View Full Version : Reds Meadow to Yosemite Valley trip plan

06-21-2010, 17:55
I didn't realize that WhiteBlaze had so many knowledgeable posters regarding the JMT. I'll post our trip in this thread.

We have a trip planned for late July into early August. I think we have things pretty well thought out but I am posting the trip here to have folks that know the area to pick it apart or make additional suggestions about things we just "have to see" that are a short side trip. Almost any comments are welcome.

We are pretty seasoned backpackers. Fitness wise, we could handle 10-12 AT-miles comfortably and still have something left in the tank. I personally have ZERO experience above 8000'. Aside from a trip to Glacier and Alaska almost all my backpacking as been out east. I have only camped above 6000' a couple times. I do have some concerns about how altitude will affect me.

We are in NO HURRY. We want to soak it in. I like to take LOTS of pictures and figure I'll be stopping quite often. A certain places I may want to set up some attempts at time lapse photography. My good camera equip is fairly heavy but I'm willing to carry my good stuff for a trip like this.

Travel to: I'm driving instead of flying. I'll be leaving Illinois on a Thursday evening and will not be hiking until Wednesday morning. I plan to take 3 days to drive out stopping at interesting spots along the way. I'll drive out on I70 and back on I80. I'll have a couple days before the hike to be a tourist. I haven't explored touristy options much.

Day1: 6-mile hike to Gladys Lake (9700"). Devil's Postpile on this day.

Day2: 3.6-mile hike (1 mile off the JMT) to Ediza Lake (9400'). One of our members has been to this lake and views it as a must-stop. This short day could help with acclimation as well as being a beautiful spot. Day hike options would be nice for this short day should I be feeling up to it.

Day 3: 8-mile hike to the Rush Creek area (9700'). Hike by Ganet and Thousand Island Lakes. I understand that this area is breath taking.

Day 4: Hike 6.5-11 miles over Donahue Pass (11000'), this would be my highest point ever while hiking, to somewhere along Lyell Fork as early as Kuna Creek (9000'). Stopping at Kuna only if the day and altitude has sapped us dry. We would like to get closer to Tuolumne (I don't believe you can camp within 4 or 5 miles of Tuolumne).

Day5: Hike 10-13 miles stopping at Tuolumne to resupply, eat, hopefully charge some batteries, and move on (don't like crowds). Thinking of stopping near Cathedral Lakes (9300'). If this area is crowded we could hike over to Echo Lake.

Day6: Get off the JMT near Sunrise and take the side trail to Clouds Rest. Soak this beautiful place in. Hike on to the JMT. My understanding is that there is a camping area about a half mile before the Half Dome Trail turnoff along the creek.

Day7: Leave our tents up and dayhike the halfish mile to the Half Dome Trail. Take the HDT to Half Dome. We would get there while fresh and WAY before the dayhikers from the Valley. Take our time and then hike back to our tents (slight back track). Hike on down to Yosemite Valley.

I could extend my time in the field a day if the weather messed up my plans on Clouds Rest or Half Dome.

Day8: Be a tourist again and start the drive back.

Please critique the plan, comment, suggest options (especially campsites)(side trails). I'm pumped thinking about this trip.

06-21-2010, 18:10
Sounds like a nice trip. Regarding elevation, Day 1 could be difficult but all of our bodies are different. You just have to listen to your body like I did on Day 2 (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=157094) of my JMT hike (very ironic after a strong Day 1). Drink lots of water, not just to help acclimation but because you're in a drier area. Also you'll acclimate faster on the hike if part of your playing tourist beforehand occurs at some higher elevations.

One comment: I don't know the backcountry camping restrictions around Tuolomne Meadows but there is a drive-in campground there which backpackers could also use (if it's not full). I stayed there one night.

The hike from Donahue Pass to Tuolomne is beautiful as it follows Lyell Fork all the way gradual downhill for your direction. Also easy but of course, take your time and take in the scenery.

