Dec 24, 2013 at 8:44 am #1311362
I'd like to plan a week long trip out West since I've never done any hiking out there! My plan is to make this a trip for myself and a friend (both 26) and our Fathers (mine is 64, his in mid 50's I believe). All are active individuals and will do fine with most levels of difficulty for on-trail hiking. Ideally, I'd like about 3-4 nights backpacking(max 60 miles) in a more wilderness area, and another 2-3 days at a campsite in Yosemite (half dome; other day hike opportunities). My personal concerns for the trip are:
Cost: We are flying in so transportation costs may be great. Will be the biggest factor if this trip will get delayed a year. Anyone know when to travel or book for the best flight deals from the East coast?
Transportation: Need pointers on what will be our best options for entry/exit
Fun: I have no aspirations for killer 20+ mile days. Anything below 15/day is doable for my group, 10-12 is ideal. Features like lakes, waterfalls, scenic vistas etc. are always appreciated.
Route: Having done some searching here of some JMT section hikes it looks like Mammoth up to Tuolumne (or vice versa) could be a nice trip for the backpacking portion. It gives us easy road Transportation options and flights into Reno. We will either shuttle or rent a car, whatever would turn out cheaper for 4 people.
Dates: Any "best" time of year? Neither of us have kids that limits us to using soley Jun/Jul/Aug.
Sights: I don't know much about the park or what I might want to see!
Or offer up a completely different trip that meets the same requirements if you know of something rally great.
Thanks in advance for any help.Dec 24, 2013 at 9:29 am #2057318
Art …BPL Member
I did the Mammoth/Reds Meadow to Tuolumne trip a few years back with my wife and a couple friends. A leisurely 3 day 2 night trip. It was my wife's favorite Sierra trip to date. You won't be disappointed.
Access to the YARTS bus between Mammoth-Tuolumne-Yosemite Valley helps a lot.
Free buses around Mammoth and inside Yosemite Park help also.
You need to be aware of the bus start date into Reds Meadow and the general opening of the area to visitors. This is typically 2nd or 3rd week of June but is affected by the winter snow.
Also check the YARTS bus schedule. it runs daily during the summer but less than that outside of the main season.
If you wanted to extend the backpack trip a day or two, you could make a side trip to Lake Ediza along the way and catch a great view of the Minarets.
Lots of mosquitoes in early season.
Half Dome is a great experience but a very crowded conga line in season. So you decide what's most important here.
In my view late season is better than early season. Except that after Labor Day the various bus schedules drop off significantly so check those when picking a date. I would pick August over June.Dec 25, 2013 at 8:12 pm #2057585
Thanks for the insight! Having looked at flight options out of my general area (Philly/NY), I think it will be cheaper to fly into San Fran and drive the 4 hours in a rental car to Yosemite. It's my understanding that there are long term parking areas that we can leave our rental in while we're out backpacking?
I'll have to look more into the YARTS bus to see if it works out for us.
The crowds at the major attractions aren't a huge deal to me since we'll get our mountain time away from the masses for part of the trip anyway. And especially since I've never been to the park I feel like I need to see it at least once.
I've thought a little more about the logistics also and feel we may be better served doing the Yosemite campsite portion first. Since we're all coming from relatively low elevation I'm not sure how we'll react. We'd be a little more relaxed on that portion doing shorter day hikes with no need to get to a specific next point on a trail, jut need to get back to our designated campsite. Does that make sense?Dec 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm #2057605
Oh. So many options, so little time. LOL
So it sounds like you want to get the "high sierra" experience of the JMT in just a few days. Art's suggestion isn't bad.
With such a short time (and this depends on *your* personal foibles) I personally would not start/end from Yosemite Valley. If you do that you will spend most/all of your time on the part of the trail with both the lowest elevation and the largest number of people. You will not really make it to the true high country if you do JMT starting at Yosemite. … On the other hand, like most of the trail, and in spite of the crowds and the lack of above-the-treeline scenery, the beginning of the trail would still be amazing. If this is your first trip to Yosemite I doubt very much if you are going to care too much. Your dropping jaw may distract you guys just a bit! No time to get jaded.
