4/5 day backpack trail open now?

5:09 p.m. on May 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Hi all

We fly into Fresno from the UK in mid May and we are looking at a 4/5 day backpacking loop. There are lots of options on paper but as there looks to be a lot of snow and its early in the season there is nothing obvious and lots of trails are closed. Would be great if anyone can suggest something?

Cheers

Matt

9:44 p.m. on May 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Kern River, above Johnsonville.  The lower altitude translates to earlier melt off.  Further east check out trails out of Kennedy Meadows.  Also consider camping along the coast.  There are Redwood forests in the Santa Cruz region and north thereof that are good destinies this time of year.  If you are considering Big Sur, note there have been several wild fires in recent years and significant portions of that area may not yet be sufficiently recovered to justify a visit, considering your effort to get there.

Ed

3:22 a.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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That's a great help!

Cheers

Matt

6:56 a.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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I checked some of the web cams located in the Sierra; the snow level in the central to southern Sierra appears to be ~9,000'.  Further north the level is lower, with snow lingering in the deeper and more remote locations.

Unfortunately the park service folks that interface with the public are notorious for not having access to accurate current conditions, let alone resources at hand to facilitate forecasting for future trips.  One time I inquired about snow levels for a early season hike I was about to embark.  I was told the snow level was 9,000', and that my intended first camp at 10,000' was completely snowbound.  The park service attendant showed me an aerial view of the area that supported this assertion.  But when I got up there, boots on the ground, I found only patches of snow, and only had to contend with snow on the final steps to a high pass just under 12,000'.  The photo and information were at least three weeks old and useless for fielding my inquiries.  Others have voiced similar experiences and the same frustration.  I suggest contacting resort operators near the locations you are interested in, and/or outfitters/guide services that operate in those regions.

Ed

7:19 a.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Do you ever use the NOAA site to check snow depth in your area Ed? It isn't perfect, but I find it useful here in the NE to at least get an idea of what is out there before I go.

https://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html

9:42 a.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Around Lake Tahoe the snow depths are much lower.  There is still snow much below 7,000 feet.

5:05 p.m. on May 4, 2017 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

Do you ever use the NOAA site to check snow depth in your area Ed? It isn't perfect, but I find it useful here in the NE to at least get an idea of what is out there before I go.

https://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html

No. 

Snow depth or level per se is not a concern for me, and the NOAA data too general to be of use.  In any case I refer to other sites with more applicable beta, for example Summitpost.org, where trip reports provide a mountaineer's perspective of route conditions.  Local guide services are also a good resource.  If the snow level is at an altitude I am traveling, then I bring the gear for snow travel, regardless of the snow pack depth; after all, it takes only a foot of snow on an incline to make travel hazardous.  The NOAA data doesn't even begin to address my primary concerns, being the conditions of bottleneck way points, such as passes.  NOAA can report zero snow pack, yet the pass just above the snow course where that reading was collected can be guarded by an approach up a steep gulley of hard, MF crust, and blocked by a sketchy cornice.  You can usually find a way around points en route made difficult by snow, but bottlenecks by definition have no easy, alternate options.  But I do check with the authorities, regarding the safety of the snow pack, and additionally the general surface conditions of the snowpack.  For example: I refer to this site when planning trips to the Eastern Sierra.

Ed

8:56 p.m. on May 13, 2017 (EDT)
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The road to Cedar Grove is open, so you could do something out of Roads End in Kings Canyon.  My preference would be to go up the Bubbs Creek trail to Junction Meadow, which is very scenic with Mt Bago and West Vidette towering above you.  However, the runoff probably has the trail below the switchbacks completely under whitewater, so this would not be a good idea.

You do have the option of going up the Woods Creek trail from Roads End, at least as far as upper Paradise Valley.  If the snow line is at 9000', you could get beyond the Woods Creek suspension bridge and be headed toward Dollar Lake before you encounter a lot of snow.  There won't be any major stream crossings that don't have a bridge.  I would go at least as far as Castle Domes Meadow, but I bet you could get halfway between the Woods Creek suspension bridge and Dollar Lake before the snow becomes a problem, and that is a scenic area.  You could spend a night in Paradise Valley on the way up, and then head as far up as you would like.  To give you an idea of what that area is like, this picture was taken at about 9000' elevation, looking north toward the Woods Creek suspension bridge:
IMG_1530.jpg



And if you don't want to go that high, Castle Domes meadow is at 8300' and should be completely free of snow:



IMG_1600.jpg





Above the meadow are the Castle Domes:



IMG_1582.jpg




4:43 a.m. on May 18, 2017 (EDT)
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Your question solved my problem.

May 29, 2017
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