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Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!

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Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 01:25PM
I'm sure lots of people have favorite spots where they can get away from the crowds---even in some of the busier parts of the Sierra. So I thought I would get the topic started with these notes. They're from our website on destinations...

And now for something really different. Do you want to find a quiet spot away from the crowds?

First of all, take just about any backpacking trip; particularly the ones that avoid the John Muir Trail and/or Half Dome. You'll be amazed at how few people you see. But there are some other, shorter hikes that will do the same thing...and some of them are right in the heart of Yosemite Valley!

Yosemite Meadows: Yep--so many people drive around the valley, and so few get out of their cars! We've had some delightful picnics by just taking one of ther trails (and to protect this fragile ecosystem, please only use the officla trails here) out into the center of the meadows and sitting down. It's really almost amusing to see the people standing near their cars, 1/2 a mile away, and yet we have the meadow to ourselves. A very relaxing, easy, and enjoyable way to get away from the crowds. No matter when you are in Yosemite, give yourself the pleasures of these meadows.


And if you are up a more energetic experience, try one or more for the hikes below. They are guaranteed to be beautiful, and you will leave far more than 99% of all the visitors to Yosemite Valley behind once you strike out on your own! But a word of warning--these are not for the faint of heart. And three of them have no official trail. If you get lost or hurt, you may not get rescued. If you don't have a good sense of direction, know how to use a topo map, and are comfortable with Class II and Class III climbing, these are NOT for you.

Snow Creek Falls: Do you want a hike out of Yosemite Valley that has almost no people on it, great views, and some exciting destinations at the end? Snow Creek Falls is the perfect trail--if you don't mind a very steep first few miles up out of the Valley. This trail leaves from the end of the Mirror Lake trail, and heads up the side of Tenaya Canyon opposite Half Dome. The views in the first mile are well worth the effort, as within a couple of hundred yards you are well above the trees, and can see up Tenaya Canyon, across to Half Dome and over to Glacier Point. From then on, it just gets higher and better. It does not get easier.

Those with good eyes (or binoculars) can clearly pick out the long lines of people working their way up the cables on Half Dome.

At the top, you find yourself up above the Valley, with Mt. Watkins a nearby destination, along with North Dome. You can camp along Snow Creek, and from here work your way along any number of trails, including one back down along the rim of the Valley past North Dome to Yosemite Falls. Or you can continue up, and connect with Tioga Road and the destinations beyond.
It's a tough climb. But it's well worth it. 6 miles straight up and straight down.

Tenaya Canyon: OK--we know. This one is NOT RECOMMENDED by the park staff. This is pretty rugged country, and in the spring, when Tenaya Creek is roaring, it might well be suicide. We've never even tried it then. But in September or October, when most of Tenaya Creek is dry, this is a great adventure.




We started at the bridge above Mirror Lake, where the trail crosses Tenaya Creek. You can see a trail on the left side of the creek as you stand on the bridge, looking upstream. That's because once, a long time ago, there was a trail here. Take the remains of that trail...and stay on the left side, no matter what happens. You will find cairns left by rockclimbers, but not enough to mark the trail well. And you will need to use your hands at times to clamber up some of the steeper spots. But once you get up into the canyon, it really is quite beautiful.

This is not a trail. It is not a hike for inexperienced hikers. But the photo above right shows Clouds Rest and the Quarter Domes from the Canyon.

Very cool.

Illilouette Canyon: This one is very similar to Tenaya Canyon, in that the rangers in the park will not recommend it. In fact, we know at least one person who was told that you need ropes and climbing gear to get here. You don't. You need arms and legs, and an indomitable will to plug away uphill through some dense brush and really big boulders. And you need to be smart, not stupid.
There is no trail. You start by the Happy Isles Nature Center, and follow the trail there up past the display about the rock falls, and into Illilouette Canyon. When you get to first bridge across the creek; stop. Don't cross the creek. There should be a huge water tank on your right. Turn right and go past the tank and keep climbing up the canyon, always staying to the right of the creek. There is no trail. It gets steep. It gets brushy and full of massive boulders. But you eventually get up above most of the trees, and at that point you have some great views of the back of Half Dome, and up Merced Canyon above Vernal Falls.


Illilouette Falls themselves are lovely, but that's not the real reason for this hike. The real reason is to get away from everyone in the Valley and see a part of Yosemite that very few people have ever seen.

It's only about three miles round trip, but we recommend at least three hours to make this scramble/trip. And be careful. There is plenty of evidence of bears in this area...and if you get hurt up here, it will be reallly hard to get you out of here. Be safe.


