May 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm #1236097
I’m going to be in California for the first time in June.
While there, I’ll have essentially 2.5 days to fit in some sights and my intent is to choose a limited tour of Joshua Tree NP, Yosemite NP, or both. I’ll be starting in LA when my flight lands on a Saturday morning and moving on from there merely to return back on Monday afternoon 2.5 days later.
My question is, would you try to do one NP over the other or both?
Also, what can I do about places to stay? It seems back country permits are gone, camping permits are gone, local campgrounds are gone, realistically priced hotels are gone….and I’d really rather not stay in my rental vehicle or pay several hundred dollars for a hotel I really don't need.
Thanks.May 4, 2009 at 6:54 pm #1499067
@don-1-2-2Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Hi James –
Having spent ludicrous amounts of time in both Joshua Tree and Yosemite, I'll comment. I lived in Joshua Tree, just outside the NP boundary, for many years.
Joshua Tree will be hot in June, but uncrowded. You will easily find a campsite in the park. But expect very hot days, and coolish nights. If you don't mind the desert heat and sun, it would be a great visit – uncrowded, pristine and truly a magical place. Also much closer to LA than Yosemite.
Don't try to go to both in one weekend. You'll spend too much time driving.
Yosemite will be beautiful, but crowded. If you get outside Yosemite Valley, it won't be so crowded, and it will be cooler. If you get creative, you can find a place to stay, or get a permit and sleep on the trail somewhere. Yosemite is amazing.
You can't lose with either decision – but I'd really say pick one, not both.
DonMay 5, 2009 at 9:42 am #1499175
Yosemite is a pretty far drive from LA. But which weekends in June are you going to be here? Just looking at the Trailhead availability page, current as of 5/1, (so these days could be gone today) I see a bunch of trailhead with availability in June. Glacier Point to Ililouete has no full dates at all yet. Glen Aulin is a popular one in Toulumne Meadows, and it has Saturday starting dates free. Lyell Canyon is a really pretty hike up there as well, that appears to be available in June.May 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm #1499290
.May 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm #1499547
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
I remember when we all stopped trying to visit Yosemite in the summer [the valley can be pretty hot in June also]with the people impact but if this is a one shot deal I would still lean towards the valley as much as I like J-Tree.
Yosemite has diversity and beats Joshua Tree in size therefore in places to lose people. I will admit if your willing to just walk away from the campgrounds in J-Tree you'll leave 95% of humanity behind.
The desert is always a fine line between getting there when the wind has stopped and the heat has begun, thugh some of my fondest memories would include sitting in a shady nook on a hot day nursing a grain beverage after a morning of chewing my hands up on the quartz monzonite
If you are inclined to climb you'll nick more off at Joshua Tree and if you do go there shoot for Hidden Valley and the short side trip to Barker Dam.
If you don't think you'll be back in awhile go to Yosemite, just an opinion.May 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm #1499564
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I just returned from hiking from Idyllwild to Pines-to-Palms highway on the PCT. The trail was a lot like the southern Sierra and amazingly beautiful. The San Jacinto mountains are very high and it would be nice in June once you get up there. It doesn't have the cachet of Yosemite, but it would be a decent alternative with a lot less travel time.May 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm #1499839
Larry makes some good points. I live within an hour of the north and south entrances to JT, which was by design.
I hate Yosemite, because of the people and vendors. Best thing for Yosemite would be to block off/blow up the entrances and make people walk in. We also need to stop clearing the rockslides off the roads too. :)
But, if you have never been there, and if you might not get a chance in the near future, I would go to Yosemite. You are going to burn a day of travel each way from LA, so I would fly up north if you can get a cheap flight.May 8, 2009 at 7:14 am #1499958
@johnnybgood4Locale: New Hampshire
I think either one isn't a very good option for you.
I've been to J-Tree several times but always in mid-April. Even then the temps can reach into the high eighties/low nineties. I imagine June can become scorching hot.
The problem for Yosemite is you're going to spend the majority of your 2.5 days traveling. Unless you never plan to get there eventually save it for another trip imo.