06-21-2010, 20:06
On the way out, I would stop and check out Moab and the surrounding area.
If you are camping on the way, try driving up some side roads about 5-10 miles north of Moab and find a nice spot amongst the red towers that are around there.
You should hit Arches as well (not far off I 70)

Once on the trail, I remember a GREAT breakfast near Tuolumme.
Don't remember the name of the restaurant but it was in a tent (big) and near the trail as I remember we put our packs in bear lockers to go inside. It was a bit crowded.

I think you'll notice elevation on the first 2 nights and then it won't be a problem.
Sleep high on your way out, it should help.

Have fun.

06-21-2010, 21:03
That itinerary allows abundant time to soak in the scenery, do some short day hikes/exploring, gives you time to expand your photography interests, should keep your party together, and allows time to acclimate to the elev. Personally, I would like to see more hikers decompressing from everyday life by slowing down more on their hikes like you are doing, especially in a place with so much to offer in terms of scenic beauty as the Sierras.

Since you are driving that brings other possibilities and considerations into play. Where are you planning on leaving your car? How are you arranging the car logistics?
There are buses from YV to Mammoth Lakes and vice-versa. From ML you could take a taxi, buses(from ML to ML Ski Resort and a connect bus to Reds), or arrange a shuttle to Reds Meadow(sometimes the mountain bike companies will shuttle to the ski resort). I would do as Cooker said. See some more "stuff" on the way back to Illinois!

Thousand Island Lake(not really that many though) is the sight of one of Ansel Adams most noted photographs.Sunset can be spectacular to photograph! Banner Peak is in the distance looming over the lake.

Ediza Lake will be memorable. It is nice. I'm hard pressed to come up with many lakes I don't like in the Sierras.

There is a lower and upper Cathedral Lake. At different times one lake is closed to camping and the other is open. You might want to check on which one or if both are open to camping. The Cathedral Lakes are surrounded by 3 peaks - Tressidor, Cathedral, and Echo. The scenery will not disappoint! I spent a night camping there which I include in my Top 20 places I ever camped!

Late July/early Aug be prepared with a skeeter strategy. Head nets may not be out of the question!

06-21-2010, 21:20
This is great stuff. I really appreciate all the info

I never thought of Moab on the way out/back.
Car: Another hiker will have a car (maybe 2).
Skeeters: Been there, done that. Can't imagine it being worse than my Pictured Rocks trip from last year. Even then I didn't wear my net. But I'll bring it anyway.

06-22-2010, 01:00
With having cars and maybe another day, stopping on the way home at Arches NP near Moab would just be more gravy you would not want to miss. Of all the NPs I've been to none is more designed to take in more of the sights from the car in quick fashion, or from on short hikes of 3 miles or less, than Arches. Edward Abbey was right when he said Arches was designed with paved roads leading right upto or very near to many formations. Hit the Visitors Center exhibits(you can get water here), Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, and the Windows(London Bridges, Double Arch) area from the car or very short walks(all less than a mile). DEFINITELY do the short hike up to Delicate Arch, the arch on the Utah license plate, and probably the world's most famous arch, and the Devil's Garden TR at the end of the out and back main paved road in Arches to, at least, Landscape Arch or you could do the loop involving Devil's Garden TR and the Primitive TR to get you back to where you started. Lots of arches on this loop and less crowds. All could easily be done in a day!

At the end of the paved road where there is a loop in the road(near the Devil's Garden TH) there are picnic tables and water. Water and more picnic tables on the other side of the loop near the main campground. Watch the sun set on your favorite sandstone formation then head off into Moab for some chow. Stay the night there or continue on to home. Enjoy!

06-22-2010, 09:10
Great stuff. How about Bryce Canyon?

06-22-2010, 10:10
Did you get your permit to hike Half Dome yet? This is the first year for permits and I'm wondering how the process is working.

06-22-2010, 10:27
Did you get your permit to hike Half Dome yet? This is the first year for permits and I'm wondering how the process is working.
A permit for Half Dome is only needed for weekends and holidays. I will be hitting Half Dome on a non-holiday Tuesday.

