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Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27

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TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 08, 2013 12:59PM
Gorgeous trip up the Merced River Valley over Memorial Weekend!

Had never been to the valley in the summer avoiding the crowds and "traffic jam" I had heard about. Pleasantly surprised by how peaceful it was - no problem getting in Friday afternoon (no traffic and minimal crowds). Stayed at the Backpacker's campground in North Pines on Friday, met other backpackers and shared stories of trips in the Sierras.

On Saturday morning, got a not so early start out of Happy Isles. First time up the Mist Trail seeing Vernal and Nevada Falls up close... Nice! I understand why it attracts so many visitors... Spectacular scenery all around! Backpacking up the steps was strenuous, but not really difficult. The main challenge was navigating the narrow steps just before reaching Vernal as it was quite crowded on Saturday up the Mist trail. After the climb, we started losing the crowds the further we went, specially after passing Little Yosemite Valley. Note: Even though the rangers and website said the JMT was closed due to a rockslide, there was no sign on the trail and people were getting through without problems.

Ended finding a great camping spot near the Bunnell Cascades in a small grove (redwoods?) that provided nice shelter and shade, and a good spots for a hammock as well as a couple of tents. On Sunday, went up River to the most scenic part of the trip IMHO. Just after Bunnell Cascades: the granite, roaring river and the view of the snow capped mountains as we climbed up the switchbacks was breathtaking. Explored our way past Echo Valley, but stopped short of Merced Lake before making our way back to camp for some afternoon relaxation by the river.

Sunday, made good time back down the Mist Trail, and was able to take in the views a second time. Got to the cars an hour before the rain started. Great weather all trip!

Minimal DEET needed for the trip. Moderate mosquitoes in Little Yosemite Valley, but no problems other than that.

Thanks again for the discussion planning the trip earlier. Have two more trips planned this year: Rae Lakes Loop and Ten Lakes!


Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 08, 2013 01:05PM
Beautiful photos. I remember a lunch stop at the spot in Photo #8. There's a nice little pool there for wading and a flat spot for relaxing.
avatar Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 08, 2013 01:13PM
Thanks for the report and the pics. I liked the snake shot especially. One of the Scarlet Kingsnakes I think, though not the exact species or subspecies shown here.

I'm pretty sure the JMT was closed completely for a while after the slide but the announcement (Current Conditions) now says:


The John Muir Trail is closed below Nevada Fall to stock use until approximately mid-June.

Sounds like it's open to hikers and almost ready to open to stock.
Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 08, 2013 02:38PM
The snake was a colorful surprise. Was hiding beneath a large flat rock I was resting on. Looked it up after the trip to ensure it was indeed not venomous. NPS says it is a docile Sierra Mountain Kingsnake.
avatar Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 09, 2013 05:03PM
Lovely photos! Lots of granite and beautiful water, it looks like an amazing time. The snake is gorgeous too. The only time I've seen one I was unsure whether it was venomous or not, so I left it alone. Next time I'll be ready for some 'catch and release' so I can appreciate it up close and personal.
Re: TR: Merced River Canyon May 25 -27
June 09, 2013 05:20PM
I saw a similar Kingsnake (or so I think it was) swimming in Dog Lake. Quite fascinating -- I had never seen a snake swimming.
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