If I was you I would take a look into the area around Idyllwild. I've not done any hiking there but a little climbing on Taquitz/Suicide rocks. It's very nice terrain around there and I'm sure the temps will be more forgiving than J-Tree in June.
Maybe one of the Cali folks can tell you if there are good hiking options around Idyllwild.
PS – If you do go to J-Tree I recommend Ryan Campground over Hidden Valley for peace and quite. Although in June maybe both campgrounds are pretty vacant.May 8, 2009 at 9:25 am #1499991
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
Yosemite is a long ways from LA. However, if I were to do it I would leave LA and enter on the south end of the park in order to go through the tunnels and get that view of the valley. That sight still stuns me. If you would like to spend some time in the valley you could check out the many falls, etc. but it is REALLY crowded.
I would then head up to the upper valley near Tuolomne, etc. You could find a lot of nice trailheads to hike in for a night or two. Lots of options there. Just make sure you get permits and have a canister.
Then you could exit Tioga pass and head home on the eastern side of the Sierra and get a long distance view of Mt. Whitney.
It is a long drive but a lot to see along the way.May 8, 2009 at 10:28 am #1500008
I agree with John somewhat. In June I would and head up to the San Jacintos or San Bernadinos.
But I think the OP was most interested in hitting either due their unique and famous features… sort of a once in a while opportunity.
If you are not used to desert climates, then JT may not be for you in June. Plus water is scarce or non-existent in 99% of the park. That being said, everyone should see Yosemite at least once in their lifetime. It is that unique. As far as deserts, there are many destinations are intriguing and interesting as JT.May 8, 2009 at 11:34 am #1500023
@jcarter1Locale: Pacific Northwest
Yosemite is a LONG way away for a 2.5 day weekend. You will have time to drive through the park, but you will miss so much! That said, it is still worth it, if for no other reason than to entice you to make a longer trip of it next time, and you will have all of Sunday in the park. My brother once left LA in the morning, hiked half dome that day with a friend, and late that night drove up to Washington to get to a wedding! So yes, it can be done, but prepare to be exhausted; You will be able to drive during the day (leaving the park very early Monday) so you will be much safer on Hwy 395 during the day, and the first part of it really is spectacular scenery. I say go for it, just plan on pushing yourself hard and relying on your adrenaline.
One option for Joshua Tree is to begin a hike before dawn. If the moon is out, you won't need a flashlight. Walking through Joshua trees under a full moon is up there with some of my most surreal things I've done, and is a truly unique experience. Ascending granite boulders at sunrise will be a beautiful experience. You could get in a pretty good hike before it gets too hot, and then head back to town in the afternoon heat. Better yet, head to the Desert Hot Springs to stay cool.May 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm #1500029
@trebiskyLocale: Southern Arizona
Nick thinks the right way, stop clearing rockslides and disable the roads. Right on!
Yosemite is magic, no question about it. The valley is so special that I can pretty much ignore the zoo/carnival atmosphere (pretty much) – but my advice would be to take a quick look and then head up to Tuolumne and pick a trail or wander up on one of the domes (avoiding killing yourself of course). A heck of a long drive for just a weekend.
I live in Tucson, so I could contemplate JT in June, but I doubt that most people would enjoy the hot daytime temps. There would certainly be lovely evenings. You could get up before dawn and do short dayhikes (take lots of water). You very well might not like the heat though.May 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm #1500032
Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm convinced that I can't go wrong with either if I can handle the heat. I think I might try Yosemite over the weekend and merely an evening over at Joshua Tree later in the week since it will be relatively close (60 miles) to where I'll be staying.
One thing I think I might be underestimating is how long it would take me to get from LA to Yosemite. Googlemaps says it is 315 miles and roughly 5 hours. That doesn't seem terribly long to me, but am I underestimating traffic, mountains, etc.?
Thanks.May 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm #1500037
@johnnybgood4Locale: New Hampshire
I only drove out of LA once and that was to J-Tree. It seemed like the suburbs went on for about 150 miles…! Last couple of times we drove over from Vegas.
