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Re: Merced Lake Route?

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Merced Lake Route?
March 24, 2013 06:00AM
Hi somewhat new to backpacking after a zillion day hikes and wanted to ask for a recommendation. Have never been to Merced Lake and was thinking of two options (taking hikes slow to relax and see the sights), one more high country/less crowded. Would be in July. 1) Merced Lake from Happy Isles; first night probably just past LYValley as I hear it is crowded (any recommended camping spots?); 2nd night at Merced Lake; return 3rd night near LYValley and then down. 2) Merced Lake starting from Tuolmne. First night at Vogelsang (any recommended camping spots?); 2nd at Merced Lake; 3rd night back up to Vogelsang and then back to car in Tuolmne.

Could also start in Tuolmne and come all the way down to Happy Isles (hitting Vogelsang, Merced, LYValley then to Happy Isles) but not sure how I would get back to my car up there since I will be solo. Also know three are some side trails to various lakes so if you recommend any detours along the way could do that too! Also curious on night time temps in the high country (3 seasons down bag good enough; any special gear I would need - water crossings an issue?)

Thanks for any advice or thoughts. This is a great forum and some great knowledgeable people here!

Ted
Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 24, 2013 01:14PM
I would suggest starting from Tuolumne Meadows and either hiking to the valley or back to Tuolumne. Getting permits from Happy Isles to Merced Lake will be difficult as you will be competing with all the JMT hikers. All reserved permits are long gone so you will need to get a first come first served permit. To realistically get one of those for Happy Isles you have to be at the permit station early, like 6 AM or earlier, the day before. Rafferty Creek to Vogelsang, the trailhead you want to take from Tuolumne, isn't quite as popular but still popular so you will need to get a FCFS permit for that too. The best place to get that permit is in Tuolumne as people waiting in line at the Tuolumne station have priority over anyone waiting at other stations. More logistic stuff: There are two daily buses in summer that go from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne, they leave at ~8 AM and at 5 PM and from Tuolumne to the valley ~9AM and ~2PM. Additionally there is a backpacker’s campground both in Tuolumne and in the Valley you can stay at the night prior or the night after that is just for people with wilderness permits. So you can park your car in either the valley or Tuolumne, camp at either location and take a bus between both of them.

So for hiking, From Tuolumne to Merced Lake you have a couple of options. 1) Hike all the way to the valley. 2) Hike to ML back to TM same way. 3) Hike to ML via Vogelsang and come back via Cathedral Lakes (you could also enter via cathedral and hike out via vogelsang). From TM to vogelsang you have a steady climb from 8,600 ft to 10,000 ft. Merced Lake is 7,000 ft and the valley at 4,000, with most of that drop from Nevada Falls to the valley. So hiking to the valley will be a lot of downhill but the Merced River canyon is beautiful with a series of cascades. There are two ways from Vogelsang to Merced Lake so you can go down one and up the other. Vogelsang Pass is a bit longer and more of a climb but has some wonderful views. If you go from Merced Lake to Cathedral Lakes you hike up echo creek, which is a steady climb (you can't escape the elevation gain) but not quite as steep as coming up from Vogelsang. This way is a little bit longer but you will see something different and go past cathedral pass and cathedral lakes. (There is a free Tuolumne shuttle that will take you back to your starting point) Any of the options you take will be wonderful, it just depends on what you want to see, how far you want to hike and if you want to minimize going up or down.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/24/2013 01:39PM by buster.
Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 24, 2013 02:14PM
Thanks Great advice and much appreciated. noticed permits were all gone on Yosemites website so will definitely do the get in line approach. Looking forward to this one!

Ted
avatar Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 24, 2013 01:14PM
Quote
Tedbay
Could also start in Tuolmne and come all the way down to Happy Isles (hitting Vogelsang, Merced, LYValley then to Happy Isles) but not sure how I would get back to my car up there since I will be solo.

You can get back to Tuolumne by taking the YARTS bus.
avatar Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 25, 2013 10:19AM
Ted,
If you can get it I would highly recommend doing the Vogelsang, Merced, Yos Val route. The last leg of this can be done in one day if desired; it's a long ways but essentially all downhill. Take the previously mentioned Yarts bus at 5:00PM back to Toulumne Meadows. Or, you can spend another night at LYV and really take your time the last day (it's a long time till 5:00PM). There are two routes from Vogelsang to Merced. I would recommend going over Vogelsang Pass and down the Lewis Creek trail. This affords an opportunity to do the small detour to Bernice Lake which, believe me, is well worth it.

