Dec 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm #1297285
Last summer, my son and I drove 5300+ miles in 20 days to Lassen Volcanic, Redwoods, Crater Lake (the main one) and Dinosaur.
This summer, he has chosen Yosemite as the main destination. Since it is so much larger and has much more to see than Crater Lake I'm having trouble deciding what we should do. Our earliest arrival would be June 19 and we need to start our return no later than July 9. It seems I need to put in for our permit on Jan 2 if we do indeed hit Yosemite first, but I am leaning toward doing it at the end of the trip for 2 reasons. 1) he'd be in better condition after whatever other stops we make and 2) our food for our entire trip would be in our trunk and don't want to leave all that in a TH bear box. I guess a third reason would be less chance of snow if we do go up high.
I also understand that if I have a wilderness permit that would route somewhat near Half Dome that we can easily get those permits as well when we pick up our permit. He is not a big hiker (12 miles is his max so far and climbing Lassen Peak was a challenge though that was our first full day) so I'd prefer most days being < 10 miles. I prefer loops unless we can easily access the shuttle to return to our car. I also like to see the cool things that 99% never see or even know about like the pumice slots canyons at Crater Lake.
So as far as Yosemite goes, what routes would you recommend?
As for other sites we may hit, these are on the list of possibilities:
Arches (this was #2 on his list so I know we'll stop here)
Sequoia/Kings (anything worthwhile besides Whitney you can do from the east?)
What would be "must see" or what would you leave out?
Anything we should add that's not on the list?Dec 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm #1937545
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Where are you starting /ending from?
Sequoia /Kings Canyon from the East is either Whitney or access to the PCT from a few high trailheads. The big trees and caves (more caves than any other CA park after Lava Beds) are accessed from the West. Also, although S/KC look close to Yosemite, there are a lot of twisty road (Hwy 49) or backtracking to Hwy 99 involved.
I'd couple Yosemite with a variety of things to the east, especially if your are approaching from that direction.
The State Historical Park and ghost town of Bodie,
Mono Lake (visitor's center in Lee Vining)
fissures in Black's Point on the north shore of Mono Lake.
Tufa formation on the south shore of Mono Lake.
Devil's Post pile
Bristlecone Pine NF on the east side of Owen's Valley with the world's oldest trees.
Natural hot springs, one developed and many other lesser developed ones east of 395.
All of the above have moderate to high altitude, so if you do those as you approach your Yosemite hike, it will help both of you acclimatize to the higher elevations.
If you are thinking of the Grand Canyon on the way, it is not a good season to go the River and back and it sounds like he hasn't proven himself as a hiker for that level of day hike. Therefore, if not going to the River, you could go to the North Rim which is far less crowded, cooler and more forested. Also, that puts you closer to Zion and Bryce. Leave the impressive, expansive views from the South Rim for another day. Maybe when he's strong enough for a RIm-River-Rim hike (but not in the summer). I did it 2 years ago when my son was 11 in late May. We got lucky and it only go to 89 in the Inner Canyon that day.
If you go to GCNP on the way to Yosemite, you WILL pass by Hoover Dam which is worth a tour. You'll be close to Death Valley, but that's not a good time of year for doing much more than looking out the window. Maybe overnight outside DV and go through in the early morning, a take a short hike shortly after first light, or even before.
I spent 8 days with my son and hiked the Grand Canyon, toured Death Valley, started on the Whitney Trail (too much snow), did some Yosemite hikes (too much snow for Half Dome), Sequoia, Kings Canyon, a few things in the Central Valley, And various LA attractions. But he's quite the hiker for his age and we both road trip together very well (and very quickly). It was a little heavy on the driving because Tioga Pass into Yosemite was closed due to heavy snow until far later than usual. (The next year, it was open quite early.)Dec 23, 2012 at 5:41 am #1937596
We're in Indiana so we'll likely take 70 out and 80 back, reverse of what we did last year.