Several times I flew into San Fran and drove to Toloumne Meadows and that took over 5 hours each time.
My guess is plan on 8 hours from LA but its a wild guess… Better to get the scoop from a local.May 8, 2009 at 2:09 pm #1500054
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
The estimated time is probably pretty accurate, but I would guess 6 hour rather than 5. I suppose traffic depends most on where in LA you are starting from. Once you get out of the city, the traffic isn't bad. Even the mountain roads are pretty smooth and easy to travel.May 8, 2009 at 3:34 pm #1500072
@barbaraLocale: So Cal
Two ways to go – from LA up the 405 to the 5 then 99 to wards Fresno, then 41 to the south entrance – that will take 5.5 hours. From the south entrance it's another 45 minutes or so to the Valley. Or you could go up the eastern side, via the 14 to the 395 (or is it 385?), via Lone Pine, Independence, Bishop, and turn left at Lee Vining and go in the Tioga Pass entrance and you'll be at Tuolumne Meadows very soon after that. That's a quicker drive – total 5.5 hours or so the whole thing, much nicer drive. If you're camping, there are walk in sites up there. And it's an hour drive to the valley from there, if you want to check it out while you're up there.
Joshua Tree will be scorching. It's about 3 hours or more from LA, traffic can be brutal on the 10. Best campsite BY FAR is White Tank.
Good luck 0 BarbaraMay 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm #1500128
@deuceregularLocale: Southern Jefferson
Yosemite is amazing. If you have never seen it before you can't go wrong. However, if it is some Sierra magic that you want you can beat the crowds and get into the high country by going to Mineral King outside of Visalia or drive up hwy 395 and jump into the sierra from either Lone Pine or Bishop.
I don't have that much to elaborate upon about JT. Spent my desert time in Anza Borrego. Less people! but less joshua tree.May 9, 2009 at 6:26 am #1500148
@jcarter1Locale: Pacific Northwest
If it were my first time I would make a loop, going up the 5 and down the 395. The lower valley is worth seeing, even if only to drive through. And the descent from Tuolumne Meadows to Mono Lake is quite spectacular.May 11, 2009 at 12:13 am #1500474
It is not uncommon for Tioga Pass to become unpassable due to rock slides, and sometimes the road can be closed for a few days.
For this trip, I would go via Fresno. But as a resident, I always take 395 to the Sierras.May 11, 2009 at 8:23 am #1500509
@flemdawg1Locale: SE US
Have you considered going to Channel Islands NP instead? Went there for a day last July. Fairly close to LA. Take a ferry to Santa Cruz, set up camp at the Scorpion Beach CG and Dayhike around. Or go straight to DelNorte backcountry site. And catch the ferry back the next day.
As far as places to stay, when we went to CINP, we camped at McGrath State Beach for 2 nights. Decent bird watching area, but the beach has lots of trash from the Santa Clara River. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=607May 11, 2009 at 8:50 am #1500512
@flemdawg1Locale: SE US
Another Alternative might be San Jacinto SP.May 22, 2009 at 2:52 pm #1503050
Happy to hear you are on your way out to CA for some fun.
I recently purchased a Hennessey Hammock, and through lightweight camp website links, found and bookmarked your blog. I have received many ounces of knowledge thanks to you!
I was happy to be able to "repay" the favor, but it looks as if I will be re-hashing earlier posts that have explained the two parks well enough.
Before I read them, I had thought Yosemite was much too far away for you to get a 2.5 day camp at. The drive is listed at 5 hours, but this does not include the LAX traffic (although you will be getting the northern county only, and will be well past it if you take Interstate 5 through the "Grapevine") and of course, the slower speeds once you near Yosemite. And though once you drive into Yosemite, and can see El Capitan, Half-Dome, and the other gorgeous rises along the glacial-cut valley, I am not sure you will be happy to realize you'll soon need to turn around and drive back out in one day.
