3 days in Yosemite!! Need help Planing!

6:05 a.m. on January 31, 2012 (EST)
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First, Thank you for taking the time to read this topic. Im planning to do some backpacking in yosemite (3 days) during the middle of February. Here are my questions; any advice or answers are appreciated. 

1. backpacking VS camping at organized campgrounds. Im going for three days during February; very cold month. The backpacking experience is unbeatable but I am wondering what is more logical.

2. What is the best, or maybe a combination of a few trails that are the best to hike in the winter? a 3 day trails would be perfect. Is there one that captures some of Yosemite's incredible views?

3. how long in advance does one have to get a permit?

Thank you very much for your help! 

8:54 a.m. on January 31, 2012 (EST)
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Well to begin with it is going to be very cold and there may be lots of snow. I spent the winter/spring of 1980 from January to May backpacking and camping in Yosemite's high Sierra. I stayed in the valley only long enough each time to resupply and get a new permit for my next hike which generally lasted 2 weeks to 1 month. But permits in 1980 were very easy to get, especially in winter, but I cannot say what its like now. Contact the parks national park serbice website by putting Yosemite NPS in the search. That can tell you just about everything you want to know about weather conditions, snow levels and camping and trail use.

Snow in the Sierra is very wet and becomes very hard sometimes overnight, in Yosemite its refered to as Sierra Cement. It comes mainly from moisture off the Pacific Ocean some 300 miles to the west. I have seen huge Ponderosa Pines 3-4 feet in base diameter snapped off like toothpicks under the weight of heavy snow in their crowns.

The major trails are the Yosemite Falls trail which goes up to Yosemite Falls on the north side of the valley from near Camp 4/Sunnyside campground,  Then theres Glacier Point trail on the south side that goes to the point by the same name. Theres the trail to Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome out of a place called Happy Isles on the southeast side. Then there is the Tenaya Lake trail that leaves the valley near Mirror Lake (tell us later if you go on that trail or to Mirror Lake if its still a lake or has become a meadow) When I was there in 2002 the park said the lake was filling in naturally and was drying out into a meadow.

So anyway the Yosemite Falls trail goes up about 3000 feet to the falls area above and can be very nice for a overnighter, tho as for any trails in winter you may need crampons and a ice axe for icy trails, snowshoes for the high country and valley meadows or crosscountry skiis. The Glacier Point trail also called the Four Mile Trail is that 4 miles to the top of Glacier Point. Views from G.P and Y.F. are spectacular looking into the valley below and into the high country beyond. The trail to Half Dome also goes past Nevada and Vernal Falls along the way and camping is best at Little Yosemite Valley. Most all the trails climb 2000-3000 feet out of Yosemite Valley in very short 4-6 mile hikes or about 500 feet a mile. The Tenya Lake trail does to the lake after coming to the Tioga Road, a summer tourist paved road in the high Sierra. I have used it as a trail in winter to go deep into the backcountry but for 3 days you won't have time. Tenaya Lake is about 1-2 days(depending again on snow vonditions) from the valley.

You may be just as content to stay in Camp 4 and hike around the valley floor seeing all the falls, domes and spires of granite and big trees. If you are driving you might like to go to the Mariposa Grove of Redwoods and see trees so big around than any you may have ever seen. Also look around the valley for the Sugar Pine cones that are 1-2 feet long and 3-5 inches in diameter.

Hope this helps a lil?

7:23 a.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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2,979 forum posts

February?  Hmm, not the best time for a High Sierra wilderness romp.  I'd suggest car touring with short picnic hikes.

Traditional weather patterns have a high pressure cell hanging over the Great Basin through most of January.  This causes the artic storms to stay north until they cross the Great Lakes, and cause all that fine January weather up state New York is known for.  The thing is that cell collapses right around first week of February, allowing these storms to hit the Sierra full force.  In short, not the best time to plan a trip far from car or shelter.  If you are intent on getting into the back country snow, late March-April are safer, wamer, and generally the season most folks snow camp in these mountains.


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