My parents actually drove through DV, SEKI & Yosemite 2 months ago (no hiking, just roadside stops) so I know there's lots of driving, which I don't mind if the stop will add something significant to the trip. Sounds like Kings Canyon is a site to see perhaps but who knows. Thanks for those other suggestions, too.
If we do GC, we'd stay on the north side but the side trip to Hoover Dam may be worth it.
What would you suggest within Yosemite itself?
My youngest son is a decent hiker. This one is not athletic (flat-footed and heavy) but marching band helped him out and I plan to get him to work on the exercise bike a month beforehand. We road trip pretty well – slept in the Civic many times on that trip as cost was (and still is) a factor.Dec 23, 2012 at 9:18 am #1937653
In that time frame I'd hit Utah first; the temps will be kinder in June (generally speaking) and give the snow in the Sierras a bit of time to melt off.
Arches first; dayhike Landscape Arch and the Primitive Loop, dayhike to Delicate Arch (crowded, but worth it), and do the ranger walk into the Fiery Furnace.
Drive through Hanksville and Capitol Reef. Do Peak-a-boo/Spooky slot loop in the Escalante. Maybe an overnight backpack out to Neon Canyon and back as well. Hot that time of year, but that makes and water and shade very nice.
North Rim of the GC is worth a stop. Sounds like a backpack into the depths might be a bit much.
Zion next. Dayhike Angels Landing, Hidden Canyon, up the Narrows if the water is low enough. Narrows might be in shape to do it top-down as an overnight, which is awesome.
Sierras next. Dayhiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley is worthwhile and quite pleasant that time of year.
Backpacking Onion Valley to the Portal with a summit of Whitney would be great if you're hitting your stride by that point in the trip. The hitch is easy to do. There will be bugs in late June.
I'd avoid the valley in Yosemite, it'll be a junk show. Tuolumne is gorgeous and has great hiking.Dec 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm #1937741
Thanks for those suggestions, Dave. I think my little Civic wouldn't be up for the road to Neon Canyon and it may be beyond our present skills (I really liked this comment on Avg Joe – "Highly skilled people can chimney over this pothole with big exposure and penalty points" – made me LOL). Sounds like we could also see Zebra/Tunnel and Devil's Garden in the same day.
I think getting a permit down into the GC would be a major pain anyway. My school group did that overnight 30 years ago when I was his age. I recall leaving Phantom Ranch last and being first back to the rim in something like 3 hours.
Can you get Whitney permits easily at the last minute?
I'll be doing my best to avoid the Yosemite crowds. Can't be helped at Half Dome I suppose unless you leave early in the AM.Dec 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm #1937742
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Sierras next. Dayhiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley is worthwhile and quite pleasant that time of year."
Unfortunately, Telescope Peak is in the Panamint Range, not the Sierra Nevada.
–B.G.–Dec 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm #1937747
That's OK. I knew what he meant.Dec 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm #1937769
I didn't mean descend the Neon slot, just hike in and camp on the Escalante near the mouth, and hike up and see the Golden Cathedral. Hiking in the Fence Canyon route and then back to the car XC (exit the Esca via the sand dune right across from Neon) is a great loop. The one wash crossing on the Egypt road could be a problem if it flashed recently, but don't let the visitor center staff scare you too much.
I think, but should defer to an expert (BG could actually be helpful..), that going in not via Whitney Portal makes walk-in permits easy to get.
One way to avoid the parking/driving bother of the valley would be to do a 3-4 day trip from Tuolumne into the valley and back. You could reserve one of the tent cabins in Curry Village for one night and enjoy a shower and pizza dinner that night.Dec 24, 2012 at 7:27 am #1937897
Would you recommend neoprene socks for Zion Narrows or would normal wool suffice to keep the feet warm enough going through all that cold water?
A shower and pizza may be a good way to end our trip. :) I think we could take a free shuttle back to the car in Tuolumne and start the drive home (perhaps seeing some of those sites at Mono Lake David mentioned).Dec 24, 2012 at 8:22 am #1937913
here's another vote for southern Utah, don't forget to consider Bryce Canyon while you are passing thru there.
