1. chris rounick
    chris rounick April 5, 2016 at 3:57 am


    I completely agree that this part is not to be missed. And as you said it is harder to clinch now with the high demand and re-jiggered permit rules. I found myself in this position while planning last spring and I came up with an alternate start that many rangers told me was a better alternative to the original.

    Pohono Trail, Wawona Tunnel start TH brings you up to the southern rim of the Yosemite valley, ~3500 off the valley floor. There are many lookouts and points that afford jaw dropping panoramic views and…there are no crowds (except around Glacier Point). You end up hiking right into the JMT only missing the first 3 miles. IMO it was totally worth it and I would use the same start again.

    You can view it here: http://www.rangeoflight.info/blog/2015/8/28/day-1-north-pines-yosemite-village-pohono-trail-head-brideveil-creek

    Happy Hiking to you all!


    1. David Caudwell
      David Caudwell February 26, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Thanks Ray for the great post!
      I don’t know if you or Chris (hopefully he’ll see this!) can answer my query? I’ve just been rejected from the lottery for Aug 2017 and am now researching alternate starting options (I’d already booked 3+ weeks off work and I’m travelling from Canada so i want to get on the trail!) How do I apply to begin via the Pohono trail and still have a permit to continue on the JMT? It’s all so complicated now so if you have any tips that would be great!

  2. Keith Fultz
    Keith Fultz April 5, 2016 at 4:13 am

    I think walking through the burned out area above Little Yosemite Valley is a bit of a bummer, too. I think about 3 miles stretch. But I still love the views of the Falls and camping at Cathedral Lake.

  3. Peter Hirst
    Peter Hirst April 5, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Its worth noting that perhaps the most famous hike ever on the JMT – the Muir Project/Mile, Mile and a Half, skipped the first few miles, and made it up the next year. Its a section definitely worth hiking, ut is it necessary for the essential JMT experience? I don’t think so.

  4. Sally Couture
    Sally Couture April 5, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Hello again Ray!

    I am so twisted on this subject. I could only secure the permit starting at Lyell Canyon. From the pictures and reading I have been so twisted to miss this section. I guess being hard headed as outlay not going at all. I have thought about being able to do a day hike before my start date. Is there any negative to that? Can you just store your backpack for the day and take a day pack into the falls and head as far into the trail with leaving enough time for the walk back to Happy Isles?

    I have never seen anyone mention that so I’m thinking there must be something wrong with theach idea.

    Also, haven’t seen anyone ask this question. At what point does a day hike turn into a wilderness hike? Is it how far you have walked in? Does it start once you physically put your pack on? Seems like if you are doing a “day hike” it would be as far as you can hike and walk back? Is it just some arbitrary milage?

    I thought after that I would drive to Lyell Canyon for sleep to start my actual permit the next day. And last question. If I have time before the hike can I walk back as long as I don’t carry my pack to cover another small section that I would be missing?

    I know that is a TON of questions but I can’t think of a better person to ask!

    1. Paul
      Paul April 5, 2016 at 5:22 am

      This may not be doable for all, but my wife and I got our permit out of Lyell Canyon in late August last year, hiked to Whitney Portal, then took a shuttle back to Yosemite Valley and hiked from HI back to our car in TM, spending one night in the Sunrise Creek area. This turned out to offer several advantages. For one, the permit from Lyell gave us more of a chance to obtain, as several more are issued from here. It also allowed us a night at high elevation so we could acclimate. After hiking from Lyell to Whitney portal, we were in great condition. The hike up from HI to TM, which I would imagine could be a bugger for someone who did not have the advantage of 189 miles of conditioning beforehand, was very “familiar” to us in terms of difficulty, and seemed easier to handle. Also, by splitting up the permit process into 2 parts, getting a second permit from HI to TM did not present a problem in the latter part of September when we tried for it. It seems less people try for permits after the 3rd week in September. When we went to get our HI to TM permit, the Ranger offered us Half Dome permits as well!

  5. Byron
    Byron April 5, 2016 at 5:33 am

    I got a permit from Lyell to WP on July 30.
    So on July 28 I’ll park in YV, take the bus to TM, stay at TM HSC that night.
    At the crack of dawn on the 29th I’ll day hike the easy way. TM to HI. Get in my car. Drive back to TM
    Stay the second night at TM HSC. And then start the rest of the SOBO journey the next morning

    I agonized over “cheating” by going downhill. And then remembered 2 things:
    1. I’m 60 years old!
    2. Nobody is watching or cares!!

    1. Pamhikes
      Pamhikes April 5, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      How long will that take you to go from Tuolumne to HI? I’m interested in doing this and it might be a good option for my son.

    2. Keith Fultz
      Keith Fultz April 6, 2016 at 3:47 am

      I have done that section a few times and I don’t think going down hill is cheating. I rather think it might actually be harder for me, but I am 66 now. BTW I did that stretch last summer. May do it again this summer ending up a NOBO. May have to quit before then however, because of schedule issues.

