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Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:02 pm
by amigo
Hello all. This is my first post here. I'm looking for suggestions and advice.

My friend and I are planning a 2-week trip to California. Not sure if this is too much, but tentative itinerary might be something like:

San Fran -> Yosemite -> drive down the 395 -> cross westwards and up to Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP -> cross to coast and up back to San Fran

We hope to spend about 3/4 of the time in the Sierra Nevada region (the rest along the coast and San Fran). Is early September already cold at night in the higher elevations? We were thinking perhaps going in July/August timeframe. Not sure how cold it gets at nights in the higher elevations then. Don't want to have to bring cold-weather sleeping bags if we can avoid it.

It seems there's an almost endless amout of awesome hikes in this region. However, this being our first time, we'd like to get a good variety of hikes in the different regions. We'll probably do mostly day hikes but perhaps two or three one or multi-night backpack trips. Two that are really hitting my fancy are Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon NP and, of course, Half Dome. I realize Half Dome can potentially have alot of people but I think we're prepared to put up with some of that nonsense in order to appreciate the spectacular views and grandeur of that place. Guess I'd be a little disappointed if I didn't hike Half Dome if I went to the trouble of planning a trip out there. Living in the east, that opportunity doesn't present itself very often.

Would it be recommended to take a shuttle from Yosemite Valley early morning to Tenaya Lake and hike to Clouds Rest, camp somewhere overnight and get an early start up Half Dome, then head back to the Valley? Would like to avoid the crowds going up the chains. Not sure if the Four MIle/Panorama trail to Half Dome is a more satisfactory hike than the Clouds Rest option. Opinions?

I'd like to also do another hike (one-nighter) in the Tolumne Meadows area. How does the JMT/Vogelsang loop compare with others? I hear Cathedral Lakes is amazing but that it's a popular place for bears. Thoughts?

What's a reasonable/average number of days required to do Rae Lakes loop? How the heck does one backpack with a bear-proof barrel and a pack-sack at the same time? Do people usually stuff the barrel in their packs along with the rest of their supplies? Not sure how big these barrels are.

Any spectacular hikes in the Mammoth Lakes area? How about Sequoia NP?

Any other suggestions/advice would be highly appreciated. We want this to be a very memorable trip of a lifetime. I just can't wait!

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:06 pm
by maverick
Hi Amigo, and welcome to HST.
At the top there is a "rules for requesting trip advice" section which will help us
narrow down the trips to recommending according to your abilities, and desires
which do not all mean the same thing.
Like how many miles a day, how much experience do the both of you have, can
you handle heights (Half Dome) for example.

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:23 pm
by amigo
Sorry, I should have mentioned my experience. My friend and I do hiking in the Adirondack High Peaks area and White Mountains of NH a few times a year. We have done backpacking before but mostly day hikes, as much as 10-13 miles a day. Last spring, we hiked the West Rim trail + Angel's Landing in Zion NP in one day (approx 16-17 miles). We also hiked down the South Kaibab and up the Bright Angel trails in the Grand Canyon in one day. I admit - I was wasted at the end but I did it. So, consider us intermediate hikers and in relatively good shape. We're in our 40's.

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:28 pm
by amigo
To be more specific, experience would be level 2/3 and interested in scenery (lakes, forests, mountains, photography). We also tend to prefer uncrowded places.

