Reports from the John Muir Trail thus far this year indicate that finding water has generally not been a problem. There are number of factors that contribute to our good fortune. First – and this is something hikers not familiar with the Sierra Nevada often find surprising – there is just a LOT of water. Although there are dry stretches, the sheer number of streams, creeks, tarns, lakes and springs is pretty amazing.
Much of the trail is also high. It’s cooler up there, which means the snow melts slower and hikers don’t need quite as much hydration as they do when the mercury is topping 100 degrees.
Last, it has been an amazingly wet summer thus far. During the first week of July a number of groups had to exit the trail because of too much SNOW falling in the southern passes (mainly Glen and Forester). The weather pattern known as El Niño appears to be back, and it may be back with a vengeance. Some are predicting an episode as bad as it was in 1997 and 1998. During the spring of ’98 the state averaged 22″ of rain a month!
If El Niño continues we are in for a wet summer (not so good for hikers) and a huge snowfall this winter (which would be great for just about everybody). Unfortunately, El Niño is often associated with flooding in parts of the world least prepared to deal with it.
My first day on the trail is about six weeks away. I’m not too worried about finding water, but you can bet I’ll be carrying good rain gear!
Good hiking, Ray
Gonna take the family on the Rae Lakes loop this week and it looks like rain the first few days. As long as it isn’t doing anything crazy on Glen Pass it’ll be okay.
YRNO is a great weather site btw. They have most of the passes and ranger stations up to 10 days forecast ahead…and very accurate.
Thanks for the tip, Jack. You and the family stay dry and have a great time!
Ray I think you said you are north bound this year? I’m departing HI Aug 25. Hope to see you on trail.
I am not doing the standard southbound since I couldn’t get that permit. instead, I am leaving from Glacier Point and heading over Isberg Pass to Red’s, then on the regular route. Leaving on August 31st. Thanks for the comment and good luck, Rodney!
I wasn’t planning to carry rain pains for my mid September thu….as I sweat out too fast…thinking about bringing a rain kilt…I’m also planning to wear shorts but have my thernal bottoms if need xtra leg warmth….I’m a newbie to the sierras…..is this foolish????thoughts???
I wouldn’t say so. Your concerns about rain pants are well founded, although I tend to like them. They are a pain to put on, though. Lots of people like ponchos and I am considering taking a really light one as well as a pair of pants and jacket. The thing is, nothing keeps my feet dry in the rain like rain pants and Gore Tex boots. Regardless of your approach, I think the important thing is to be ready, because it is going to rain!
Photo of Silver Pass Falls?
Exactly! I’ve never been there when it is really pushing a lot of water. I’ll bet it’s impressive!
I have 81 responses so far to the “problem” section of the 2015 after-hike survey. It asks people to rate various problems on a scale from 1-Minimal to 3 – Significant to 5 – Severe
Only 6 hikers have reported “water availability” as a more-than-minimal problem (i.e., rated it 2 and above)
28 hikers rated “stream crossings” as a more-than-minimal problem
Given the low snowpack, I was expecting a lot more water availability complaints and almost no stream-crossing problems. You never know what you are going to get until you’re there.
If you haven’t yet, please register for the survey. 976 people have already registered. http://bit.ly/JMT15YG
Thanks for comment, John, and — if I may — I’d like to encourage readers to click on that link and get involved with the survey. The more people involved the better it gets!
My search engine won’t find YRNO website – what is it ?
Hope this helps!
Thank you for sharing this info! Heading out today, and I feel much better about the water situation than I thought I would!
You are very welcome, Leigh. Good luck!
Hi Ray – I really appreciate your discussion and graphs of the dry stretches on the JMT.
My siblings and I are doing another stretch of the JMT this year at the end of August. We will be starting from Florence lake,camp the first night at the Muir Ranch area, then will hike north on the JMT up to Sallie Keyes lake, over Silver Pass eventually returning to Vermillion area via Goodale Pass.
Our Biggest Question that we have been researching is whether there will be any water in the Senger Creek on our 2nd day after we leave Muir Trail Ranch and head north on the JMT. It is quite a big climb up to the lakes and could be quit hot on that SW slope. The Inyo ranger, who I have talked to, tells me that there has been a lot of small rains this summer and that the creek flows and lakes are pretty good, but she didn’t know anything about the Senger Creek flow.
My topo map shows vegetation on this SW slope leading up to Sallie Keyes lake. Do you remember if there are trees (shade) or is it just brush? We are trying to get an idea of how hot the SW slope will be..
As you say yourself in your blog, “Senger Creek is the unknown”. Its quite a climb on that SW slope so we really need to know if that creek is flowing. I’m a women, almost 70, but in fairly good shape, and like all of us, I really need to drink water, but don’t like to pack it!
I’m finding it difficult to reach anybody at the ranger offices for the INYO forest. The Welcome Center for the mid section of the JMT always had a ranger in the office who was very helpful, but the Inyo seems understaffed, and often don’t answer the phone at all.
Do you know of any way to find out about the flow state of Senger Creek? Is this creek very tiny, and undependable, in any season? Any suggestion or opinions?
After Seldon pass we will continue north on the JMT down along Bear Creek Trail. The office person I talked to insisted that I could get water from Bear Creek, but she has never actually seen that trail. Your blog says that you can’t access Bear Creek form the trail. Is the problem that there are cliffs between the JMT trail and Bear Creek? My topo lines are 40 feet apart and I know we have been in similar situations before on the JMT where the map looks like the path is next to the creek, but it is actually 40 feet above on a crumbly cliff!!
Thanks for all your great info!
Let’s take the easy question first: there are places where it is hard to get to Bear Creek from the trail, but there are also plenty of places where you can reach it easily. It sounds like you know your way around a map, so a good map reconnaissance, backed up by a visit to Google Earth, should yield plenty of spots to re-hydrate.
There really isn’t any way to know about Senger Creek without seeing it. You can quiz hikers coming the opposite direction, but that’s about it. The lake just south of Sallie Keyes is reliable, as is Sallie Keyes. You are right about it being a bit of a hump uphill, but it is also fairly nicely shaded. Get an early start, start drinking the moment you rise, and you should be fine!
I’m planning on hiking the JMT NOBO in July 2016. From passed experience, do you think that it will be possible to do given what will probably very deep snowpack?
Honestly, Nicolas, it is just impossible to know. The amount of snow is not only important, the timing (early season or late season) is as well. That said, I would GUESS that an early NOBO hike next year that is snow free would be unlikely. A late July hike might work, but pack your mosquito repellent! Good luck.