The days are shorter, and the temperatures are lower, but that's no reason to stay home this time of year. Some of our best hikes ever have been in the Fall. And now the leaves are turning color, which just adds to the show. Of course, we make a few allowances for the weather, and we don't generally plan long trips far from the trailhead, but that still leaves lots of wonderful hikes to enjoy.
For one thing, we won't usually backpack for more than a couple of nights in a row during the fall. We are not fans of getting caught in a major storm far from our car...and ever since we read about the Donner Party, we've been a little careful about snowstorms that turn into full blown winter.
But the Sierra is just about abandoned this time of year. It's too early for skiers and snowshoers, and most hikers stay home. That leaves a lot of open trail for us. Over the past couple of years, we've had some lovely adventures:
>> We car camped in Yosemite and did a series of wonderful day-hikes from that base, including a memorable hike up Tenaya Canyon. That's a trail that you don't want to do in the middle of summer, because the roaring creek in the gorge is really dangerous. But in the fall, it dries to a trickle and that makes the hike a lot more manageable.
(Just an FYI--the Park Service doesn't recommend this hike, and we've never taken it all the way to Tenaya Lake. Please don't take this hike, get into trouble, and then blame us!)
On that same trip we raced snow flurries to Wapama Falls near Hetch-hetchy, (photo at right) and climbed up the trail to Snow Creek Falls, reaching the top of the ridge and watching an approaching snowstorm begin to filter down from above. We met a lot of backpackers going up that trail, hoping for the best. And we met on guy coming back down who had seen enough of the snow and cold to want to get back to the Valley.
>> Last year we stayed in relative luxury at Kirkwood ski resort and day-hiked the trails around Carson Pass. The first snowstorm of the season had left its traces on the mountains, and the hiking was lovely. On one of the hikes, we didn't see another soul, and on another one we only saw people within a mile of the trailhead...the other ten miles were in splendid solitude.
That's Round Top Lake at left...and yes, it really it that beautiful.
Yeah, we take an extra layer of clothes this time of year, and usually a bit more food. And we are careful not to bite off more than we can chew for the day. This is not the time of year to get caught out on the mountain after dark!
But we always come back with our minds refreshed, and with more memories and photos than we can possibly mention here.
Get out there and hike!