Aug 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm #1278366
I'm looking for some ideas for a four or five day trip in the Sierras. I'm in the San Francisco East Bay area and don't want to spend an entire day driving each way if possible (which I've done on week long trips when I had two weekends to work with).
My trips so far include:
Rae Lakes loop (5 days)
Devil's postpile/Mammoth to Ediza and Iceberg Lakes loop (4 1/2 days)
Wright's Lake (Desolation Wilderness) to Rockbound Pass/Dick's Lake loop (4 days)
JMT section 1: Tuolumne Meadows to Mono Pass exit 7 days)
JMT section 2: Piute Pass entry to Taboose Pass exit (7 days)
JMT section 3: Taboose Pass entry to Whitney and out (7 days)
Twin Lakes (Hoover Wilderness/Yosemite) to Benson Lake loop (5 days)
That last one is a great example of a route I didn't know about till last year–I went on it and it was very scenic, varied, and fun in it's newness to me. I'd love to learn about other places/routes I haven't done.
What do you experienced Sierra backpackers suggest? Thanks–I'm all ears!Aug 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm #1771807
Yosemite's Clark Range can be approached from different directions, but you get to go through Red Peak Pass by any of them. I've made loops in and out of there from 55 miles up to 75 miles. As soon as you are 10 or 12 miles from the road, you won't see people anymore.
–B.G.–Aug 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm #1771810
@jennymcfarlaneLocale: Southern California
Cottonwood Lakes, over New Army Pass to Mt. Langley.Aug 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm #1771817
1. Yosemite: Tuolumne Meadows north to Matterhorn Peak, then out to Twin Lakes.
2. Yosemite, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Lukens Lake down Morrison Creek to Pate Valley, then up the canyon past Glen Aulin to Tuolumne Meadows.
–B.G.–Aug 22, 2011 at 12:09 am #1771822
@puffdcLocale: Republic of Boulder
Emigrant Wilderness.Aug 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm #1772113
What quick responses. I'm look at maps and getting a feel for where these great suggestions are located.
Bob–Strangely enough I haven't done many trips in Yosemite. Good ideas!
Danny–I've been up Leavitt Meadows once and was a bit underwhelmed. I'm looking into other parts of Emigrant. What's your favorite area or trip there?
Jennifer–Might be a good trip, but a bit far to drive for my current purposes. Thanks for chiming in though!Aug 23, 2011 at 1:28 am #1772132
"I've been up Leavitt Meadows once and was a bit underwhelmed. I'm looking into other parts of Emigrant. What's your favorite area or trip there?"
Leavitt Meadows is OK if you don't mind the debris of pack animals all over the trail. You can start there and go south to Tower Lake in a day. Then from Tower Lake, you can do a one-day up-and-back of Tower Peak, which is the big peak on the Yosemite National Park border. Then a third day going back out.
–B.G.–Aug 23, 2011 at 10:46 am #1772199
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
I like Leavitt in part because of the many zones you hike through as you head south–beginning in open sagebrush not unlike high desert, ending in true alpine country. You have views of Tower Peak to tantalize you, beginning early on and the West Walker River is generally fairly nearby.
Commercial horse packers are the bane of Emigrant and the Leavitt trail is no exception. Nothing like Kennedy Meadows, though. That said, south of Kennedy are lovely lakes free of horse traffic to visit.
RickAug 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm #1772242
I just went from meniral king to Whitney Portal. It was awesome. The mosquitoes were redicuilous though, we almost got carried away!Aug 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm #1772370
Bob (and everyone else…)–I'm leaning toward the Clark Range for this trip. I appreciate the tips about Leavitt Meadow, but will save going back there when I have only three days.
It looks like Red Peak Pass can be approached from Yosemite Valley (Happy Isles), Mono Meadow on road to Glacier Point, Wawona, or Bass Lake and a long drive from the south.
What do you all recommend? Which trailhead have you done, or if more than one, which did you like best?
Thank you for the advice!Aug 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm #1772379
The short way into the Clark Range is from Mono Meadow off the Glacier Point Road. The long way is from Tuolumne Meadows (if you can believe that).
On one day, we went from Tuolumne Meadows via Vogelsang Pass out the High Trail to Post Peak Pass where we exited the park. On the second day, we re-entered the park at Fernandez Pass, passed Merced Pass Lake (not to be confused with Merced Lake) to the west side of Red Peak Pass, then up and through it to the east and down to Merced Lake. Then on the third day, we went up Fletcher Creek and back to Tuolumne Meadows.
If conditions are right, it would be nice to hang out for an extra day at Ottoway Lakes. The lakes are dependable for water. However, sometimes in late season the streams will dry up.
–B.G.–Aug 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm #1772660
Thanks, Bob. I'm going in at Mono Meadow (assuming I get the permit I want). I'll have to plot out how many miles and which loop I want to do. I'm getting excited–new territory for me!Aug 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm #1773278
I too live in the Bay Area (East Bay), and struggle with this.
