I really like these maps. I had one that was "vandalized" by someone I know, but it only shows mild signs of wrinkling as a result. I do have another one that was torn up with more effort, but I was able to reassemble all the pieces with tape. Remarkably enough, REI accepted it for return. The customer service clerk looked at it and was amazed that all the piece were in place, although some were extremely stretched out.

Have fun and be safe.
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 03, 2011 12:01AM
I've always enjoyed using the trail and recreation topo maps produced by Tom Harrison:

http://www.tomharrisonmaps.com/

http://www.tomharrisonmaps.com/locationmap.html
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 23, 2011 01:35PM
I took your advice and got the #206 map. It has really helped me get a good idea of the trails and terrain. I've been reading through the threads for the past month, but held off on asking any more questions until I got a job and was sure I can do the trip.

One thing on the map I couldn't figure out is the shaded "no overnight camping" areas. If the trailheads are in that area, do you just have to make it past the boundary before you can set up camp? Also, I think I'm pretty set on going mid-may and coming back before the Memorial Day weekend. From what I have gathered here, there will most likely be walk-up permits available. Are there many backpacker campgrounds? I have only heard of the one in LYV for 5$. I think i'll take some advice and do day-hikes as well as some overnights since im a noob.

Thanks to those with so much knowledge to share, as I'm sure you have better things to do. I'm doing my best to find the info myself, but sometimes its better to ask i guess. Cheers!

EDIT: Just found that beyond the boundary point it's dispersed camping.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/23/2011 01:59PM by tjs180.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 23, 2011 02:20PM
Quote
tjs180

One thing on the map I couldn't figure out is the shaded "no overnight camping" areas. If the trailheads are in that area, do you just have to make it past the boundary before you can set up camp? Also, I think I'm pretty set on going mid-may and coming back before the Memorial Day weekend. From what I have gathered here, there will most likely be walk-up permits available. Are there many backpacker campgrounds? I have only heard of the one in LYV for 5$. I think i'll take some advice and do day-hikes as well as some overnights since im a noob.

the backpacker camps people talk about are in the campgrounds - there's one at Tuolumne Meadows, one on the perimeter of North Pines campground, one at Hetch Hetchy (no other campground there), and one at White Wolf. They are for the night before or the night after your backpacking trip and you need a valid wilderness permit to stay there (with exception of hike/bike in campers). Cost is $5 per person.

Little Yosemite Valley camp is technically for backpackers but there is no charge to stay - you are allowed to stay there your first night out if your permit reflects that you can, otherwise you may stay there the second (or any subsequent) night of your outing.
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 23, 2011 02:57PM
There is also a backpackers campground at Tuolumne Meadows.

If there are any questions about where you can and can't camp, if all else fails, you can ask the Ranger when you pick up the permit. Generally you can't camp near any roads, or other developed areas. This means you have to hike a certain distance from the trail head. You have to hike a certain distance from any of the developed campgrounds, i.e. Little Yosemite Valley, or any of the High Sierra camps. You also can't camp near the rim of the valley. You're supposed to be out of view of the trail and 50yards? away from any water ( stream or lake ).
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 23, 2011 07:05PM
Quote
qumqats
There is also a backpackers campground at Tuolumne Meadows.

If there are any questions about where you can and can't camp, if all else fails, you can ask the Ranger when you pick up the permit. Generally you can't camp near any roads, or other developed areas. This means you have to hike a certain distance from the trail head. You have to hike a certain distance from any of the developed campgrounds, i.e. Little Yosemite Valley, or any of the High Sierra camps. You also can't camp near the rim of the valley. You're supposed to be out of view of the trail and 50yards? away from any water ( stream or lake ).

This is confusing to some newcomers because each of the High Sierra Camps also have designated "backpackers only" camping areas within very short walking distance of the HSC tent cabins and facilities. If you do not want to use the "backpackers only" area that's where the rule comes in play where you have to get a good distance away from the High Sierra Camps.