AND, I believe my back-country permit allows for Half Dome anyway. Not sure of this 100% as I knew I would be there on a Tuesday and didn't look at the regs that closely.

06-22-2010, 11:43
Chin Music, you did your homework on the HD permit question!

For an in and out smash and crash one day hit the Queens Garden-Navajo Loop, take a short walk on the Rim Tr near the Bryce Canyon Lodge(one of the few remaining grand old rustic architecturally rich NP lodges that has survived "progress"), possibly take in the Peek a Boo Loop/Tr, and drive(or take the shuttle bus) to the end of the road to Yovimpa Pt. DEFINITELY, catch sunrise/sunset from somewhere along the Rim Tr and/or at Y PT. If I only had 1 day, I would catch a sunrise, then hit the Q G/N L early in the day while it was still cooler and less crowded(it's the most popular trail in Bryce), then as it got hotter toward mid day/early afternoon hit the burrito buffet at the lodge($10) and then the well done informative exhibits on the geology, flora, and fauna of Bryce Canyon at the Visitors Center(the Ranger presentations at Bryce were all well done too, the night time Astronomy presentation was the best I have ever experienced in any park, Bryce IS DARK at night!, little light pollution). If you are spending a whole day in Bryce save the Vistors Center for the hot part of the day! Then towards the end of the day when it starts getting cooler again hit the Peek a Boo Tr and/or Yovimpa PT for sunset(bring a bottle of vino! and your camera!). If you had another day take in the Fairyland Loop. Alternatively, if you only had 1 day, in one hot hike filled day, you could possibly squeeze in another shortish hike(less than 4 miles RT), by including an out and back to Tower Bridge on the Fairyland Loop by retracing your path from the FL TH at the RIM Tr.

Much of the more hiked trails in Bryce are treeless and exposed to hot temps! Bring something to drink everytime you step out onto one of those trails I noted at the time of the yr you will be there. If you were to also hike the Fairyland TR to Tower Bridge and back and also hike the other trails mentioned all on the same day you would have to hike during some of the hotter parts of the day.

For an even longer stay in Bryce you could include a thru-hike of the Under the Rim Tr with all the other trails I mentioned. I was able to hike all the trails I mentioned in their entirety including a thru of the Under the Rim and take in the activities listed in 3 1/2 days on my last trip to Bryce Canyon NP.

06-22-2010, 11:51
So much to see, so little time. I'm sure I will be leaving this area sooner than I want.

I'll be taking notes for when I retire. I plan on getting an RV and just going from one amazing place to another.

06-22-2010, 12:04
Unless I shortly stumble across the Fountain of Youth on one of my hikes, I've come to the reality that I will not be able to experience everything there is to experience, even in terms of hiking opps. BUT, what I can do, is require of myself that I have what I consider to be high quality experiences in whatever I do experience! Achieiving a high quantity of hikes while maintaining a high quality of those hiking experiences is my hiking philosophy! And, in order to do all these hikes you have to organize your life to reflect that goal!

06-22-2010, 17:54
Great stuff. How about Bryce Canyon?

As you said, so many places, so little time. As much as I like Arches (and I'm going there again in October), I remind you that summertime temperatures there reach triple digits. Yeah, we know it's dry but 100 in shadeless desert isn't real pleasant. So unless your schedule brings you to Arches for early evening or early morning hikes, I'd recommend Bryce Canyon instead. Bryce sits at about 7,000' so it's much cooler and being at a higher elevation will help your acclimation.

Also since you're driving out on I-70, you could visit Rocky Mountain National Park via the west entrance. Take a drive along Trail Ridge Road all the way to its highest point, take some walks, and see how you feel.

06-23-2010, 11:58
A permit for Half Dome is only needed for weekends and holidays. I will be hitting Half Dome on a non-holiday Tuesday.

AND, I believe my back-country permit allows for Half Dome anyway. Not sure of this 100% as I knew I would be there on a Tuesday and didn't look at the regs that closely.

You are correct about the backcountry permit being sufficient. Bascially, anyone with a JMT permit or similar overnight backcountry permit is ok to go there.