  6. JoT.
    JoT. April 5, 2016 at 6:54 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendation, Ray, not to allow the absence of a Happy Isles permit stop a person from experiencing the rest of the JMT experience. In September 2013, I actually had a Happy Isles permit, but with the Yosemite Rim fire still burning, the entry point was tentative at best.
    The problem was that portions of Tioga Pass had been shut to allow firefighters access, and since I was sharing a shuttle coming from the East, that was an issue.
    It was not until the morning of our hike, that my shuttle mate and I came to grips with the reality of NOT starting at Happy Isles. Did I consider dropping out of the hike entirely? Yes, for about two seconds the previous night. But I realized very quickly that I was lucky to have an experience (not matter how long) most people would never have. I had 30 days off (paid!) of work to do nothing but hike and camp and enjoy myself (solo hiker!). And when I finished 23 days later, I did not regret that decision one bit.

    BTW That’s hilarious about the bear sign. Hands down, that was the most common question I got from coworkers before leaving on the trip.

  7. Paul
    Paul April 5, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Viable Happy Isles alternative to Happy Isles or Glacier Point JMT permit.

    Last summer two of us from Canada failed to get a permit from HI or GP in our timeslot, but we got one from TM with the Donahue exit and Whitney Portal. To fill the HI-TM gap, I lined up for the day before, first-come first served permits. I was first in line (at 4 am), but no one else turned up until 6 am. It’s a long wait to 11 am when these permits become available, but it’s possible to snooze on the porch, read and chat. I think this two-permit system is quite legal (except maybe for the 2 nights at the Backpackers’ Campground). The exit for the first permit is TM. It’s necessary to pick up the second permit at TM.


  8. Adam Violich
    Adam Violich April 5, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I have a Lyell Canyon permit but really don’t want to miss this part. Is it possible to hike from Happy Isles to Tuolemne Meadows in a day with a day pack then strap on the larger pack from the rest?

  9. Laurie Longo
    Laurie Longo April 5, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Ray, Thanks for all your info. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about the JMT. My husband and I (both almost 60) are going from Horseshoe Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows starting mid August. Living near Sacramento, we have decided to go down in July and hike from Tuolumne to HI as a day hike (or visa versa). We hiked part of that trail last summer as a day hike, going from Tenaya Lake over Clouds rest to Happy Isle. We hiked up to Half Dome 2 times, 2 summers before that. We haven’t made a final decision as to which direction we will hike. We were going to hike down until we met an ultralight hiker who does most of the JMT yearly and he said we should hike up it instead of down. Since I did get tender feet after hiking from Clouds Rest down to HI, we’re reconsidering and may possibly hike up it…So many decisions….Is the JMT between Tuolumne Meadows and HI much harder than the Tenaya Lake-Clouds Rest-HI trail?

    Its been interesting reading all of your info and recommendations. I’ve enjoyed Chris’s info. on his trip, too (Range of Light). Thanks for your patience in answering questions. Many of us are reading this along with the JMT yahoo groups-even though we aren’t joining in the conversation.

  10. Lange Jorstad
    Lange Jorstad January 24, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Hello Ray – a little late to this thread, but… I have a JMT permit starting from Lyell this year. I am considering a day hike from HI to TM the day before my permit starts. Working concept is to store pack/gear in TM the day before the day hike, shuttle down and overnight in the valley (Curry Village?), then get up early and hike up with a day pack (big hike, I appreciate). Regarding storage of gear in TM overnight – do you know if this possible? I could pitch tent in the TM backpackers camp and leave most of my gear there overnight, but wilderness permit only gives access for one night before your permit starts (which would be the night of the day hike from the valley). Other possibility is to book a standard TM campsite for the night, but that seems like a waste of money and campsite – which would be occupied by an empty tent for the night! Are you aware of any other options to store gear in TM for a night? Thanks in advance for your advice!

  11. Stan Swiatek
    Stan Swiatek December 22, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    So I’ve day-hiked Happy Isles to Half Dome twice…
    Between the half dome and Clouds rest junction and Tuolumne meadows… am I missing much?

    I’m thinking I could always fall back and day hike from tuolumne to happy isles (downhill)

  12. Erik Leaver
    Erik Leaver April 29, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Hi. My two sons and I have decided we want to hike the JMT this summer if the COVID situation allows. I hiked it about 20 years ago, and my oldest son is now 16. I neglected to think about the permit process until much too late. Anyway, I was able to secure an entry at Dana Lake in Inyo Forrest right outside of Yosemite with a Whitney exit 15 days later. My thought is that I will just take a shuttle bus to Tuolumne Meadows and start the hike from there. In other words, we won’t even actually stay at Dana Lake at all. Is there a problem with this strategy? I assume that it would be OK if I started at Dana Lake and hiked up to Tuolumne Meadows and continue from there. My concern is that with only 15 total days, I don’t want to hike the stretch from Dana Lake to Tuolumne for fear we will run out of time. I know they have the quota on exits from Donohue Pass, but I think that only applies when originating from Yosemite. Am I thinking about this right? Thanks much.

  13. Erik Leaver
    Erik Leaver May 15, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Ray. Please disregard my last question. I just spoke with Inyo National Forest, and it turns out that I cannot pass through Yosemite without the Yosemite permit. Oh well! Take care, Erik

Leave a Reply