Food canisters sent home from Kennedy Meadows. Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your classic High Sierra Trail Guide. Mover, PCT hiker with resupply at Tuolumne Meadows.
Backpacking map of Tahoe Yosemite Trail through Emigrant Wilderness.

PCT food canisters sent home from Kennedy Meadows.

Backpacking map of the Tahoe Yosemite Trail through Emigrant Wilderness.

Mover, PCT hiker with resupply at Tuolumne Meadows.

 

 

The Trails

Guide
Maps
Miles/Ele
Permits
Resupply
Forum

 

Current Weather Conditions

Weather Notes
Northern High Sierras
Central High Sierras
Southern High Sierras
 

Gear

Gear List
Gettin Started
Layering
Discussion
 
Testing yourself and your gear
 
Gear Reviews

 

top of page

2016
HIGH SIERRA TRAIL CULTURE REVIEW
and
Trip Report
High Emigrant Wilderness
North Yosemite Backcountry

 

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
&
Tuolumne Meadows
Backpacker Resupply

The Trip Plan

 

Languages

Languages

 

Trail Arts

The art of walking

 

Physical Preperation

 

Trail Skills

The trail
Off the trail
Scrambling
Maps
Navigation
Camp skills
 

Food

Resupply
Food

 

Other

Photo Catagories
 
Trail Stories
 
Trail Culture
 
News and Science
 
Links
 
Groups
 
Books

 

Terms and Conditions of Use

top of page

Trail
Culture
in the
High
Sierra

Introduction
to
Trail
Culture

Trip
Planning
FORUM
TYT-PCT
NORTH SIERRA
TRIP
PLANNING GUIDE
Kennedy Meadows
Pack Station
to
Mosquito Pass
BACKPACKING MAP
INDEX PREVIOUS
Page

2016
Trail Culture
INDEX

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Page

Emigrant
Wilderness
Trail Report
and
Culture Report

all
maps index

Part II
The Backpacking Plan


Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness

into the
North Yosemite Backcountry

The Backpacking Trip
PLAN

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness
into
The North Yosemite Backcountry

 

Trip
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
to
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
47.84 miles

 

Trail Guide
Resources

PCT-TYT
Highway 108 Corridor
Trail Guide Resources

TYT
Emigrant Wilderness
Trail Guide Resources
PCT-TYT
North
Yosemite Backcountry
Trail Guide Resources

 

Route
Our backpacking trip South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail out of the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Trailhead begins on the Northwest edge of the Emigrant Wilderness. This trip has two fundamental parts.

The Climb
First, we climb 3360 feet over our first 16.04 miles backpacking across the top of Emigrant Wilderness from Kennedy Meadows into the Northwest Corner of Yosemite National Park. There, we hook up with the route of the Pacific Crest Trail by hiking through Bond Pass into the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

The Descent
The Next part of our hike takes us South from Bond Pass descending more than 5908 feet across the next 31.8 miles of mostly-very remote North Yosemite Backcountry down to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Trailhead.

"Mostly" remote because there is a relentless line of Pacific Crest Trail hikers pushing North through the North Yosemite Backcountry during mid-July of 2016.

Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking
Hiking the first part of our trip climbing across Emigrant and into the North Yosemite Backcountry opens up a whole range of shorter backpacking trip options around Emigrant Wilderness for our inspection and exploration.

The 3 Trailheads
at
Kennedy Meadows

Less, More, or Just Right?
This trip to Hetch Hetchy can easily be shortened or extended.
Shortened by bending it into various sized loops around Emigrant Wilderness.
Extended by running the PCT-TYT all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows.

Shorter Options
During the first part of our hike across Emigrant Wilderness we'll cross a series of trail junctions with trails potentially opening up shorter trips and loop routes back to Kennedy Meadows, if trips shorter than our 47.84 miles to Hetch Hetchy are desired or required.

These maps show multitudes of possible trail and route options.

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Maps
Links on the page below
The Whole Enchilada
East and West
Sierra Flanks:

Emigrant and Toiyabe
into
North Yosemite
Links on the page below

Click the red dots on the detailed maps linking to those position's
trail guide entries.

Planning Forum Comments

 

Into Yosemite
Arriving at Yosemite's Northwestern corner through Bond Pass our TYT route hooks up with the PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon.

The Long Version
From the top of Jack Main Canyon we have the potential to proceed South for fifty-four miles across the North Yosemite Backcountry on the combined routes of the PCT-TYT to the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Tuolumne Meadows.
The only divergence of the TYT & PCT from the top of Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows is the TYT's short loop around Tilden Lake (guide page).

To Hetch Hetchy
On this particular trip described below we break off the route of the unified TYT & PCT crossing North Yosemite to point ourselves down-mountain to Hetch Hetchy. Our route leaves the TYT-PCT to begin its descent to Hetch Hetchy from the second trail junction we encounter after hiking South of Tilden Lake.

 

TYT & PCT
Tilden and Wilmer Lakes
DIVERGENCE

On the trip below we are going to follow the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail where it climbs South out of Jack Main Canyon to visit Tilden Lake. Tilden Lake and its surrounding terrain are sweet. The route of the PCT continues down Jack Main Canyon for another 1.75 miles to its exit point from Jack Main Canyon hiking around Wilmer Lake.
The TYT-PCT trails reunify for the remainder of their length South to Tuolumne Meadows after taking their independent routes around Tilden and Wilmer Lakes.
But not us.

TYT-PCT
In
Upper
Jack Main Canyon
BACKPACKING MAP
Links on the page below

WE DIVERGE
Our backpacking trip plan below does not follow the unified trails to Tuolumne Meadows, but breaks-off them for Hetch Hetchy at the second trail junction after they hike their respective routes around Tilden and Wilmer Lakes.