Regarding your Sierra area portion, what length of backpacking trips are you willing to consider, both in miles and days ?
Last minute walk-up permits for Whitney are not hard to get but its hit and miss and varies day to day. you have to enter a daily mini lottery for the available permits. Anyone who is there that day enters the daily lottery for whatever is available.
The suggsestion to do Whitney via Onion Valley is a good one for getting permits but its a 48 mile point to point trip over some very high passes.
a nice Eastside trip is to hike in to the North Palisade area from Big Pine (one hour north of Whitney on 395). The hike in to 3rd lake is 5 miles and gives great views. The Palisades are the most Alpine-like area of the Sierra. Could be done as a day hike or an overnighter.
You sound like you are trying to squeeze a lot in to a 3 week period.
if so, I would skip Devils Postpile, it nice but not spectacular.
I assume this also limits the length of any overnight backpacking.
I assume you plan to visit Tuolumne, the high country part of Yosemite Park.
IF its not on your list, I'd recommend it.
Some of the domes are climbable by non climbers, 3rd class but not much harder than the Half Dome cables. Great views.
Even though Yosemite Valley is horribly over crowded in summer, if you have never been there, it is a must see, at least for a day or two, just to experience the immenseness of the cliffs and the beauty of the waterfalls.Dec 24, 2012 at 8:23 am #1937916
Yes, I would bring neo socks in June. Only time of year I wouldn't is late August.Dec 24, 2012 at 8:48 am #1937926
Yes, we are squeezing in a lot. We also did 2 nights on Lost Coast Trail and a night at Oregon Caves last year so it was packed as well.
I'm trying to find all the cool options worth considering and then we will pare it down to what we can fit in the allotted time and his interests. For example, I'm also considering doing JMT from Mammoth to Happy Isle with Half Dome trip. I figure that 58+ miles would be 7 days at an easy pace and Donahue Pass is just over 11K so shouldn't be an issue for him (assuming it doesn't have snow/ice). Not sure how much food you can fit in the canisters you can rent at Mammoth though.
This trip is harder for me to plan because there are just so many nice options along the route. I just started 2 days ago when I finally got him to chose which parks he wanted to see and have been in front of my PC researching ever since. :)
I'll look into picking up a set of socks for us. I recall some articles/posts here discussing better brands before so I'll try to find them. Newbie question though, can you wear them just by themselves or do you need a liner sock? I don't want to have to get new shoes also. Cost is a factor for our trip as well.Dec 24, 2012 at 9:05 am #1937929
Mammoth to Tuolumne via the JMT is one of my favorite Sierra hikes. I've done that trail section 4 times.
I would not leave Reds Meadow via the JMT though as its not the most scenic. instead leave Agnew Meadow via either the River Trail connecting to JMT at Shadow Lake, or the the High Trail straight to Thousand Island Lake connecting to JMT there.
If pressed for time or your son gets tired, you could skip Tuolumne to the Valley by taking the shuttle bus. Its nice but not as nice as the section from Mammoth to Tuolumne. although, doing the entire hike gives you an easy way to see Half Dome.
also if doing this trip, may as well throw Devils Postpile back in for a quick look see.Dec 24, 2012 at 10:03 am #1937941
Thanks for those tips. That would save about 5 miles it seems. My intention is indeed to approach Half Dome from the east and camp just up from it's spur trail so we can beat most of the LYV campground crowd.
It appears from the map you can drive to Red's Meadow (assuming road is suitable for our Civic) and have a quick hike to DP if we really wanted.
Do most drive all the way to the TH and then hitch back up from Mammoth after taking bus back or leave car in Mammoth and hitch up to TH? I suppose 6 of one half dozen of another, but I'd prefer the latter so we could get going again quickly after getting back to Mammoth.
