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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive

Hoover Wilderness, California

Lay claim to your own California mountain valley and bask in utter solitude.

by: Stan White

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Contact Information:

Eastside entry: Toiyabe National Forest Bridgeport, CA 93517 (619) 932-7070 Southside entry: Inyo National Forest Box 10 Lee Vining, CA 93541 (619) 932-7033

Location: Hoover is located in north central California, east of the Sierra crest from Yosemite National Park's North Boundary area. The nearest town of any size is Bridgeport (619-932-7033).

Getting There: Most trailheads are off US 395 between Bridgeport and Mono Lake. South entry is from Saddlebag Lake off CA 120 near the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite. The trip described here leaves from and returns to the Twin Lakes trailhead at Mono Village Campground. This private resort is 13 miles west of Bridgeport at the end of Twin Lakes Road.

Seasonal Information: The best time is from spring when the snow melts through fall when it flies. It may start snowing as early as Labor Day or as late as November. The best advice concerning the weather is to be prepared for all kinds of weather at any time. Temperatures range from -30 to the upper 90s throughout the year. Summer days frequently bring thunderstorms.

For weather and trail conditions, call (619) 932-1234.

Wildlife: Black bears are numerous. There also are mountain lions, coyote, bobcats, mule deer, marmots, birds, and many fish. During your hike you may encounter cattle and sheep in some parts of the Hoover Wilderness.

Insects: The mosquitoes are fierce early in the season, but thin out as the days warm and the snow melts. Carry repellent.

Plant Life: Hemlock, pine, aspen, and cottonwood join wildflowers.

Facilities: There is primitive camping within the wilderness and Forest Service campgrounds on the edges. Many of the seasonal (April/May through October) developed campgrounds have water and flush toilets. Reservations are suggested for most sites.

Parking: Park at the trailhead parking lot.

Permits:

  • Free permits are required for overnight trips into the wilderness.
  • There is self-registration in front of the ranger station September 15 through the last Friday in June. At other times, permits can be obtained through mail or on a first come, first served basis.
  • By mail, permit reservations cost $3 per person. Permit requests begin to be accepted March 1 for that year and they can be requested up to three weeks in advance of the visit. Allow at least three weeks if requesting by mail.
  • On a first come, first served basis, permits are issued at the ranger station after noon on the day before the visit or on the day of the visit.
  • Daily quotas may affect the availability of permits. Quotas are in effect from the last Friday in June through September 15. Non-quota trailheads are Burt Canyon, Molybdenite Creek, Leavitt Lake, and Sonora Pass.
  • Costs for developed campgrounds outside the wilderness range from $5 to $9.

Policies:

  • Firearms, radios, and pets are recommended to be left at home.
  • Motor vehicles, bicycles, wagons, hang gliders, and chainsaws are prohibited.
  • Maximum group size is 15 people.
  • There is a one night camping limit at Barney Lake. There is no camping at Red or Blue lakes. They provide drinking water for the Virginia Lakes Resort and Trumbull Lake Campground.
  • Within the Sawtooth Zone: Maximum group size is eight. No campfires. Use camp stoves. No camping within 100 yards of established travel routes.

Hazards: Yosemite proximity means bears, and they know you have goodies. Hang all food!

Leave No Trace:

  • Cutting switchbacks causes soil erosion and trail damage. Stay on the trails. It is safer, easier, and saves trail maintenance costs.
  • Travel and camp in small groups.
  • Choose equipment that is not brightly colored or highly visible.
  • Choose a campsite at least 100 feet from water and trails. To avoid impact, camp on a previously used legal site. A site may not be legal just because it has a fire ring.
  • Use a gas stove. If you must have a fire, keep it small. Use an existing, legally placed firering. Use dead and downed wood no more than one to three inches in diameter. Do not build new firerings. If your site has no ring, locate an area with no ground vegetation and dig a small, shallow pit. Build the fire in the pit without rocks.
  • All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps:

  • USGS topos Matterhorn Peak and Tuolumne Meadows cover the area.
  • Toiyabe National Forest Visitor Maps are also available for $3 ($5 for plastic). Prices include postage. Checks can be made to USDA-USFS. Allow two weeks for delivery. Mail to:
  • Bridgeport Ranger District
  • Mail Order
  • Box 595
  • Bridgeport, CA 93517
  • CD-ROMs and a number of books are also available.
  • The Sierra North guidebook has an updated trail map and is available at outdoor stores or from:
  • Wilderness Press
  • 2440 Bancroft Way
  • Berkeley, CA 94704
  • Toiyabe National Forest operates a computer bulletin board system (BBS) which enables people who call in from a computer with a modem to receive information on weather, hiking, fishing, skiing, camping, backpacking, horses, ranger programs, and much more. The number for the BBS is (619) 932-1234.

Other Trip Options:

  • Bodie State Historic Park (619-647-6445), home of one of the best preserved ghost towns, lies 18 miles southeast of Bridgeport.
  • Mono Lake Scenic Area (619-647-3044) lies 25 miles south.
  • Many people use the wilderness to travel into remote sections of Yosemite (209-372-0200).


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