Need Help - Going to Yosemite for the 1st time.
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Aaron York
(aaronyork1981) - F
Need Help - Going to Yosemite for the 1st time. on 08/03/2009 23:49:05 MDT Print View

Hi, a group of 5 friends (2 live in SLC, UT. 3 Live in Laguna Beach, CA.) who are all fairly experienced backpackers are planning a trip to Yosemite. We can leave the night of Tues. Sept. 9th from SLC, UT and need to be back to Utah by Sunday evening. My question to the group is - 1) should we fly or drive or a combo of both. 2) What should we plan for a 3 day backpacking trip (Looking for a continuous 3 day hike with a camping stop along the way each night - We don't want to do day hikes and then return to a fixed campsite each night)

Any advice would be great!

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Need Help - Going to Yosemite for the 1st time. on 08/04/2009 08:59:15 MDT Print View

It's likely that you will be driving some... the nearest commercial airport is Fresno which is 2+ hours away. There is bus service but if you are trying to maximize your time that's not likely to work well so you will be renting a car. The SF Bay area (SFO, SJC, OAK) are 4 hours away, Reno is 3-3.5 hours. If someone is a private pilot they could fly into BIH which is less than 1 hour from Yosemite... I don't think there are any commercial flights into BIH these days.

As to where to hike... there are lots of good choices and you are after labor day which means that you shouldn't have a problem getting permits. What sort of millage / elevation changes are you up to and would you rather cooler temp (start at a 8-9k trail head) or warmer temp (start from a 4-5k trail head).

Lori Pontious
(lori999) - M

Locale: Central Valley
Yosemite on 08/08/2009 10:58:55 MDT Print View

Hi there,

I live in Fresno and there is no bus service that I am aware of to Yosemite. There is YARTS from Merced and Mammoth Lakes; if I were you, i would check on price for a rental car from Fresno versus a flight into Merced, see what the cost offset would be, and take your pick based on what kind of convenience you wish to have. The YARTS (yarts.com has the schedules and pricing) cannot be beat for the deal factor - I rode from Mammoth to Tioga Pass on one yesterday and enjoyed being able to look out the window, usually I am driving over Tioga and can't really rubberneck.

If this is your first time in Yosemite and you want to see some of the major scenic points while backpacking the whole time, I suggest getting good topo maps - Harrisons are great - and looking at trail distances from Tioga Road to the valley. Hiking from Sunrise, Cathedral or Lyell trailhead through to Clouds Rest and Half Dome then out to Nevada Falls, then up the Panorama trail to Glacier Point would have you hitting some really awesome views without getting stuck in valley traffic. Read up on the regulations for wilderness camping on the Yosemite website before planning this, as this is easily the heaviest use area in the park (between Half Dome and Glacier Point) and there are significant restrictions on camping. You will end up in Little Yosemite Valley and then hike through to Ilillouette Creek for another night, then have a short hike to Glacier Point - which is good for you, as from there you will need to wait for the tour bus (twenty five per adult one way) to get to the valley, where you will need to either hop on the YARTS directly or stay a night in the backpacker campground. The alternative to the tour bus is to go down the Four Mile Trail to Curry and hop a free shuttle. But if you're not feeling up to the punishing downhill, the tour bus is nice.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Yosemite on 08/09/2009 18:15:22 MDT Print View

agree with Lori on the Sunrise TH. Hit Clouds Rest which has some of the best views in Yosemite, hike Half Dome and head down to the valley. Why not drive from Utah???

Lori Pontious
(lori999) - M

Locale: Central Valley
permits on 08/09/2009 19:21:24 MDT Print View

I should add - permits may be a problem. The trailheads mentioned are some of the most popular in the park. For five people it may be difficult - be ready with second and third choice trailheads, as each has a quota. 40% of the permits are available for first come/first serve, the day BEFORE the hike's start date, so if you are able to get there a day BEFORE you want to start hiking as early as possible in the morning (I was once fourth in line for permits by getting there at 5:30 am) you might just get those permits free.

If you want to try to reserve permits to lock in the date you want, call 209/372-0740 and ask if any are available. I would prioritize trailheads - Sunrise, Cathedral, Lyell. The trails in this area are pretty well connected - I can see a route from behind the wilderness office and TM campground connecting to the Cathedral Lakes trail, which is a bit of trailhead trickery, but all's fair in trailhead quotas. I would be crazy enough to get a May Lake permit, spend the night I would have spent in the backpacker campground up there, then turn around and hike across the road then south on Sunrise.

The system is frequently very easily manipulated. :) You have a good chance, as September is late in the season and kids will be back in school. But check on the permit reservation if your timetable is inflexible.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: permits on 08/09/2009 19:28:40 MDT Print View

Problem with a May Lake permit is that the Rangers will ask you your destination. If you deviate, and yes that is on the otherside of Hwy 120 they will give you some grief. Just a thought.