Edit: I see you must take a shuttle bus to the RM TH anyway so your car is down below regardless. I assume they'd drop you off at Agnew as well.Dec 24, 2012 at 10:06 am #1937944
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Within Yosemite itself for day hikes, everyone goes to the Valley which has the issue of only flat hikes within the Valley or pretty steep hikes up out of the Valley. It sounds like this son isn't a candidate for Half Dome as a day hike at this time. Glacier Point is a little less mileage but almost all the vertical. Potentially, you can take a shuttle one way for Glacier Point and avoid the down hike. A more leisurely hike is to the top of Vernal Falls which shares its trailhead with the JMT and HD hike. I'd suggest a very early start – what I always do for HD. The reasons are the heat and sun are far less and the crowds are vastly less. For HD, I'd leave at 5am, no later than 6 am. For top of Vernal, I'd leave at first light, 6 am or so, and you'll have the apron almost to yourself give or take a few competent HD hikers. You avoid the whole baby-stroller, plaid-pants crowd that way.
Another day hike everyone forgets to do is through the Sequoias. Yes, Yosemite had them too. There's one milder walk at the Southern Entrance (Hwy 41) that is more crowded. The one I prefer is off Hwy 120, one of the western entrances because there's some elevation, more trails and fewer people. It's clearly shown on the park maps, but it easy to drive right past it if you're not looking for it.
For a BPing trip in the summer, I'd prefer something out of Tuolumne Meadows for the extra 4-5,000 feet of elevation and therefore the temps being 15-18F cooler. You need to ready for intense sun so a little base tan is good, but even so, you need a good hat and sunscreen (I like Go-lite's Chrome Dome for hikes at 8,000-11,000 feet).
You expressed interest in HD, I think, and if you start in Tuolumne Meadows, you can descend towards the Valley and pass by the trail junction to HD. That makes it much more doable than as a day hike from the Valley and the permits are easier to get that way.Dec 24, 2012 at 10:29 am #1937952
> You expressed interest in HD, I think, and if you start in Tuolumne Meadows, you can descend towards the Valley and pass by the trail junction to HD. That makes it much more doable than as a day hike from the Valley and the permits are easier to get that way.
That's my thinking. We always hike in long pants, long sleeves and brimmed hats. I don't even take sunscreen or bug juice, but use SPF 30 chapstick on my hands as needed. I know we'll have bugs early July so will take the Lunar Duo instead of tarps.Dec 24, 2012 at 10:47 am #1937957
NRS is the only brand to consider, fit is a cut above (ergo no blisters). I like the 1/2 mil Hydroskins, as they aren't any more bulky than a midweight pair of wool socks. For serious hiking I always use the thinnest liner sock I have. The 2mm socks will be a fair bit warmer, but may require a larger shoe. The Hydroskins should be adequate for Zion in June unless you have especially cold feet.
Sounds an awesome trip with lots of can't-miss options. Good on you for taking your son. Most of my best memories growing up were of hiking and backpacking on big road trips.Dec 24, 2012 at 11:11 am #1937959
Thanks, Dave. Thankfully we have an REI only 1.5 hours away now so we'll be able to try some on for size.
He'll be 16 in Sep so this is likely the last major trip I'll be able to do with this son. His younger brother will get spoiled.Dec 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #1937962
@chumlandLocale: Pacific Crest Trail, mostly
You'll probably want to park in Mammoth on Minaret road (recomended) and take the shuttle bus or hike to Reds Mdw by trail or on the road. You'll need a National Parks Adventure Pass to display on your cars dash if you leave your car there. You get the shuttle bus ticket ($) at the main lift area. The place will be most likely packed with mountain bikers so parking is hard to find while the lifts are running. The Hiker site at Reds Mdw will have a lot of hikers there where you share in the payment for the night with other hikers there. The hiker site at RM is close to the Hot Springs Bath House and a short hike to the store and cafe. If you hike from there to Yosemite Valley you can take the YARTS transit bus from Yosemite Valley to Mammoth then take local Mammoth transit or hitch to Mineret Rd to your car.
