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Merced Lake HSC

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Merced Lake HSC
August 08, 2011 10:04PM
Yep, another overnight trip to Merced Lake. The great thing about Merced Lake is there are so many wonderful routes to the lake. This weekend, since the camp was open, we focused on routes that avoided the regular stocking and pack-trip trails (that is, dust and horse poop...) This meant going off-trail, and fortunately the Cathedral Range has many great opportunities for such travel despite being so close to Tuolumne Meadows.

To get to Merced Lake, we took the Elizabeth Lake/Nelson Lake trail, leaving it where it first starts climbing a low granite spur toward Nelson Lake. The mosquitoes were out in force from Elizabeth Lake until well down Echo Creek. The route down Echo Creek is mostly easy cross-country strolling through open, grassy forests. The only bit of routefinding is to cross over to the Nelson Lake outlet and follow it downstream, since the other fork of Echo Creek is more rugged.

Below a large, unnamed meadow that Echo Creek meanders through is a great series of cascades over open granite. In this meadow were a few places where sand had flowed into--or onto--the meadow, probably the result of last-weekend's storms. Although it's a bit steep past this meadow, there are no serious places where one can get hung up.

The worst part of this route is a short, dense section of deadfall encountered along the last few hundred yards just before rejoining the (Cathedral Fork) Echo Creek trail at its upper bridge.

At the Echo Valey junction, we encountered the first people we had seen since the trailhead. Since this was a special trip (birthday hike #2), we stayed at the High Sierra camp, where we enjoyed warm showers and steak-and-potatoes for dinner. The camp manager told us that they had received 8" of hail last weekend, and there were still pools and ponds along the trail from the storm. There were few mosquitoes at the camp. Since neither Sunrise nor Vogelsang were open yet, there were also comparatively few guests in camp.

The next day, we returned to Tuolumne Meadows via the Lewis Creek/Vogelsang Pass trail. A trail crew was working just ahead of us, so the trail was clear of logs and other obstructions. We had lunch at the pool below the Florence Creek cascade.

The views from Vogelsang Pass were wonderful, as always.

Vogelsang HSC was about to open, and although the dining room was closed, the mosquitoes feasted on us when we paused there for a picture.

Instead of the Tuolumne Pass/Rafferty Creek trail, we took the Evelyn Lake trail, then descended the lake's outlet creek.

This is another wonderful, easy cross-country segment, with another large, unnamed meadow along the way. There are a few nice campsites (with fire rings) in this meadow.

This route joins the Rafferty Creek trail just upstream of the well-known waterfalls on the creek.

(As an aside, the USGS topo and the Harrison map have the Rafferty Creek trail crossing Rafferty Creek in this area. The Schaffer/Wilderness Press map corrects this. There is a relocated section of trail in this area, but from what I can tell it's doubtful it crossed the creek, at least in the area the above maps indicate.)

All said, the trip was about 33 easy-going miles, and I think it's fair to say my wife has fully recovered from her early season injuries (she basically jogged from the Echo Creek bridge to the camp...). Although years ago we were "regulars" at the High Sierra camps, I think we've moved on. The amenities at the camps are nice, but so is the freedom to camp wherever and whenever you want that backpacking provides.

More Pictures...
avatar Re: Merced Lake HSC
August 09, 2011 07:14AM
Berry nice.


(Ok, It's just a gorgeous meadow w/ quite the meandering creek)

Tanks for the faux-toes smiling smiley

Was asked about this route in the past so good to know it's "easy-ish".
(we goes from that meadow over to Emeric tree years ago)

Have fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
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