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:43 pm
by maverick
I see you have your heart set on Half Dome, but you will understand why Clouds Rest
has the best views in the park!
Be sure that neither of you have problem with heights, coming down the cables with a
very steep drop off is not a place you what to freeze up, also do not attempt to climb
Half Dome in rainy, or worse with thunderheads in the area, you do not want to slip
as a man did last year and died, or become a lightening rod.
From Clouds Rest you can hike down to the Sunrise(JMT) junction where there are
numerous spots to camp, I especially like the campsite which is located a few hundred
yards to the north of the junction, after crossing the creek there is a faint trail to your
right(east) down to a good size clearing between some trees close to the creek.
If you decided to camp here you would need a bear canister, but you would get some
solitude, if you would rather not carry the canister than you would have to hike down
to Little Yosemite Valley camp area where there is a bear box provided, which allows
you to place all your food and scented items in them.
The problem with LYV is it can be a zoo sometimes, and gets raided by bears, which can
be annoying in the middle of the night.
The previous campsite recommendation is also better because you do not have to
descend several miles and then hike up again in the morning.
Instead of hiking up Lyell which is nice I would do 2 nights in the Ansel Adams Wilderness
out of Mammoth.
It is probably the prettiest range in the Sierra with the easiest access into it.
I would recommend one night at Minaret Lake, and one at Lake Ediza, and if you
could add one more than Thousand Is Lake.
You will need a bear canister for this trip also, Thousand Is Lakes is a big bear problem
This will be the highlight of your trip, though Kings Canyon and Sequioa(SEKI NP) to me
is the best it envolves a lot of hiking trail and cross-country to see the best parts.
The Rae Lake Loop is pretty and 40+ miles long with a pass called Glen Pass.
Go clock wise which will allow you acclimate before reaching the pass.
I would recommend one might in Paradise Valley, one at Woods Creek Crossing, one
at Rae Lakes(2 if possible), one at Junction Meadow or Charlotte Creek and back
to Roads End.
Bear boxes are available at each one of these campsite so you will not need a bear
canister for this one.
End of July and August especially with this years El Nino will probably be busy since
access into the highcountry will be difficult with a lot of lingering snow.
Sept usually is quiter with most of the folks gone, but so are the flowers, and the
smaller streams have dried up which can make finding water still not a problem
but you may have to carry more till the next lake or creek.
There are numerous hiking opps while driving down 395 after your visit to Mammoth
Lakes region.
Several hikes out of Bishop, starting at North, South, and Lake Sabrina offer day hikes
to some beautiful lakes and intimate views of the Sierra Crest.
Big Pine leads to hikes which visit beautiful emerald colored lakes that are glacier
fed and worth the visit.
Little Lakes Valley from Rock Creek is a short easy hike to a beautiful valley that should
not be missed.
Then there is the Whitney Region with Mount Whitney the tallest mountain in the lower
48 states.
There are numerous trip reports you can google so you can get ideals and pictures of
the areas I mention.
Don't forget to write a trip report with pic's, and if you have any more questions please

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:24 pm
by markskor
All good advice from Mav...indeed, he has been there.

Must advise though, hiking at altitude (~10,000) in our Sierra can be a bit different from your relatively low but still-strenuous background hikes mentioned. Lack of acclimation and/or the first few days having trouble catching one's breath has put a crimp in the best laid plans of many.
7 miles feels more like 10, and it would be a shame not to have the free camp time to experience the backcountry Sierra, spending all your time walking with a headache.
If it were me, I would do the Tenaya - Sunrise Lakes - Clouds Rest/ HD - LYV trip with 2 nights camping...(Sunrise Lake #2 and Morraine Dome Waterslide) before descending the Mist to the Valley.
So add in two nights, one at each of the two backpacker camps ($5/pp - no reservation needed -one night only - Wilderness permit required) in Tuolumne and the Valley, with easy Yarts/ Hiker Shuttle bus connectors, that would give you 4 nights total in Yosemite...and enough time to stop and smell the Dogwoods.

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:50 pm
by amigo
Thanks for the heads-up on the altitude issue and for the very good suggestions. Alot to think about. Can one camp anywhere or must it be at an official campsite?

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:05 pm
by rlown

Within Yose, check out the permit availability site at" onclick=";return false;

They go fast for the popular areas, so best to get your permit in place if you choose somewhere in Yose. There are "walk-in" availabilities, but if you get there on a popular day, you might have to wait/waste a day getting your permit. In particular, check out the "check availability" link at ... ddates.htm" onclick=";return false;

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 3:15 pm
by maverick
Ah yes I planned on mentioning the altitude issue, but since Markskor all ready
mentioned this, the second issue is getting into shape.
This not only regular exercise but backpacking ready shape.
Since you did not mention any major backpacking trip experience, only day hikes
you should start hiking with a pack and increase the weight by 5 lbs every 2 weeks
till you reach the weight you'll be carrying on your trips.
This will make you trip a lot more enjoyable, otherwise you will be physically beat
by the end of the day which will take a lot away from your experience.
Hiking poles are something to consider so you spare your knees and give you better
A 20 degree bag should be fine.

Re: Planning trip - suggestions

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 3:44 pm
by amigo
I've done a little backpacking but not alot. In reading some sites, it seems that any backcountry camping in Yosemite requires reserving permits many months in advance. Always an annoying task as we don't always know exactly when we're going until a few short months prior when we decide to book a flight at a decent price. Prices change often these days.

I did read that one can get first-come-first-serve wilderness permits one day prior - are there usually hordes of people waiting for these in August, even mid-week?

I'm still unclear as to what the rules are for wilderness camping? Once you have reserved/obtained your wilderness permit saying you will enter/exit a trailhead on given dates, can you camp anywhere or must it be at a designated wilderness campground?

Do Sequoia and Kings Canyon NPs have similar rules regarding wilderness camping and permits as Yosemite? What about other wildnerness areas outside these NPs (e.g., Mammoth Lakes region)?

If we were to decide to just do day-hikes due to the possible difficulty in planning out backcountry permits, we would avoid the hassles. How difficult would it be to find car-camping spots in the park midweek in August?

Thanks for all the invaluable information.