Some of us just don't like to use the backpacker camps because there are too many people too close together. The one upside is availability of using a toilet. Another upside, for those interested, is the possibility of reserving (well in advance) the supper & breakfast meal plan at the HSC. It's not cheap but you will eat like a king and have two less meals to carry. Each HSC has a very limited number of reservations available for the "meal only" plan. I used this plan one night last year at Merced Lake HSC (regarded as having the best HSC cook) but generally prefer to camp away from the HSC's. As for the HSC backpackers camp, I was very careful to schedule my overnight there on a mid-week day to avoid the weekend backpacker crowd. There were about a dozen backpackers present that night spread out pretty well so it was actually a quiet night.
avatar Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 23, 2011 06:10PM
Not quite sure what you're asking here:

Quote

Are there many backpacker campgrounds? I have only heard of the one in LYV for 5$.

AlmostThere explained the "backpacker campgrounds", but I'm wondering if you're thinking that camping in the wilderness is only in designated campgrounds (as it is in some parks and wilderness areas in the east). If not, ignore this...if so...it's not, for the most part. Little Yosemite Valley is an exception, if you're camping there you must camp in the designated campground (which, as noted, is free - you just need an appropriate permit if it's first-night, or any permit otherwise). There's another near Merced Lake, and a few others here and there. Outside those areas, camp where you want and the terrain allows, following the 'distance from water', 'distance from roads', and 'distance from certain day use places' rules, and other leave no trace guidelines.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/23/2011 06:14PM by ttilley.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
February 24, 2011 10:06PM
Yeah i realized my question was a little vague. Thanks for the help, i understand now.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 12, 2011 09:59AM
I have a question about food storage I can't seem to find on any of the park sites:

Me and my buddy plan on being in the park for three weeks or so and would like to bring in all of our food. Is there a place we could store a large sack of food and return after each 2-5 day trip out in the wilderness to fill up our bear canisters? I see there are food lockers but cant figure out if they are community or cost money. Otherwise, how do you all deal with the food situation if you're in the park for extended time?

Thanks in advance, you're all very helpful.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 12, 2011 10:08AM
Quote
tjs180
I have a question about food storage I can't seem to find on any of the park sites:

Me and my buddy plan on being in the park for three weeks or so and would like to bring in all of our food. Is there a place we could store a large sack of food and return after each 2-5 day trip out in the wilderness to fill up our bear canisters? I see there are food lockers but cant figure out if they are community or cost money. Otherwise, how do you all deal with the food situation if you're in the park for extended time?

Thanks in advance, you're all very helpful.

Everything goes in unlocked, community food lockers which you share with other hikers/campers. Unless you have a campsite or tent cabin booked - there is one locker per campsite/tent.

You don't just store food - you store anything that has a smell, any ice chest (empty ones can be covered and left in the car but should not be visible), lotions, toothpaste, etc. Nothing with an odor should be left in the car. There are lockers at every parking area.

A friend had his nice double wall commuter coffee mug swiped out of a bear locker and was left a grungy old gas station mug in its place, but other than that I've not heard of anything being taken. I use an old trash bag with a date written on it with a sharpie pen when I leave supplies for a few days in one of the lockers.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 13, 2011 08:33AM
We use small or medium cardboard boxes to store our stuff. They're easy for other folks to move if needed, but easy for me to fit into the back corner of a bear locker.


(My favorite thing to put in my box? A pop-top can of pineapple chunks! Ending a multi-day hike with sweet moist fruit is delightful.)
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 24, 2011 03:33PM
Everything tastes great to me after a hike. Fruits are at the top of the list, and soda pop.
Re: Backpacking Yosemite in May
April 21, 2011 08:47AM
That sounds great. Since we're arriving by train we plan on bringing all our food in marked bags/boxes and transporting it by shuttle when we go from one trailhead to another every few days. It sounds like the parking lot lockers will work best for us.

We just booked our train from Chicago and will be in the park Wed, 5/18- Sun 6/5. I understand it varies from year to year, but will snowshoes likely be necessary for this trip?
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