TRAILS RE-CONVERGE
We could swing around Tilden or Wilmer along either the TYT or PCT before descending to Hetch Hetchy, as they unify at the first trail junction to the South of both lakes.

Lower
Jack Main Canyon
&
Kerrick Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Backpacking Map

Down the Western Flank
via
Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls
We will begin our great 19.1 mile descent down the Western Flank of the Sierra from the second trail junction South of Tilden and Wilmer Lakes.

Hiking South of either Tilde or Wilmer Lakes we come to this series of two trail junctions, the first of which is where the TYT around Tilden first rejoins with the PCT route around Wilmer Lake. The second junction a tenth of a mile further South is our route to Hetch Hetchy dropping off TYT-PCT down the Western flank of the Sierra via Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls.

Planning Forum Comments

 


Down the Western Flank
via
Lower
Jack Main Canyon

We also have the option of continuing down Lower Jack Main Canyon by hiking past the Tilden and Wilmer Lake trail junctions, staying in Jack Main Canyon almost all the way down to Hetch Hetchy. The route to Hetch Hetchy down Jack Main Canyon is spectacular...

Jack Main Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Jack Main Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Miles
Jack Main Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Random Notes

Suggested Reading
Steve's Fantastic North Yosemite Backpacking Loop
A backpacking loop via Jack Main Canyon & Tilden Lake out of Hetch Hetchy

Lower
Jack Main Canyon
&
Kerrick Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Backpacking Map

(Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy trail guide page coming soon!)

 

Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls
On the backpacking trip below we are going to hike out of Jack Main Canyon to this second, shared trail junction via Tilden Lake. But that's not necessary.
We encounter this trail junction after hiking South of either Tilden or Wilmer Lakes. Breaking off the TYT-PCT we begin following a remarkably faint trail (for trails in Yosemite) descending the West Flank of the Sierra down to Hetch Hetchy via Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls.

Our final destination at Hetch Hetchy fills the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River with some of the sweetest drinking water in the whole US.

This part of our backpacking trip is quite a plunge.



North Yosemite Boundary
to
Hetch Hetchy
This part of our trip consists of an almost continuous descent from our high point of 9720 feet across Bond Pass entering Yosemite descending to Hetch Hetchy's 3812 feet of elevation. This part of our backpacking trip brings us down 5908 feet over 31.8 miles.



Go Long
to
Tuolumne Meadows
Our other option from this second junction South of Tilden Lake is to continue South along the combined routes of the TYT-PCT across the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows.

Stretching out our trip from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station down to Tuolumne Meadows bumps up the total distance of our backpacking trip of 48 miles from Kennedy Meadows to Hetch Hetchy up to just under 74 miles hiking from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows.

More
Five Canyons
of the
North Yosemite Backcountry
Guide Page
More
Five Canyons,
below

 

Local
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Loops

We can further shorten this trip to less than 48 miles by bending our route back around to Kennedy Meadows via one of the key trail junctions we encounter while hiking across the Emigrant Basin (definition) before entering Yosemite, or by turning North on the Pacific Crest Trail after entering Yosemite on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Check out the maps.

 

RECAP
Long & Short
Route Options
This basic forty-seven mile backpacking trip can be modified into a longer trip by stretching it out to run all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows, or turned into a variety of shorter-sized backpacking loops by bending our route back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station through the series of trail junctions we encounter crossing Emigrant Basin, if we do not push South into Yosemite.

Connectivity
check:
The High Heart of the Emigrant Basin
TYT-PCT
Emigrant Basin
BACKPACKING MAP
Emigrant Basin
Definition

 

Many
Alternative
Routes
& Trips
Below we sketch out our basic route South from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Hetch Hetchy, check out the folks we meet along the way, and discuss the weather, mosquito, and physical issues (both terrain and personal!) affecting our trip.
The route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crossing Emigrant Wilderness is going to show & tell us a lot about our surrounding trails and terrain. This trip reveals many other potential future backpacking trips we can use to explore more of the Emigrant Wilderness, the North Yosemite Backcountry, and even into the Toiyabe & Hoover Wilderness along the East Flank.

Study the maps, mileages, elevations, and guide pages to plan the custom Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trip that's perfect for you.

Web of Trails
Along this trip we are going to see the potential for whole sets of shorter backpacking trips exploring the various quadrants of Emigrant Wilderness, East into the strip of the Toiyabe National Forest wedged in between the North Yosemite Backcountry and Hoover Wilderness, and the four ways we can find hiking down into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne from the route of TYT-PCT across the North Yosemite Backcountry.

The goal is to reach our destination, but it is also to find, see, and explore the range of our route options into, around, and back out of this fine terrain where Emigrant and Yosemite Wilderness meet. We really want to get some understanding of the layout and logic of this remarkable terrain.

This objective will take more than one trip. Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is not the only trailhead from which we could have started, nor is Hetch Hetchy a mandatory destination. Though these two points open up many perspectives on Emigrant and Yosemite Wilderness, we will eventually have to select different start and end points to see it all.

Though the trip described here starts out of Kennedy Meadows, we can also start from the other trailheads along the Highway 108 Corridor (the Sonora Pass Highway), and even from the "other end," by starting our trip from, and climbing in via the Hetch Hetchy or Weird Wolf Trailhead.

Sorry. I mean "White Wolf." The folks who work there call it Weird Wolf.

The hike up from Hetch Hetchy to the Sierra Crest is a monster climb.
I prefer to descend from the Crest into the heat of Hetchy Hetchy, but each to their own...