Ribbon Falls: Speaking of getting away from it all...there are people who rock climb all over Yosemite Valley, and they don't see many people at all! This "trail" is a use trail that was created by some of those climbers on their way to climb the Golden Wall--a section of granite just west of El Capitan. They've left a ducked route that you can follow, if you pay a lot of attention, and it goes just about straight up. This is a very steep trail, as these guys don't believe in switchbacks. They just go straight up the side of the canyon, and so do you if you follow them!

But it's easy to get started. As you drive west past El Capitan, look for road V9 that goes up off to the right. Sometimes you can drive up this--other times it might be closed. Either way, it's not far to the "trailhead." The road switchbacks twice, and just as you complete the second one (near a large woodpile) and head off on a long straight section going West, look for a small cairn on the righthand side of the road. That's it.

(By the way, this road is the old road into Yosemite from Big Oak Flat--and it does run for quite a while to the West of here. You won't meet many people on it, and if you work your way through the slides, it will take you all the way out to the new road into the park, many miles to the West. Another chance for a quiet hike in Yosemite Valley.)

From the cairn, follow the trail as it goes straight up to the base of the cliffs, and you will have climbed up about 1400 feet in about a mile. That's STEEP. It took us more than an hour to climb that mile. Good thing those cairns were sometimes hard to spot---because that gave us a chance to rest and look for them.

But once you get to the cliff, you can bushwhack your way to the right towards the creek...around the first huge boulder, then through the Califonria Bay trees. That will take you over to the foot of Ribbon Falls. It's only a hundred yards or so...and then you are out on a rocky slope underneath these towering cliffs, with a waterfall on one side. and the Valley and Cathedral Rocks all in clear view. Yowza!



Coming down is a LOT easier--but take your time. If you get hurt up here, it's no joke.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/2012 05:51PM by balzaccom.
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 03:35PM
Not to be too much of a Negative Nancy... but maybe, Yep, you should not condone so
much the "walking out into the middle of a meadow" within Yosemite Valley and
Tuolumne Meadows.
A few people walking across a meadow in the backcountry, prob. not that big of a deal.

Lots of info of meadows can be found here:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/meadows.htm

Something to think about perhops.

I'm guessing by your link section... that you not so much love this fore-arm.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 07:23PM
These types of trails are my favorite as well mainly because like you said you dont see as many people on them which is also why I dont post about them to often.
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 10:05PM
Quote
ryanmj

These types of trails are my favorite as well mainly because like you said you dont see as many people on them which is also why I dont post about them to often.


I doubt that posting about them and discussing them on this forum has any noticeably great impact on the popularity of these unofficial trails and routes. Just think about all the discussions and threads we've had on this board about Fern Ledge, Sunnyside Bench, Moran Point, Agassiz Column, Indian Canyon, and Inspiration Ridge. And yet if you hike around any of these places you'll nary see anyone else around.

On the other hand, if a major outdoor magazine like Backpacker publicized these not well-known routes or destinations, then I guarantee that you would witness a great influx of people around these spots.



Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 08:04PM
Fair comment, Chick-on...although there are TRAILS in those meadows. And people generally don't use them



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 09:51PM
Quote
balzaccom

Fair comment, Chick-on...although there are TRAILS in those meadows. And people generally don't use them

I think most of those meadow trails are unofficial social trails that the Park Service is trying to reduce if not eliminate, especially those located in El Cap Meadow. These trails and their impact on the meadows were mentioned in detailed in the new Merced River Plan scoping workbook.


avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 10:13PM
There are also signs right in the park about peoples impact on the meadows...
including "meadow restoration" signs and "meadow damage" signs.
Things got bad enough at one point they put boardwalks in Stoneman, Cooks,
and Sentinel.
That being said, last Nov. the wife and I followed a social trail in Leidig and
within minutes some turkeys on bikes came by... at which point we both
said "ok, that was a bad idea".

Cook's Meadow Boardwalk:


Anyway, not trying to bust your balls...

Have fun out there



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 08, 2012 10:42PM
Quote
chick-on

That being said, last Nov. the wife and I followed a social trail in Leidig and
within minutes some turkeys on bikes came by... at which point we both
said "ok, that was a bad idea".


I try real hard not to go on this type of social trails through the meadows or through other sensitive spots when there are a lot of casual tourists around, usually only cautiously venturing into these sensitive areas in the very early morning (before breakfast) or late in the day (after 7:00 PM in the spring and summer) when the casual tourist are at dinner or have retired for the evening to their campsites or lodging accommodations.

