July 19-21, 2002
A nice description of the hike can be found as Lillian Lakes Loop (Hike 97) in 100 Yosemite Hikes by Jeffrey P. Schaffer. This trip is in the Sierra National Forest, on the south east border of Yosemite. The hike is a 12 mile loop which gains approx 2000 feet and then has a corresponding drop. Todd has a collection of trail maps.
It takes approx 6.5 hours to get to the trailhead from the bay area. The first leg is approx 4.5 hours to Oakhurst which is the last "major" town. From Oakhurst take Highway 41 north 3.5 miles to Road 222 (sign to Bass Lake). Follow this east 3.5 miles to a fork and veer left onto Malum Ridge Road 274 and continue for another 2.4 miles. Turn left onto northbound Forest Route 7 (Beasore Road) which you will be on for 31.3 miles. After 11.4 miles will be Cold Springs Summit Road, at 20 miles will be Road 5S04 (at which point the road should be pretty rough), and at 27.5 miles you will be at the junction for 5S86 followed closely by 5S05 and a couple of 4WD trails, at 29.6 miles Minarets Road will come in from the right, and at 31.3 miles you should come to the Clover Meadow ranger station. There is a dirt road which goes off to the left which will take you to the campground.
The daily pre-reservation quota for the Fernandez trailhead is 16 people. There are a number of other slots which are available on a first come, first serve basis. Permits can be picked up at the Clover Meadow Ranger Station (8:00am-12 or 1:00-5:00pm). The ranger stations phone number is (559) 877-2218 ext 3136. Snail mail is the only way to get an advance reservation. The cost was $5/person. The letter was sent to: Sierra National Forest, Attn: Wilderness Permits, 7003 Road 225, North Fork, CA 93643.
Conditions we Expected:
Mid summer days should be in the upper 70s, with the nights likely getting down into the 50s. There are often brief shower in the afternoon. [Random note: temperature drops between 3-5 degrees for every 1000 ft of elevation.] The weather can be variable. So I would be prepared for the days into the low 90s, the nights to get down to the 40s, and for rain. I would be prepared for mosquitoes which are much worse than the Bay area since the snow pack will still be melting producing breeding grounds in the soggy meadows. There will be a couple of creeks we will need to ford. Check National Weather Service - Yosemite to Kings for current conditions.
Friday night we camped at Clover Meadow which is a first come / first serve campground and set up around 9pm. Even though we arrived late, only 1 of the 7 campsites was already taken. Dinner and the next morning's breakfast were done car camping style: e.g. too much food, using grills, coolers, etc. We made use of the bear boxes near the ranger station. We also confirmed that too much dry ice will not only keep your ice cream frozen, but will also freeze everything else solid. A warm engine block does a great job thawing out steak.
Saturday morning we parked our cars at the trail-head and walked the ~6 miles to Lillian Lake via the Fernandez trail. This piece of the loop took us past a number of small lakes. Streams were very low (mostly stagnant) so "fording" required walking across the tops of a few dry stones. I found the trail to be moderately steep, with a few short sections as we cross ridges where we gained or lost hundreds of feet in a very short distance . We stopped at Vanderbaugh Lake to refill our water bottles. The Stanford Lakes were very picturesque. Lillian Lake was beautiful and felt to be around 70F, perfect to wash dusty feet. A decent trout was caught in the Lillian Lake after just 20 minutes of fishing. Mosquitoes at the campsite were bothersome, but not as bad as I expected, and most disappeared after dark. Sunday we will complete the loop back to the trailhead which was an gentle and steady downgrade which was quite easy to walk. The mosquitoes on this part of the loop were pretty nasty, encouraging us not to stop walking. The trail was extremely well marked, but it was also particularly dusty and sandy from the horse traffic.
We experience extremely mild temperatures. I don't think the nights went below 60F. Highs were in the low 80s. A couple people struggled with altitude sickness, but everyone else was fine. A family of three deer were the only large animals we saw... no bears even though we cooked at the campsite. Both Andrew, and Bryan took pictures on the trip.
We are breaking up into smaller groups:
Each group will arrange meals and distribute gear which will be shared between the group during the trip. These items should be divided appropriately between people based on weight, size, and individuals abilities.Personal Supplies
We have a Basic Gear Check List if you aren't sure what you need to bring. I have a list of my gear. If you want more detailed suggestions about what to take (including trade-offs) see my outdoor gear page. There are numerous gear lists on the web which might give you other perspectives / ideas.
Since this trip starts at 7500ft where the air is significantly thinner, it is impossible to find a comparable hike in the bay area. It is possible to find hikes which are similar in terms of elevation gain and distance. Some examples are: Mount Tamalpais, Fall Creek, Black Mountain, Purisima Creek, El Corte de Madera Creek, and Rancho San Antonio.