Something for Everyone
Nonetheless, we can modify our plan by using different entrance and exit trailheads to create a range of backpacking trips suiting a wide range of fitness levels, time constraints, and tastes.

Sonora Pass Corridor
Backpacking Map

All Access
Alternative Start Points
In that spirit we'll also explore the other trailheads along the top of Highway 108 we can use to start hikes into Emigrant Wilderness and on to Hetch Hetchy, or all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows. We can use the Sonora Pass Trailheads on the Sierra Crest and Leavitt Meadow on the East Flank as alternate access points to both explore different aspects of the Emigrant Wilderness and the associated sections of the Toiyabe and Hoover Wilderness. We'll use these trailheads as alternative start points to both observe different parts of Emigrant while on our way to accessing the North Yosemite Backcountry.

Alternative End Points
The Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadow Trailheads also serve as excellent ending points for long local backpacking trips around Emigrant Wilderness beginning through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. My goal is to get you to study the maps, trail guide, and miles information so you can identify the best trails, routes, and backpacking trips for you.

Accessing Emigrant Wilderness backpacking South through Sonora Pass or Leavitt Meadow Trailheads can be well complimented by ending our backpacking trips through Kennedy Meadows.

Web of Trails
The fact is that the Emigrant Wilderness along the Sierra Crestline features a web of trails along the Sierra crest and both of its flanks giving us deep access to this remarkably complex area. Every trail segment in this web of trail has unique and amazing things along its route, and much more if you keep your eyes and mind very open.

Hiking from Kennedy Meadows to Hetch Hetchy is going to show us some of the key connection points woven into this web of trails across this fine terrain.

Also
Check Out
Crude Schematic Map
of the
Highway 108 Corridor
Trailheads & Trails
Emigrant Wilderness
FEDERAL
"Miles-Map"
PDF

Ka-Ching
My perspective is that we can't lose; that every Emigrant Wilderness backpacking option is good, and the more of them we see the better-off we are.

Planning Forum Comments

 

Highway 108
TRAILHEADS
&
Their Trails South
MAPS
WEST FLANK
TYT

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking
MAP

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station,
Sonora Pass

&
The
West Sierra Flank

BACKPACKING MAP
EAST FLANK
PCT

Emigrant Wilderness & Toiyabe
Backpacking
MAP

Leavitt Meadow Pack Station,
Sonora Pass

&
The
East Sierra Flank

BACKPACKING MAP
Click Red Dots on Maps above for Trail Guide Entries

BOTH FLANKS
TYT & PCT

Highway 108
CORRIDOR

Emigrant Wilderness
&
Toiyabe
Backpacking Map

SONORA PASS CORRIDOR
REGION MAP

Click Black and Red Dots on Map above

 

Emigrant Wilderness
Digital and Paper
Hiking Maps
Emigrant Wilderness
Forest Service PDF
Backpacking Map
Emigrant Wilderness
PURCHASE
Backpacking Map

 

PAPER
YOSEMITE MAPS
Also See
All
Digital and Paper Maps

 


Many
Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Trips:
8 to 75
Miles
of
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Trip Options

The shorter and longer alternative-route backpacking trips we can hike across the Emigrant and North Yosemite Wilderness highlighted below span from 8 to 75 miles in length. Our trip from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Hetch Hetchy described in the Backpacking Plan below and the following Trip Report measures out at 47.84 miles.

Flexibility
We could have easily cut that distance in half by remaining in Emigrant Wilderness, or doubled it by pushing South all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows.

My pont is that we can find the perfect backpacking trip for you in the
Emigrant Wilderness and North Yosemite Backcountry.
But first, Three Underlying Realities:

#1> This is High Altitude Terrain.

#2> This is Steep Terrain.

#3> Backpacks are Heavy.

My suggestion:
Start Training.

Short and Long
of
IT
The Short
Beginning backpackers and those short distance backpackers looking for shorter backpacking trips in Emigrant Wilderness should investigate the hikes to and from Relief Reservoir (Trail Guide Page. 8.06 miles round trip total) or Kennedy Lake (Trail Guide Page. 8.01 miles round trip total) from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Though short, these are still difficult climbing trails. The route to Kennedy Lake climbs 1400 feet from Kennedy Meadows while the trail to Relief Reservoir ascends 880 feet.

The Long
Long distance backpackers looking for greater challenges than the 48 miles to Hetch Hetchy can stay on the route of the PCT-TYT South of Tilden Lake to continue across full the length of the 75 miles total distance from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Tuolumne Meadows, and points even further South, if you can get a permit for travel through & beyond Yosemite. Good Luck.

This trip plan below and its trip report on the following pages cover the "high points" of the hike from Kennedy Meadows to Hetch Hetchy. Our associated trail guide also covers the remaining length of the PCT-TYT South to Tuolumne Meadows for those who are curious about hiking the longer 75 mile backpacking trip from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows instead of cutting off the PCT-TYT and dropping down to Hetch Hetchy.

This Trip
Kennedy Meadow to Hetch Hetchy
via
Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls
47.84
Total Miles

Top of Page


Backpacking
Trip Report and Trail Culture Review

2016

Part II
Emigrant-Yosemite Backpacking Trip
Plan

 

The Whole Route
OUTLINE & PLAN
We start out backpacking South from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station at 6400 feet of elevation climbing steeply for our first 10.92 miles of hiking along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Brown Bear Pass at 9760 feet of elevation.

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station backpacker trailhead.
We can see the new 2016 location of the gate for the Southbound TYT on the far Right of the image beyond the edge of the porch.

