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6 Day Yosemite itinerary advice
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
6 Day Yosemite itinerary advice on 08/09/2011 20:10:04 MDT Print View

I've got a trip from the East Coast to Yosemite planned from September 26-October 1. They break down to two 3 day/2 night trips, part one starting in Tuolumne Meadows and ending in Yosemite Valley and part two starting in Yosemite valley and ending up back at the rental car in Tuolumne Meadows. I have the first three days figured out(unless someone points out something I'm missing), but I've got a couple options for the 2nd three days.

EDIT: I unwittingly added an extra day to my trip, and had to readjust the days based on six days, not seven.

Day One (Monday) - Lyell Canyon TH through Lyell Canyon to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. ~12. It's a short first day but I don't think I'll get started till late morning/noonish after arriving via rental car from somewhere outside of Reno. Possibly I'll hike on to Vogelsang Lake.

Day two (Tuesday)- Vogelsang HSC through Vogelsang Pass along Lewis Creek to Red Pass and stopping at Lower Lake Ottoway. ~22 miles. I could use some input as to whether to take the high route along the Merced River or hiking down to Merced HSC and following the river to the trail junction for Red's Pass.

Day 3(Wednesday) - Lower Lake Ottoway to Yosemite Valley via Glacier Point ~22 miles. I'll spend the night at Curry Village or one of the campgrounds and resupply at the village store the next morning.

Option 1
Day 4(Thursday) After resupplying, and taking in the valley for a bit, I'll take Yosemite Falls TH to Pate Valley trail junction with Grand Canyon of Tuolumne trail ~ 22-24 miles miles, depending on my morning start time.

Day 5 - (Friday) Day 6 - (Saturday) Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to Glen Aulin ~ 14.5 miles

Day 6 (Saturday) Glen Aulin to car ~9 miles

Option 2
Day 4 (Thursday) After resupplying, and taking in the valley for a bit, I'll get a late-morning start at the Yosemite Falls TH to Ten Lakes ~17-20 miles depending on my start time and which lake I stop at.

Day 5 (Friday) - Ten Lakes Basin to Glen Aulin via May Lake ~ 25 miles I could shorten this by skipping May Lake

Day 6 (Saturday) Glen Aulin to car ~9 miles.

I could also add one day at the beginning, but but I don't see anything gained by adding a day to my Part one itinerary. I can do a 30-35 mile day, but I'd rather not on this trip, and short miles leave me bored. My ideal mileage is ~20, or 7 hours of hiking + 3 of breakfast, dinner and dawdling. As a solo hiker, I'd rather be walking than sitting around in camp.

I guess my question is: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne vs Ten lakes/May Lake. If you could pick one, which would it be?

Also, is my itinerary suitable for hammock camping? I'm a new hammocker, just out twice so far, and not confident in my ability to improvise too much.

All opinions welcome.

Edited by jrmacd on 08/10/2011 07:54:38 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: 6 Day Yosemite itinerary advice on 08/09/2011 20:28:21 MDT Print View

Jim, I've been over that country.

1. Vogelsang Lake isn't much above Vogelsang HSC, so you may want to camp at the lake.
2. Lewis Creek might be pretty, but that will be rather late in the season.
3. Going southbound, I have always taken the High Trail, not the trail on the upper Merced valley floor. However, that takes you out toward Isberg Pass. To hit the Red Peak Pass Trail, you may come from the valley floor. That trail pass used to be hideously rocky.
4. On Day Three, it is not clear where you would stay in Yos Valley unless you have a reservation all locked in.
5. Option 1 Day Four. Hiking up the Snow Creek Trail can't be any fun. I've done it when carrying skis.
6. Option 1 Day Five. Getting over and down to Pate Valley is a long haul. I've always gone by way of Lukens Lake, Morrison Creek, and down.
7. Option 2 Day Five seems better. Ten Lakes can be nice, but again you will be there in very late season. The local black bears will be about ready to close up shop for the season.
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is nice. I've only been through there once. There should be a good crop of Poison Oak in there this year from Pate Valley to the Muir Gorge. May Lake is a little boring to me, and there are lots of others around there. That late in the season, the May Lake HSC will be closed down.

At that season, the weather gets iffy.


Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: 6 Day Yosemite itinerary advice on 08/09/2011 21:05:22 MDT Print View

Bob, thanks for the input. I know from your postings you're very familiar with the Sierra's so I don't take your advice with a grain of salt.

I did a Cathedral Lakes TH to Sunrise to Clouds Rest to Merced HSC to Vogelsang HSC loop two years ago, so I'm rewalking old ground as far as Lewis Creek and Vogelsang HSC. Lyell Canyon will be new to me, and from Vogelsang Pass I was drooling looking at the Clark Range, which is why I want to head there.

When you say the black bears will be ready to close up shop for the season, do you mean they'll be particularly active, or not so? I understand intellectually that they won't bother me personally but are interested in my food, but I do have a bear-phobia, and them moving around nearby at night freaks me out. I know Glen Aulin is a hotspot that I'm going to have to deal with.

