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Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
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Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/02/2008 23:28:59 MDT Print View

4 Days in May 2008
19 Miles point in and out
Tom Harrison Map: Hetch Hetchy Trail Map Grids 60-62 & 10-11 Below Moraine Ridge

120 What $5 per person buys

Hetch Hetchy Backpacker's Overnight Campsite. $5 per person. Approximately 10 sites available. Just below the backpacker's parking lot. Parking lot has 10 or so bear boxes and bathrooms with running water.

121 Evening Stroll Across O'Shaughnessy Dam with Bats

Night Time View of the Tunnel at North Side of O'Shaughnessy Dam with Bats. At the end of this tunnel is the trail head.

122 Start of the Trip

View of the Dam & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with Tueeulala Falls. The Falls is a very popular day hiking destination that is only two miles from the parking lot. Wapama Falls is a half a mile beyond Tueelala Falls along the way to Rancheria Falls on the East End of the Reservoir. Another popular backpacking destination that is approximate 7 miles from the trail head and follows the edge of the reservoir with little elevation gain or loss. Parking lot in view is for the day hikers.

123 Morning on the Dam

View of the Top of the Dam. Elevation: 3815 ft. Note: at the end of the Dam is the Entrance to the Tunnel from previous night time photo.

124 We Love Signs

1.0 Mile NE from the Dam take switchbacks 1.8 miles NW leaving Hetch Hetchy behind. Head toward Beehive. Elevation starts at 4050 ft. to 5200 ft. at the top of the switchbacks.

125 Low Water Line upon the Dam

Looking Back at O'Shaughnessy Dam. Note: Very low water line due to years of drought. This dam is the water supply for San Francisco, which is some 5 hours away by car.

126 Jeff Hiking Pole Convert

Look East at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Rancheria Campsite is located at the far end of the Reservoir.

133 Top of the Switchbacks

Top of the Switchback. Elevation 5200 ft. There is an intersection here. Continue North towards Beehive. Note: In winter time to spring time snow can be found here. Heading East 2.8 Miles from here takes you to Miguel Meadow. 6.6 Miles away is Lake Eleanor.

135 Hazy View

View SE from way above the Reservoir with touches of snow in on top of peaks.

136 Who Put all of this Uphill Here

Typical trail Conditions.

140 Leaving Frog Pond

Approximately 2.0 miles from top of switchbacks an unnamed pond on the map, which we have dubbed Frog Pond. I believe that this is a year round water source. Point of interest: this is where I first used/tested my Sawyer Water/Gravity Filter after friend's MSR filter clogged and failed, leaving us with no other option than to use the Sawyer filter. (See my review of the Sawyer Filter for more details of what happened on another trip here).

141 Still Dry & Burnt

Just past Frog Pond is a burned area from a fire in 2006.

144 Trail Among Islands of Snow

146 White Carpet to the Meadow at Beehive

148 Trekking Across the Snow

147 Spring Water at Beehive

Patches of Snow at about 6400 ft. covering the trail on the way to Beehive. Beehive elevation is 6540 ft. Note: Beehive has a reliable year round spring/water source. The remaining part of the trail is dry to Lake Vernon. Approximately 3.8 miles to Lake Vernon.

151 A Little of Everything on the Trail

After Beehive the snow is gone. Being on a Northern slope, it is partially protected from the sun, slowing the melting process. Beyond Beehive the trail is gaining elevation and is open and more exposed to the sun. In this case, trails are partially swamped.

155 Highest Point

This is the highest point on the trail at 6960 ft. Lake Vernon is in a bowl of granite. Much of the trail here is marked only with cairns/rock piles.

157 A Well Groomed Trail

End of the expanse of granite. SW edge of Lake Vernon. Note: There are no established campsites. The trail runs along the Northern side of the Lake and is where most people will camp. There are a few sites on the far NE end of the Lake.

159 Return to a Familiar Campsite

First View of the Lake from the Northern Shore. Most sites to camp here are a short distance from the water's edge and are elevated on a granite shelf. Some parts of the granite shelf go right up to he water's edge and are located early on at the Western end of the Lake. Note: Notice at there is a large patch of snow in the photo. Perhaps one week prior to this trip, this whole area may have been covered in snow.

163 Jeff & Scott Basking in the Sun

Jeff & Scott Kicking Back at the Eastern End of Lake Vernon. Note: We found his an easy place to fill our 4 Liter Platypus bags and enjoy the breeze coming off the Lake.