From Brown Bear Pass the difficulty of our route moderates following the TYT South for the next 5.12 miles across the High Heart of the Emigrant Wilderness, the High Emigrant Basin (definition). On the Southeastern end of Emigrant Basin we find the TYT's Northeastern-most exit point from Emigrant Wilderness through Bond Pass crossing into the Northwestern-most corner of Yosemite National Park.

The total length of the Emigrant Wilderness portion of our trip measures 16.04 miles from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to our Bond Pass entrance into Yosemite, of which the first 11 miles are the tough climb from KM to Brown Bear Pass.

VIEW
Brown Bear Pass
from the
East

Brown Bear Pass from the East.
Above: Turning around to look Northwest at Brown Bear Pass and Relief Peak beyond while hiking South on TYT across "Emigrant Basin."

Red & White
TERRAIN

Volcanic and Granite
Terrain
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail comes through Brown Bear Pass on the seam between granite and volcanic terrain we see in the gap above. The whole valley descending Northwest on the far flank below Brown Bear Pass is characterized by this same stark division between the majestic complex granite terrain of Black Hawk Peak and Granite Dome making up the South wall of the canyon while the North wall under Relief Peak is uniformly volcanic.

Northwest View
TRAIL GUIDE IMAGE

West Flank Canyon below Brown Bear Pass.

Well, the North wall of this long canyon is almost uniformly volcanic, except for the bits of granite we see sticking out along the base of the North wall (Trail Guide Image). Looking closely we we can see a few places where the furthest extent of these ancient volcanic flows did not quite completely submerge the underlying granite, leaving it partially exposed (Trail Guide Image). From Brown Bear Pass our eye can follow and identify great lengths of the granite-volcanic interface running across Emigrant Meadow and wandering across the whole length of the Emigrant Basin from Brown Bear to and through Emigrant Pass.

Into Yosemite
Granite Wonderland
Looking around Brown Bear Pass we note that volcanic activity and its coverage of terrain increases to the North and Northeast as it diminishes to our South and Southeast. Hiking South into Yosemite on either the PCT or TYT marks the Southernmost extent, the end of the volcanic coverage along the Sierra Crest and its Western Flank. Crossing over to the Western Flank of the Sierra entering the North Yosemite Backcountry marks the beginning of a long run across pure granite terrain that does not end until we hike out the South end of Yosemite approaching Banner Peak and the volcanic activity centered around Mammoth Mountain.

Volcanic Apron Pushed East
Though our route across the North Yosemite Backcountry runs across amazing granite terrain, our explorations show that the volcanic terrain still runs thick to our East along the East Flank of the Sierra wrapping around the North Yosemite Backcountry.
Massive volcanic terrain still exists across the Central Sierra, but as an apron wrapping around East of the East Flank of the Sierra South of Highway 108 through Hoover Wilderness, across Tioga Pass, and continuing South as the Kuna Crest.

PCT vs. TYT
Hikers on the PCT route through the North Sierra trails North of the Yosemite boundary are going to be hiking across predominantly volcanic terrain from North Yosemite all the way up to the Tahoe Basin. Hikers on the TYT coming South from the Tahoe Basin have been taking great swings up and down fantastic granite canyons on the West Flank sitting below the Volcanic coverage along the Sierra Crest.

 

Our Unique Route
to
Hetch Hetchy
Entering Jack Main Canyon hooks our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route up with the route of the Pacific Crest Trail for the next six miles until we climb out of Jack Main Canyon following the divergence of the TYT around Tilden Lake.
After visiting Tilden Lake (Trail Guide Page) we continue South down the West Flank of the Sierra, first crossing, rather than rejoining, the routes of the PCT-TYT where they rejoin at the first of two trail junctions South of Tilden and Wilmer Lakes. South of Tilden and Wilmer Lakes the PCT-TYT make their final unified run down to Tuolumne Meadows.

Instead, we are going to follow a faint trail (as of 2016) 22.2 miles South from Tilden Lake down the West Flank of the Sierra to Hetch Hetchy, a total of 19.1 miles from the second trail junction below Tilden Lake, as seen below, to the end of our trip at Hetch Hetchy.

Tilden Lake and Tower Peak
along the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Sunrise
Tilden Lake and Tower Peak along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Tower Peak along the Sierra Crest beyond Tilden Lake.

Instead of continuing South along the TYT we cross the route of the PCT and depart both trails beginning our long descent down the West Flank of the Sierra to Hetch Hetchy. Don't worry, we will find a couple of serious climbing segments of trail during our grand descent!

Hetch Hetchy and Tilltill trail junction
departing route of
TYT-PCT
below
Tilden Lake in Yosemite.

Hetch Hetchy and Tilltill trail junction below Tilden Lake in Yosemite.
Tilltill: 9.9 miles, Hetch Hetchy 19.1

References
Trail Guide Pages, Maps, and Miles
The first set of links below lead to the trail guide, map, and mileage materials covering the first part of our trip backpacking across Emigrant Wilderness. The second set of links below present our guide & map resources covering the next part of our backpacking trip across the North Yosemite Backcountry. The trail guide's miles and elevations pages only cover the distances along the routes of the PCT and TYT that we hike.

The citations for the mileages off the routes of the TYT-PCT down to Hetch Hetchy rely on the miles cited on the old Yosemite Steel Trail Signs, so I included pictures of each junction's miles signs, as above, on the following Trip Report pages. The fact that these signs are sixty years old causes us to treat their figures as advisory, rather than as authoritative.

The old Yosemite steel trail signs give us "ballpark" figures.

Reference Materials
ORGANIZATION
Our Trip Plan is also broken into two parts, as are our reference materials. The first part begins at Kennedy Meadows and covers backpacking across the Emigrant Wilderness. This part can be heavily modified. The second part of our trip begins when and where we cross into the North Yosemite Backcountry. The second part of our trip covers our long descent down the Western Flank of the Sierra to Hetch Hetchy.

