Hiking Yosemite National Park
by Suzanne Swedo (Falcon Guides)
© 2016 Suzanne Swedo/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This was an amazing trail. There was still quite a bit of snow down to 6000 feet this June, so other trails we had gotten permits for were closed. We were bummed, but as is often the case, it turned out to be a lucky break. Water was so high that the waterfalls were raging, and even though it was early summer, wildflowers were blooming as if it were spring.
We did the trip backwards, which I'm happy about but I could see it being nice either way. Our first night was at Rancheria Falls, which was so pretty we stayed there for two nights, loafing around and enjoying the falls. There were multiple swimming holes, but since it was so early in the season the water was only bearable for a few minutes.
The third day we hiked through Tiltill Valley, past a field of flowering lily pads and then through a wet grassy meadow that we walked through barefoot. In Tiltill valley we stood in a storm of butterflies for several minutes. It still takes my breath away to remember.
The hike up to Vernon was tough, definitely a long day, almost all uphill. But the scenery was so spectacular I didn't notice my aching feet for the most part. With such high water levels, we forded multiple streams from ankle to waist high between Tiltill and Vernon. There were passages where we were hiking on snow, but nothing needing any special equipment.
Lake Vernon was also beautiful, in a totally different way. It lies in a basin of granite which looks almost like a moonscape. Vernon has a bunch of established campsites on the east side of the lake, and there are a lot of visitors, we were camping quite close to another group.
The last day we walked out, which was a nice easy stroll down a gentle grade. The forest was mostly swampy and burnt out, I can't imagine that camping is very nice along that route. Also, we heard from some other hikers that mosquitoes were very bad at Laurel Lake - we managed to only get bitten a handful of times at Vernon.
Awesome trail, although because it was so dry we had very little water. The meadows and lake are quite beautiful, and it only took us a day and a half of fairly strenuous hiking. Me and my two buddies actually ended up doing the reverse of this trail, which involved some very tough switchbacks, but gave us a last day of beautiful descent.
Great trek, though we weren't able to do the entire loop. We set out Friday, April 20th and got in 4 miles up a series of switchbacks before setting up camp (we got a late start, around 6 pm before we got across the dam).
The weather was awesome Friday and Saturday morning. We set off aroung 10 am from our campground through the burned out forest, to Bee Hive, where 3 feet of snow caused us to temporarily lose trail. We also saw some fresh bear tracks near Bee Hive.
We moved on to Lake Vernon and stopped for a quick lunch at 1:30. The next mile was up a steep rock face, with switchbacks. Once we got to the top the trail was once again buried under snow. It took us a good 30 minutes to find the trail again. For the next hour we moved maybe one mile as the snow hid the trail and we were lucky to find small patches of bare ground to get us back on our course. Finally, around 4 pm, with the weather closing in, we chose to turn around. We would have had another 2 or 3 miles at altitude, and none of us wanted to get stuck staying the night, or worse, getting lost (we have jobs and families to get back to after all), so we headed back down. At Lake Vernon, the weather caught up with us. It snowed from then until we got back down to about 6,000 feet, at which point, snow turned into rain. We chose to move on to our original camp, at made it back by 8 pm (we walked 16 miles that day), just in time to start a fire in the rain (amazingly, we were able to). We hit the tents and got dry shortly after. The next morning we woke up with about 5 inches of snow on the ground and made our way down the last 4 miles to the car. Overall and awesome trip, with awesome views. Even with the bad weather and covered trail, it was well worth the weekend trip. We still put in 26 miles total.
By the way, before we headed out, the rangers assured us that the snow was "a couple inches, patchy at best". Apparently they haven't been on the trail lately.
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