Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

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Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by maiathebee » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:44 pm

I'm planning a trip leaving Aug 4 from Mammoth to Tuolumne. I was going to spend more time around Cecile/Iceberg/Nydiver but given the snowpack (Nydiver lakes still frozen!), I'm going to stay on trail longer in Ansel Adams and do some xc in Yosemite instead. After Donahue, I'll head down Lyell Canyon before cutting up to Evelyn Lake, or maybe around to Vogelsang since the camps are closed this year. I'm trying to decide what to do after that with the last part of the trip.

I think I'd like to bag Johnson Peak, and was thinking of spending my last night at the small lakes southwest of the peak, but I read on here camping is not allowed there. I'm having a hard time getting that from the official Yosemite wilderness rules webpage:
No Camping Zones

Camping in the Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley area is permitted only in the Little Yosemite Valley Campground. Camping is not permitted between Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley. If you would like to camp in a dispersed Wilderness setting, you must be at least two miles beyond the Little Yosemite Valley campground (at or beyond Moraine Dome or beyond the Half Dome/John Muir Trail junction). Camping is not permitted on top of Half Dome or at Lost Lake.

Camping is permitted at backpackers' campgrounds near Glen Aulin, May Lake, Sunrise, Merced Lake, and Vogelsang High Sierra Camps. Each campground contains food lockers and group fire rings (fires are not permitted at Vogelsang). When the High Sierra Camps are open, composting toilets and potable water are also available. All other camping should be away from each HSC.

You must camp at least four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Hetch Hetchy, and Wawona, and at least one air mile from any road. The trailheads map (1.5 mb PDF) shows minimum legal camping distances for each trail (beyond the arrows).

Camping is also not permitted in the:
  • Parker Pass Creek watershed
  • Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River watershed
  • Gaylor Creek watershed
  • Lukens Lake
  • Budd Creek watershed
  • The top of Half Dome
  • Within 100 feet of a trail, flowing stream, river or any body of water, unless designated,and as follows:
  • Camping is permitted within 100 feet of a stream, trail or body of water provided that a well established campsite exists and terrain permits no other options. In no case will camping be permitted within 25 feet of a stream, trail or body of water.
  • Below the high water line at both Lake Eleanor and Hetch Hetchy
It seems to me that these Johnson Lakes are more than 4 trail miles from Tuolumne. They are beyond the orange arrow on Rafferty, or about 4 miles combining the Elizabeth Lake trail with xc. They are not in the Budd Creek watershed explicitly listed as prohibited. They are obviously over 1 air mile from a road.

Help?

I also would love any advice you have about the best route up from Rafferty to the saddle south of Johnson. I see a few reasonable-looking options from looking at maps and satellite imagery, but of course first hand reports and advice are better! Could contour north from (what I think is called) Tuolumne Pass, or follow Rafferty farther north before cutting west and up towards the Reymann saddle, then north, or follow Rafferty even farther and head west along one of the creeks draining from Johnson, or...? I'd prefer a route that has minimal bushwhacking and dense vegetation.

I guess also I could skip Johnson Peak and instead head to Reymann / Nelson, and up Echo to exit to Elizabeth that way, spending my last night somewhere south of the crest. Or maybe if the weather is nice I can find a slab and a snowmelt trickle near the saddle....

What would you do? I've been lower in the Echo drainage a couple times, and through Rafferty to Emeric and south, but not higher up / farther north.


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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:01 pm

If you go on trail to Elizabeth Lake and then up the drainage to the most southerly lake below Johnson Peak, it is 3.5 miles. Honestly, nobody is going to be up there and you could argue that the zig-zag required to get up the drainage adds 0.5 miles. Close enough in my book. The question: is this shortest route the beat route? I would say no. Easier to go up Rafferty and over the broad saddle south of the peak. That also would be well more than 4 "trail miles".

I have gone from Rafferty Creek over the saddle to Raymon Lake on my way to Nelson Lake. Nelson Lake would be quite boggy this year (mosquito hell). I cannot recall much about Raymon Lake. I did this trip late fall when it was very dry. I have a photo, but have to make it smaller. I will add it soon.

Here are photos of Raymon Lake and Nelson Lake (much prettier lake). It was 2012 and very dry that year.
IMG_4601_RaymondLk_small.jpg
IMG_4630_NelsonLk_small.jpg
How about going up to Volgasang Lake and climb Vogalsang Peak? Townsley Lake is very nice. Matthes Lake is one of my favorite. I have climbed Matthes Crest. I went from Nelson Lake to Matthes Lake - kind or tricky travel. Then out to Tuolumne via Cathedral Lake.
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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by bobby49 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:19 pm

I've camped at every one of the lakes mentioned here. They are all good. However, you may need to move upslope a little to get away from the mosquitos. Reymann Lake is my favorite, and since there is no real trail to get there, it is not visited that much.