164 Jeff's Double Rainbow Tarptent

Jeff's Double Rainbow Tarptent

168 Tricks with Sticks

Tony's Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Soul Side Zip Bivy. Here is am using my poles, held in place with rocks sandwiching the baskets, to guy line out the hood of the bivy to give me more interior head room.

171 Chef Jeff

Dinner Time. Notice the bear canisters that are required when you backpack in Yosemite.

173 View Below our Campsite

View from our campsite of the Lake. Lake Vernon Elevation: 6564 ft.

178 Beating Back the Chill

Beating Back the Chill

182 Drying the Bags Out

Drying out our Bags. Massive Condensation inside the Tarptent and MLD Bivy. Believe it was an issue of dew point. Snow may have only recently melted a few days before we arrived. Blue bag is Marmot 15 degree Helium EQ. Other bags are Montbell designs. Orange Prolite 4 Thermarest. Black air mattress is an Exped Down Mat 7.

183 Morning Coffee

Give us this day our daily coffee. Jeff using his coffee press.

187 Falls Creek

Heading North East from Lake Vernon up Falls Creek.

190 Trail Crew Shelter

Following the trail North East from Lake Vernon to the end is a Trail Crew Shelter for Winter Use. Note: Trail Effective ends here.

194 Stretches of Granite

Following the Trail through the trees NE direction, we broke out of the trees to a large expanse of granite.

195 Looking Back at Vernon

Heading North, up the expanse of Rock, looking back at Lake Vernon you can see snow on the slopes.

197 Snow Dusted Granite

Snow Dusted Granite

200 Long Shot of the Creek

View of Falls Creek

202 Slick Water Slide

Slick Water Slide with Moraine Ridge in the Distance

203 Down By the Creek

Down By the Creek

206 Sheets of Water

Sheets of Water

207 Water Ripples

Ripples of Water

208 Raging Waters

Raging Water

209 River of Whiteness

River of Whiteness

211 Force of Water

Force of Water

213 Curling Water

Curling Water

214 Scott by the Water

Scott by the Water's Edge (Scale Reference)

215 Rounding the Corner

Rounding the Corner

216 Churning


217 Little Details

Little Details

219 Jeff Between Shots

Jeff Between Shots

221 Wall of Water II

Wall of Water

222 Don't Jump Scott

Scott by the Edge

223 Jeff Getting the Shot

Jeff Getting the Shot

234 Green Waters

View Upstream

237 White Water Highway

White Water Highway

240 Rapids

Green Water Rapids

241 Nice Campsite West of Creek

Following Falls Creek Upstream, we found a site that would make a great campsite on the West Side of the Creek.

244 Contrast

Looking East Across the Creek

250 As Far As We Can Go

This is as far as we could go up the Creek. At this point, the rock drops off over 20 ft down into a pool of water at the base of the Water Fall. Heading West and back tracking a bit, we might have found a way to continue on.

252 Heading Back

Heading Back Across the Expanse of Granite

254 Along an Edge

Here you can see that the Creek drops far below the expanse of granite. Along this part of the creek we were often sprayed with a light mist from the crashing water.

258 Another Drop

Looking Back up the Creek

257 Dropping into the Trees

The View Below Us

262 Junction Below Vernon

Jumping back to the SW end of Vernon, there is a junction at 6580 ft just before you reach the lake. The trail heads East out of the granite bowl, above Lake Vernon, and then decends South to Tiltill Valley. From Tiltill Valley you can then travel South to Rancheria Falls and campsite. From here, you can return to the Dam by going East along the edge of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir make the trip into a 40 mile loop. Note: As of 2006, when we did this loop, the trail down to Tiltill Valley was heavily grown over. A little bit of a bush wack, but with a visible trail at your feet. That section of the trail is dry and exposed to the sun.

266 Bridge Over Cool Waters

Bridge Crossing the Falls Creek. Water here has exited the SW End of Lake Vernon and is the water that feeds the Wapama Falls at Hetch Hetchy Resevoir.

264 Source for Wapama Falls

View from the Bridge

271 Drapping Waters

Down Stream from the Bridge, looking back up towards the Bridge. Great place to go for a short walk from the lake.

272 Looking Upstream

View Upstream from the Bridge


Sleeping on the Rock


Last Morning. Note: On the tree is my Jam2 pack and Sawyer Gravity Filter.