This second part of this trip is subject to fewer "on the fly" modifications than the first. The reason is that our food and energy reserves become bigger factors as we put more days and miles between ourselves and our next possible resupply spot, or to the end of our trip. We do not have the option of continuing South to Tuolumne Meadows without a sufficient combination of time, energy, and food to complete the task.

Approaching Hetch Hetchy from Rancheria Falls.
Man, it's hot down here...
Approaching Hetch Hetchy from Rancheria Falls.
Kolana Rock
Hetch Hetchy Reporting Station: Groveland

History and References

Hetch Hetchy
Valley

(Wiki)

3783 Feet

O'Shaughnessy
Dam

(Wiki)

3812 feet


Yosemite History
Forum

High Sierra History
Forum

High Sierra
Backpacker Weather
All
Real Time
High Sierra
Reporting Stations
Seven Day
Rain Forecasts

Backpacker's
Fire and Smoke
Information

Sonora Pass-North Yosemite Weather Information Seven Day
Sonora Pass Forecast

All
High Sierra Weather


Below find the trail guide pages, maps, and miles information
we have covering each part of our hike.

PART I
TRAIL GUIDE INFORMATION
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
BACKPACKING
across

Emigrant Wilderness

 

 

Northwest

  Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness
TYT
Trail Guide Pages
   

 

Southeast

Kennedy Meadows
Pack Station and Resort
TYT-PCT
BACKPACKER
RESUPPLY

Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir
TYT
TRAIL GUIDE
PAGE
Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass
TYT
TRAIL GUIDE
PAGE

Further Southeast
Brown Bear Pass
to
Bond Pass
TYT
TRAIL GUIDE
PAGE

 


Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness
TYT
Backpacking Maps
Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir
TYT
BACKPACKING
MAP
Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass
TYT
BACKPACKING
MAP

 


TYT
Backpacking
Across

Emigrant Wilderness
Miles and Elevations
TYT
from
Kennedy Meadows
Pack Station

to the
PCT
in
Jack Main Canyon
MILES and ELEVATIONS

 

Big Picture
Backpacking Map
The Whole Highway 108 Corridor
across
The Sierra Crest

Click the Black-Dotted Routes for detailed maps,
the Red Dots for trail guide entries.


Emigrant Wilderness
Digital and Paper
Hiking Maps
Emigrant Wilderness
Forest Service PDF
Backpacking Map
Emigrant Wilderness
PURCHASE
Backpacking Map

Alex's
FIELD USE
Backpacking Map Selection
for
Emigrant and Yosemite

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Map

The Classic:

Emigrant Wilderness
NF PDF Trail Map

Classic National Forest
Wilderness Map

Second Choice
I really like the Wilderness Press map of Emigrant Wilderness.

This map appears to be rare. It was published with their Emigrant Wilderness guidebook some time ago.

 

Yosemite Wilderness
Backpacking Map

 

National Geographic makes/made a map called
"Yosemite National Park and Vicinity."

This map spans from Dorothy Lake Pass to Reds Meadow. I believe this is the new version of that classic.

If I am correct, this map below spans from
Sonora Pass to Reds Meadow:

Wilderness Press,
Yosemite National Park and Vicinity

It has an "inset" of the PCT from Sonora Pass to Dorothy Lake Pass, if it is the same map I have.

Also See

Paper & Digital Backpacking Maps
RESOURCES PAGE
PAPER MAPS

 

Planning Forum Comments

 

TRAIL RATING
Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir measures up to an
I-2 Difficulty Trail, with the Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass segment of trail garnering up to an H-3 difficulty rating.

Trail Rating System

Practical
Standards

Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Trip Plan

A Fine Route
The 16.04 mile length of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Kennedy Meadows to the Yosemite Boundary at Bond Pass across Emigrant Wilderness presents different levels of difficulty to backpackers with different levels of fitness.

The key to a fine trip is matching your capacity to your trip plan.

Each backpacker's different physical capabilities, their very different paces, different daily miles, and differing needs for food and rest, let alone their very different preferences, tastes, and expectations suggest very different hiking plans for different people.

You must find the proper plan for your pace, daily miles, and preferences.

Find Yourself in the Mountains

These potentially very profound differences between various backpacker's capacities, expectations, and goals result in very different patterns of use of the series of potential campsites we find crossing the first 16 miles of our trip from Kennedy Meadows to our entrance into Yosemite through Bond Pass.

Capacity and Preferences
Determines Miles and therefore our Campsites
Our specific selection of campsites along this part of the trip depends on how we are going to feel making the first big 10.92 mile climb from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Brown Bear Pass. Some hikers have the capacity to hike these 10.92 miles ascending 3360 feet in less than a day, others may take two days.

Shorter Options
For some hikers the campsites in Lunch Meadow (Trail Guide Image) under Brown Bear Pass may be the goal. Others may plan backpacking trips turning around through the top of Lunch Meadow by crafting a "lollypop loop" through Mosquito Pass (Guide: Trail Junction) to Brown Bear Pass to hike back through Lunch Meadow on our way back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Just for You
Your pace, capacities, and comfort zone are going to determine not just which pace and daily miles will anchor your trip plan, but for how many days you can maintain those daily miles and that pace. Properly balancing these factors will determine your pace across your daily miles along the best length of a backpacking trip that suites you, and suggests the final selection of a route fitting your current level of training and experience. In every case it is wise to plan shorter miles and days at the beginning of trips to give yourself a chance to warm-up and accommodate acclimation.