So decide first if you want to see a smidgen of the "real" high country, or if you and your group will be perfectly happy with the lower elevations and people on the beginning/end section of the JMT.
Personally I like to have my car at the end of a multi-day trip, and do the shuttle at the beginning rather than the other way around. So I would suggest one of these two based on which you think would be good based on what you said in the OP.
(1) (Art's) Stay night you arrive in Tuolumne Meadows camp, leave car at Tuolumne Meadows shuttle early next day to Red's. if timing is different then drop off car anx shuttle to red's first night. Long term parking is just to the east of bridge over Toulumne river on north side of Hy 120.
(2) Leave car in Yosemite Valley long term parking and take YARTS shuttle bus to Tuolumne.
Advantages: (1) less crowded, contain one "real" pass and some "real" high country. (2) Down hill, options to do Half dome (or better Clouds Rest), end in Yosemite Valley if you are planning to see that anyway.
Disadvantages: (1) No Yosemite Valley end (2) More people, *especially" last day, miss the "real" high country.
For 4 people, unless you are really pinching pennies, you will probably get the most time to backpack with the rental car. So entry/exit to and from from Yosemite from airport via Hy 120. Agree with Art on timing. June can present certain issues that are variable in the high country. August = no/few mosquitoes and no possibility of late snow on the higher route.
Edit: Think I may have misunderstood your time constraints first time. If you *are* free other months then for many September is considered the *best* time to go. After labor day the traffic will drop off hugely. In the high country it will be almost invisible. I did more or less the route Art suggested in late September and I think I saw one other solo and one couple the *whole* trip. So if that might be your thing then do it in September. Empty, mo bugs, good weather, but shorter days, and a bit colder.Dec 26, 2013 at 1:33 pm #2057716
If I could take the time and if someone were willing to do it with me I'd make a go at the whole JMT, but oh well, maybe another year.
I was going to ask in my last reply if September might be my best option, but I totally forgot, haha. Thank you for your suggestions, I would have to get a better idea of what kind of experience each person would like to have on the trip. Personally I'd like to get to the high country, but we'll see what everyone thinks.
I agree having the car at the end would be perfect especially keeping in mind a schedule to catch flights, etc.
Lots to consider, that is for sure!Dec 26, 2013 at 3:50 pm #2057771
Art …BPL Member
September as a Yosemite Valley option is great, the later the better to thin down crowds a bit. At some point in the fall they take down the cables going up Half Dome so you need to check that if interested.
September in Tuolumne can be a bit more iffy. the place starts to shut down after Labor Day. buses don't run every day, stores close at some point. with the first permanent snow the place is closed entirely. you would need to check on this.
September in the high country can be beautiful. but unless you are experienced at winter in the back country be careful. you should maybe limit it to first half of September.
Even if you have a car you will need to rely on 2 buses should you choose that Reds Meadow to Tuolumne pack trip.
Reds Meadow bus gets you down into Reds from Mammoth.
YARTS gets you back to your starting point (or to your starting point if you leave the car at the end).
The Reds bus stops altogether in mid to late September.
YARTS is no longer daily after Labor Day.
Lots to do in the Valley with day trips and this could be your entire trip if you can handle the crowds.Dec 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm #2058033
Tony WongBPL Member
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Here is a link to a photo essay that I did a few years back for a 50 mile trip that is a loop in Yosemite.
Takes you from Glacier Point, which you can reach via free bus from the valley floor….great/classic views and finishes up going by Half Dome and back down to the valley floor.
A friend of mine says that his son's boy scout trooped did the same trip, but in reverse.
Note: For Half Dome, you will need permits for that which you get online….maybe you can see if your permit for your backpacking trip will give you access to hiking Half Dome.
Hope this helps.
TonyJan 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm #2060359
Alright, so we've decided that Sept. 20th to the 26th are the dates that we are all available for this trip, and we will be flying into SFO or OAK and renting a car. This means two things for me:
1) My original plan to backpack Reds Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows is probably no longer an option seeing as how the public transportation options will be nill.
2)Now looking for my alternate options (loop trips if possible), I also need to determine if snow will be a serious factor for us in the higher elevations that late in the Summer/early Fall.