Breaking Down Camp


Last view of Lake Vernon on the way out



Nice View of Hetch Hetchy Looking Eastward


Gazing down at the Dam


The End

Misc. Photos from May 2007


Rained & Snowed On



Frog Pond. Was trying to get to Lake Vernon, but we did not expect snow. My wife fell on the first day and injured her leg. At one point, the snow got near waist deep and we retreated to Frog Pond for a chilly night with wet boots and gloves. Luckily, we were able to make a fire.


Other photo essays by Tony:

BPLer's GGG: San Francisco Bay Area, CA.; Mt. Diablo

BPLer's GGG: Yosemite: Hetch Hetchy Resevior to Rancheria Falls

BPLer's GGG: Point Reyes, CA

Emigrant Wilderness

High Sierra trail to Mt. Whitney

Yosemite: Glacier Point to Red Peak Pass to Lake Merced

Yosemite in Winter: Crocker Point & Dewey Point

Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Yosemite: Tenaya Creek

Ventana Wilderness

Edited by Valshar on 12/13/2009 13:07:00 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Photos- DONE POSTING! on 10/08/2008 01:34:17 MDT Print View

Boy, glad that this is done.

Hope you enjoy it.

There are a lot of photos, so sorry if it takes a while to load.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is only visited by less than 1% of the visitors to Yosemite.

It offers great views with relatively few people with good trails.

Worth checking out.

My 1st backpacking trip some three years ago was here and I have returned many times to explore more of the area, which has a lot to offer.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Photos- DONE POSTING! on 10/08/2008 07:14:34 MDT Print View

That bivy looks sweet. Im guessing thats the 2 oz silnylon on the bottom same as the material use for the Ark, Exodus and my Zip. I always thought that would be the best bottom fabric for a waterproof bivy.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
yosemite pics on 10/08/2008 07:57:58 MDT Print View

Wow, awesome. now I want to go!

Carlos Figueroa
(cfigueroa) - F

Locale: Santa Cruz Area
Re: Yosemite on 10/08/2008 08:55:41 MDT Print View

I have spent a good part of 20 years in Yosemite climbing and I have never visited Hetch Hetchy. With this great report, I am thinking about a possible trip there in the near future. Tony, I loved your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/08/2008 09:28:56 MDT Print View

Again!!!! Great report and pictures Tony. But really- how cumfortable are you in the MLD bivy? Do you feel like your in a coffin?

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
MLD Bivy Comfort on 10/08/2008 12:51:12 MDT Print View


Good eye!

Yes, I do have the discontinued Yellow eVent bivy with the green 2.0 silynylon bottom and in wide. (There used to be a wide and long it is a combined option)

The bottom is really bomber as advertised in 2007.

Still looks new without and scrapes or abrasions on it.

I have even used the bivy in a snow trench while learning to snow camp with the Sierra Club this past February and had Zero condensation. (See Yosemite Photos of Crocker Point)


To answer you question, how comfortable is it sleeping in a bivy?

It takes a little getting used to in that my sense of personal space had to be mentally re-adjusted.

The generous amount of bug netting really allows good ventilation, breathing, with a view of the stars above; which is a bit of a novelty considering that I have been used to being inside a tarptent with no view.

The only time that I "freaked out" in the bivy was while testing out the bivy in Lake Tahoe in the snow at a motel.

While the family was inside nice and warm, I thought that it would be a good idea to sleep out in the snow with my MLD Poncho Tarp as an A Frame and in my bivy with a 15 degree marmot helium down bag, bivy, and every stitch of clothing that I thought I would take in the snow.

I zipped up the bivy just so that I had a small blow hole to breath from.

Somewhere around 2 am, I woke up freaking out and just had to open it up and get out for a stroll.

Temps were at 5 degrees F, so I was happy with the bivy and my clothing/sleep system.

Key to my comfort is using the guyline loop at the top of my bivy...which you can see attached to my poles in one of the photos.

This really increases the interior head space inside the bivy and keeps the bug netting off my face.

I do have a wire built into my hood of my bivy, which helps, but using the guyline loop doubles the distance from my face and the bug netting.

In that respect, I could save 1.3 oz by removing the wire.

I am 5'6" ft (142 lbs) and I find that the space above my head easily has room for my 10 essentials bag, extra clothing, my shoes, etc.

The side zip also makes getting in and out easy, I would have a hard time using a bivy that did not have this feature.

So I don't feel like I am in a coffin...I use a Prolite 4 1.5 inch sleeping pad (hence why I got the wide version), I find that I still have room to move around, turn on my side, and roll over onto my belly if I want.

