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Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:00 am
by moonbeanjo
Hi, I'm looking for advice for a relatively easy out and back trip the weekend after Labor Day. I've spent some time in the Sierras, but want to check out the Eastern Sierras.

I've been on many short backpacking trips, mostly on trails, but I hurt my knee a few years ago (on the descent to 4th of July Lake) and re-injure it if I do too much steep downhill. Since I love small, clear, alpine lakes with privacy and mountain views (and late season wildflowers), that means my plan is usually to drive up as high as I can to start with and then hopefully hike in not super far (maybe 5-7 miles out and back) without too much elevation gain (easy to moderate). Ideally we'd be bringing a dog.

Coming from the Bay Area, it's probably easier for us to get somewhere further north (closer to Bridgeport than to Mammoth), though all the trails I'm seeing around John Muir Wilderness look tempting (Long Lake, Blue Lake from Lake Sabrina), so if anyone was really convincing, we could probably drive the extra hour or so. =) The plan would be to drive there Friday, car camp somewhere overnight (at least a little time to acclimate), hike in Saturday, day hike from basecamp Sunday, and hike out Monday. One place I've run across is 20 Lakes Basin, though I wasn't clear on whether the camping was great there and whether there's a trail that's on the easier/shorter side. Other lakes I've run into are Frog Lakes/Virginia Lakes Basin, Gaylor Lakes, Summit Lake, Barney Lake and Green Lake, but I'm not sure about camping. I can do a little cross-country. Thanks in advance for your advice!

Joanna

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:02 am
by davidsheridan
I like your Blue Lake base camp idea and then further daytime Sabrina Basin.

A others good base camp would be Humphreys Basin from North Lake.

If you are really looking for an easier trip. Little Lakes Valley has big views with little effort

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:12 am
by moonbeanjo
Thanks, David, I appreciate the suggestions, especially the extra easy option! These are all a little far south for us but still possible if we're up for a really long last day driving back. I don't really know the Eastern Sierras (hence the trip) - do you think the more southern parts have more options, or more beautiful or unique terrain?

Joanna

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:13 am
by c9h13no3
moonbeanjo wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:00 am
but I'm not sure about camping.
This sort of request always puzzles me. You're backpacking, unless there's restrictions, just flop down on flat ground? Maybe in late September, you want to stay away from high ridges & cold canyon bottoms, but other than that... You have a group of 10 or a 6 person tent you're carrying?

If you're looking for the stereotypical big mountain views, everything out of the Annett's Mono Village is great, and it's probably the closest legit High Sierra type scenery to the Bay Area at ~4 hrs drive. Barney lake lives up to the hype, and the Robinson Lakes further up the trail are nice too. If you don't have lake-itis, I found the Horse Creek Canyon up towards Matterhorn equally beautiful.

The Ediza-Minaret-Garnet-Thousand Island lake area in the Ansel Adams is also fantastic and closer to us here in the Bay. Minaret Lake is 7 miles/2500 feet of gain one way. And little lakes valley is hard to beat for scenery to effort ratio, but you certainly won't be alone.

Course, I usually day hike if I've only got 1 night. I find the extra speed I gain by shedding all the overnight gear allows me to go farther & see more on 2 day hikes than I can backpacking if it's only an overnight. But I'm young, and my knees are good, so YMMV.

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:05 pm
by balzaccom
We have trip reports on just about all of those destinations on our website (in my signature line). No Camping allowed at Gaylor Lakes...

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:11 pm
by c9h13no3
balzaccom wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:05 pm
No Camping allowed at Gaylor Lakes...
Or within a quarter mile of Barney Lake...

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:50 am
by balzaccom
Good point! And that climb up to Peeler Lake can be a struggle late in the day...

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:47 pm
by wildhiker
Moonbeanjo, if you really want to avoid a lot of downhill, I think you should try the 20 Lakes Basin behind Saddlebag Lake, just east of Tioga Pass. Elevation changes are minimal, the trails are gentle and cross-country is easy. Yet, it has classic big mountain scenery from the Sierra Crest that bounds the basin. It's just the right amount for one or two nights.
-Phil

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Sun Aug 18, 2019 10:28 pm
by moonbeanjo
Thanks, everyone! I'll present these options to my partner and report back on how it all goes. =)

Re: Early September easy 1-2 night Eastern Sierras?

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:19 pm
by moonbeanjo
Hi everyone,

Thanks for the advice! We ended up going to 20 Lakes Basin. Had nearly settled on Sabrina, but weren't able to get a permit, and the rangers we spoke to at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center said it was a toss-up between whether 20 Lakes Basin or Little Lakes Valley would be better for us, but we'd probably see less day use in 20 Lakes Basin.

Gorgeous trip! We were pretty cold the first night (warm enough for comfort, but not enough to stay outside the tent and enjoy the evening), and after a long day of wandering around in the basin near Cascade Lake (where we camped), we ended up hiking out at sunset the second night, which was beautiful (with a nearly full moon to guide us). Between the gentle hike, my hiking poles, and compression sleeves, my knees did just fine. I hope to visit some of the other recommended locations in the future. It was my first backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras, and I was blown away by how stunning it was.

Joanna