When the days are shorter it's a bit more of a challenged, especially on the weekends so I try to stay on official trails while in Yosemite Valley during those days just to avoid encouraging yokels like you encountered (riding a bike off-pavement) or others that might trample through a sensitive area unaware about the damage they can cause if they're not careful where they step.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/2012 01:16AM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 09, 2012 12:53AM
Mr. Balzaccom -

Your heart is in the right place... I don't want to bust your balls, step on your foot... but I don't like your Yosemite Meadows advice, either. I've seen your post on a few different forums this evening and I'm surprised nobody has commented on this elsewhere. I guess that makes us leaders.

Before you leave that on the public record, I'd encourage you to edit that section. Nothing personal, just out of respect for the ground we all stomp on.

NPS is making a concerted effort to preserve/restore a lot of meadows throughout the entire park, in all sorts of high-traffic areas, like re-routing the JMT around Upper Cathedral Lake, consolidating the use trails on the slopes of Mt. Hoffmann - I stumble across tons of examples. When you inject crowds of humans into a fragile eco-system, the result is compromise. They are doing a good job and we need to help them.

There's a time when it's fine to venture into the middle of the Valley meadows - in the winter, when they are covered with snow. Very picturesque, I relish that moment, which I still hope will arrive this winter. And sure, I've wandered into El Cap meadows to watch sunset fade on granite, but I try not to tear them up, I don't want to advertise it. You and I and most folks on this forum know where to draw the line, but don't take for granted our wilderness ethic is shared by the average google surfer.

There's a lovely little park bench in Ahwahnee Meadows a dozen feet from a sign that says "don't tear across the meadows." More than once, I've seen families park at Church Bowl, the kids jump out and tear across the meadows. When mom & dad stroll by, we exchange a friendly wave, I point at the sign and they put the kids back on their leashes. Sometimes they even discuss it. I return to my martini thinking I've done my little part - at least until tomorrow, when there's a CHP chopper parked there, poised to haul away some stupid rock climber.

Sometimes clues trump answers. 100 yards away you'll find the start of the Indian Canyon telephone trail. I had the luck to come across it via nothing more than a rest day, a similarly bored partner, some scant information and rumor. What a surprise, it amazed me. Took some photos and some geezer stuck them on the Taco. I said, yeah, those are my shots, and gave a little info. Want more? They said, no that's enough, preserve a little mystery, thank you. That discussion has popped up a couple of times here and there since then, which makes me somewhat wary. But if an AT&T lineman can hike it - all the way to the Tioga Road, I presume? - heck, I guess it's no biggie.

I'm not disputing your factual information. You are 100% correct: Snow Creek is the best trail out of the Valley. Particularly due to the lack of crowds. Plus more, but these days I'm leaning towards keeping it on the quiet tip since I don't want to ruin it.

This Internet thing, it's a two-headed monster, I tell ya.

Happy trails - or the lack thereof - how ever you choose it - happy new year,

-Joe
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 09, 2012 06:20AM
Thanks Joe,
You said it much more eloquently that I ever could.

Here's a link to a short discussion about Lukens and Upper Cathedral and meadow trails:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,46292,46611#msg-46611

And another huge candidate is Westfall. The trail goes right smack-a-dab-a-doo thru
the middle of that gem.

I love meadows... my favorite in the park is Rodgers.

Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 09, 2012 03:42PM
Quote
QITNL
when there's a CHP chopper parked there, poised to haul away some stupid rock climber.


Most of the people that go out on the chopper are not climbers, or even patients with trauma injuries, but 'medicals', ie people with heart attacks, s/s of stroke, etc.

And if a climber is injured, it is no reason to call them stupid.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/2012 03:43PM by buster.
avatar Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 09, 2012 07:17PM
I'm sorry, I was just joking. I consider myself a stupid climber and make fun of other climbers a lot. The fewer calls we make to YOSAR the better, I sure hope I'll never have to call them myself.

And thanks balzaccom, I know where you are coming from, I just figure it's better to err on the side of prudence.
Re: Some ideas for Yosemite Valley...many of which came from these boards!
January 09, 2012 05:52PM
OK guys--post OFFICIALLY EDITED to insist that people stay on the OFFICIAL TRAILS in the meadows.

To clarify our own hike---we were actualy on the trail to Sentinel Beach when we had our picnic...and the Valley to ourselves.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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