For what it's worth, I'm a pretty strong climber, and in fact kind of enjoy it. If it helps as a point of reference, last year on the TRT I did Kingsbury South to Big Meadow (24 miles) and Tahoe Meadows to Kingsbury North (36 miles) in a day each. I've done the Yosemite Falls thing, so I'd like to walk along the valley rim.

My map (National Geographic) shows a 1.2 mile connector from the High Trail to the Red's Pass trail. I love ridgeline walking, which is why I was looking at the High Trail option. Also, I'll stock up on water in case I don't make Lower Lake Ottoway.

I plan on reserving in Curry Village or at North or South Pines for my Yosemite Valley night(assuming the latter two take people not in RV's.) Right now they all have mid-week vacancies, but that's why I want to get this trip locked in in the next couple days.

The iffy weather is on my mind. I failed in my TRT thru-hike last year, which I did the first week of October, because of early storms that dumped multiple feet of snow on the high passes. That's why I have the rental car and a Yosemite Valley halfway point; I figure that leaves me leeway to change my route/bail.

Thanks for the advice.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: 6 Day Yosemite itinerary advice on 08/09/2011 21:50:25 MDT Print View

I did a variation of your route one time many years ago. T.M. to Vogelsang to the High Trail to Isberg Pass, then back to Merced Lake, up the Echo Creek Trail and around to Cathedral Pass and back to T.M. That was 65 miles, and I had planned it as a 3-day trip. I finished it in two days! But, I digress...

Black bears in that area are particularly active through the normal backpacking season. Then in September or October, there are fewer backpackers due to the iffy weather. Black bears are thinking about having a few more scores from backpacker food before the den up for the winter. The summer vegetation will have dried out, so there isn't a whole lot else for them to eat. I mean, you can go only so far on chipmunks for lunch.

I'm sorry to hear of your bear-phobia. I was probably that way 30 years ago. Eventually you will find that black bears are like oversized dogs, and they are very intelligent and curious. They really, really want to grab your food. I try to use that to my own personal advantage, so I set my bear can out about 50 feet with some jingle bells on it for noisemakers. Then I set up my camera and flash to reach out that far. Nighttime bear photos are fun. The closer you are to numbers of people, the closer the bears will be. Therefore, if you get way off the beaten track more, you should see almost zero bears. I would expect to see few in the Clark Range.

I would tell you where to go along the north rim of Yosemite Valley. However, each time I am up there, I find a bear within a mile or two of camp.

I think you are right about the High Trail and the Red Peak Pass Trail. Another variation is to head south out of the park at Post Peak Pass, swing around through the national forest, then head back in at Fernandez Pass. Then to Merced Pass Lake (not to be confused with Merced Lake), and then to Ottoway Lakes, Red Peak Pass, then back to Merced Lake. I did that once also.

That late in the season, the autumn rains and snows may have started. However, if they have not started, then 90% of the streams will be dried up, and that makes for water shortage problems. If you see that condition setting up on the first day, you need to have extra water containers so that you can make it longer distances between refills. Also, I expect the water quality to be somewhat poor [giardia] so water treatment should be essential.


Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Ritter Range on 08/11/2011 12:26:36 MDT Print View

"I guess my question is: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne vs Ten lakes/May Lake. If you could pick one, which would it be?"

Neither. Ten Lakes/May Lake is one of the least interesting places I've ever backpacked in the Sierras. Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne is much better, b/c of the waterfalls, but to fully appreciate them you really have to do GCT when the water flows high (June/July).

Instead, see some real high country. Hike southbound from Tuolumne or Dana Meadows/Parker Pass. Enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness. See some of the spectacular stuff in the Ritter Range, such as Marie Lakes, Thousand Island Lake, the ponds just west of Garnet Lake, Lake Ediza, Minaret Lake. The High Trail (PCT section from Thousand Island Lake to Agnew Meadows - this is different than the High Trail mentioned by Bob above) is famous for its fall color (aspens) at that very time. It is easy to hitchhike back to Tuolumne from your exit in the Mammoth Lakes area (Agnew Meadows, Reds Meadow, or wherever). Tom Harrison's "Mammoth High Country" map, and the two Ritter Range trips in the Trekking California book will help you plan.

You are hitting the time of year when snow could start falling. 99% of the time, it will just melt off right away...although I did get almost get stranded around Oct 6, 2009 when the snow did stick and Tioga Road was closed early.

- Elizabeth

Edited by mariposa on 08/11/2011 12:44:10 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Clark Range Vs Ritter Range on 08/11/2011 21:18:51 MDT Print View

Elizabeth, you've just made things much more difficult.

