A Good "Intro to the Sierras" Hike?
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David Wiesenfeld
(davidwiesenfeld) - F
A Good "Intro to the Sierras" Hike? on 07/17/2007 15:36:40 MDT Print View

Hi Everyone, I am from the SF Bay Area and I am trying to plan out a quick 1 or 2 day trip in two weekends. Having come out here from the East Coast, I am really looking forward to seeing the High Sierras, but I am not sure where to go. Does anyone have recommendations for hikes that won't be too crowded but still have great, open vistas? And how difficult is it to deal with the altitude? Thanks!

Nathan Moody
(atomick) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Try Lake Aloha on 07/17/2007 16:48:21 MDT Print View

(Fellow east-coast Bay Area transplant here)

I took a backpacking-novice friend to Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness last year, in late August, and he had a great time. You can camp right near the lake and awake to see the sunrise on the Crystal Range...truly stunning payoff for not a ton of mileage and fairly easy terrain.

It's not a total cakewalk - it takes some work - but it's certainly not rip-your-legs-off steep. You start the hike by the Echo Lakes, and if you want to take it easy you can even lop several miles off the trip by taking the boat shuttle (check their schedule). I think this hike is covered in Parr's Hiking the Sierra Nevada, and is certainly a popular hike. The water is sure to be pretty low due to the incredibly light snowpack we had this year. It took us about 5 hours of slow hiking from trailhead to campsite. You MUST have a permit and a bear canister, a ranger met us up there the moment we got to the lake to check both.

You won't get total solitude your first time out without putting serious trail miles down, or without going for pretty challenging hikes. Easier hikes means more people. But while I saw plenty of folks as we hiked, we camped in an area where we saw no other tents; the closest campers were about 150 yards away. You get quiet where it matters: in camp, as you eat and watch the stars appear.

I'd also suggest that you consider car-camping the first night to get used to the altitude...get up there early, get a campsite (or reserve one), and take a chilled out dayhike the day before your backpack trip. If it's your first time backpacking, or your first time backpacking above 6,000', then don't over-exert yourself the first day. Hydrate like crazy!

Another suggestion would be Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir, maybe extending out to Lunch Meadow or even Brown Bear Pass to overlook Emigrant Lake (this is all in the Emigrant Wilderness). Also a great hike, lots of uphill but nothing very steep. There's a lot less people but it's a pack trail, so expect horses.

This sounds very exciting for you - have a wonderful time, no matter where you go!

Edited by atomick on 07/17/2007 17:05:37 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Try Lake Aloha on 07/17/2007 17:09:21 MDT Print View

I would have to add Crabtree trailhead in Emmigrant. I great starting point to many great hikes there. Tons of great lakes to fish or to camp and relax.


David, if you want suggestions please pm me. I have been hiking the Sierra's for many years and can give you many suggestions on where to go for a 1-2 nighter.

Edited by kennyhel77 on 07/17/2007 17:10:26 MDT.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
Desolation on 10/19/2007 09:52:12 MDT Print View

Hey all, I'm a ranger on the Desolation Wilderness, so the thought occurred to me too. Bear cans are NOT required just yet, but you should know how to hang your food (counterbalance method is what we teach). Deso is nice because it's similar in some ways to the higher country down south, without the same level of effort and commitment. Lots of granite and some rugged trails. Plenty of lakes!!

If you can make it up here when schools are in session, there will be many fewer people. We had a couple small snows so far this year, but the trails are still open if you are.

During the season, especially Friday or Saturday, or with a big group, may want to reserve. 530-543-2694 for info this season (our seasonal offices have shut down).

Edit: when Nathan says "right next to the lake" he means of course 200' back from water sources.

Edited by Paul_Tree on 10/19/2007 10:12:50 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Desolation on 10/19/2007 10:55:11 MDT Print View

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your post and welcome to the forums!

Living in Sacramento, Desolation is my most frequent hiknig destination so I'm very excited you're participating here.

FWIW in over twenty years of hiking there I've never even seen a bear, much less have problems with any. But I also camp away from the Tahoe side (and understand that certain nearby camping areas, such as Loon Lake, have all sorts of Yogi problems).