Hello, new to the forum and looking for some thoughts/advice. First, a little background. I have some extended time off this June/early July and my wife and I were hoping to spend around a week doing a section of the John Muir Trail. However, with the snow situation in the Sierras, I am wondering if this is going to be an option for us. The latest we could do our trip would be the first week of July. I know this time of year can be iffy in the high elevations in a normal year, so I am thinking we might be out of luck and started considering other options.
First of all, anyone with knowledge of the JMT/Sierras, is it worth it for me to entertain this as a possibility or would we be better served looking elsewhere? The JMT is absolutely my No. 1 choice for a destination, but my priority is that this be a safe and fun trip for us. We are experienced short-range backpackers, but this will be our first trip of more than two nights.
Secondly, if not the JMT, any thoughts on the feasibility/enjoyability of a June/first week of July trip any of the below destinations that we have tossed around as possibilities?
-Grand Canyon (we have done South Rim to Phantom Ranch and if we go back, would like to do either the Jewels Route or Escalante Route - water could be an issue here)
-Mount Rainier-section of the Wonderland Trail (if the JMT is out, I know this likely is as well due to snow, but it would definitely be high on our list...)
-Yosemite (lower elevation trip - North Rim Trail looks nice to me)
-Zion (weeklong traverse - again, water may be an issue this time of year?)
Other places we'd like to go someday: North Cascades, Olympic, Sequoia-Kings Canyon
Anyway, thanks in advance for any advice/suggestions.
My guess, based on the snowpack this year, is that the snow level in late June may well be around 8500-9000 feet. That means just about all of the JMT will be under snow. Not just the trail, but even the signs and the campsites.
If those dates are not flexible, I think you should look for another option.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Mt. Rainier, in a dry year, is very marginal for late June/early July. This is NOT a dry year!
The Grand Canyon and Zion will be at their hottest.
With all of these, check the timeline for getting permits. You may already be too late.
Lower elevation valleys (Hoh River, Enchanted Valley) in the Olympics may be a possibility. However, at least in the Pacific NW, there is lots of trail damage.
Late Winter/Spring hikes in Oregon. Ignore the one about the Wenaha River; it burned badly two years ago and no trail repair has been done. By July, the river-level trail In Hell's Canyon may be as hot as its namesake.
As I mentioned in a similar thread (see General Discussion section), much of the best backpacking in the West is outside national parks, with generally less crowds and less bureaucracy. Of course the same limitations for altitude and snowpack--above normal in the sections of the Rockies with which I'm familiar--apply. Frankly, this might be a good year to defy Horace Greeley and "go east, young man," unless you can come in August or September.
Edited by OregonMouse (03/06/1701:20 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
At present with 200% of average snowpack there's no way JMT will either be melted off by the proposed period and importantly, typical easy stream crossings will be high and hazardous.
Afraid this isn't the year for traditional high Sierra adventure. However, folks skilled in alpine snow travel will be able to scamper to their hearts' content through spring into summer. Routes usually blocked by scree and brush will still be covered.
I have done the North Rim of Yosemite as early as early May. You will have a bit of snow but it usually is hard enough to walk on, the only problem is that it covers the trail and when in thick forests it is easy to miss the trail. A GPS helps.
I have also done the Pohono Trail early. Again, same with snow, except usually a bit more. IF glacier point is not open just keep going on Panorama trail and come down the Mist Trail. Good loop is start at Wawona tunnel, Pohono Trail to Glacier Point, Panorama to LYV, then down the Mist trail or, go up the Merced to Merced Lake and take the cross-trail to the JMT and come down it, and then down the Mist Trail. You could just stay on the JMT, but the Mist Trail is a lot more scenic.
Yosemite is great this time of year. Lots of good loops from the Valley. And there is a no-reservation backpackers campground that makes the logistics quite easy.
There may be lots of mosquitoes. So prepare for that.
Not sure if you would be interested, but a good 6-8 day trip is to do the entire Lost Coast from Matolle to Hwy 1. I have done it twice, earlier, and it is great if you are into coastal hiking. The only problem that July is getting a bit late and you may be into fog season. You also need to look at tide tables, as there are several spots that you need low tide to get around.
He is talking late June early July. There is a lot of time for melting between now and then. The main thing is that the snow is walkable that time of year if it remains. I really like to do Pohono Trail before Glacier Point opens because it is so nice to not have the hordes of cars and people.
As for North Rim, with facing the sun, it will melt off quite well once it gets started. I did it end of April (before the drought) and it was OK. Yes, solid snow on upper Snow Creek, but it was fine walking- tracks showing that plenty of people had done it.
Yosemite is always my "go-to" May-mid June backpacking location. The waterfalls are at their peak. Just deal with a bit of snow, and it is fantastic. There are so many fine 2-4 day loops from the Valley. And the Valley itself is in its prime.
Loc: San Diego CA
If you are in to celestial events, something to keep in mind is the Solar eclipse happening on August 21st of this year. If I had not broken my ankle fall of last year, I would be heading out to Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range as it will be in the total eclipse path and that would be a good time to be in the Winds generally. Baby steps for me at this point and I don't want to anger the wife too much so I probably won't be going. However, online there are maps showing the arc of the total eclipse on that day and it could be worth your while to head for an area of your choosing and see this rare event.
Loc: Portland, OR
I've only experienced one solar eclipse and that was in January in Portland with clouds several thousand feet thick overhead, so the sun was never visible at all that day. Still, if you've ever watched a cloud shadow swoop across the landscape and suddenly throw you into shade, then you have a glimmer of how dramatic it is when a shadow the size of the moon does the same thing! Takes your breath away.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Same eclipse, but in Moses Lake, WA on a coudy day. Fortunately the really thick clouds didn't arrive until just after totality. It was well worth experiencing, and we could watch from our back yard.
Just a warning: Lodging in or close to the path of totality has been solidly booked for several years. The rare cancellations on rooms are going for $1,000-$1.500 per night. Campgrounds taking reservations are full. Oregon's Dept. of Transportation expects horrendous traffic jams of those trying to drive to and from the path of totality on the day of the eclipse.
With three of us trying, my daughter scored a campground site in the path of totality for Sunday, Aug. 20 through Tues, Aug. 22. I got another site for Monday, Aug.21 (eclipse day) through Tuesday--the campgrounds are emptying out after the eclipse.. Limit per campsite is 6 and there will probably be about 10 of us. Some of us will have to start driving from Portland about 1 am the 21st and hope we can make it down there. At least we won't have to drive back the same day! I'm watchhing for cancellations and will also try for first-come, first-serve sites the week before.
Your best bet is to backpack into an isolated (maybe several days from the trailhead) place not requiring permits and expect things to be crowded. Unfortunately, for my family group that is not an option.