Where: Emigrant Wilderness from Kennedy Meadows, Stanislaus National Forest California Permits: Required from the surrounding Ranger Stations, FREE. Fires are allowed in certain areas and below 9,000 feet in most places, check with the ranger station for current restrictions.
When: Memorial Weekend 2016 Who: Ben, Sarah, Jen, & Paula
Day 1: Hike in from Kennedy Meadows 6320ft to Summit Creek crossing 7700ft : Approx 5 MilesWe decided to take a chance in this lower snow year to hike into Emigrant Wilderness from Kennedy Meadows TH during Memorial weekend. We debated hitting up the wilderness from Crabtree TH but decided to switch it up and see some new sights on this side of the mountains.
We dropped our cars at the free trailhead parking lot just down the road from the resort and started our hike in. We chugged up hill past roaring waterfalls and over a beautiful bridge. Before we knew it we hit Relief Reservoir around mile 2.5, where we could see some great campsites situated on a jut of rock down below us with a few brightly colored tents in between the trees. Snacks were enjoyed with the view and even though this is a pretty spot it was looking crowded already.
We had heard from the Summit Ranger Station when we picked up our permits that there was still a lot of snow above 8,000 feet and that Summit Creek was not safe to cross this early in the season from melt. So we made a plan to head to an area right before the creek where I had seen on an alternate map that there were possibly some campsites. This way we could hopefully avoid the more crowded area at Relief Reservoir. This gamble totally paid off!
Our campsites were great and no one else was around. The creek was definitely not safe to cross so we spent the night here with a plan to head up to Sheep Camp the next day, depending on snow levels. We spoke briefly to a solo hiker coming out from Sheep Camp earlier in the day who said there is some snow up there but it was manageable until Lunch Meadow. We settled into camp and set up the small tarp I had brought for the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms. I am sure glad I carried that extra pound as the afternoon storms poured a lot of rain on us and had some long rolling thunder too. We stayed dry under the tarp, played cards, and cooked our dinners around a small fire before an early bedtime.
Day 2: Summit Creek campsite, across some snow fields and up to Sheep Camp, approx 3.4 the Sheep Campback to Summit Creek (round trip 6.8)
We woke early to the sounds of the creek and a couple of Robins who had a nest in a smaller tree right at the edge of camp feeding their newly hatched chicks. We headed out of camp early to cross the snow fields and any streams before the sun started the melt.
This was a newer experience for all us as we had not done much snow backpacking at all, it was fun and at some times a little scary walking over a patch with a long slide down hill if you made a misstep. There was some very well preserved bear tracks up on the trail that we got excited/nervous about but the bear never showed.
We made our way slowly and carefully up to Sheep Camp which was surrounded in snow except in the areas already occupied by 4 tents. We looked around for other potential spots to avoid having to cross the snow fields again in the early afternoon but any other camping options were closed for site restoration.
So even though we were not excited about it, we had to hike all the way back to our Summit creek campsite from the night before and hope no one else had discovered our great spot. Luckily the scenery here is wicked beautiful, especially with the snow patches, and we scored that no one found our site. We set up our tents quickly before the afternoon thunder storms rolled back in again.
Day 3: Hike out from Summit Creek to Kennedy Meadows, Approx 5 miles
Since we did not have any options to cross the creek or head past Sheep Camp without serious snow gear we decided to hike out on day 3. We cruised downhill past the reservoir again and saw some really cool old machinery used to make the damn back in 1890.
We passed a few other groups headed out and a few headed in. We drank delicious sodas and had ice creams at the Kennedy Meadows store and then hopped back in our cars for home.
What a great short trip, I can not wait to go back to this area again and hopefully go later in the season to get deeper into this wonderful wilderness. It’s pretty awesome and not a lot of people visit it, maybe opting to go to near by Yosemite instead? I highly recommend it for the beautiful mountain views and big trees, minus the crazy crowds. Cheers!