I would also recommend calling the permit office right now to find out if by chance any advanced reservations are still available for the Rafferty Creek trail. Since it's 4th of July weekend there are probably no openings avaialble but you never know. It's worth a call. Others have recommended the Cathedral trail all the way to Merced. That is not only a very long haul for your first day, that trail is even more difficult to get a permit for than Rafferty Creek. Another very long first day trail option (shorter than Cathedral) is the Sunrise trail from the foot of Tenaya Lake. You take this one towards Clouds Rest and then down across the John Muir trail in a convoluted criss-cross route to Echo Valley before getting to Merced.

You mentioned camping sites. Vogelsang, Merced lake, and LYV all have designated camping areas specifically for backbackers which include composting toilets and bear boxes. The Merced Lake HSC also has showers you are entitled to use. The showers are over near the expensive High Sierra Camp tent cabins.

If, in the end you have no choice but to stand in line at the permit office then get there early because the line forms early. Some annoying people even camp out on the porch even though it's prohibited. I must really empahsize that since you are tackling this on a holiday weekend you may have to be very very flexible reagarding trail options and may likely end up going someplace entirely different than what you hoped for. That's the nature of holiday weekends. Do both yourself and everybody else waiting in line a favor by having a multitude of alternative hikes already prepared in your mind so you don't have to waste other people's time waiting in line behind you while you ponder different possibilities. If there is any way feasible to revise your trip plans I would highly recommend trying to hit the trails the middle of the week prior to the 4th or middle of the full week after the 4th. This will open many more possibilities for you. Again, try the advanced reservation phone line to find out is someting is available by reservation. In any event, we have a saying amoungst us. Wherever you end up hiking, it's all good!
Jimthumbs up


Jim



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/25/2013 10:28AM by tomdisco.
Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 25, 2013 11:45AM
Quote
tomdisco
... The Merced Lake HSC also has showers you are entitled to use. The showers are over near the expensive High Sierra Camp tent cabins.

In the past, the HSC showers were for registered camp guests, not backpackers... has this changed?
avatar Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 29, 2013 09:00AM
Quote
basilbop
Quote
tomdisco
... The Merced Lake HSC also has showers you are entitled to use. The showers are over near the expensive High Sierra Camp tent cabins.

In the past, the HSC showers were for registered camp guests, not backpackers... has this changed?

When I was at Merced HSC 3 years ago I wondered about that myself and asked them. They told me it was O.K.; they had no problem with it at all. It's possible they simply made an exception because I asked. At the time I was participating in their Meals Only Plan for backpackers but did not mention that when I asked if using the showers was O.K for backpackers. I'm on Merced's Meals Only Plan again this coming September and fully plan to take advantage of the showers again. I'll ask for clarification when I'm there,---after I take my shower.winking smiley
Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 28, 2013 04:58AM
Jim, THANKS! will definitely plan this route exactly as outlined. will shift time and appreciate ideas on permit. excited for this one when summer hits! thanks again.

Ted
Re: Merced Lake Route?
March 31, 2013 11:04AM
Quote
Tedbay
Hi somewhat new to backpacking after a zillion day hikes and wanted to ask for a recommendation. Have never been to Merced Lake and was thinking of two options (taking hikes slow to relax and see the sights), one more high country/less crowded.
Ted
Ted, just wanted to weigh in with a recommendation to keep your pack weight down as much as possible and spend some time getting acclimated to elevation before tackling these trails, perhaps some day hikes around Tuolomne Meadows. People tend to underestimate the effect of hiking uphill at elevation with a backpack. It's a big difference from carrying a day pack. You'll also need a bear canister, which adds another 2lbs+ which can be rented at the permit station. They do have bear boxes at these HSCamps, but they can fill up, it locks you into camping near them, and I don't think you can count on them. Also, be prepared for mosquitoes in early July. I would bring a mesh head net and strong DEET mostly for my clothes, bandana, hat etc. They can really swarm at Vogelsang and Merced that time of year. The tradeoff for early season hiking is seeing more snow on the mountains and a little longer days, which is worth it in my opinion. This has been a less than average snow year, so early season hiking should be ideal.

As to trail selection, I concur with doing the one-way hike from TM to HI. You can't go wrong with any of the various options. Try to do a trial backpack trip or day hikes with your full pack on climbing some tough trails to train and to better gauge your comfort level for mileage.
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