I had my mind set on visiting the Clark Range, but after googling pictures of the lakes and high country you mentioned, I'm wavering. I just ordered the Mammoth High Country and Ansel Adams maps, plus Trekking California from Amazon. (My NatGeo map of Yosemite covers a bit of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, but not all the way to Mammoth) I'd pretty much settled on eliminating both the Grand Canyon and Ten Lakes. The point you made about the Grand Canyon is a good one.

I just applied for and received my permit for 6 days, entering at Lyell Canyon and exiting at Glen Aulin, but so long as I've got my permit, I can change plans up to, well, on the fly when I'm there.

After reading Bob's post and consulting my map, I'd settled on something along the lines of Bob's trip:

Day 1: Lyell to Vogelsang Lake - 13 miles
Day 2: Vogelsang to Anne or Rutherford Lake, below Fernandez Pass ~23 miles
Day 3: Anne or Rutherford Lake to Triple Peak Meadows ~22 miles
Day 4: Triple Peak Meadows to Upper Pines Campground ~24 miles
Day 5: Upper Pines Campground to Glen Aulin via Tenaya Lake ~21 miles.(Technically, according to the ranger I spoke with today, once I 'exit' the wilderness, I need a new permit to reenter at another TH, but walk-ups for Snow Creek shouldn't be hard to come by, and I've never seen a ranger standing check permits at TH's, and once I'm back in the wilderness, how do they now where I've come from?)
Day 6: Glen Aulin to Car ~ 7 miles, leaving me time to round trip into the Grand Canyon for 6-7 miles.

The potential iffy weather has me leery of getting caught between two 10,000'+ passes, though, so I have a weather dependent variation on the above that involves hiking to Triple Peak Meadows with a side trip to Post Peak Pass (~22 miles), then over Red's Pass, up to Merced pass before heading back down to one of the Merced Lakes (~15 miles) and from there to the Valley (~17 miles). If the weather was supposed to be bad but held out, I might try to make it to Anne or Rutherford and then hike to the valley from there (~24 miles). This allows me to bail out via the Merced River to the Vally if snow comes early and buries the passes. (An issue I had on my first week of October TRT thru hike attempt last year).

In the Ritter Range option, I'm looking at:

Day 1: Lyell to Marie Lakes ~18.4 mile (some of the pictures made me drool on my desk at work)
Day 2: Marie Lakes to Waugh Lake, Agnew Lake, Agnew Pass, Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake where I spend the night. ~ 14 miles so plenty of time to dawdle and enjoy.
Day 3: Thousand Island Lake to Vogelsang Lake ~ 22 miles.
Day 4 Vogelsang back to the car to resupply(I only have a Bearvault 400, so I have room for only 4 days max of food, and don't want to spend to rent the a Bearikade or the odious Garcia. If I laid out $80 for the larger Bearvault, or for half that rented a Bearikade, I could pack 5 nights of food and not have to detour back to the car or stop in the Valley.) and on to Sunrise Lakes or HSC, or perhaps stop short at Cathedral Lakes. ~18 mile.
I've stayed at Sunrise HSC before, and I'm again technically violating the rules by 'exiting' the wilderness to go to the car and then reentering.
Day 5: Sunrise to Glen Aulin ~13 miles. Again technically leaving and reentering the wilderness.
Day 6: Same as day six above, 7 miles back to the car with plenty of time to explore the Grand Canyon.

The same weather situation applies as above, i.e., getting caught on the wrong side of a high pass if there's an early snow storm. I'd never even thought about getting stranded car-wise if it snowed super-early. As far as hitch-hiking, even if it's 'easy', I just can't bring myself to rely on chance when it come to getting back to my rental and to the airport for my flight.

Decisions, decisions. I just have to pick on route for this time and save the other for the next.

Edited by jrmacd on 08/11/2011 21:21:56 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Clark Range Vs Ritter Range on 08/11/2011 21:37:52 MDT Print View

Jim, all I can say is that you are a glutton for punishment in some of the prettiest country around Northern California. I wish you luck with the weather. That time of year can be totally unpredictable.

In Yosemite, there are relatively few backcountry patrol rangers, and fewer yet as you get back farther. They tend to be found closer to the frontcountry where newbies get into all sorts of jams and have to be re-educated. It is not uncommon for rangers to get in a huff if you are camping in some improper place, like out in a meadow or too close to a stream. Often, they will want to knock on the side of your backpack to hear the thunk of the bear canister. Generally they look at my permit for about five seconds, and then hand it back.

For virtually anywhere in Yosemite, if you have a reasonably clear wilderness permit in your pocket, you are good. I mean, the entry point must be somewhere within reason for where you are. But, if you are a little out of the area and the patrol ranger asks you where you are coming from, you simply turn around, point way out there, and say, "Somewhere out there. I'm not quite sure. I must have made a wrong turn." The ranger will chuckle and ask you some other questions, and then you will be on your way. About the only time that they get hardcore about permits is when you are doing something obviously illegal, or you are obviously infringing on some tight quota area, or if you have to be rescued.

Been there. Done that. Read the book. Saw the movie.