Where can we go?
We've had a few follow up emails from our post last week on permits for 2021. Most of them had a single question: So if we want to go backpacking in the Sierra this summer, where can we go?
Lots of places. Your first step should be to go to recreation.gov and enter a search word in their window--Inyo wilderness permits, for example, if you want a permit for somewhere on the East side of the Sierra. Once you enter all the required data: starting date, number of people in your party, commercial trip? etc. you can then search by date for any trailhead on that side of the Sierra. It's pretty convenient that way---much better than looking for a campground on recreation.gov, for example.
And what you will find is a lot of trailheads are now fully booked, with that hated "W" in the window. That means if you want that specific trailhead on that specific date, you'll need to make a note to yourself to wake up early and sit at your computer at 7 a.m. exactly two weeks before your departure date and click hopefully on those little icons. Ugh.
But what about another trailhead? We did find three trips that we'd like to take this summer that were still open, and we booked them. (Sorry!). Because you will see that there are trailheads available on just about every date. They are just not the most popular trailheads. They may involve and extra two miles, or five miles of hiking to get where you want to go. They may only access a small part of the Sierra, and not connect into the John Muir Trail, or Sixty Lakes Basin. They may really only work as a two or three-day trip, and you want a week long adventure.
All of that is true, and we've come to accept it. We are sometimes willing to hike those extra miles, if it's the only way to get to where we want to go. We actually find that the lesser known locations that don't link to the JMT see far fewer visitors. That's a good thing, in our minds. And if we can only do a two or three day trip there, we may schedule two of those in a week...and schedule a shower in between them. Luxury is nice, sometimes.
At any rate, don't give up. Just spend some time figuring out where these trailheads are, where they lead, and how you could make them work. Then get your permit and go for a hike.