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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by maiathebee » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:30 pm

Here's the thread where people mentioned it's not allowed: http://highsierratopix.com/community/vi ... 616#p27616
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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by druid » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:41 pm

I was told when I picked up my Nelson Lake permit a few years ago that you had to be over the crest before camping. Here a few other unofficial references:
https://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,51455,51489 (see vdrummer post)
https://www.summitpost.org/johnson-peak-yosemite/869498

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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by maiathebee » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:54 pm

druid wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:41 pm
I was told when I picked up my Nelson Lake permit a few years ago that you had to be over the crest before camping. Here a few other unofficial references:
https://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,51455,51489 (see vdrummer post)
https://www.summitpost.org/johnson-peak-yosemite/869498
The summitpost link just references Elizabeth Lake, not the "Johnson Lakes" which are the three small tarns at 10,500ft southwest of the peak. It's weird that people reference rangers giving them info on going over the crest even though none of that advice is mentioned online. Also, all those posts are 7 to 11 years old, but then again how likely is it that the restrictions are *more* lenient now haha.

I suppose I could feign innocence of that ranger rule saying to go over the crest, since my permit will be issued by INYO and all official Yose online info does not say anything prohibiting those lakes. The list of prohibited areas does not say "Elizabeth Lake drainage", there's no trail to the lakes I talk about so "trail miles" are not relevant, and the lakes are over 1 air mile from a road.

I guess I'll just go there and see what I feel like doing!
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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:14 pm

Reymann and Nelson ARE both "over the crest". But seriously, no ranger is going up to those lakes south of Johnson Peak. You could easily climb Johnson Peak from Reymann Lake. If you go in up Rafferty Creek, a response to a ranger would be "but I DID go over a crest", because you actually do go over the "crest" west of Rafferty Creek. Camping is also legal on Rafferty Creek once you pass the 9400 contour line.

I camped at Budd Lake once late season in October and had no idea it was not allowed. That late in the season, I never saw a ranger anywhere.

Bobby, can you see the impressive cliffs SE of Nelson Lake from Reymann Lake? I cannot remember since I just walked through and on down to Nelson Lake. The photo I show looks back up to the pass I came over, not towards Nelson Lake.

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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by wildhiker » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:12 pm

Hi Maia,

The x-c route from Tuolumne Pass to Reymann Lake and then on to Nelson Lake (where you pick up a good use trail back to Tuolumne Meadows) is all easy class 1 walking on slabs, dirt, and meadow, except for just a bit of talus before the pass over to Reymann Lake. Just head from Tuolumne Pass NW to the broad saddle and then contour up the slope from there. I haven't climbed Johnson Peak, but I think it is easy from the little valley just east of the pass over to Reymann Lake.

I've been through this area 5 times in the last 25 years. Nelson Lake is one of my favorite campsites with reliably good alpenglow on that big cliff to the SE. I've camped at Reymann Lake also, but it didn't seem very impressive. Both lakes are bordered by wet meadows, so you may need to move upslope to get away from the bugs.

You don't say how long you are planning for the segment from Donohue Pass to Evelyn Lake. It sounds like you are planning to use the JMT and then the Ireland Lake trail. If you are planning a night's camp somewhere in there, then I suggest you consider a x-c alternative, leaving the JMT just below the little tarn about 1.5 miles down from Donohue Pass, camping in the Maclure Creek drainage, and then continuing over the pass south of Amelia Earhart Peak down to Ireland Lake and then x-c over the broad saddle south of point 11,100 to Townsley Lake. This is all pretty easy, mostly class 1, no more difficult than the Tablelands you reported on a year or two ago. PM me if you'd like a map of the x-c routes. I've been through that area x-c at least 4 times - once with my kids ages 7 to 12.

I'm likely taking my daughter and her new husband (novice backpacker) into Nelson Lake on Aug 9 and then over the x-c route to Fletcher Lake Aug 10 and then back out Rafferty Creek on Aug 11.

-Phil

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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by SSSdave » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:45 am

Most of the Elizabeth Lake and Budd Lake basins have been no camping areas for decades because otherwise it would be abused by many people below in the public campground. I've backpacked up to the northeast side of Johnson Peak where the no camping boundary line lays. I wish Yosemite would put their backcountry camping zone maps online that shows where siting camps is legal or not. Those maps are available in binders at all their backcountry offices because they use them in their trailhead use zone quota process and that includes the Tuolumne Meadows office. Would advise backpackers, especially those that crosscountry, to take photos of all those maps with their smartphones.

The below is an old blurry image of that map area I shot. (Help by also bringing up the caltopo map.) Notice the boundary line cuts across just below the small pond northeast of the peak and also does not include the small no name ponds southwest of the peak. Note Rafferty Creek is a most mosquitoey zone in peak mosquito season with many small pools of standing water that are not on maps. Note the dark green is their no camping zones while olive green the usual USGS indication of forestation however in spots looks the same. The darker line that crosses RC extents straight across west where it looks olive.

yos-map4.jpg
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Re: Elizabeth / Johnson Yosemite camping rules Q

Post by c9h13no3 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:07 am

Just send it.
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