I hope this link helps; http://tinyurl.com/c9gsayn
Merry ChristmasDec 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm #1937999
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
Getting back to the Grand Canyon for a minute, the campground at the north rim is pretty nice, and you can reserve a tent site. You don't have to hike all the way down, just the 5 miles to Roaring Spring makes for an awesome all-day hike. My daughter is not a great hiker, but she enjoyed this one. Just plan to leave very early in the morning, and take your time on the way back up in the heat of the afternoon.Dec 26, 2012 at 7:56 am #1938259
Thanks, Dave. Thankfully we have an REI only 1.5 hours away now so we'll be able to try some on for size.
He'll be 16 in Sep so this is likely the last major trip I'll be able to do with this son. His younger brother will get spoiled.Dec 26, 2012 at 8:12 am #1938261
My initial draft of our schedule has us doing Half Dome on either Sat July 6 or Sun July 7. We'd be coming from the east so would normally beat most people I'd think, but given it's a holiday weekend should I try to hold off until Mon?
Am I interpreting the YARTS schedule correctly in that we'd need to be at the Visitor Center stop before 5 pm for the return trip to Mammoth? It seems you can't make reservations or pre-buy tickets for the 120 East bus (must buy from driver) so how early would we need to get there to secure a seat? That may make Mon a better option as well!Dec 26, 2012 at 8:21 am #1938264
I have taken the YARTS bus from Tuolumne back to Mammoth twice.
both times it was less than half full, during peak season.
I would not worry about reservations.
I think you are correct about the 5 pm return time.
just recheck next summer.
Yes, only one trip a day each way.
it is a very large, comfortable bus.
Regarding Half Dome Sunday v.s. Monday, its peak season, I doubt it will matter much.
getting to the cables early will help on the climb, but you will certainly hit the high traffic by the time you descend. the cables are a comic disaster waiting to happen. a conga line with both up and down rubbing shoulders within the narrow double cables. I saw a 300 lb woman make it up the cables, have no idea how she hiked there. if she had slipped, she would have taken out dozens below her.
the cables are a double line of cables roughly 3 ft high and 4 ft apart that ascends a 45* slab of slippery stone. there are cross planks for your feet about every 4-5 ft.Dec 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm #1938438
Terrific idea to hike the JMT from Mammoth area to Yosemite Valley, given your stated priorities.
Some observations to add about that:
Consider driving to Yosemite Valley for a day, seeing the sights (waterfalls, etc.), then leaving your car at the Happy Isles/Curry Village parking lot (standard parking location for Half Dome/JMT exits). Then go to the YARTS bus stop (will require a short walk or valley shuttle ride) and ride it to Mammoth. Spend the night in a Mammoth motel, or take the shuttle from Mammoth to one of the campgrounds in the Reds Meadow valley. There are several including Reds Meadow, Upper Soda Springs, Agnew Meadows (though I'm not sure the latter has been re-opened following the 2011 wind storm), and others.
Hey, if you buy Tom Harrison's Mammoth High Country trail map right now, you'll be able to follow this discussion more easily :)
Next, I fully agree that the JMT immediately out of Reds Meadow is worth skipping (I would even call it tedious). Think twice about doing the side visit to Devils Postpile at all…Better to spend that half-day (if you include the shuttle trips involved) on a side visit to somewhere far more spectacular right off the JMT, such as the legendary Lake Ediza (google-image that one) or Davis Lakes or Lyell Glacier. Anyway, start your backpack trip at Agnew Meadows for sure, and follow the JMT via Shadow/Garnet/Thousand Island Lakes. Far more memorable than the two parallel trails (River Trail or PCT).
I also agree with what someone here said about how the JMT from Tuolumne to Yosemite Valley is not nearly as interesting as the Agnew Meadows – Tuolumne section, but that if Half Dome is in your sights it is totally worth doing it this way, rather than attempting the very difficult Half Dome approach (and the permit lottery!) attendant to starting from Yosemite Valley.