Lori Pontious
(lori999) - M

Locale: Central Valley
permits on 08/09/2009 19:49:29 MDT Print View

If I put the exit trailhead as Happy Isles, stay the first night at May Lake, enter the wilderness at May Lake, and the ranger is okay with that?

Some of the rangers will be easier to work with than others. I have had helpful ones and not so helpful ones. They really do want to help for the most part. I worked through six trailheads with one on the phone until I got an itinerary we could agree on. I've asked the dumb questions on behalf of group members - what happens if a member of the group is very slow? They just say they are with a group and fell behind, or if you know he's going to be slow, ask for a second copy of the permit when you pick it up. What happens when someone shows up a day late for the trip? That depends - at Hetch Hetchy they let someone in on my group permit a day after the group entered the wilderness. That seems to fly in the face of their strict trailhead quotas, but they let it happen. Maybe the lady was feeling generous that day and it was a fluke, but there you go.

What you do between entry and exit - peak bagging, wacky loops cross country, zigzags, spirals - is up to you, they just want to see you go in on the day you specify and on the trailhead you specify. And sometimes even that is up for debate.

Edited by lori999 on 08/09/2009 19:50:51 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: permits on 08/09/2009 20:46:12 MDT Print View

I'm not nearly as experience with Yosemite permits, but the ones I've gotten, my impression is similar to Loris. They just want you to enter on the date and at the place your permit says; after that it's up to you. The only time a ranger got picky was when I was leaving from Happy Isles in May - he made me state if I was staying at Little Yosemite Valley my first night or up the trail at Moraine Dome. But that's because there's 2 (3?) different permits for that trailhead.

I just got done with a 3 night trip starting at Cathedral Lakes and stopping at Sunrise, Merced Lake via a detour to Clouds Rest, and Vogelsang High Sierra camps, about 45 miles total, I think. As is pointed out, the trails in that area of the park are really connected up well. Most people leave for Sunrise HSC from the Sunrise TH at Tenaya Lake because it's shorter (and steeper). I left from Cathedral because that's where the permit was available. I exited behind the TM campground and walked along Hwy 120 (prettier view) back to my car, and no one bothered me, even though I technically exited at the wrong TH. I could've even caught the shuttle if I'd wanted.

As far at the High Sierra Camps one plus is that they all have bear boxes, so if you stick to them, you can leave behind the 3lb bear cannisters. The ranger will try to talk you into bringing one anyways, as he did (succesfully) to me, but I found no need for it and would tell anyone else not to bother. They also have potable water and toilets(Merced Lakes were even flush!).

Edited by jrmacd on 08/09/2009 20:47:06 MDT.

Lori Pontious
(lori999) - M

Locale: Central Valley
re: permits on 08/09/2009 22:15:14 MDT Print View

I've backpacked in Yosemite at least 4 times so far this year and will be going at the end of the month for another three day outing... the permitting is really not so hard. Just rigid and restriction-bound due to the sheer volume of people trying to go.

While standing in the wilderness office on one trip, I heard a couple try to talk the rangers out of making them carry a canister. "we'll eat all our food the first day and walk back to the car in the morning. we won't have any food." They got handed a canister to hold their clif bar wrappers and toothpaste.

Rangers carry tasers and handguns, and not for the bears. They watch people try to get around the rules all the time and some people get belligerent about it. I'm not surprised they wanted you to have a canister despite your camping at the High Sierra Camps. Remember that the camps and Little Yosemite Valley are very busy, and it may happen that there is no room in the bear boxes.... hikers moving around in the backcountry do not have to schedule their second, third, tenth or twentieth night on the schedule, so the rangers, not knowing how many of the hikers will show up at any given camp at any given time, have a reason for pushing the canister in your hands. They want to make sure your actions don't kill any more bears.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: re: permits on 08/10/2009 09:06:14 MDT Print View

I certainly wasn't intending to badmouth the rangers. I was wondering myself whether there'd be room in the bear boxes , which is why I was easily convinced to bring a cannister anyways. As it was, on a weekend in August, space was never even close to an issue. I bring my cannister everywhere, even when not required, because I don't have the skill to properly hang a bear bag, so I had kind of been looking forward to leaving it behind.

As I was hiking, I was wondering if rangers carried any kind of 'weapon' for subduing unruly hikers. They sadly have to assume that every hiker they come across is the lowest common denominator, like those people who didn't want to carry a bear cannister, so I don't get annoyed when the have to explain to me the most basic rules, and they usually do it with a "I know you know this, but there are idiots who don't/don't care?" kind of tone.

I met a guy a Lake Merced who was spending the summer hiking every trail in the park (minus the Hetch Hetchy part) He had to yell at a guy who was trying to pull down a dead tree for firewood, explain to him that the rule was 'Dead and Down', not just dead. They guy listened eventually, but he and his group spent the rest of the night giving him and pretty hard time verbally. And don't even get him started on the places he's found illegal fire rings. I found a recent one at the backpackers camp at Vogelsang, way, way above the altitude limit for fires.

Anyways, I don't want to hijack the thread, just explain my reasoning behind maybe not bringing a bear cannister