The plan currently is to fly in on the 20th and drive to the park. Get reservations at one of the canvas tents in Curry Village for nights 20/21/22 and explore the Valley through the morning of the 23rd. For the YV portion we'll probably plan on doing Cloud's Rest and Tenaya Lake areas, and then something small the morning of the 23rd.
Then late morning to early afternoon on the 23rd starting our backpacking trip from a trail head we can park at for ~ a 30-40 mile loop staying nights 23/24/25 wilderness camping. On the morning of the 26th return to our car, get a shower and a good meal and head back to the airport for the flight home.
In talking with my friends Dad, he has unfinished business with Mt. Clark so bonus points if we can make a loop involving that.
Any further information on weather, elevation concerns, and trip routes will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again, as usual!Jan 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm #2060388
Joe LynchBPL Member
@rushfanLocale: Northern California
We were snowed on in the sierras this year on September 21. It was unusual weather but still, a possibility. Past years that time of year is really nice.Jan 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm #2060396
What approximate elevation were you at and how many inches did you get?
Did you feel it had any negative affect on your trip or did you feel specialized equipment was necessary/useful/would have been useful?Jan 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm #2060480
Joe LynchBPL Member
@rushfanLocale: Northern California
I was at Lake Tahoe with my scout troop, at 6300'. The troop wasn't prepared for snow so we bailed after dinner. It was only a couple of inches but we had young boys who would have struggled. If I was by myself, I would have stayed. There are some photos in the trip report thread from that same weekend.
Past years we have had perfect weather in the sierras that weekend. Very little snow since that storm. Just keep in mind a plan b in case you get inclement weather.Jan 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm #2060672
It did snow in late September in Yosemite this year. By some unlucky chance I was crossing through on my way to Utah exactly when it did. Whenever there is snow that time of year, and it is somewhat uncommon, it is always light and melts off, usually in a day or so. So just have it in back of your mind. The ones you always hear about, where unprepared people get stuck and need rescue, are when the "real" close down occurs very early – when the first really big snow comes early, in November (or in rare cases a few times in late October), and dumps many feet of snow and permanently closes the roads for the winter. In September the Mediterranean weather pattern off the pacific is still in force, and any snow would be a "dusting".
There is a nice loop you can do that includes most of the best of what you were originally planning.
Start and end at Tuolumne Meadows, go down Lyell valley over Donahue pass to Thousand Island lake, then turn back north and head back to Hy 120 on the EAST of the Kuna crest parallel with the Lyell valley. That part is more alpine. After getting to Dana meadows you can make it back to Tuolumne meadows on the trail that runs south of 120. This is probably a good distance for one week. Near the end you will pass by Mt. Dana, a popular "walk up" mountain if you have the extra time or inclination – but that time of year you will have it mostly to yourselves if you want climb to the top. I think this trip would have all of what you would originally have had, and possibly bit more.Jan 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm #2060972
Thanks Joe and Mark for your descriptions of the weather patterns in late September, this is exactly what I was hoping to hear. I don't mind having to be more careful about finding my way on a trail in a couple inches of snow. A few feet would be a different story, haha.
I think the loop you are talking about, Mark, is one I somewhat stumbled upon from this blog when doing some hardcore google searching:
I had a tough time figuring out how she got back from Tuolumne Meadows to The Mono Pass TH. The maps I found online though detailed, didn't show that trail just South of 120 especially well. If these are one and the same then I agree it looks wonderful from her photos. And given that she did the 35/36 miles with 40lbs or so, I think it will meet that happy medium of challenging but fun for us.Jan 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm #2060976
When you go north from thousand island lake area there is one pass to get up behind (east of) kuna crest, but shouldn't be too bad. An you have the option of Mt Dana at the end as a kind of "mini-Whitney" if you think that will be a dramatic end. The big Toulumne campground officially closes about the time you do the trip, but you can probably crash there for the night anyway – no one will be there – when you first arrive if you don't have enough time to hike to a wilderness area to camp (technically 5 mile from the road).
Lyell valley is flat for about 12 miles so as good a chance as you will get to get acclimatized to the elevation a bit before you have to start working in earnest. Usually the "off" feeling will go away after a few days. Remember to drink a lot of water and don't push yourself too much the first few days, and hopefully you will hardly notice.
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