My friend, Jeremy, has the MLD superlight in regular and has the same sleeping bag that I have. He does find that the cut of that bivy with his fluffy bag leaves little room to move around.

If in doubt, go with the wide/long option for the extra space.

P.S. On my last trip, I spend most of my nights in the bivy, but with it zipped fully open and the top of the bivy folded back. No flying bugs to worry about at the time and I survived fine.

Hope that this helps.


Edited by Valshar on 10/08/2008 12:56:47 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
MLD Bug Bivy on 10/08/2008 15:17:47 MDT Print View

Hey Tony, That's a funny story about the bivy at Lake Tahoe.(Always testing gear) I have a bivy and just find it to un-comfortable for me. To each is there own comfort level!! If your interested myself and few other BPL members are going to Gem Lake out of the Crabtree TH off HWY 108-Pinecrest. Leaving early Sat. coming back Sun. 16 mile out and back- More the better. Take Care

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: MLD Bug Bivy on 10/08/2008 15:51:33 MDT Print View


The bivy works out for me because I sleep like a log, when I managed to fall asleep, and don't move much.

Crabtree & Gem Lake at the Emmigrant Wilderness?

I was there in August for a training trip before we were going out to the TRT, but my friend, Jeremy, injuried his knee 20 miles into that trip, which resulted in us cancelling our TRT trek til next year.

In fact, the next photo project that I have is of that trip. (My screen saver at work is a slide show of the raw photos from that trip).

We went from Crabtree to Deer Lake, to Emmigrant Lake, to sheep camp, up Relief Valley, to Chewing Gum Lake, back to Crabtree.

Would love to hook up with some other BPLer's like yourself, but can not make it this time around...thank you for the invite!

Perhaps another time....where do you live?

I am in the East Bay/S.F.....Danville.


Edited by Valshar on 10/08/2008 16:03:53 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
MLD Bug Bivy on 10/08/2008 16:28:56 MDT Print View

Hey Tony, I have been to Emigrant Lake also (last summer). I really enjoy all the hiking out of Kennedy Meadows- lots of good stuff in the Emigrant Wilderness and fishing. Any ways I live in Walnut Creek. Maybe next time!! I did about 20 miles of the TRT in early Sept. Sorry to hear about your friends injury. Myself and some other BPL members are going try snow camping this winter. I will keep you in the loop- take care

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/08/2008 19:44:20 MDT Print View

Great photo essay Tony, thanks for taking the time to post them. A very good early season route you worked out.

Isn't Hetch Hetchy spectacular? Let's drain that thing!


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/08/2008 20:39:13 MDT Print View

I agree Rick........

But where are us Bay Area types gonna get our beloved water??? John Muir said that the valley that Hetch Hetchy lies in is just as magnificent as Yosemite Valley.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/08/2008 20:41:39 MDT Print View

Actually Jay, we're doing a loop....Semantics though. It will be awesome. I am testing out my Black Diamond Light Sabre bivy on this trip.

Who's bringing the whiskey???????????

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 10/09/2008 13:50:30 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 01/18/2015 19:15:08 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/09/2008 15:32:59 MDT Print View

Hi Ken,

Considerable thought has gone into where the replacement water would come from. Here's a good technical roundup:

Deals would have to be cut, particularly with the Turlock and Modesto IDs. But as the wise man said, "Whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting over." It's clearly do-able using existing water.

O'Shaughnessey Dam was John Muir's greatest defeat, anticipating David Brower's failure on Glen Canyon half a century later.


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Yosemite: Lake Vernon & Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on 10/09/2008 19:26:57 MDT Print View

Rick, thanks for the link. I DO, think that there are suitable places to to re-locate the water storage. And you are right in the two counties you mentioned as possible places. Would take some HUGE political wrangly to get this done. So many different constituents vying for that precious water

Ron Alcatraz
(RON8O) - F
WOW! on 01/13/2009 21:34:52 MST Print View


This is a fantastic report on your trip and inspires me to get out and explore more.

So glad we've connected again,

Steven Thaw
(steventhaw) - F
RESTORE HETCH HETCHY! on 12/12/2009 12:49:26 MST Print View

Hi All,
"Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man." JOHN MUIR

There are still better sites for those O'Shaughnessy Dams down river out of the park as testified by John Muir and others.
Restore Hetch Hetchy has an informative website with a win-win solution for san francisco and the American people.
If you Love Yosemite, National Parks, and Wilderness, then
you will join the crusade to RESTORE HETCH HETCHY!
Sincerely, Steve Thaw, Moraga, California