14 Comments

  1. David Terrie
    David Terrie September 26, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Ray,

    Pretty ironic that the NPS spends millions to celebrate its 100th anniversary and encourage people to discover the parks and is then alarmed at the increase in visitors. Odds are high the 2015 numbers will stand out as outliers over time. You mention the vastness of of the Sierra. The JMT is iconic, but hardly the only stunningly beautiful and rewarding trail to hike. I’d love to hear from the collective wisdom of the JMT group regarding great hikes of varying length and difficulty that are not the JMT. Perhaps a subgroup could codify these options and encourage folks to consider them.

    I agree that #2 and no fires seem the most prudent options.

  2. Tom D.
    Tom D. September 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I agree Ray. When I did my JMT thru-hike in 2012 (thanks again for the help), the only “crowded” areas were around the popular casual tourist destinations, such as the first few miles out of Yosemite Valley up to the Half Dome trail, the area around Tuolomne meadows, the area around Red’s Meadow/Devil’s Postpile, and of course Mt. Whitney. Sadly, these are also the areas most prone to abuse of the trails, and most in need of monitoring by the NPS. The rest was mostly secluded and we were generally hiking alone, sometimes seeing no one for several hours. The more popular camping spots along the way would accumulate some people, such as McClure Meadow, but by morning, all but a few are gone. I believe that the increase in hikers seeking to do these hikes are partly due to the increase in popularity of the PCT (and thru-hikes in general) following the movie “Wild”, as well as what David Terrie said about PR campaigns trying to get people into the National Parks. I also understand the NPS’s perspective to a degree, I am very mindful of preserving the wilderness that I hike through and always “leave no trace”, and the vast majority of those I met in the backcountry were of the same mindset. While I would like to see them restore walk-in permits from the valley, I just hope they don’t restrict access to the point of making it unnecessarily difficult to enjoy the JMT. And while I do enjoy campfires, I agree that I’d rather see a blanket ban on them than further restrictions on access.

    Thanks for the info, I’ll be watching this as it progresses.

  3. Ravi
    Ravi September 26, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    I can live with option #2 and prohibiting all fires, except for emergencies. This would preserve the character of hikes in the Sierra Nevada in terms of freedom of movement once in the wilderness. Personally I would want to avoid heavily used camping areas anyway. If we go down the path of #3 or #4, the character of hikes in the Sierra Nevada will be changed forever. Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks are two places where some variation of #3 and #4 are used and I wouldn’t want to see that along the JMT. Right now, permit issues are kind of a hassle but once I’m in the wilderness I no longer have to think about bureaucratic issues, other than following LNT principles and abiding by simple camping restrictions.

    The other issue is that I don’t think that there are enough rangers to actually enforce #3 or #4. I rarely meet backcountry rangers on my hikes and when I do I am rarely asked for my permit. I believe that the only worse thing that overly restrictive regulations are overly restrictive regulations that are not enforced which will reduce the credibility of the system and encourage violations. In an age of social media lack of enforcement will be duly noted and exploited.

  4. Carol
    Carol September 26, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    While some might long for the solitude of a trail, I’ve been going to Yosemite simply because there will be people on the trail occasionally, so I can go solo without family worrying. I’ve been going in June and early July though and even in the core area, except the Half Dome Trail, it hasn’t been crazy. Many of those on the busy sections are dayhikers so cutting back on overnighters wouldn’t do much to reduce those numbers. I say reduce day hiker, group hikers and fire impacts first. If you want solitude- don’t go to a top 10 trail during peak time. Come on up to Canada if you want solitude but then you’ll need a group of 4 as you can’t get a permit at some times of the year for less than that many.
    Hope the system hangs in there for awhile, having campsite freedom is pretty great!
    Thanks for providing a great blog site!

  5. Bill
    Bill September 27, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the link to provide comments to NPS.
    My comment here diverges from your review of the proposed rules, but this regards horses/mules on the trail. I just completed the JMT on Sept 14 and we saw more than a dozen mule trains on the hike. Pack animals cause considerably more damage to trails than people do.
    We joked that the JMT does not use rock cairns to mark the trail; horse shit serves that purpose. True story: on the way up Muir Pass (from the South) the trail forked and I was unsure which path was correct until I noticed the horse shit about 15 feet away.

  6. James
    James September 28, 2016 at 5:46 am

    I hiked the JMT starting August 13th and finished at Whittney Portal. My first day in Yosemite was very interesting, lots of day hikers going up to the falls. I camped at LYV which was a bit busy but I could handle it. The next day I did not see any one for about 4 hours while I hiked to Cathedral Lake. I did not feel the trail was over crowed once you got out of TM. The only other times I felt it was a bit more crowded were the Rae loop hikers and WP day hikers. The rest of the time I could find a place to camp by myself if I wanted to. I do have one comment on the “group of hikers”. I came across 2 larger groups of people that had paid to be lead on the trail. I do not understand how this is allowed or how the commercial businesses are able to do this. One group at Evolution Lake were loud, they took up quite a bit of area and had a kithen area. In my opinion this should not be happening. Also, ban all fires. By the end of the day, I wanted to eat, see the stars and sleep. I did not see a need to ever have a fire. In my opinion, limit the number of day hikers, its not the backpackers and thru hikers that are the issue.
    Just curious with the big increase usage on the JMT, what is the breakdown in the number of days on the trail? How many are out for a weekend, a week, or doing a thru-hike?

  7. Karen Jensen
    Karen Jensen September 28, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    After years of hiking in Denali Park, where you have to get backcountry permits for very specific areas for every night you are there, I can say that if they implement such a system elsewhere, the same thing will happen that happens now in Denali: many people will simply not comply with the regs. While I’ve certainly made an effort to be in the correct section, it’s just not always possible. Creeks become impassible, weather prevents travel, or physical injury may make it difficult for a hiker to get where they need to go. Meticulous planning goes awry; it’s nature. Why set up a regulatory system that many people will simply disregard? Maybe I’m misunderstanding those options.

    The idea of large groups camping in wilderness is truly awful to me. I see those groups in car camping parks, and do whatever I can to remove myself from the situation. Yes, I was young once too, but we chose places far away from others to party (and still picked up our trash). Not sure if that is what James was referring to, but if so, yuck! My experience of large groups, including Boy Scouts!!, yes really – is that they litter, destroy, scare away all wildlife, play radios, play trumpets at midnight (twice I’ve witnessed this!), vomit, defacate and pee anywhere, drive 4 wheelers around my tent, shoot at targets near the campsite, I could go on. There is no negotiation even with the group leaders; you are just in the way of their good time. I have had too many such experiences; I have campsite PTSD. Avoid.

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