Thing is, I don't think I'll return to Half Dome anytime soon, at least not during peak season. Clouds Rest is much more rewarding and 99% of the day hikers don't go there. When there are 200 people on the top of Half Dome on a busy day, you'll see 2 or 3 on Clouds Rest. The only reason to do Half Dome is to experience it once. I've done it twice and each time it was great, but I also was able to do my climbs during daytime hours you can't do this anymore legally (cannot spend the night up there anymore).

A good day on the cables June 27, 1989:


The view back to Clouds Rest:



the part in there that underlines why weekends were nuts up there:

"Before the permit system, fewer than 400 people used this trail on weekdays, while about 800 people used this trail on weekends and holidays, on average.)"

Here's what you get on Clouds Rest instead - looking right back in the opposite direction of the above photo:


This year, we're probably doing Clouds Rest during the day and will ignore Half Dome Trail again. Looking at Half Dome is more impressive than standing on it, except for that vertical view down into the valley, which is pretty cool.

06-29-2010, 12:52
Sounds like a lovely trip.

There's a really nice bench below Donahue Pass before you drop all the way into Lyell Canyon. If you camp there it'll be much warmer at night with much fewer mosquitoes. I camped there and was comfortable and in the morning set out early into Lyell Canyon where there was frost and it was so cold I had to put on layers to hike through it.

07-09-2010, 17:11
Hey CM, doing same trip starting 8/27 to Tuolumne with group till 8/31 then solo to the valley till 8/4. Hope to run in to you.

07-09-2010, 18:35
You have bear cannisters right?

Lake Ediza is great. If you have energy climb mt ritter or banner no more than 3rd class if that.

do Clouds rest and half dome both are great.

try to stop at glenwood springs (CO) and enjoy the pools.

Have fun.

07-10-2010, 00:52
Got a Bearikade Weekender. Thanks for the leads.

EagleJ - did u mean u start on 7/27 and not 8/27?

07-10-2010, 19:20
Yes, sorry about that. Flying 2 Burbank 7/25 and Amtrak back to Burbank 8/4. My group is getting off @ Tuolumne 7/31 I'm going solo from there to the valley.

07-10-2010, 19:46
My day 1 is Wed 7/28, going through Tuolumne on Sunday 8/1.

07-10-2010, 19:53
I'll probably stay somewhere around there Sat. looks as if I'll be a day ahead. You going to Half dome on Tues. morn

07-10-2010, 19:58
Looks like I'm a day ahead. You going to Half Dome Tues. morn

07-10-2010, 23:07
I'll probably stay somewhere around there Sat. looks as if I'll be a day ahead. You going to Half dome on Tues. morn
Clouds Rest on Monday and Half Dome on Tuesday. I'll delay my exit a day should the weather disrupt either of those.

07-23-2010, 15:18
Good luck CM hope your trip goes great!

07-24-2010, 01:24
Thanks. Stopped in Topeka last night and Glenwood Springs, CO tonight. Had some GREAT food along the way.

Buckhorn Express in Denver was sweet.

Arches NP tomorrow.

07-24-2010, 01:52
I will be in Yosemite August 2-4. Don't really have any plans on the specifics other than we are going to try to get a first come first serve campsite and do lots of hiking and fishing. Its more of a side trip from my actual trip to San Francisco!

07-24-2010, 01:56
I will be in Yosemite August 2-4. Don't really have any plans on the specifics other than we are going to try to get a first come first serve campsite and do lots of hiking and fishing. Its more of a side trip from my actual trip to San Francisco!

Correction: I will be there August 9-11! I was looking at the calender wrong lol

07-25-2010, 01:35
Spent most of the day today at Arches NP. It was a great experience. The drive along the young Colorado on Rt 218 was a perfect warmup. The 100-105 temps sapped my energy pretty hard. Glad the predicted temps for Yosemite are more sane.

Off to Bryce Canyon NP in the morning.

08-06-2010, 01:44
Hey CM made back home safe and sound, sorry I didn't get to see you I met Randall in the BPers camp told him to tell you Hi.