Wilderness Conditions Update

June 20, 2017

General Conditions

Though summer has arrived in Yosemite, we are still feeling the effects of one of the wettest winters in Yosemite’s history. Conditions in the higher elevations are challenging and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. In general conditions are more reminiscent of May than of late June at the higher elevations. Snow remains throughout the high country, generally at elevations 8,500 ft and above, though this may vary due to aspect and vegetation. Lower elevations are generally accessible, albeit with intermittent wet and muddy conditions.

The main hazard for all areas are creek crossings. Warm temperatures and long sunny days are causing the snow to rapidly melt and fill up streams and creeks. Creeks and streams are at their highest levels in years and can be extremely hazardous to cross or even simply impassable. Be knowledgeable and practice save creek crossing techniques. If you do not feel comfortable crossing a creek, turn around. Your life is not worth it. There already have been several near misses in Yosemite.

Snow cover and high creeks crossings are forcing backpackers to reassess their planned itineraries. Be flexible in your plans and intended routes. For those wishing to go to the higher elevations, having the proper experience and knowledge is critical. While the proper gear is helpful, gear is not a substitute for experience.

Summertime can be hot in Yosemite, even in areas covered with snow. Be prepared for hot temperatures: bring plenty of water, eat salty snacks and try to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. Summer also brings the potential for thunderstorms, particularly this year with all the moisture still in the sierra. Thunderstorms can form rapidly and bring heavy rain, localized flooding, strong winds, much cooler temperatures and lightning. July typically has the most lightning strikes. Always be sure to check a current weather forecast for the area before you start your trip and be prepared for multiple weather conditions.

Continued Summer Outlook:
Significant snow remains in the high sierra and will continue to do so for weeks. Prior to the current heat wave, cooler temperatures prevailed along with some additional snow fall. In the roughly 3 weeks since the last update, only about ~20 inches of SWE melt was observed.

Generally, snow melts at a maximum of 1 inch of SWE (Snow water equivalent - amount of water if all the snow was melted) per day. During the warmest & sunniest days around the solstice, when solar radiation is at its peak, there can be up to 2 inches of SWE melt per day. Cool or overcast days decrease the snowmelt rate and days with rain/snow increase the snow water amount. For reference, currently some of the automated snow sensors at higher elevations in Yosemite have 50+ inches of SWE remaining.