I could get flamed for this, but here goes: After 20 years going all over the Sierra, I've concluded that the most heartwrenchingly scenic and dramatic places are either Eastside and/or the Southern Sierra, and not, generally, in the north or west. Sorry, but Tahoe, Emigrant, Carson-Iceberg, and Yosemite (with the Benson loop exception) cannot hold a candle to the SEKI, the Palisades, the Ritter Range, the Silver Divide.
The problem is that all of the latter (High Sierra, east/south) spots take a long time to drive to from here, 5-8 hours.
Here's how I solve it: If I have just a 2-day weekend, I settle for the short drive, just to "get out." Desolation Wilderness; the north and northeast sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail; Emigrant Wilderness (either a lakes trip from the Gianelli Cabin trailhead, or a ridge trip south from Sonora Pass; I do not care for the other Emigrant trailheads); a trail out of Tuolumne Meadows (maybe Young Lakes) or out of Saddlebag Lake: those are my favorite 2-day-ers that fall within a short (3-4.5 hour) driving range. Wrights Lake or Horsetail Falls trailheads in Desolation are the very closest drive, and they get you into some great stuff right off the bat.
Whenever you can get at least 3-5 days, head for the High Sierra. My experience is that you can reasonably fit in up to a 6-hour drive and still have it feel like a backpack getaway. Just leave very early in the morning on Day 1 (or the night before), and hike out by 2 pm on your final day out. Here are some truly standout east and/or south routes that are still within reasonable (under 6 hours) driving range from East Bay:
1. Mineral King, fav is the 4-day Blackrock Pass/Five Lakes Basin/Sawtooth loop (SEKI)
2. Duck Lake to McGee Pass. Park car at McGee, hitch to Duck Lake (Mammoth Lakes area) and start. 3-4 days.
3. Tablelands, from trail to Pear Lake or Alta (SEKI). 3 days.
4. Mosquito Flat – hike over Mono Pass (the southern one) and get into the Recesses/Pioneer Basin. Out-n-back, or: a more ambitious trip would involve x-country into the McGee Pass area.
5. Lake Edison, catch the ferry and go up to the Silver Divide: Graveyard Lakes, Peter Pande Lake, etc.
6. You've been to Ritter Range twice, but here's a version you may not have done: From Agnew Meadows, hike the High Trail (PCT) north, but do it in late September, when the aspens are all-out colorful. Then explore Davis Lakes & Marie Lakes basins. 3-4 days.
7. Sphinx Lakes and Brewer Basin, from Kings Canyon's Roads End (5.5-hour drive). 3-4 days, incredibly ambitious (7000 feet straight uphill?), very high, must have x-country skills.
8. The Trinity Alps is a fantastic alternative to the Sierra – I think the forests there are exquisite, and you climb into the granite too. Canyon Creek trailhead is about the fastest trail to drive to in the Trinity Alps (5.5 hours from East Bay). Out-n-back, 3-4 days will get you exploring into some challenging granite.
There are some other highly scenic ones, but anything from Bishop south (like the Miter Basin area that someone here mentioned) exceeds 6 hours of driving from East Bay. Some day, you need to take the 7 hours to drive to North Fork Big Pine Creek and hike up to Palisade Glacier. (3 days.) You just have to.
Favorite books to consult are Trekking California (by Backpacker Mag), and High Sierra (by Phil Arnot). There are numerous other, practical books, but I always start with these two because they won't have you go "just anywhere" – they both hone in on reaching the most scenic places in all the Sierra. Trekking California will also give you some trip ideas outside the Sierra, such as the Lost Coast. Also, for great route advice and current conditions, google to find some forums on High Sierra backpacking.
Hope that helps.
– ElizabethAug 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm #1773334
@elf773Locale: Vancouver, BC
I don't know about Doug, but your post sure helped me. I just got my bareboxer in the mail, a WM Ultralite and 2 weeks off starting Oct 1, your suggestions couldn't have come at a better time.Aug 27, 2011 at 6:48 am #1773394
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Elizabeth, I have done many of the hikes you have mentioned. I cannot agree with you more how amazing the east side of The Sierras are. However Emigrant Wilderness does serve a purpose, being close and with no bear cannister required, it is a great place to hone skills and just get away for a few nightsAug 27, 2011 at 8:06 am #1773408
A huge +1 to Elizabeth's whole post. I agree wholeheartedly!
Nothing like getting into the high country from the east side, but also the hikes up from Cedar Grove in SEKI or after that (long) drive into Mineral King. I still have a few east side passes to make happen (Taboose!).
p.s. Shameless plug – I'm selling a bunch of High Sierra guidebooks on a Gear Swap thread right now. A great way to get some great trip ideas!Aug 27, 2011 at 8:52 am #1773422
Elizabeth–I totally echo the other responses to your suggestions: Thank you! You've given me at years of trip ideas to research, plan, and look forward to. Cool!
I got my permit to go out of Mono Meadow, up Illilouette Creek, over Red Peak Pass, Post Peak Pass, Fernandez Pass, Buck Camp, by Buena Vista Peak, across Buena Vista Creek, and out to Mono Meadow. I'm stoked, though I'll have to keep tabs leading up to next Thursday afternoon on how stoked the fire near there is.
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