I was therefore going to suggest Joshua Tree. I just went there two weeks ago for a three-day trip, with the intent of trying out my new hammock. The park is gorgeous with the seasonal Ocotillo in bloom (magnificent).
Though some have mentioned that the park would be empty,the ranger signs had posted FULL at every site. We were able to find a few open spots toward the less popular southern area, but it was way crowded.
From reading your blog, I had thought you might like to enjoy a solo-trek, off trail, into the desert for some enjoyable camping at the southern edge. I read that you are concerned about heat, and it seems that the weather report shows cloudy conditions. I love this for the desert, but that usually means high humidity.
My only hesitation in following through with suggesting a trip to Joshua Tree is that you have already been there, and you have not yet seen Yosemite. I would love then for you to see it, but must ultimately say that you visit Yosemite when you have more time. An over-nighter with two days of driving doesn't sound good, when your other option, Joshua Tree is at one of its most beautiful times of year.
Best of luck, and I'll try to check back in case more advice is needed, or I can help others. I'm trying to head out for some southern California surf/camping this three-day weekend, but have not yet set the locale.
Here's to all of us finding a nice spot to rest our feet this weekend.May 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm #1503059
Thanks for your mention of my blog. I do my best to remain topical and factual. I also wholly admit that my knowledge comes from a variety of sources to include these wonderful forums and a surplus of endlessly experienced and educated backpackers who were willing to share their knowledge with me.
Thanks for your recommendations regarding my trip to California. I'm very much looking forward to it. Today I just received a pair of shorts and a shirt from Rail Riders which I wanted to use in the hot conditions as I mostly use merino wool for even summer hiking in VA. Rail Riders is a company highly acknowledged by many on this site. This was my first purchase from them and now I understand all the fuss. Simply, they make good stuff. Like I said, I learn a lot from others too, so I'm glad to see my blog helped you even if just a bit.May 22, 2009 at 9:04 pm #1503084
If you're committed to Yosemite, I wouldn't worry about the drive from LA. I regularly make that trip, and, typically, even just for a single night, I leave around 7:30PM or 8PM on Friday and am sleeping at a trail head by 2AM or 3AM. Personally, I can't do early morning drives as I don't get any sleep from anticipation. I agree that the fastest route to Yosemite is through Fresno.
I'm doing a yearly ritual of Half-Dome at midnight on June 5th. I would recommend something similar to avoid the crowds (1000 visitors on that trail a day, on a summer weekend) for spectacular moonset and sunrise views atop a magnificent rock. Overall, though, if you have a solo-trekking heart, I'd steer you away from the Valley floor. Sure there's gorgeous sights, but this is sight seeing amongst thick crowds of rather irreverent folk.
Regarding Joshua Tree, come your trip in June there's no longer any bloom, and it's all heat, all day, plus desert winds. I only travel there from Nov to Mar. But if you can take the heat and are looking for a back country trek, you could do the CRHT: drop water at Ryan Camp, but start at Black Rock and trek across the park and back. It's 32mi one way.
If you weren't focused on sight seeing missions, and I knew that you loved the back country plus wanted to experience the Sierra's, considering your time frame I would take you to the Tableland Meadows via Wolverton (between Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP). You'll get big views of the Sierra's majestic peeks and expansive granite slopes, coupled with alpine lakes, waterfalls, rivers, meadows, and all in exactly the 2.5days you're limited to, possibly even giving you two nights (not sure what 2.5 refers to).
No matter, you've got great advice here. I hope you have a wonderful trip.
-MichaelMay 23, 2009 at 9:58 am #1503126
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
It sounds like Joshua Tree will be hot, and I know he had problems getting camping & backcountry passes for Yosemite. Does anyone know about the likelihood about him getting something the day he drives up there?
I also have to wonder if someone from CA could suggest a good base camp south of Yosemite that would provide great scenercy for hikes, and still allow him to do a drive/dayhike through Yosemite. I'm not sure of the road access and camping situations in those areas outside Yosemite. Would Sequoia & Kings Canyon be a more accessable option?
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