Park Area Trails, landmarks included in description Trail Conditions
Valley Rim Lehamite Creek, North Dome, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome On the north rim, the Wildcat creek crossing is of most concern but is crossable via rocks. Other creeks such asTamarack, Ribbon and Lehamite are high as well but can be crossed via downed logs. Snow is still present in the forested areas along the rim, notably at Ribbon Meadow the section of trail north of Indian Rock and North Dome. Snow coverage is around 60% with depths upto 5 ft. On the south rim the trails are mostly snow free, though are wet and muddy in sections.
Glacier Point Rd Ostrander Lake, Illilouette Creek The trail to Ostrander Lake is clear until the last mile and then is 100% covered with depths of 3 ft. Mono Meadows are completely flooded. Illilouette Creek is impassable at Mono Meadow junction. Hikers will need to go to the panorama trail and use the bridge there to cross Illilouette Creek.
South End Chinualna Creek The trail to Chinualna Falls is clear. Crossing Chilnualna Creek to the south is not recommended at this time. Once across, patches of snow begin to grow as elevation is gained hitting 100% snowpack around 8,500 feet.
Hetch Hetchy Beehive Meadows, Laurel Lake, Wapama Falls Trails at low elevations are clear of snow with some wet and muddy sections. Falls Creek at the outlet of Lake Vernon is running high and requires a 3 - 5 ft ford to reach the bridge. Wapama Falls is flowing onto the footbridges but is currently open. Be cautious when crossing. It is not advised to cross Frog Creek at this time. Snow coverage starts on Moraine Ridge when dropping into Jack Main Canyon. Jack Main Canyon itself is entire flooded or covered with snow.
Tuolumne area-south of tioga rd Lyell Canyon, Rafferty Creek, Ireland Lake, Lewis Creek, Fletcher Creek Tioga Road is still closed as plowing operations continue. There is no anticipated opening date. Being relatively low, Lyell Canyon is mostly snow free with some snow drifts. Lyell Canyon is very wet with the trail flooded throughout. Be prepared to have wet feet when hiking when hiking in Lyell Canyon. Preserve the meadows and prevent multiple trails from forming by remaining in the trail or do not choose to hike in Lyell Canyon if you are unwilling to have wet feet. Snow coverage is 100% when hiking out of Lyell Canyon.
Tuolumne area- north of tioga rd Murphy Creek, Glen Aulin, Cold Canyon, Polly Dome Lakes Tioga Road is still closed as plowing operations continue. There is no anticipated opening date. Expect 100% snow coverage on all trails either immediately at the trailhead or shortly thereafter. On the PCT, bridges towards Glen Aulin are impassable due to high water.
Tioga Rd- West Half Moon Meadow, Ten Lakes, South Fork Cathedral Creek The first 6.5 miles of Tioga Road to Tamarack Creek was opened on June 3. The snowline starts around 8,500ft.
JMT (in Yosemite) Snow is to be expected starting around 9,000 ft on the south facing aspect and quickly gathering to 100% snowpack. Hikers should plan for winter hiking conditions and/or wet trails throughout the JMT section in Yosemite National Park. Strong navigation skills are a must. Creek crossings are a major concern. Gear is not a subsitute for experience in these conditions. It is strongly recommended not to start the JMT at this time or in the next few weeks or more.

See a map of trails that have been cleared of downed trees for the season. Please note that though most tree failures occur during the stormy winter months, trees can fail at any time.

Current Closures

Current trail closures are listed on the current conditions page.

Kerrick Meadow is closed each year to padstock grazing to reduce impacts to the federally-threatened Yosemite toad and endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. The area will temporarily reopen to grazing, tentatively on July 25, 2016. (Check back for possible date changes.)

Trails in Yosemite may be closed when there are hidden hazards or are impassable due to rock fall, snow, ice, or fire. Open trails are not necessarily free of hazards. By entering the wilderness, you are assuming responsibility for your safety and must use good judgment.

Wilderness Permits

Free wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the Yosemite Wilderness. Permits can be obtained at the following locations.

Wilderness Permit Reservations
The reservation office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30. Reservations are available up to 24 (168 Days) weeks ahead of your entry date.

Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center
Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Wilderness permits available, maps for sale and bear canisters for rent.

Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center
Closed for the season and will reopen June/July 2017 (when Tioga Road reopens). Self-registration permits available on the front porch of the wilderness center are valid only for the Tioga Road trailheads.

Big Oak Flat Information Station
Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Wilderness permits available, maps for sale and bear canisters for rent.

Wawona Visitor Center at Hill's Studio
Open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Wilderness permits available, maps for sale and bear canisters for rent.

Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station
Hetch Hetchy road hours are 7 am to 9 pm. Permits and bear canisters may only be obtained during open hours. There is no access to Hetch Hetchy beyond open hours (overnight parking is permitted in the overnight parking lot near the backpackers' campground).

Food Storage

Bear resistant food canisters are required in the Yosemite Wilderness. Use a canister to store all food or scented items when left unattended. Remember that anything used in, on, or around the body is considered a food item. Whenever food or scented items are out, please keep them within arm's reach, even while day hiking.

If a bear approaches your camp, act immediately to scare it away. Maintain a safe distance while making as much noise as possible. Throw small stones or pines cones toward the bear, being careful not to strike the bear on the head. If the bear returns, repeat. Do not attempt to retrieve food or gear from a bear until it abandons the items.

Last updated: June 22, 2017

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PO Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389


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