Notes
on
Acclimation

Acclimation
Forum
(Experiences)

 

Standard
TYT
Emigrant Wilderness Campsites

Trail Guide Citations
The standard locations of campsites between Kennedy Meadows across our first 10.92 mile climbing segment along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Brown Bear Pass are at Relief Reservoir, Saucer Meadow, Sheep Camp, and upper and lower Lunch Meadow campsites.

The Emigrant Wilderness TYT Miles and Elevations Page cites the miles and elevations to and between each of these campsites, and each of these sites are located by the Red Dots marked on our hiking maps. Each of these red dots links to their respective trail guide entries.

Mosquitoes
Beyond Brown Bear pass we enter and cross the series of meadows composing High Emigrant Basin. These are Emigrant, Grizzly, and Summit Meadows. These meadows are full of mosquitoes when moist, requiring all those camping up here to deploy full mosquito protection. Heck, full mosquito protection is vital for all Spring-to-mid Summer hikers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mosquitoes are a real problem from the beginning of the Spring Thaw to the point the mountains finally dry out.

The average "drop dead" date for mosquitoes in the Sierra is typically August 15, but this changes year to year depending on moisture and temperature conditions.

High Sierra
Mosquitoes
Mosquito
NEWS
BAD NEWS:
DEET
Resistance
in
High Sierra

 


Emigrant Basin

Hub of the Wheel
Crossing Brown Bear Pass Southbound on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail opens up the Emigrant Basin for our explorations, if we give ourselves the time to explore. The Emigrant Basin contains great expanses of terrain perfect for extensive cross-country scrambling and explorations, if that is our goal and true destination.

We could bring an extra day's food to give us the time to take a day off in the Emigrant Basin to do some exploratory scrambling. I have found all sorts of cool things scrambling around up here.

Emigrant Meadow and Lake
We will not indulge in scrambling this time, as our current trip is passing through on its way to Yosemite. Crossing Brown Bear Pass we can see our next potential campsites in the boulder formations around the North Shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake to our East. I don't like these sites so much, because of the huge populations of mosquitoes around Emigrant Meadow Lake and its surrounding wet meadows that preserver deep into each Summer's season. Climbing over the ridge to the East of Emigrant Lake and its Meadow brings us by two small unnamed lakes before our reaching the trail junction under Grizzly Peak in Grizzly Meadow.

I like to camp at the second lake, the one closest to Grizzly Peak.

Grizzly Peak Campsite
(Little Lake West of Grizzly Peak)
I have a nice campsite on an elevated, shaded flat on an elevated ledge above the second lake and its tiny meadow. The lake, shelf, and meadow are all located less than 600 yards West of Grizzly Peak.

Grizzly Peak Trail Junction
Reaching the Grizzly Peak trail junction we notice the trail running North and South looks in places like an old dirt road. It is. Our route on the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is turning South onto the old Tungsten Road.

But, if we hiked North on the Tungsten Road it would bring us over Big Sam to the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of Kennedy Canyon. From that point we could hike West to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, East on the PCT towards Leavitt Meadow, or North on the PCT towards the Sonora Pass Trailhead on Highway 108.

2
Four-Way Trail Junctions
We can point ourselves in any direction from both the Grizzly Peak and Kennedy Canyon trail junctions because both these junctions are located along the Sierra Crest with trails leading to our cardinal compass points. (Wiki) These two crestline trail junctions open up and tie together many, many backpacking routes for us to explore.

TWO JUNCTIONS
Trail Guide Entries
Trail Junction
Top of Kennedy Canyon
Grizzly Peak Trail Junction



Southbound TYT
Continuing South from the Grizzly Peak trail junction along the TYT-Tungsten Road we descend into Summit Meadow to find the trail splitting our TYT route up to Bond Pass from the end of this part of the old Tungsten Road running out to Snow Lake.

Snow Lake
There are lots of fine campsites around Snow Lake. But the real attraction of Snow Lake is the unmaintained trail (definition) climbing from its Southwestern Shore. This trail leads over the saddle to Biglow Lake and the trail to Maxwell and Middle Emigrant Lakes, which leads us back to Mosquito Pass. We can use the trail from Snow Lake to turn a substantial Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loop back to the Southwest towards our starting trailhead at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station via Maxwell Lake to Mosquito Pass, which brings us back to the TYT in Lunch Meadow.

Many Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Loops
Or we can turn North from Grizzly Peak on the Tungsten Road for a shorter return leg to Kennedy Meadows via Kennedy Lake. Hiking East through Emigrant Pass from Grizzly Peak brings us down the East Flank to reunite with the PCT at the West West Walker River Bridge.

Into Yosemite
Those of us continuing South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail begin the moderate climb out of Summit Meadow up to our Bond Pass entrance into the very Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park. Our subsequent descent brings us into the top of Jack Main Canyon, where our TYT trail hooks up with the route of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Or
Local Backpacking Loops...
Here at the top of Jack Main Canyon local backpackers find their last and most distant opportunity to turn North back towards Kennedy Meadows. At the top of Jack Main Canyon we can follow the Northbound PCT through Dorothy Lake Pass to find a series of trails that can run us back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station by a variety of very interesting routes.

Again, check out the
Crude Schematic Map
of the
Highway 108 Corridor
Trailheads & Trails
Emigrant Wilderness
FEDERAL
"Miles-Map"
PDF

Notes
on
Acclimation

Acclimation
Forum
(Experiences)

Big
Backpacking Loops
If we turn North on the PCT from the top of Jack Main Canyon we will find three routes subsequently breaking off the Northbound Pacific Crest Trail linking up with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, with each eventually bringing us back to Kennedy Meadows by very different routes. Each of these trails gives also gives us access to the very different characters of terrain and experience in the different parts of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Range of the Range
Emigrant Wilderness and its associated strips of Toiyabe, Hoover, and Yosemite give us a kaleidoscopic range of terrains of very different materials. These very different materials have been cut, melted, and sculpted into a crazy range of beautiful shapes, colors, and configurations, each of which supports and displays amazing combinations of life.