Skip the side trip to the giant Sequoia trees. JMO. I know I may get flak for this as they are not the same as coastal Redwoods you saw last year, but…
While Kings Canyon & Sequoia Nat'l Parks are certainly spectacular from their westside entrances, I would say don't drive down there (westside). The drive there is not very pleasant, and you are already coming so far from Indiana. The eastside Sierra (the whole Highway 395 corridor) is absolutely spectacular and wonderful by contrast. I could spend weeks there! North of Lee Vining, in June, Bodie the ghost town would be terrific for a kid, as would Lundy Canyon, for the wildflowers. South of Lee Vining, there are endless varieties of dayhikes or backpacking trips in the Sierra eastside trailheads.
If your son liked backpacking the JMT and wants to do another BACKPACKING trip, I second the recommendation of taking North Fork Big Pine Creek trail up towards the Palisades. (Trailhead is west of town of Big Pine.) But the landscape there is so extraordinary above Third Lake, so I could never do this trail as a day-hike, I'd do it as a minimum 3-day hike so you can get all the way up to see Palisade Glacier. Sam Mack Meadow, on the way to the glacier, is, to me, the most breathtaking meadow in all the Sierra. Not realistic to get up there on a day-hike all the way from your car, unless you are in superb shape and acclimitized. Permitting via Inyo National Forest (recreation.gov) – it gets snapped up fast.
If you want to try just a dayhike, as a warmup or warmdown to the JMT, consider one of the following: (1) Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass; take a gander of the breathtaking view from there into Kings Canyon Nat'l Park; return. This is some serious elevation training (pass is at 12k). (2) From Bishop, drive west to either Sabrina Lake or South Lake trailhead and just wander uphill, anywhere, for a day. Spectacular lakes everywhere! (3) Little Lakes Valley (Rock Creek) off the 395 not far south of Mammoth area is another good place for acclimitizing: trailhead is at 10k, although hiking is more flat/more of a stroll. I list these three hikes in downward order of difficulty (and also in south-to-north order).
Note that none of those 4 recommendations fall within any of the national parks. The entirety of the High Sierra crest/eastside trailhead system is identically spectacular whether it happens to fall within a national park, or not.
The 395 is a popular scenic route. There should be a good "highway 395 recreation map" available online that could help with your planning.
In Utah, Zion is probably my favorite of the ones you mention – you could spend many days there. Needles District of Canyonlands is my second-favorite, just the most fantastic fairyland ever, but that could actually be out of your way depending on which driving route you are taking through Moab/Arches. Arches is smaller, and astoundingly varied for its size, and terrific for a day or two of day hikes. Bryce is comparatively tiny, and personally I don't find it as compelling as those first three, but it may be "on your way" anyway, and is 100% worth stopping at to do one of the hiking loops for a couple of hours. (The nice thing about Bryce is that it's at 9000 feet and it may not be as hot as the other places in June!) The fun slot canyons in Escalante (as well as some much lesser-known ones north in Capitol Reef or east towards Canyonlands) are ideal for kids! Same principal applies in Utah as in the Sierra: Some of the very best hikes are not within a national park boundary. If I was taking a kid through Utah I would put Escalante on the top of my list and arrange everything else around that. Ask Dave C. here for even more detailed Utah recommendations, if he is willing to give them, as he seems to know a ton about all of southern Utah.
A little reluctant to recommend the long haul down to Death Valley & Grand Canyon in such a warm month, with so much to occupy you just in the High Sierra and in Utah. And most of the driving hours you would be adding are sort of tedious. But those two parks would be an excellent double-header for Spring Break sometime – fly into Las Vegas and rent a car.
– ElizabethDec 27, 2012 at 7:19 am #1938543
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
+1000 on what Elizabeth wrote about The Sierra. Perfectly stated
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