Thus the utility of beginning and ending our trips through different trailheads. Each offers access through its unique configurations of materials, terrain, colors, textures, and life. The Leavitt Meadow and Sonora Pass Trailheads along Highway 108 offer excellent entrance or exit points if we don't want to hike all the way back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, or we want to explore the unique characteristics of the terrain those trails cross on their respective routes to Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadow Trailheads.

NORTH
from the
Top of Jack Main Canyon
Once we turn North on the PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon our first route back to the TYT is found hiking up the West West Walker River and through Emigrant Pass back to the TYT at Grizzly Peak.
Our second option also brings us back to the TYT at Grizzly Peak, but from a different direction. We continue North on the PCT to the trail junction at the top of Kennedy Canyon, where we can turn South over Big Sam to intercept the TYT, again at Grizzly Peak, but this time approaching it from the North.
Our third option is also found at the top of Kennedy Canyon, but involves hiking West past Kennedy Lake to hook up with the TYT just a couple of miles South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

We have an amazing number of backpacking loops and trailhead to trailhead backpacking trips we can launch out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

All of our major route options described above are depicted on
THE
SONORA PASS REGION MAP

 

Planning Forum Comments

TOP OF PAGE


PART II
INTO YOSEMITE

Entering the top of Jack Main Canyon in Yosemite through Bond Pass hiking South on the route of the TYT merges us into the route of the Pacific Crest Trail. The combined TYT-PCT provides us with a classic route South to Tuolumne Meadows.

North Yosemite Backpacking Trips
This classic route is accented by a number of interesting routes for side trips running down to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and one trail to Twin Lakes in the Hoover Wilderness. (Bensen Lake Loop Map) The length of the PCT-TYT along the Western Flank of the Sierra across the North Yosemite Backcountry from Jack Main to Cold Canyon runs parallel with the length of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River running from Hetch Hetchy up to Glen Aulin.


Five Canyons
of the
North Yosemite Washboard
Along this classic route crossing the North Yosemite Backcountry we cross the series of infamously steep and deep very closely-spaced valleys and ridges running South off the Sierra Crestline down the West Flank of the Sierra to feed its waters, and its trails, into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

Difficult Terrain
These are the ridges and canyons known as “The Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry” or “The North Yosemite Washboard.” This is formidable terrain, ranked at the highest level of backpacking difficulty, H1. I've been checking-out the trails running down these canyons off the PCT-TYT to Hetch Hetchy over the years. This report below covers the hike off the route of the PCT-TYT down through Tilltill Valley and Rancheria Falls to Hetch Hetchy.

More
Five Canyons
of the
North Yosemite Backcountry
.
FIVE CANYONS
Trail Rating System
H1 Level of Difficulty

Trail Structure
of the
Five Canyons
As mentioned above, I’d previously dropped down to Hetch Hetchy through Jack Main Canyon a couple of times. Jack Main Canyon is the Westernmost of the Five Canyons, while Cold Canyon to our East composes the Eastern-most bookend of these famous Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry.
Spread across the length of the TYT-PCT crossing the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry between Jack Main and Cold Canyons we find a series of 4 trails fed by five trail junctions running South off the main PCT-TYT route down the West Flank of the Sierra and ultimately into various positions along the length of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

I figured I’d either run the trail down through Tilden this time, or maybe push further South along the TYT-PCT to the next trail junction down the West Flank. The next junction South of Tilden (trail guide page) is located just South of the Kerrick Canyon fording point of Rancheria Creek, meaning I was considering hiking down to the next trail South of Tilden Canyon Creek before breaking off the TYT-PCT to Hetch Hetchy. The trail for the next route running down to Hetch Hetchy out of Kerrick Canyon runs through Pleasant and Pate Valleys. (Map)

Changing Trip Plan
The evolving character and trajectory of this particular trip ultimately convinced me to break off the TYT to Hetch Hetchy via Tilden Canyon Creek, starting down the West Flank from Tilden Lake. Below are the guide pages picturing these trail junctions along with maps of all four of these trails running down the West Flank into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne through of the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry.

Planning Forum Comments

 

PART II
YOSEMITE TRAIL GUIDE PAGES
The Five Canyons
of the
North Yosemite Backcountry
Trip Planning Materials

Dedicated to the spirit
of
Erin Anders


Trails Linking
TYT-PCT
Crossing the North Yosemite Backcountry
to the
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River

 

Westernmost   North Yosemite Backcountry
Trail Guide Pages
    East

JACK MAIN CANYON
Trail Guide Page

Tilden Canyon Creek
via
Tilden Lake
TYT
to
TILDEN-TILTILL LAKE
TRAIL JUNCTIONS
Trail Guide Page
Tilden Canyon Creek
via
Wilmer Lake
PCT
to
WILMER LAKE-TILTILL LAKE
TRAIL JUNCTIONS
Trail Guide Page





North Yosemite Backcountry
Off
the
TYT-PCT
Backpacking Maps

Upper
Jack Main Canyon

Stubblefield Canyon
Backpacking Map
Lower
Jack Main Canyon
&
Kerrick Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Backpacking Map

Off
the
TYT-PCT
Backpacking Maps

Rodgers Canyon
to
Hetch Hetchy
Backpacking Map
Grand Canyon
of the
Tuolumne River
Backpacking Map


Western   North Yosemite Backcountry
TYT-PCT
Trail Guide Pages

showing
Trail Junctions

into the
Grand Canyon of the
Tuolumne
continued
    Easternmost


At the Kerrick Canyon Ford
of the PCT-TYT:

South
to
Hetch Hetchy
through
Pleasant and Pate Valleys
Trail Junction
Trail Guide Page

Two
Closely-Spaced Junctions:

#1

South
through
Rodgers Canyon
Trail Junction
Trail Guide Page

#2

South
to
Rodgers Canyon
via
Rodgers Lake
Trail Junction
Trail Guide Page



North Yosemite Backcountry
TYT-PCT
Backpacking Maps

Stubblefield Canyon
to
Bensen Lake
Backpacking Map
Bensen Lake
to
Miller Lake
Backpacking Map
Matterhorn Canyon
to
Top of Cold Canyon
Backpacking Map

 

Off
the
TYT-PCT
Backpacking Maps

Bensen Lake Loop
Backpacking Map
30 Minute Map
Series

 

Yosemite Wilderness
Digital and Paper
Hiking Maps
Yosemite Conservancy
PAPER YOSEMITE MAPS
Also See
All
Digital and Paper Maps

 

Planning Forum Comments

 

The links to North Yosemite trail guide and map pages above do not include the final run of the combined Southbound TYT-PCT down Cold Canyon to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Glen Aulin is perched above the top, the upper Eastern end of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Tilden Lake
Entering the very Northwestern corner of Yosemite through Bond Pass we hike six miles South down Jack Main Canyon following the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Tilden Lake. After climbing out of Jack Main Canyon to Tilden Lake, we resume our long descent off the upper section of the Western Flank of Yosemite’s Sierra Crest by following Tilden Canyon Creek South from Tilden Lake to the PCT junction. We'll cross the PCT and leave the route of the both trails behind where they reunite in Tilden Canyon Creek.

Off the TYT-PCT
We are departing the undulating 8 to 10,000 foot level of our combined PCT-TYT Sierra Crest trails along the Western Flank of the Sierra Crest to drop 19 miles down to 3812 feet of elevation at Hetch Hetchy.

From this point our route is dedicated to the descent into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Our route departing the TYT-PCT begins its long, steep descent (mostly) down to Tilltill Valley along Tilden Canyon Creek below Tilden Lake. Even the steepest and deepest descents contain climbs, as does this one. We will find a couple of climbs during this long descent.


Finishing our steep descent to Tilltill Valley we find the steep descent continues down to Rancheria Falls, below which our final descending segment moderates into hiking the last steps of our trip along the undulating trail wedged in below the sheer cliffs of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and above the ever-placid waters of Hetch Hetchy. A different way of looking at this is that our trip ends with us descending into dramatically increasing heat as we drop all the way down to the very warm shores of Hetch Hetchy.

Don't underestimate the heat at Hetch Hetchy. I've experienced high 90s and low 100s every time I've hiked down there.

Hetch Hetchy
Ground Reporting Station
All
Ground Reporting Stations
The
Human Heat Safety Chart

RELIEF STATION
We get some small unexpected momentary relief from the heat in the lowest section of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. We are amazed to find the naturally air conditioned cool in the tunnel bored through solid rock connecting the end of our trail to the O'Shaughnessy Dam. We take our last steps through this cool tunnel before ending our trip crossing the dramatically sheer but quite narrow O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Web of the Spider
Like the vast web of trails we enjoy, O'Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy are the key elements of a much vaster, and much more substantial web of infrastructure collecting the huge, but yet still insufficient water flow off this portion of the West Flank of the High Sierra for the disposal of the vast and rapidly growing populations of San Francisco and selected Bay Area communities.

 

Total Trip Miles
Kennedy Meadows to Hetch Hetchy
via
Tilltill Valley
47.84 miles

 

That's the general outline of this trip and a review of some of its possibilities.
Let’s look a little closer at each segment of this route and its hikers to see what's revealed.

Next page
Emigrant Wilderness
&

North Yosemite
Trail and Culture Report

Top of Page


Trail Report
&
Culture Review
INDEX

First page: 2016 Trail Culture INDEX                            Next page: Emigrant & Yosemite Trail and Culture Report

2016
High Sierra
Backpacking Trail and Culture Review
Planning
Just Another Brick in the Wall

Emigrant
and
North Yosemite Wilderness Areas

Wide Scope
On the page above we find the basic guide, map, and miles materials necessary to plan and execute fine backpacking trips out of Kennedy Meadows on the North edge of Emigrant Wilderness into the North Yosemite Backcountry and down, way down to Hetch Hetchy.

Flexible Application
With these materials we can also plan long or short backpacking trips around the high elevation elements of Emigrant Wilderness. We can plan Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trips remaining within Emigrant, or swinging East to Explore the Toiyabe National Forest and its adjacent Hoover Wilderness. We can turn South into Yosemite for the epic backpacking trip all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows. Or we can drop down Yosemite's West Sierra Flank to the big cement plug stuck into the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, the O'Shaughnessy Dam backing Hetch Hetchy up behind it.

I have not talked much about the trails running Southwest descending across the lower parts of Emigrant down the West Flank of the Sierra towards Pinecrest Lake. The reason is that my routes typically stay up along the Sierra Crest, but that's not a good excuse; the trails down from the Sierra Crest across Emigrant Wilderness are fantastic.

The problem is related to time and scale. Exploring the down-mountain potential of each section of crestline trail must be measured against the goal of covering the length of the Sierra Crest.

First the length of the Crest, then its flanks.

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Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

Snug tent after Snow Storm
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail