The "Big Picture" of Trail and Terrain South to Tuolumne Meadows Our Southbound Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trail routes take two very different routes into the very North-Westernmost corner of Yosemite National Park where they rejoin near the top of Jack Main Canyon.
Chittenden Peak guarding Tilden Lake while towering over Peak 9214 giving us some context of Jack Main Canyon while entering Yosemite on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Bond Pass. The TYT climbs to Tilden Lake and the base of Chittenden Peak while the route of the PCT continues down-canyon to Wilmer Lake before turning East.
This is the first time the PCT and TYT have shared trail since departing the Lake Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap 89.3 miles to our North on the TYT and 76.24 miles along the route of the PCT.
South to Tuolumne Meadows Once here in the top of Jack Main Canyon at the South Bond Pass trail junction we Southbound long-distance backpackers, no matter how we got here, face a very difficult 54.49 mile segment of trail South to Tuolumne Meadows along the Pacific Crest Trail route, and 56.3 if we follow the TYT around Tilden Lake.
Top of Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows 54.49 miles
on the West Flank Southbound Pacific Crest Trail hikers should note that turning into Jack Main Canyon also marks the first time we will be hiking any significant distance across the Western flank of the Sierra since departing the Tahoe Basin.
This "PCT on the East flank vs. TYT on the West flank" reality across the North Sierra ends entering Yosemite. The PCT crosses over to the West flank through Dorothy Lake Pass and shares most of the route South with the TYT on the Western Flank to the end of the TYT at Tuolumne Meadows.
The TYT's brief loop around Tilden Lake is the trail's sole remaining divergence for the rest of our hike South to Tuolumne Meadows.
At Tuolumne Meadows the John Muir Trail picks up where the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail ends, joining the Southbound PCT at TM for the hike down to our Southern exit from Yosemite over Donohue Pass, and back onto the East flank of the Sierra, for a "minute." After passing through the East flank Rush Creek drainage our hike through Island Pass brings us back onto the Western drainage of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.
Across Yosemite Nonetheless, our next 54.49 miles to Tuolumne Meadows plus the 11.3 miles South from Tuolumne Meadows to our Donohue Pass exit from the South end of Yosemite puts our distance on the West Flank of the Sierra crossing the length of Yosemite National Park on the Sierra Crestline Trails at 65.79 miles. We can extend this distance by deflecting our route through Yosemite Valley as we cross Yosemite.
Yosemite Sierra Crestline
Dorothy Lake Pass to Donohue Pass 65.79 miles
TYT-PCT-JMT across Yosemite Stands Aloneon itsOwn Merits This 65.79 mile section of the PCT-TYT-JMT across the length of Yosemite on the West flank of the Sierra from Dorothy Lake Pass to Donohue Pass is an amazing long distance backpacking trip on its own merits.
I believe that backpacking trips across Yosemite, such as the hikes from Sonora Pass/Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Tuolumne Meadows via the TYT, then continuing on South down to Reds Meadow on the JMT is a "must do" backpacking trip for serious High Sierra Backpackers.
If walking the length of the Sierra across Yosemite is not already a fantastic segment of your Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip, or a fine "section" of your PCT hike, then you should hike it on its own merits.
POTENTIAL PERMIT ISSUES
If you can get permits. Permits issues have evolved to new levels of difficulty, and become a real issue of concern as of 2016.
Walk Far and Prosper
To bring our crazy long distance backpacking examination of Yosemite to the next level I've got to suggest that us Tahoe to Whitney hikers extend our crossing of Yosemite by turning off the routes of the PCT and JMT to add the Golden Triangle Route to our backpacking trip across Yosemite National Park.
My approach is simple: Let's cover as much ground as possible.
The Conclusion Each of the brief incidents of the Pacific Crest Trail hiking along the West flank in the North Sierra were but a few exceptional steps along the PCT's primary location along the Eastern flank of the Sierra South through the Tahoe Basin down to this most Northwestern boundary of the Yosemite Backcountry. Not anymore.
From the Top of Jack Main Canyon at the far Northwestern corner of Yosemite to where Donohue Pass marks the Southern extent of the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails in Yosemite our hike on these trails across Yosemite are are all on the Western flank of the Sierra.
Not so with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. The TYT remained on the West flank of the Sierra after departing the Tahoe Basin down to its junction with the PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon, and continues on the West flank on down to Tuolumne Meadows.
The TYT is a West Flank Route, excepting its run from Meeks Bay around the Tahoe Basin to the Carson Gap in the Tahoe Basin. Lake Tahoe is an East Flank lake.
The TYT It's ALL so Frigging Beautiful
South of the Tahoe Basin the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail takes great swings down the Western flank of the Sierra through fantastic granite canyons. Then it climbs back up to the Sierra Crest. The great swings of the TYT down the West flank are quite different than the relatively consistent route of the PCT remaining up along the Sierra Crest along its Eastern flank.
A bonus of the TYT's Western route is that these great swings down the West Sierra flank bring us through amazing granite terrain, remarkable interfaces between granite and volcanic terrain, and a wide variety of flora and fauna spread across the changing zones of life these elevation changes probe. The East flank route of the PCT crosses predominantly volcanic terrain, also stunning, but very different.
The source of the different characters of beauty we experience on the Pacific Crest Trail along the Sierra Crest from those along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trails come from the same source. The process and specifics of the growth and birth of the Sierra Nevada geology created its own geologically-driven climate patterns.
Engine of Life The geological forces that abruptly uplifted the East flank almost straight up for thousands of feet over millions of years spread this same rise in elevation out over the forty-plus mile long Western run out of the Sierra Flank and Western Foothills.
This long angle from the Sierra Crest down its Western flank
simultaneously created both the climatic differential and the runoff paths that would both guide and be transformed by the fire and fury of massive volcanoes and carved by glacial ice and subsequently gently polished and harshly eroded into the Sierra Nevada we know today.
These primary geological forces played out to create a significant environmental differential between the long Western flank, the Sierra Crest, and its abrupt Eastern flank. The differential is based on drawing the rain out of moisture-laden Pacific Storms as they climb the long rising Western flank of the Sierra to the crestline. The long rise up the Western flank draws out the moisture, leaving little for the Sierra Crest, less for its dry Eastern flank, and almost none for the deserts stretching East under its long rain shadow.
This geologically-driven climate mechanism both created and drives the very different characters, terrains, and ecosystems of the Eastern and Western flanks.
The practical result for long distance backpackers is that the Western flank route of the TYT bringing us down the Western flank shows us a much greater range of the Sierra's diversity of terrain, climate, and life before resuming the stark grandeur of the crest.
If you want to get out of the Sierra fast, off the Sierra Crestline fast, you hike out the sheer but short Eastern flank. The Western flank of the Sierra stretches out for dozens of miles. This fact is also handy for planning backpacking trips: The Eastern flank trailheads offer direct but difficult access to the Sierra Crest.
The Western Sierra Flank
Yosemite The main feature of this next segment of our combined TYT and PCT route South along the Western flank of the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows are The Five Canyons
North Yosemite Backcountry (Guide Pages-Maps-Miles-Plan)
This segment of trail from the top of Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows is generally considered to be the hardest segment of the whole PCT.
Let's take a last look to our North to check out the divergent routes of the TYT and PCT that brought us here to the top of Jack Main Canyon before continuing South into the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry.
Viva La Difference... The Southbound Pacific Crest Trail enters Yosemite from the Northeast through Dorothy Lake Pass at the very top of Jack Main Canyon; PCT
while the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail drops into Jack Main Canyon from the Northwest a short distance down from the top of the canyon through Bond Pass: TYT
Our Sonora Pass Region thirty minute map below best shows the relationship between the PCT and TYT following their very different routes across Emigrant Wilderness to their junction in the top of Jack Main Canyon:
The map above is part of the 30 minute series continuing South to Tuolumne Meadows. The map below focuses more on the route of the PCT, but really shows how Grizzly Peak in the Emigrant Basin is the axle in a hub of trails radiating in all directions.
into North Yosemite To reach the Northeastern flank of Dorothy Lake Pass our Southbound Pacific Crest Trail route wraps around the Western edge of the West Walker River watershed of the Toiyabe National Forest. Hiking South out of Sonora Pass the PCT first hikes along the Sierra Crest, then turns East to hike under the Eastern flank of the Sierra Crest as it wraps around the perimeter of the High Emigrant Basin, a gem of terrain stashed in along the Western Flank of the Sierra Crest across the top of Emigrant Wilderness.
Looking North into the bottom of Kennedy Canyon across the West West Walker's ravine.
TYT into North Yosemite The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route enters Jack Main Canyon through Bond Pass From the Northwest. This section of the TYT climbs South up the Western flank of the Sierra from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station through two massive granite and volcanic canyons, two fine high altitude passes, between which the TYT crosses a stunningly beautiful high altitude basin (definition) while backpacking across the highest and most stunning sections of the Emigrant Wilderness.
Emigrant Basin from Brown Bear Pass. Bond Pass lays in the far Right of the image on the ridgeline between us and Forsyth Peak. Forsyth Peak is the peak in the middle-distant Right of the image above.
I do like the TYT route across Emigrant Wilderness... it is stunningly beautiful as we see above.
Different Routes to the Same Result The TYT and PCT both enter the very Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park on their respective routes South, intersecting just below Dorothy Lake, which delightfully fills Jack Main Canyon's very complex headwaters bowl.
Here's a schematic rundown of our Southbound PCT and TYT routes entering the top of Jack Main Canyon into the North Yosemite Backcountry from the North. The schematic demonstrates that we've a lot of potential routes to get us here.
Once here in the top of Jack Main Canyon Southbound long-distance backpackers, no matter how they got here, face a difficult 54.49 mile segment of trail South to Tuolumne Meadows.
Down Jack Main Canyon Our now combined Southbound PCT-TYT route down Jack Main Canyon is aligned with the Canyon's Northeast to Southwest positioning. The Western boundary between Yosemite National Park and the Emigrant Wilderness runs Southwest from the Sierra Crest down the ridgetop making up the West wall of Jack Main Canyon, the ridge to our Right as we hike South down the canyon.
Above: Looking down Jack Main Canyon past West wall of Peak 9214, which is the ridge-like granite feature below Chittenden Peak. We can see complex granite formations filled in with dense forests that characterize Jack Main Canyon and its long run down to O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy.
Once we cross Bond Pass into Yosemite there are no trails connecting Yosemite to the Emigrant Wilderness for about 25 miles, until we get all the way down and out the bottom of Jack Main Canyon where we climb onto Moraine Ridge! But not to worry, our PCT & TYT routes turn East to follow the Sierra Crestline South long before we hike all the way down to Moraine Ridge.
Boundaries The wilderness boundary running down along the top of the ridge dividing the Western flank territory of the Yosemite Wilderness from the Emigrant Wilderness to its Northwest contributes a leg to the triple boundary point on the Sierra Crest.
It intersects with the main boundary running roughly North and South along the Sierra Crestline. The main boundary running along the crestline
divides the Yosemite and Emigrant Wilderness on the West flank from the expansive jurisdiction of the Toiyabe National Forest (running from Lake Tahoe South to Highway 120) over the Eastern flank of the Sierra.
The top of Jack Main Canyon is where these three boundaries dividing the Emigrant, Yosemite, and Toiyabe jurisdictions intersect. This boundary splits the natural drainages as well as the Sierra Crestline.
The Emigrant Basin is drained by the branches of Cherry Creek, which eventually run into the Tuolumne River below Hetch Hetchy. The waters draining the West Flank in Yosemite run directly into the Tuolumne River above Hetch Hetchy. The East Flank drainage all runs into the West Walker River.
The map below shows this triple-boundary and the triple drainages of the West Walker flowing Northeast in the Toiyabe National Forest, the Cherry Creeks draining Southwest out of the Emigrant Basin into Cherry Lake, and Falls Creek running South-by-Southwest down Jack Main Canyon along the Western edge of Yosemite into Hetch Hetchy.
Watersheds From where we enter Jack Main Canyon to where we climb out of Yosemite through Donohue Pass we will be in one part or another of the drainage of the Tuolumne River.
The five canyons we cross from the Northwest corner of Yosemite down to Glen Aulin all drain into the Tuolumne River.
From Glen Aulin to Donohue Pass we will hike South along the Tuolumne River, unless we follow the JMT route down to Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows, in which case we enter the Merced drainage.
Five Canyonsof theNorth Yosemite Backcountry
The Lay of the Land Hiking South across the North Yosemite Backcountry on the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail routes we are hiking below the West Sierra Crestline high up near the top of a series of five magnificent granite canyons all draining West into the Tuolumne River down in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
There are five trails from our PCT-TYT route across the North Yosemite Backcountry down each of these five canyons to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. They are
1> Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy,
2> Tilden Canyon Creek down to Tiltill Valley,
3> The Kerrick Ford down along Rancheria Mountain to Tiltill Valley and on to Hetch Hetchy,
4> The trails below Volunteer Peak down Rodgers Canyon to Pate Valley (the first trail down that actually lands in the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne), and finally
5> our PCT-TYT route down Cold Canyon to Glen Aulin along the Tuolumne River.
The trails West of Pate Valley running down Jack Main, Tilden, and Kerrick Canyons to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne all bring us to overlooks perched above the waters of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on trails slashed into the steep walls high above this drowned Grand Canyon.
on the PCT
& Trail Difficulty These miles from the top of Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows are often referenced as the Hardest Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail by PCT hikers. I've noted that the average 25 mile a day PCT hiker drops down to 16 or 17 miles per day through this section. The reason cited (and experienced) is the proximity of one high altitude ridge to the next.
At the bottom of one canyon we can throw a rock and hit our next major climb. This is unlike the South Sierra, where ramps of moderate angle 5 miles long or longer sit below and between High Sierra Passes along the Sierra Crestline. This is not the case in the North Yosemite Backcountry.
The long descent off the South flank of Mather Pass followed by the long ascent up to Pinchot Pass is typical of the long distances between significant Passes as we hike South on the JMT. We experience completely different terrain crossing the North Yosemite Backcountry.
There is very little distance between the deep descents and steep climbs across the North Yosemite Backcountry. For Northbound hikers this section begins with the very very long and very hard 11.9 miles climb out of Glen Aulin that does not end until Miller Lake, where we have really just entered the "washboard." The series of closely-spaced ascents and descents North of Miller Lake ends with the long, hot, hard climb up Jack Main Canyon. Between these hard start and finish climbing segments lay the North Yosemite Washboard. This is a very difficult section, work-wise.
The trails are clear and easy to follow with the mind, but this segment of trail puts a real strain on the body.
Thus this section is referenced as "Yosemite's Washboard," and "The Five Canyons," is spoken with great respect. My overall rating for this section is "Hard 2." "Hard" is the highest difficulty rating I give, and "2" is the middle of three degrees of difficulty, with 1 being the most difficult. Many lengthy segments of trail along this section are rated as the most difficult, being Hard Ones.
So us Southbound backpackers should enjoy the long descent down to the Tilden and Wilmer Lake junctions, because those are going to be the easiest miles we hike until we exit the Five Canyons starting our long, almost uninterrupted descent down Cold Canyon from the McCabe Lake trail junction.
My Count I count seven major ridges dividing these five canyons. I don't count Virginia nor Cold Canyons on the South end of this section for Southbound backpackers because we drop down into them from Miller Lake and have no real climb out of them. Well, we do have the short mile-long climb up to the McCabe Lake junction from the Virginia Canyon ford.
Once we reach Miller Lake hiking Southbound it is almost all down-mountain to Glen Aulin, with the short exception of the trail up to McCabe Lake mentioned above, down to Glen Aulin followed by a gentle climb up to Tuolumne Meadows along the Tuolumne River.
This is a very cool section of trail. It is very difficult and very beautiful.
Crossing these Five Canyons is the theme of this next segment of the Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows section of our Tahoe to Whitney Backpacking trip. It's a good one, and the Five Canyon are going to work us hard, and return to us priceless experiences and beauty in exchange for our work!
My review of a couple of decades of PCT hikers have told me that experienced PCT and veteran Sierra Hikers consider the Five Canyons the hardest section of trail between Tahoe and Whitney. As the Sierra Nevada is by far the hardest section of the PCT, this makes the Five Canyons the hardest section of the whole PCT in the estimation of lots of backpackers.
I've hiked all over, and this 75 mile section is much harder than any other 75 mile section I've hiked. The next-most difficult would be the longer but easier hike from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal.
Hike the Tahoe to Whitney Trails and compare them yourself!
I rate the Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows and the Muir Ranch to Whitney Portal as the first and second hardest sections of trail between Tahoe and Whitney.
Wilderness, Water, ForestsandLakes The Lower West Flank across Emigrant and North Yosemite Though our PCT-TYT routes (and this trail guide) both stay high up along the Sierra Crestline, I feel that I must say something about the excellent backpacking options through a series of trailheads between roughly 5000 and 7000 feet of elevation.
These trailheads start trails and potential routes up to the Sierra Crestline through the lower-elevation Western and Southern perimeters of the Emigrant Wilderness and along Southwestern boundary of the North Yosemite Wilderness.
Now that our Southbound PCT has finally crossed back onto the Western Flank of the Sierra (the TYT never left the West flank) into Yosemite rejoining the TYT, both trails now cross not just through, but also above some spectacular backpacking terrain in the North Yosemite Backcountry, as did the TYT crossing the highest elevations trails of the adjacent Emigrant Wilderness to our North.
This terrain below our high routes along the TYT and PCT, but still above the foothills along and above the edges of these Emigrant and Yosemite wilderness boundaries is very worthy of mentioning and exploring.
Though this trail guide is centered on the main high elevation trails, as the vast majority of my backpacking trips are, there are many fine backpacking trips in the lower elevation areas of both the Emigrant and Yosemite Wilderness this guide does not cover, but points to.
Pointing South and Southwest Our TYT route across Emigrant Wilderness can turn down the Western Flank to Pinecrest Lake, Gianelli Cabin, or Crabtree Camp Trailheads off Highway 108 further down the Western flank of the Sierra in proximity of Pinecrest Lake on Highway 108, or over to Cherry Lake off Highway 120.
Hiking South on the TYT across Emigrant Wilderness into the Northwest corner of Yosemite opens up a series of trails to the trailheads at the 4659 feet of Lake Eleanor or the even lower 3795 feet of elevation at Hetch Hetchy hiking down the length of Jack Main Canyon.
We can also hike down to points East along the Tuolumne River above Hetch Hetchy along the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne by dropping down through any of the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry, all the way upriver to Glen Aulin, as described above.
The incredible granite and forest terrain dropping off the West flank of the Sierra runs all the way down to these low elevation Pinecrest, Cherry and Eleanor Lakes, and even further down to Hetch Hetchy in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne at the base of Jack Main Canyon.
These two federal maps of Emigrant Wilderness and Yosemite National Park below put our long distance routes along the TYT and PCT into context with local trails down the West flank of the Sierra branching off from our crestline routes hiking the PCT & TYT.
Tying these stunningly beautiful lower trailhead access points to our TYT and PCT routes along the Sierra Crest opens up a wide range of amazing backpacking trips...
Emigrant and Yosemite
Maps open in a new tab
Bottom of the Top of the World These are fantastic trails running off the Sierra Crestline down to trailheads along the lower perimeter of the Emigrant and North Yosemite Wilderness. The terrain below our high altitude trails across Emigrant Wilderness and the North Yosemite Backcountry is magnificent.
I generally draw my personal bottom line at about 5000 feet along the Western Sierra flank, which I consider to be where the hot dry upper foothills begin making the beautiful transition climbing into mountain terrain into the bottoms of the Jeffery and Red Fir forests.
By 7000 feet of elevation we are breaking into the upper zones where the fir forests transition into the more tenacious lodgepole forests. The feisty lodgepoles wedge themselves in between granite terrain and green meadows, prying into cracks in the granite and invading the meadows. The lodgepoles fade with increasing elevation and by 9000 feet we are leaving the lodgepoles and entering the sub-alpine zone of the whitebark pines.
I generally try to start and stay high up on the sub-alpine Sierra Crestline trails, but I make occasional exceptions when crossing the beauty of Emigrant and the North Yosemite Backcountry.
The lower elevation areas of these two wilderness areas contain exceptional wonderlands of granite, forests, and lakes seeming to extend much further down the Western flank of the Sierra than the Carson Iceberg and Mokelumne Wilderness areas we crossed to our North.
Thus the bottom of my elevation limit is drawn all the way down to Hetch Hetchy's very low 3797 feet of elevation in Yosemite. Man, it's hot down here! And dry as Hell, despite the vast reservoir at our feet.
or Top-Down? Cherry and Eleanor Lakes, and the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River at Hetch Hetchy offer fantastic very low elevation trailheads to enter or exit the High Sierra Trails along or below my self-set roughly 5000 foot lower boundary of High Sierra Backpacking. Hetch Hetchy is even lower. I prefer to use these low elevation trailheads as exits.
I prefer to enter the trails higher-up the mountain, preferably through one of the trans-Sierra mountain passes, or by crossing the Sierra Crest from Leavitt Meadow or the Twin Lakes Trailheads in the Hoover Wilderness. I generally run these types of trips from the top-down.
Especially if I am exploring a cross country route, and most especially during the heat of Summertime. I've seen 90+ degrees below 7000 feet here many times. This level of heat creates another significant physical challenge that must be understood, measured, and countered.
Down at the bottom of the "mountain zone" Cherry and Eleanor Lakes sit next to each other divided by the Yosemite Boundary running along the top of Kibbie Ridge between them. Cherry Lake sits to the Northwest in the Stanislaus National Forest, Lake Eleanor to the Southeast. Hetch Hetchy lays to the Southeast of Lake Eleanor, all three in fairly close proximity as the crow flies, though separated by many many miles of road travel.
The Emigrant Wilderness Forest Service map lays out the wilderness boundary between Cherry Lake, Lake Eleanor, and their proximity to Hetch Hetchy. It also shows the massive amount of granite descending far down the Western flank of the Sierra in Emigrant Wilderness:
Rim Fire Information The areas around Cherry and Eleanor lakes burned in the Rim Fire of 2013. This area also burned previously, maybe ten years before the Rim Fire. I went through Hetch Hetchy via Jack Main Canyon after the last burn ten years ago and after the recent Rim Fire.
Jack Main Canyon down to Hetch Hetchy was partially spared, but the terrain to the West of Moraine Ridge looks like it got toasted bad.
The grand firs in the bottom of Jack Main Canyon and topping Morain Ridge got burned up.
I don't know how these areas will recover their previous form and disposition in the new hotter climate. I speculate the Jefferies will move up mountain into what was previously Red Fir territory. I believe these fires will speed the displacement of species already underway in the warming ecosystems.
I've seen some of the devastation in here from the Rim Fire, but since I was hitch-hiking out of Hetch Hetchy (first to TM and then out on Westbound 120) I did not have much flexibility to stop and take pictures. Your observations, information and updates are appreciated.
Coming in from The Top Jack Main Canyon brings Falls Creek South from the Sierra Crest down into Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on the Tuolumne River. All of the canyons descending West down the Western Sierra flank along our PCT-TYT route South of Jack Main Canyon, including our hike South on the John Muir Trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Donohue Pass, all drain into the Tuolumne River.
Our TYT and PCT routes both turn East out of Jack Main Canyon at roughly 8000 feet of elevation to stay high up along our PCT/TYT route before we lose much more elevation following Jack Main Canyon on its way down to Hetch Hetchy.
But we can hike down to Hetch Hetchy through the amazing beauties and mysteries of Jack Main Canyon. It's a splendid backpacking trip hiking over from Highway 108 to Hetch Hetchy. We can hike to the top of Jack Main Canyon on the TYT through Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, the PCT through Sonora Pass or via the East flank through Leavitt Meadow Trailhead. Or we can split the difference following the Tungsten Road from Leavitt Lake between the PCT and TYT.
High and Low Routes Our route South along the PCT/TYT across the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows crosses the tops of a series of five canyons high up near the Sierra Crestline. There is also a "low" route. A low trail from Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River to Hetch Hetchy roughly parallels our high PCT-TYT trail up along the Sierra Crestline with this low trail along the Tuolumne River.
The series of trails down the Five Canyons connects our high PCT-TYT Sierra Crest route with the low trail between Hetch Hetchy to Glen Aulin along the Tuolumne River.
This opens up a series of potential backpacking loops of various diameters out of the trailheads surrounding the North Yosemite Backcountry.
Master Loops These "side" trails down the Five Canyons offer a couple of viable alternative routes for hikers on the TYT and PCT, and a series of potential loop routes for local backpackers around the North Yosemite Backcountry. The only problems here are the length and difficulty of these loops. The length of the basic PCT and TYT routes from Highway 108 to Highway 120 across the North Yosemite Backcountry are 73.8 and 73.57 miles, respectively.
Not only is this a long section of trail, but this distance is universally considered the hardest mileage along the PCT by every PCTer I've ever talked to. It is certainly the physically hardest section of the Tahoe to Whitney Trails, the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, and the PCT and JMT between Tahoe and Whitney.
I've had stretching out this difficult section by adding extra segments while hiking through under consideration for quite some time. I only though about adding to this section after I'd hiked through on the main PCT-TYT route enough times to have a good degree of familiarity with it. This is a very long section of trail with complex terrain full of detail. It's a hard section to get to know. I've hiked through here less than forty times but likely more than 30.
I've hiked through the North Yosemite Backcountry starting out of Kennedy Meadows, Sonora Pass, Leavitt Meadow, and Twin Lakes down in the Hoover Wilderness. I've hiked out through Hetch Hetchy twice. Almost every trip I've taken across the North Yosemite Backcountry has been part of a longer trip.
Most of my "Yosemite" hiking trips start in either Lake Tahoe or Kennedy Meadows. Needless to say I have little trouble getting my desired "Yosemite" permit, because I draw it from the LTBMU or Stanislaus National Forest. Yosemite permit problems solved!
I've been thinking a better approach would be taking dedicated backpacking trips looping the North Yosemite Backcountry by hiking Northeast out of Lake Eleanor or Hetch Hetchy, or West through Glen Aulin for loops tying the main PCT-TYT route to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne around the North Yosemite Backcountry.
We'd climb up Jack Main Canyon out of Lake Eleanor or Hetch Hetch to intercept and follow the Southbound TYT-PCT to our selected canyon, where we'd drop down to return by following the Tuolumne River back to Hetch Hetchy.
Steve comments on just such a backpacking loop out of Hetch Hetchy circling around the North Yosemite Backcountry in the Stubblefield to Kerrick Canyon Forum.
The Lower Emigrant Wilderness On the Northwest flank of Bond Pass the Southern section of the Emigrant Wilderness' West Sierra Flank drains into Cherry Lake way down at 4700 feet of elevation. Our TYT route crossed headwaters mountains and meadows of the various branches and tributaries of Cherry Creek draining the High Emigrant Basin when we hiked between Brown Bear and Bond Passes.
The watershed of Cherry Creek ends where it flows into the Tuolumne River near Highway 120, way down the Western flank below Cherry Lake.
Though our route along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail stays high up, at an average elevation of 9700 feet along the Sierra Crestline through Emigrant Wilderness, there are great expanses of granite terrain dotted with lakes all surrounded, almost drowned by dense lodgepole forests in the high elevations just below the Whitebark Zone along the Sierra Crestline, running all the way down to Highway 108 at Pinecrest Lake.
If we hike further down the flank towards Crabtree and Pinecrest Lake Trailheads, to Cherry Lake or further down Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy these lodgepole forests wrapped around and between fantastic granite ridges thicken into excellent Red and White Fir forests covering the West flank like a thick green carpet, until the increasing heat of our descent brings us below the fir zone into the more barren hot forests of Jeffery and Yellow pine approaching Eleanor and Cherry Lakes.
Below the Crest
This is fantastic backpacking territory, but a little bit below my High Sierra elevation floor, measuring out at 4700 feet for Cherry Lake and 3795 feet at the Hetch Hetchy Spillway.
The 3795 feet at Hetch Hetchy rises to 7920 feet following the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne up-river to the trail junction with the PCT-TYT at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp.
I would not go so low in elevations if the trail down Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy was not so darned beautiful! The same is true for the Emigrant Wilderness between the Crest and its Western boundary line.
This section of the Western Flank of the Sierra across the Emigrant and North Yosemite Wilderness Areas is very underutilized for the level of beauty it contains.
I'd point at the difficulty and length of the trails across and around it as the cause of the quiet trail conditions in the North Yosemite Backcountry.
The 30 minute Map series below well depicts this segment of our TYT-PCT trail across the North Yosemite Backcountry and the upper drainage of the Five Canyons.
The Last TYT-PCT Divergence At the South Bond Pass trail junction the PCT and TYT briefly unite for the hike South down Jack Main Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows. Briefly, because we are approaching their last divergence.
At the Tilden Lake trail junction the Southbound TYT breaks off East to loop around Tilden Lake. The PCT continues South down Jack Main Canyon to the Wilmer Lake trail junction, where this particular trail guide page ends. At the Wilmer Lake trail junction the PCT also turns East, as the TYT did at the Tilden Lake trail junction.
The PCT and TYT rejoin to the South of Tilden Lake and East of Wilmer Lake between Macomb and Bailey Ridges, and from that point their once again unified routes share the remaining 44.56 miles of trail Southeast across the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows.
The 5.36 mile TYT loop around Tilden Lake is 1.81 miles longer than the PCT around Wilmer Lake to the reunion point of the trails East of Wilmer and South of Tilden Lakes.
This trail guide is made to be a source of information for, and subsequently updated by backpackers using it through the comments and forum links on each trail guide page.
Any unknown hikers can post comments, ask questions, and add scouting/trip report information without registering, but only registered backpackers can post up stand alone articles about this segment of the trail in the associated North Yosemite Forum.
Unknown hikers cannot post images, but members can post images, maps and even embed videos in the Trails Forum for the North Yosemite Backcountry section of the Trail Guide.
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Add trail updates, questions, comments, and additional information about this part of the trail through the comments links. Check out this supplemental information through the forum links.
TYT-PCT Trail Junction
Taking our last steps South on the Southbound TYT at the Southern base of Bond Pass to the lower trail junction with the PCT near the top of Jack Main Canyon.
We cut onto the South branch of the trail "Y" approaching the PCT coming through Bond Pass, because we are hiking South down Jack Main Canyon.
If we were hiking North out of Jack Main Canyon on the PCT we would have stayed to our Left on the Northern arm of the trail "Y" down from Bond Pass.
Let's take a closer look at the Southern junction of the TYT-PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon below Dorothy Lake.
Bond Pass to the
Northwest on the
Tahoe to Yosemite Route across
Yosemite Trail Sign Mileage
NORTHWEST .8 of a mile.
North on the TYT to Bond Pass?
We're at the Southern, or the lower of the two trail junctions in rapid succession that branch off to the North creating a trail "Y" for Northbound hikers on the TYT at the top of Jack Main Canyon.
This lower branch of trail Northwest up to Bond Pass from the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of Jack Main Canyon shortly meets with the trail coming up from the Northern arm of the "Y."
This Southern junction up to Bond Pass is 1.74 miles South of Dorothy Lake Pass along the PCT.
Backpackers hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Bond Pass either join up or split off from the PCT in Jack Main Canyon here depending on if we are hiking North or South.
We're 16.91 miles South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail and 19.22 miles South of Sonora Pass on the PCT.
Northbound hikers on the TYT depart the PCT at this junction in the top of Jack Main Canyon while the Southbound TYT hiker's route merges with the Pacific Crest Trail for most of the rest of the hike down to Tuolumne Meadows, excepting the TYT's upcoming loop around Tilden Lake.
Hiking out of Yosemite North on the Pacific Crest Trail
NORTH on the PCT Yosemite Trail Sign Mileage
Let's take a quick look at the options we have hiking North on the Pacific Crest Trail past Dorothy Lake and through Dorothy Lake Pass into the Toiyabe National Forest.
Above we see the sign putting the PCT North to the South shore, the nearest shore of Dorothy Lake at .6 of a mile.
I have it at 1.47 miles to the Northeast shore of Dorothy Lake,
its far Northern shore below Dorothy Lake Pass. That puts the length of Dorothy Lake at .87 of a mile.
I have it as a total of 1.74 miles North on the PCT to Dorothy Lake Pass from here.
A Camping Option for the Passing TYT hiker?
The South Shore of Dorothy Lake is .6 of a mile from this junction. Dorothy Lake and Forsyth Peak along the Sierra Crest are both stunningly beautiful from the South shore of Dorothy Lake.
The proximity of Dorothy Lake to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at the top of Jack Main Canyon means that if our hike South along the TYT over Bond Pass happens towards the end of the day we have the option of hiking the .6 mile up to camp alongside Dorothy Lake.
Dorothy Lake and the surrounding terrain are worthy of some extra examination and exploration if we are passing by during the middle of the day. We can hike up to the lake, set up camp, relax for a while, then go exploring around Forsyth Peak to the East of Dorothy Lake.
TRAILHEADS to our NORTH
I have it at 15.45 miles Northeast from Dorothy Lake Pass to the Leavitt Meadow Trailhead along Highway 108 on the East flank of the Sierra.
I measure 19.22 miles Northbound along the PCT to the Sonora Pass Trailhead where Highway 108 crosses the Sierra Crest from our current position in Jack Main Canyon.
Looking at the trail to Bond Pass above we saw that the Kennedy Meadow Pack Station Trailhead stashed along Highway 108 down on the West flank of the Sierra is 16.91 miles distant through Bond Pass following the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from our current position.
Our position here accesses the Sierra Crest and both its flanks to our North from Sonora Pass via both Bond and Dorothy Lake Passes.
The Sonora Pass Region Map below depicts this terrain on both flanks of the Sierra South of Sonora Pass, while the Emigrant Wilderness Trail Schematic lays out the basic East, West, and Crestline route options we have to get from here to Highway 108:
The miles hiking Southbound up the West flank of the Sierra along the TYT from Kennedy Meadows and South along the PCT around the East flank from Sonora Pass on Highway 108 to our current position in the top of Jack Main Canyon are measured here:
Our position here at the lower trail junction joining the TYT and PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon is either our furthest turnaround point for loops back to Highway 108 across the Emigrant Wilderness and/or the Toiyabe National Forest, or we are at the jump off point into our next segment of trail across the North Yosemite Backcountry.
For example, the Tahoe to Whitney Miles below for the same distances cited on the Yosemite trail sign pictured above differ:
Tahoe to Whitney Miles
Tilden Lake 7.89 miles
Wilmer Lake 8.52 miles
I call out 6.47 miles to the Tilden Lake trail junction, and another 1.42 miles up to Tilden Lake to put the total miles to Tilden Lake at 7.89 miles, a third of a mile more than the mileage called out by the Yosemite trail sign above.
I put the miles to the Wilmer Lake trail junction at 8.22 miles with another third of a mile to the I-beam ford on the West side of Wilmer Lake, bringing my total miles to Wilmer Lake to 8.52 miles. My Wilmer Lake figures are not much different than the Yosemite Trail Sign Miles.
You will find that the miles I measure on this guide both differ from and correlate with the trail signs and other guides. I am not too worried about these differences. For the most part they are minor, and reflect different slices of time crossing a changing landscape.
I discuss how I measure trail miles in the Backpacker's Forum miles discussion. A cursory search of Yosemite History indicates that these steel plate cutting torch trail junction markers we encounter hiking across Yosemite were installed in the early 1950s. These signs are more durable over the years than the distances they measure down the trails.
I suggest that you reference the various guides and maps, hike the trails, then note and estimate the very significant differences between the observed trail routes you hike as best you can from the trail routes as depicted on the USGS topographic maps, and compare this with the miles called out by other reference sources.
We will note and measure a huge number of actual changes to the trail routes that are not recorded on ANY of the USGS, Forest Service, or private maps (except here on Tahoe to Whitney's maps, and we are only so complete!), let alone reflected on trail junction signs put up over sixty years ago.
Even after tracking and measuring all these "unmapped" route changes we still have a degree of error. This degree of error will expand as trail routes and distances will subsequently change out from under our current measurements a small bit from season to season and these changes will amass decade over decade.
I believe measurements along a segment of trail have the potential to "cycle" through a range of distances as trail crew and trail designers explore all the various ways they can solve terrain problems.
Can't follow the Dancing Snake if we can't Dance!
Thus this guide is interactive with you, having the capability to incorporate updates about changing routes and changing miles through the associated forum pages that accompany each and every trail guide page.
While the guide lays down route and mileage information from one consistent perspective, mine, the Forum allows other experiences and interpretations, updates on changing trail conditions, tips, trips, route, and campsite suggestions reflecting the wide variety of High Sierra realities we experience.
Is the backpacking easier than I said? Harder? Longer? Shorter? How you experienced it will inform others!
I offer three versions of miles across Yosemite: my measurements, the miles posted on the Yosemite trail junctions and Trailheads, and your figures, should you want to post them.
Compare contemporary miles measurements with those of the early editions of the classic Starr's Guide to see how significantly trail mileage changes over the decades. Things are changing, and your experiences are a part of it.
Rock Never Sleeps
Trail miles are constantly being modified by both man and nature. Yosemite Backcountry Trail Crew was working on the switchbacks up to Tilden Lake from Jack Main Canyon during the Summer of 2012, as you will see on the trail guide page for the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's loop around Tilden Lake.
I also encountered CCC trail crew at the end of Lyell Canyon that year, and observed the remnants of a trail crew camp being moved out of Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon National Park. This is typical of annual Trail Crew activity up and down the Sierra Crest.
I always look forward to spying out trail crew and their camps. I listen for the tinkle of their rock hammers sending its reverberating melody through Sierra Canyons.
All crews I saw in 2012, and every Summer, are all busy rerouting or fixing the existing trail route to deal with each's Winter and Spring damage, among their wide variety of trail maintenance duties. These repairs and reroutes change trail mileage.
Surf the Tides of Life
How can we deal with the miles issue? How can we attain certainty in an uncertain and changing world? "Technology" is no answer. GPS systems have significant error margins for every reading.
"Certainty" is an illusion used to calm the insecure in this constantly changing world of ours. We've got to be ready to surf the waves of change.
The "Mountain Surfer's" Ultimate Navigation Tool:
Find the best mileage figures available, set up your daily miles and campsites, then make sure you are ready to respond to a few surprises.
I have high confidence in my miles figures, but the game is constantly changing!
Uncertainty is a source of joy as well as fear, and this trio is the source of many adventures, when you properly balance them with your excellent skills of
The Bottom Line
We accept that trail distances between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney are constantly changing.
The Spans of Our Lives are but a mental Snapshot, a narrow slice observing Time and Space do a bit of its Grand Dance.
We backpackers accept that changing trail miles are a physical reflection of the changes in our Space during our slice of Time observing it.
These large, and even the smallest changes in the terrain we cross are indicative of, and reveal the vast but sometimes almost invisible forces that have powered change for longer than we humans have had ancestors to observe them.
These are very old things in the mountains.
Trails and Routes
Though the basic route our trail follow though the terrain remains the same, the trails that follow the natural routes sometimes change significantly over a few short years, or not change at all for thousands of years.
I define "route" as the logical course of travel through the natural layout of terrain. The "trail" is the specific use path along the route. Routes and trails are different. During Summer the use path will cut directly through dried out meadows, during Spring it will divert around them.
The "route" brings us the other side of the meadow, the "trail" is our specific way of doing it.
The "trail" along our "route" then varies by season. Professional Trail Crews and Forest Managers then establish trail avoiding seasonal weak spots, such as meadow crossings.
The very act of formalizing a trail can focus enough use on it to break down the trail. We clearly see this across the meadows of Yosemite and Desolation Wilderness. Basic overuse causes Trail Crew and Forest Managers to constantly alter trail locations along a route to prevent, or at least try to spread the damages of trail overuse across a wider area of the route, if containing the damages is not possible.
The Bottom Line
Dozens of major and minor changes are made to the trails between Tahoe and Whitney by nature and man every year, all adding up over a period of years. There are other segments of trail that will remain static for thousands of years.
The huge rock riff-raff backfill reroute around the lower Evolution Basin, the trail section carved into solid rock below Nevada Falls, and the rock channel cut below the South flank of Forrester Pass all come instantly to mind. All will remain stable for a thousand year, if not thousands.
These substantial cuts bringing our trail through solid granite will last for thousands of years, while trail across a High Sierra Meadow between high mountain passes disappears every Spring.
The Route Remains the Same
The important fact to remember is that the basic route through the terrain remains generally the same, while the specifics of our trail along that route my differ significantly, even disappear, over the period of a few short years. But the route is still there, even during periods when the trail is gone.
Routes are made by Nature, trails by Man. And animals. Manimals make trails!
This means that the miles of each section of the trail between Tahoe and Whitney will differ somewhat from published mileages. Everyone's published miles. This also means that we must have the fitness, food, and readiness to deal with unexpected additions to mileage.
Have some slack in the pack!
If we are already feeling the strain of altitude, of a heavy pack, of climbs up steep Sierra mountainsides these extra unanticipated miles can weigh heavily on our experience. If we are in excellent conditioning with a bit of extra food these stresses will be minimized.
How You Feeling?
How we feel about each mile we hike is just as important, if not more important, than the number of miles we hike. How we feel measures how well we matched up our fitness, experience, and expectations with the proper trip. The trajectory of how we "feel" over a few days defines the trajectory of our fitness. Are we fading or are we strengthening? At the end of this process I have a simple goal.
The bottom line is that our role in the terrain is to observe, reflect, protect, analyze, and engage It. The state of individual reality engaged with nature is a process that feedbacks the essential spirits of nature back into the center of the individual's being.
This will not be a pleasant experience when our capabilities are mismatched to our mission. This will be most rewarding when they are properly challenged, but not overwhelmed.
Each of us is potentially an interface
between nature and man during the slice of time we are privileged to define It. Most of us are not. Most of us have chosen to reflect social-material defined identities ("consumer-status"), rather than natural and ethical standards ("citizen-ethical status").
The former seeks pleasure, the latter expresses meaning.
Most of us have turned inward, and only use our lives to reflect society's material definitions of "reality" as the selfish pursuit of "pleasure" and self-gratification. The role of man in nature has been choked out of modern society, to all of our great loss.
each of us are still little mirrors of Life, ornaments of Life designed to follow and reflect Its ever changing beauty and power, independent of how we each use and position these "assets" within contemporary society.
These reflective assets also allow us to mirror Life's ever-changing trail distances!
Be a Clear Mirror of Life
Getting our trip's mileage down sounds simple. Getting it done with a minimum of pain is a bit more complex. This is important. We will miss the heart of the wilderness experience if we are too mired in pain or exhaustion.
We want to avoid levels of stress that greatly diminish our ability to observe and engage. I call these "dark miles," where we are too preoccupied with internal issues of pain and suffering to properly observe and engage the passing environment.
Fast and Slow
It is as important for a fast hiker to slow the pace down enough to fully absorb the High Sierra experience as it is for a suffering hiker to rise above their physical dysfunction to fully access what the Sierra has to offer.
Proper planning of our daily mileage is instrumental to both the fast and the suffering backpacker for each to reach their own optimal balancing point between the depth of experience vs. the length of experience vs. the pain of experience.
It behooves us to get all the factors that support daily mileage under control before we hit the trail.
The most fundamental of these factors being having broken-in boots to avoid blisters, walking to avoid butt rash, the basic level of fitness to avoid orthopedic injury and strains, and endurance enough to forestall exhaustion.
The pains brought by pairs of soft feet and ass cheeks cannot be underestimated. Preventing blisters and ass rash through training prior to your long distance backpacking trip is the heart of wisdom.
Long vs. Deep
My goal is neither pure high mileage long distance backpacking nor is it only "going deep," by exploring every nook and cranny of a trail route and its surrounding terrain.
My goal is to go both long and deep. Yet the basic requirements of long distance backpacking act as a counter to deep engagement with the surrounding terrain. The requirements of deeper exploration put a check on long distance tendencies, this thirst for endless miles common among long distance backpackers.
I find that keeping a balance between these two competing desires keeps each fresh. I add some depth to my pack by carrying an extra day's food for each section of trail. This allows me the flexibility to add side trips, scrambles, and bag a few peaks as we hike from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney, and our other substantial long distance backpacking trips.
The upcoming trail section through Yosemite National Park brings the contradiction between the need for miles and the need to explore every detail into sharp focus.
Between Jack Main Canyon and Tuolumne Meadows there are very interesting places to explore. At the same time the 70+ miles of very difficult terrain between Highway 108 and Tuolumne Meadows puts some very real food weight into our packs, which increases as our pace slows.
Our extra's day's food gives us the flexibility to take two half-days off for exploration, rest, or just to have the flexibility to camp at both Bensen and Smedberg Lakes, even though they are so close together.
Or not. We can just hike through.
Food equals Time equals Weight equals Flexibility on the Trail.
Miles, feelings, and fitness are variable. Make sure you can cope with unexpected swings in all three!
Lower, or South Bond Pass Trail Junction to Grace Meadow
The video above gives us a look at the trail and terrain South from the trail junction in upper Jack Main Canyon along the Pacific Crest Trail where it intersects with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail coming over Bond Pass, down to the top of Grace Meadow.
Diminished Grace Meadow
The North end of Grace Meadow is diffuse. Compare the depiction of Grace Meadow on the 1990 USGS 15 minute map with the reality on the ground pictured below, taken ten years later in 2000. It's very different. Much of the North end of Grace Meadow has been invaded by lodgepoles and forested. It's gone.
The actual size of Grace Meadow seems much smaller, its Northern extent much diminished, constricted and cut off by bursts of powerful lodgepole growth not indicated on the earlier topo map.
Note that the USGS map series is the basis of every high quality mapping application, product, and paper map published depicting US topography. Every product of the private map companies is a custom formatted and highlighted version of the USGS maps.
Thus they contain the same route and vegetation errors that build up between new versions. I've eliminated these errors where I can accurately define the new locations of trail, and noted the locations of disparities between the present route and map in the "map notes" below each trail map on Tahoe to Whitney.
These changes in the extent of Grace Meadow can be seen by comparing the 2010 Forest Service Map of Jack Main Canyon with the 1990 USGS 15 minute map, and the 2000 backpacking image above.
If we were able to observe upper Jack Main Canyon and Grace Meadow from above, from a "God's Eye" view of a twenty year time-lapse compressed into one minute, we'd see an army of trees rise out of the meadow side soils and march in waves timed with each Spring and Summer, quickly engulfing upper Grace Meadow in a jacket of forest. We'd see the trail rotating like a looping jump-rope along the Western interface of Grace Meadow at the edge of the expanding forest along the West wall of Jack Main Canyon.
Grace Meadow to Tilden Lake trail junction
Below we have the next video in this series, which takes us from the North end of Grace Meadow South to the Tilden Lake trail junction. At the Tilden Lake trail junction the Pacific Crest Trail continues 1.75 miles further South down Jack Main Canyon to the Wilmer Lake trail junction, while the TYT turns East here for its climb to visit Tilden Lake.
These routes which joined up at the head of Jack Main Canyon now split to circle around their respective lakes.
The TYT and PCT rejoin between Bailey and Macomb Ridges after each passes around its respective lake.
Jack Main Canyon Campsites
There are a series of campsites running down the length of Jack Main Canyon from Dorothy Lake to the Wilmer Lake trail junction. Some of them are illegal, being too close to Falls Creek.
Hiking down Jack Main Canyon in 2013 showed many new sites laid out along the PCT-TYT.
Let's not make any new campsites in Jack Main Canyon. New sites are completely unnecessary. Let's try to focus our camping in the best existing sites, which are not always the most obvious sites.
Trail crew will sweep the canyon of these stupid sites sooner or later.
If we find a nice spot in Jack Main Canyon, there is likely a nice campsite nearby. I've randomly walked out into Grace Meadow to the islands of lodgepole pines scattered down the length of the meadow and found campsites in these stands of trees every time!
One of Medic's PCT Stories
I knew that 2010 found a lot of backpackers stuck at the base of the Southern Sierra waiting for the mountains to clear of snow sufficiently for passage. This is typical of years with heavy Winter snow preserved through heavy Spring snowstorms.
Medic and his brother Flyboy were among them.
Medic called up that famous yearly High Sierra mountain rock festival, Mountain Air, and offered the volunteer services of a whole bunch of PCTers that were stuck together.
The promoters agreed, so a whole bunch of PCTers went to the 2010 rock festival and watched days of concerts for free in exchange for their volunteer services.
The end of the concert lined up well with the opening of the mountain trails, and this intrepid group of PCTers headed South to resume their hikes into the South Sierra.
Other PCTers had bypassed the Sierra when the South Sierra failed to clear of snow in late Spring, hitching North to hike the North Sierra.
I noted two groups of PCTers during 2010. Those who went to the rock festival and those who did not. I saw some of those who did not much later in the season when they returned from the Canadian border to complete the Sierra Nevada section of the PCT.
Then there's the story of how Flyboy got his name... haha...
You can read it on
Indie's 2010 PCT Trail journal August 28 2010
(No Longer Online, unless you can track it down...)
Hiking Down Jack Main Canyon
Entering the top of Jack Main Canyon at the South Bond Pass trail junction we begin a grand descent 6.47 miles down the course of Falls Creek to the Tilden Lake junction or 8.22 miles down to the Wilmer Lake junction.
Though we will turn out of Falls Creek to Tilden Lake or Wilmer Lakes, Falls Creek and the trail continue down through the complex terrain of Jack Main Canyon to the Tuolumne River at the very heart of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
Well, it would if not for Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Now Falls Creek flows into Hetch Hetchy.
Complex Terrain down Jack Main Canyon below Wilmer to Lake Vernon
We can see this complexity by looking Southeast at the terrain of Bailey Ridge laying between our position in Jack Main Canyon and the trail running down to Tiltill Valley in Tilden Canyon. Tilden Canyon lays on the other side of Bailey Ridge with Macomb Ridge making up its Eastern wall.
The trail down Tilden Canyon between Bailey and Macomb Ridges brings us down below the PCT near Avonelle Lake opening up this terrain down through the series of Brannigan Lakes to Lake Vernon for our exploration.
There are three trails connecting the trail down Jack Main Canyon to the trail down Tilden Canyon South of Wilmer Lake, down to Tiltill Valley.
We can see the top of this terrain on the bottom of the map above.
The bottom Right corner of the National Forest Emigrant Wilderness Map below shows the backpacking potential of this very beautiful area clearly, while the Yosemite National Park Map fills in the blanks.
If we were so inclined we could follow Falls Creek most of the way down to Hetch Hetchy if we hike past our junctions East on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Tilden Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail's junction to Wilmer Lake.
Another alternative is to hike South towards Tiltill Valley from where our TYT and PCT routes rejoin between Bailey and Macomb Ridges.
I've hiked down to Hetch Hetchy a couple of times. It's a very beautiful hike. There is a big climb up onto Moraine Ridge, but it is mostly down mountain, way down the mountain to Hetch Hetchy's 3795 feet of elevation.
The hike down to Hetch Hetchy brings us down the wondrous beauty of Jack Main Canyon to a position passing around a confused matrix of associated canyons down to where we climb onto Moraine Ridge.
Approaching Moraine Ridge we hike through some remarkably sized Red Firs, then down into the zone of the Jeffery Pines.
I cannot overstate the beauty and complexity of this terrain below Wilmer Lake down to Moraine Ridge.
The page that follows below takes us down Jack Main Canyon along Falls Creek past the TYT turning off at the Tilden Lake trail junction down to the PCT junction near Wilmer Lake.
At Wilmer Lake we turn East following the Southbound PCT to where it rejoins the TYT between Bailey and Macomb Ridges.
From Tilden Canyon the unified PCT and TYT continue South across the North Yosemite Backcountry to our next resupply spot at Tuolumne Meadows and the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
PCT & TYT from
Upper Jack Main Canyon through Grace Meadow to the Tilden Lake Junction
Sometimes the Best wayForwardis to Look Back
South Bond Pass Trail Junction
The next mile hiking South from the Southern Bond Pass trail junction down Jack Main Canyon descends a moderately steep rocky trail under a dense lodgepole forest down what looks like a forested ramp from a distance, as seen below.
Below we are turning around to look back at the ramp up at the shelf holding Dorothy Lake at the very top of Jack Main Canyon.
The image below looks North back from the top of Grace Meadow at where the two Bond Pass trail junctions are located on the "ramp" up to Dorothy Lake Pass. The two junctions between the TYT and PCT are located about halfway up and at the top of the forested "ramp" leading up to the shelf Dorothy Lake sits on.
Dorothy Lake and then the low gap of Dorothy Lake Pass come in rapid succession once Northbound hikers climb the ramp into the flat holding Dorothy Lake at the top of Jack Main Canyon. Northbound hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail turn Northwest at the first Bond Pass trail junction to turn their climb towards the great gap in the ridgeline on the upper-Left edge of the image is where the TYT comes through Bond Pass. Our South Bond Pass trail junction along the PCT is located roughly in the center-Left of the ramp lined up with Bond Pass's gap in the ridgeline.
Compare this image below taken in 2009 with the USGS map of upper Jack Main Canyon from 1990. The 1990 map does not shows the forest we see below from the North end of Grace Meadow up to the base of the forested ramp, nor does it show the current forest density up to the Bond Pass junctions and Dorothy Lake.
Dorothy Lake Pass
routes to our North above Grace Meadow
Yosemite National Park
What we are looking at in the image above is two passes. The first is through the gap in the Left wall, the Southeast facing flank of Jack Main Canyon where theTahoe to Yosemite Trail out Emigrant Wilderness passes through the 9760 foot Bond Pass to link up with the PCT route entering Yosemite through the 9480 foot Dorothy Lake Pass across the top of Jack Main Canyon.
To the Right of the gap in North Wall of Jack Main Canyon we can see the forested "ramp" rising from the end of Grace Meadow up to the shelf holding Dorothy Lake. At the top of the canyon we can see where the last, uppermost reach of Jack Main Canyon bends Northeast from the top of the ramp to its 9480 feet high point on the Sierra Crestline across Dorothy Lake Pass.
At the top of that forested "ramp" is the short shelf holding Dorothy Lake. Dorothy Lake Pass is just a few feet above and North of Dorothy Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail route runs Northeast up that forested "ramp" past the two Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junctions leading over Bond Pass up to Dorothy Lake. From the South end of Dorothy Lake we have about .87 of a mile along Dorothy Lake before making the short climb through the lake's namesake low pass into the Toiyabe National Forest and onto the East flank of the Sierra Nevada.
Once we cross over Dorothy Lake Pass exiting Yosemite Northbound PCT backpackers have ended our hike on the Western Flank of the Sierra. From Dorothy Lake Pass the Northbound PCT stays mostly on the Eastern flank of the Sierra all the way up to the Tahoe Basin. The length of the PCT on the Western flank of the Sierra Nevada Mountains North of Dorothy Lake Pass can be measured in steps.
We are going to turn around to continue South. Us Southbound backpackers will remain on the Western flank of the Sierra until we cross out of the South end of Yosemite hiking the combined PCT-JMT South through Donohue Pass.
Now Let's look forwardat Grace Meadow in Jack Main Canyon
Sometimes the best way forward is to look Forward
Upper Jack Main Canyon
Image Below: We are looking almost directly South down at the upper section of Jack Main Canyon viewed from the gap in Jack Main Canyon's Western canyon wall above Bond Pass.
The pictures above and below are complimentary. The image above looks up Jack Main Canyon from Grace Meadow and the picture below looks down Jack Main Canyon at Grace Meadow and Chittenden Peak with the angled spine of Peak 9412 at its Northwestern base.
We can see Chittenden Peak and its accompanying formation 9214 rising in the middle-Left of the image backdropping Grace Meadow. Tilden Lake is on the other side of Chittenden Peak.
Note the thin blade of golden meadow below Peak 9214 beyond the mass of Grace Meadow. Line up our viewing position here at Bond Pass with Grace Meadow and that sliver of meadow in the distance on this map to match up a physical perspective with the map's abstraction.
Grace Meadow on the Maps
Note in the image above how the Grace Meadow is restricted to the lower section of the upper canyon. The 1990 USGS map shows a much longer Grace Meadow running all the way up the Jack Main Canyon to the "ramp," different than this bird's eye view from the year 2000 above. Note in the image that the forest above Grace Meadow sports bald or thin looking spots of forest. Those are clues from the scene of the crime:
Meadowcide, executed by Lord Lodgepole, in the Jack Main Canyon...
The 1990 USGS map shows Grace Meadow with a much greater extent than this bird's eye view.
Grace Meadow has shrunken considerably from its extent recorded in 1990 when the maps were last updated. This is supported by the wild growth of young lodgepoles we observe up and down this upper section of Jack Main Canyon.
The foresting of upper Jack Main Canyon is continuing apace.
Above we are looking South by the compass down the upper section of Jack Main Canyon from above Bond Pass at Chittenden Peak and Peak 9214 below its Northwestern flank.
Hiking South from our viewing position above Bond Pass our TYT rejoins the PCT in upper Jack Main Canyon.
Hiking Southbound from the Southern of the two TYT-PCT trail junctions near the top of Jack Main Canyon we begin descending a short steep segment of rocky trail through dense lodgepole forest that I call the "ramp" until the descent moderates approaching the top of Grace Meadow. Well, I mean approaching the top of the intermixed forest and meadows that begin at the base of our ramped descent from the TYT trail junction.
Though we hear running water hiking South from the Bond Pass trail junction (and see it during the Spring Thaw) our best bet for a break spot with water is to hike down to the bottom of this short steep section of rocky forested trail into the top of the now-forested meadow, which is also where creek and trail meet in a nice break spot.
Some fool set a fire ring and camped here at this upper junction of trail and creek at the end of meadow-flat terrain at the top of Jack Main Canyon, which is unacceptable. There are legal campsites just down the trail. This spot where trail and Falls Creek first come together at the top of Jack Main Canyon is too close to the water to be a legal campsite.
But it is an excellent break spot...
Looking South from the Bottom of Grace Meadow
Peak 9214 with Chittenden Peak hidden behind it, from the bottom of Grace Meadow.
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail turns East out of Jack Main Canyon following Tilden Creek up to Tilden Lake just South of Chittenden Peak. After a delightful walk along the South shore of Tilden Lake the TYT bends South down Tilden Creek Canyon towards its reunification with the PCT further down the canyon.
The Pacific Crest Trail continues South down Jack Main Canyon for another 1.75 miles past the Tilden Lake trail junction to the Wilmer Lake trail junction, where it too turns East.
Below: Hiking South down the rocky moderately steep combined PCT-TYT trail below the South Bond Pass trail junction. Our trail South is descending the "ramp" between the flat Dorothy Lake sits on from the upper end of the fading reach of Grace Meadow.
We are hiking though dense thickets of moderately aged lodgepoles with a fringe of rapidly growing young lodgepoles.
At the base of the descent South towards Grace Meadow there is a little flat spot where Falls Creek and our combined PCT-TYT trail first intersect at the head of Jack Main Canyon.
There is a fire ring here too, but its close proximity to Falls Creek marks it as an illegal site. Ok for a break, but please move down the trail an eighth-mile to a proper legal campsite if you plan on camping around here.
The next and nearest excellent camping sites to the North are along the South shore of Dorothy Lake. To the South they would be at Tilden and Wilmer Lakes, depending on our route.
At a distance of just a bit under thirteen miles from our current position the campsites at the Stubblefield ford would be our next ideal spot to camp along the Southbound TYT-PCT.
I always stop here at the top of Jack Main Canyon for a little snack, some water, and a relaxing break. This is also the highest place we can observe the trout in Falls Creek.
Sitting here in early Summer 2013 brought a stream of Northbound 2013 PCT hikers through, approaching the Thousand Mile Mark at the West West Walker River Bridge on their grand trek from Mexico to Canada.
Gone Slow and Mountain Man kicked back and had a nice break with me, where we discussed Life, the PCT, the Trail, and other assorted topics of importance. Hell of nice guys. A whole line of PCT hikers stopped in and said "hello."
Variability of Hiking Conditions in Jack Main Canyon
Moisture and Mosquitoes
Boggy conditions in upper Jack Main Canyon.
We have a couple of seasonal tributaries and creeks weakly draining off of the "ramp," and those draining the upper end of Grace Meadow Falls Creek.
As Spring fades into Summer remnant pools along these drying seasonal tributaries pump out billions and billions of mosquitoes up and down Jack Main Canyon.
This, and about everything about Grace Meadow and Jack Main Canyon feed the huge growth of voracious mosquitoes prowling Jack Main Canyon from as soon as rising Spring Thaw temps allow them to live until the drying meadows of late Summer finally deny them life.
All individuals planning High Sierra backpacking trips in Spring and early Summer who are not fully prepared for high density mosquitoes will suffer in proportion to their lack of protection.
Not just suffer physically, which would be bad enough. The fact is that the physical effects of the mosquitoes will bleed into your psychology, driving you as mentally crazy as physically tortured, if not more.
I've seen folks really suffer from the mosquitoes.
Jumble of fallen timber and rock in upper Jack Main Canyon.
Over the years hiking through Jack Main Canyon I've observed one big slash of lodgepole turn white, and die. I've seen the lodgepoles blown down by wind and snow. Every time the lodgepoles takes a shot they respond with greater vigor.
In a few short years a thick carpet of surging young lodgepoles puts a promising cover on the scarred ground. Death is a good fuel for life, properly balanced.
Though we have dropped down and off the steeper section of trail between the Bond Pass trail junction and Grace Meadow we are still hiking through more forest than meadow.
We can see the vigorous growth of young lodgepoles are still driving this forestation of Grace Meadow in upper Jack Main Canyon.
We noted the first little rise after reaching meadow-level, now we've come to a second, which I've always noted as the "chalk" rise, for obvious reasons.
It's chalky white.
There's a couple of campsites here, and it's reasonably near Falls Creek.
I spent a night here once during the early years of this new century. After dark I was in my sleeping bag messing around getting ready to sleep when I was startled by a real loud noise.
A very loud gunshot-like "pop," followed by a rapid series of "pops," during which an even louder crashing noise began, and continued after the "pops" stopped.
The weight of a snag, by the sound of it a standing dead tree of great size, had exceeded the ability of its rotting trunk to hold, which resulted in the popping noises of its internal structure breaking.
The great crashing sound was the upper section of the tree first hitting, then taking the lower section of the snag to the ground with it. A big snag just took a big step towards turning itself into soil.
Any squirrels on that sucker when it went down went for a wild ride!
I popped right up out of my sack ready for action. Then I looked around to make very sure I had not thrown down my sack within reach of any surround snags. I followed up by checking overhead to make sure no dead branches were in proximity.
I execute this "safe camping" procedure every evening as part of selecting camp, and stashing me and the gear for the evening, but after hearing that falling snag tear shit up I rechecked everything!
Grace Meadow to the TYT Tilden Lake Trail Junction
Take a walk with me through Jack Main Canyon's Grace Meadow along side Falls Creek down to where the trail to Tilden Lake climbs out of the canyon.
Watch the fishing trout check us out as they are hanging out and "fishing" for flies. Let's go early and watch the morning mists steaming off Falls Creek and out of forests and meadows along the TYT-PCT route in the North Yosemite Backcountry.
I like trout. They have unique personalities. Predatory personalities, with a lot of aggression to balance their caution as prey.
Try this: NEVER just tromp loudly up to a creek or pool. Walk quietly so the Trout will not "hear" your approaching footsteps. They are also watching, so be sly!
Yes, Trout listen and watch carefully for approaching land animals. Heavily laden backpackers send min-earthquakes into the terrain that the trout can hear through the water, which guides both their observations and their retreat.
During the mornings Trout will be out fishing, and later in the afternoon they will be hanging out in rocks and protected under the riverbanks until they come out for their evening hunt. If they are hiding, stamp the ground solidly three times with one foot, and watch carefully.
All the hiding trout will push their noses out to the edges of their hiding places to take a look at what made these discontinuous sounds.
Bond Pass through Left gap in Mountain, Dorothy Lake Pass is on a nice flat at the top of Jack Main Canyon.
The ridge arm we can see crossing the top of Jack Main Canyon precedes the flat shelf holding Dorothy Lake. Northbound hikers on the PCT climb that ramp up to Dorothy Lake followed by a very low climb up to Dorothy Lake Pass beyond the lake.
We can rest assured that the Pacific Crest Trail route has lots of campsites along its course. It's just a matter of numbers. Hundreds of PCT hikers start each year. Add to that number to the hikers coming out of the Toiyabe National Forest and the Emigrant Wilderness, let alone hikers on unique routes from Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy.
That's a lot of backpackers hiking through Jack Main Canyon.
I call the Pacific Crest Trail the Superhighway of Trails. This "PCT" effect intensifies as we enter popular areas, such as Yosemite, and when we approach trailheads.
This traffic is not a bad thing. Nature is really good for people, even if people are not real good for nature. We respond to this "imbalance" between nature and man with "leave no trace" ethics, although that is impossible. We always leave traces, as the double and triple trail beds ground into Yosemite's fragile soils show us.
Trail Crew works hard to keep the damaging effects of so many feet on the trails from turning them into creeks during the Spring Thaw and destroying the surrounding terrain.
Another pleasant effect of people in unadulterated nature is how it draws a high caliber of people into its boughs, and makes them even better.
I hate to be "judgy," but this looks like a site established by a group hiking up the canyon too lazy to find one of the many already established fire rings.
Well, I don't make fires, so I don't understand that anyway. The "circle of light" blinds us to the world outside of it.
There is no reason to make a fire ring when there are better sites with fire rings not far to the North and South of the above.
There's no reason to build a fire ring when there are better sights without the "circle of light."
Policy and Practice
God, after careless hikers make endless fire rings the trail crews respond by coming through and sweeping away the bad and good sites. Jeeze...
We backpackers need to control and constrict our campsites to the best natural spots that will always pop up after trail crew sweeps, by not creating a crazy string of random campsites down the canyon.
Terrain descends and turns rocky South of Grace Meadow
ROCK Duck marks beginning of rocky descent South of Grace Meadow.
We have not needed or seen many ducks since up on the shortcut to the South junction on the TYT below the South flank of Bond Pass.
Hell, we'd have a had time finding enough rocks to build a duck along much of Grace Meadow.
The last duck on the PCT must have been down by Cascade Creek on the other side of Dorothy Lake Pass.
My point is that the terrain North of here is well-grooved into soft terrain requiring little additional guidance. To our South we are dropping down into some hard-surfaces where ducks can have great utility.
A few ducks have utility, but too many ducks are like too many cooks with too much salt.
I'm not a great fan of this type of duckage, where hikers "keep it between the lines." Not a big fan...
Independent of how you like your trails marked , the terrain changes markedly below Grace Meadow. The almost level meadow terrain turns more steeply down-mountain, the soft bits of meadow trail surface replaced by rock, and our trail route now diverts around hard rock obstacles rather than the deep spots across wet meadows.
Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide and Forum
I enquire as to the best and worse of trail segments, of gear, about preparation, and hiking styles and goals, and so on.
About their "tips," about what they think is most important, about what you on the trail now would tell you getting ready for the trail in the past.
This site is designed so we can help each other familiarize ourselves with the factors that affect the success and quality of our long distance backpacking trips along the Sierra Nevada Crest.
That's why every trail guide page has the "comments" links to its own forum page. Every comments link goes to the forum page for that particular segment of trail.
Every forum page is one of a series of forum pages covering that section of the trail. This allows feedback at a high degree of "resolution" for describing specific trail conditions.
Registered backpackers can post up their own pages in the various backpacking trails and topics forums.
Besides covering every section of the main High Sierra Trails we also cover all the main backpacking topics.
Gear, weather, living things, trail culture, and history are just the tips of the vast iceberg of High Sierra backpacking experiences we explore.
Registered members can post up trip reports in the trails forum or gear reviews in the backpacking topics forums.
At the very least I expect you current and recent backpackers to post up your experiences and impressions about the classic trails covered, or even touched by the guide.
updates about changing trail conditions in the forums covering that particular section of the Sierra Crest.
Anyone can add information or ask questions through the comments links covering each segment of the trail. Only registered members can post stand-alone articles in the forums.
I want to draw in the experiences of those who've hiked these sections and segments of the Sierra Crest trails, as well as any questions from those who want to hike these trails.
I query backpackers on the trail and here on the guide so we can at least keep those who follow from falling into the common pitfalls.
Alison and Dan were...
Not real happy with their Merrill boots:
"5 out of 10"
What's up With That?
Merrill boots have been using a plastic "backstay" that just tears up the heel and Achilles tendon area of the feet. I'd stay away from boots that have plastic backstays.
Merrill is a fine boot. But plastic backstays are stupid.
My review of historic maps shows the route around Tilden Lake was the original route from Jack Main Canyon South on what later become the routes of the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails.
The route around Wilmer Lake was not added until after 1931 according to the evolution of historical maps.
I especially like the 1931 map of Yosemite National Park on page 906 of Green's Yosemite: the Park and its Resources. This map shows us that our TYT and JMT routes across North and South Yosemite, respectively, including the "golden triangle" from Tuolumne Meadows into Lyell Canyon via Yosemite Valley, are essentially unchanged since 1931.
One difference is that in 1931 we only had one route South from Jack Main Canyon, the current TYT route around Tilden Lake. The PCT route around Wilmer Lake was added sometime after 1931.
Falls Creek expands and calms for a stretch as we hike further down Jack Main Canyon.
We can see that the small creek in upper Grace Meadow has expanded and deepened into a substantial flow during Summer, indicating the degree of difficulty of fording it can present during the Spring Thaw and early Summer conditions.
Stock gate North of Wilmer Lake cabin in Jack Main Canyon. Finding stock gates indicates an upcoming pasture area. Pasture areas are used by horsepackers resupplying backcountry trail crew and science camps.
In the case of Wilmer Lake a trail crew campsite is located just a ways down Jack Main Canyon beyond the upcoming Wilmer Lake trail junction, and a snow survey cabin is located in Jack Main Canyon across Falls Creek from Wilmer Lake.
The cabin will be off to our Right as we approach the Wilmer Lake trail junction.
The mule packers need someplace to keep and graze their stock overnight after riding in with the resupply. This gate marks the North limit of the pasture area for Wilmer Lake.
We see Falls Creek spreads out above Wilmer Lake Ford. Below the ford the creek forms up into a great pool dividing the PCT around the shore of Wilmer Lake from the trail continuing down Jack Main Canyon.
The PCT-TYT route fords Falls Creek turning Southeast from our Southwest line down Jack Main Canyon. After making the ford our trail runs back into the narrowing neck of forest wedged in between the marshy West shore of Wilmer Lake and the great pool of Falls Creek.
We too are walking down to Yosemite Valley, but we are swinging through Tuolumne Meadows on our way to the Valley, while the miles indicated on the trail signs generally measure the miles to Yosemite Valley through Glen Aulin to Tenaya Lake down to Sunrise Creek.
Why Are the Tahoe to Whitney miles different than the Yosemite Trail Signs?
If we take a look at the USGS 7.5 map and the 30 minute map we will notice that the South Bond Pass trail junction is not included on either.
I have taken the liberty of adding the South Bond Pass trail junction on the TahoetoWhitney maps, along with the leg of trail making up South side of the "trail triangle," or trail "Y."
Currently there are two Bond Pass trail junctions along Jack Main Canyon which converge on their way West up to Bond Pass.
We have a situation where the Southern junction of the Y that is not shown on the USGS maps is the trail junction that is signed.
I take the omission of the Southern Bond Pass trail junction from the USGS maps to indicate that the Yosemite Trail Sign is measuring the trail up to the North Bond Pass trail junction, then up to Bond Pass.
The mileage figures I call out to the Right are measured along the current route as of 2014, thus accounting for the difference in miles between the Yosemite Trail Signs from the mid 1950s which measured the distance to the only existing trail up to Bond Pass, the Northern trail
I have come to view the steel plate trail junction miles as advisory, rather than authorative.
Trail Note: How can you identify old Trail Crew and Backcountry National Park science team and ranger campsites?
Answer: The Keyway Fire Pits.
The "official" National Park procedures call for a Keyway Fire Pit. At Wilmer Lake, Stubblefield Canyon, Bensen Lake, the backside of Smedberg, and the secret camp above Glen Aulin ("Star Camp") all feature Keyway Fire Pits.
When you spot a keyway Fire Pit you are standing in what was once the center of a vibrant backcountry camp. Now look around.
The Trail Crew stationed here had made their personal campsites at various distances from the central camp. You will find these old Trail Crew campsites are the finest sites in the area.
Tahoe to Whitney Miles
Sometime in the mid-1990s I followed Jack Main Canyon down to Hetch Hetchy. Back then I did not carry a camera, and did not take notes. It was a very nice trip.
There was a Yosemite National Park trail crew at Wilmer Lake, and the Trail Crew members showed me their custom personal campsites South of the trail junction.
This means that there are excellent campsite locations around and South of the Wilmer junction in Jack Main Canyon, as well as the sites along the West and East ends of Wilmer.
I have the distance from Dorothy Lake Pass to the road on the far side of the dam at Hetch Hetchy at 29.4 miles.
The distance from the Wilma Lake trail junction to the same at 19.44 miles.
This page begins where our long-separated PCT and TYT trails come back together again in the top of Jack Main Canyon for most of the final run South to Tuolumne Meadows.
I consider Yosemite to be the center of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and I put Tuolumne Meadows in the center of the center.
This means that our hike across the North Sierra is coming to a step by step close as we close in on Tuolumne Meadows. The North, Central, and Southern Sierra are all unique, with each offering additive beauties to those contributed by the others.
Passing further South is good, though I will miss the Northern Sierra as we hike towards the center of the Sierra at Tuolumne Meadows. At Tuolumne Meadows the TYT ends and we will pick up the Southbound John Muir Trail passing through Tuolumne Meadows, one way or the other.
We're continuing into the South Sierra down to the Mount Whitney Portal, if we do it via Yosemite Valley backwards on the JMT, or if we pick up the Southbound JMT in Tuolumne Meadows.
South Sierra Nevada Mountains
Now our PCT route will intertwine and vary from the JMT across the South Sierra much as it split and shared the trail with the TYT across the North Sierra.
The relationship between the PCT and JMT is much closer across the South Sierra than it was between the PCT and TYT crossing the North Sierra.
The JMT and PCT share most of the trail South from Tuolumne Meadows to our turn for Mount Whitney at Crabtree Meadow. The notable exception is from Thousand Island Lakes down opposite walls of the canyon of the Middle fork of the San Joaquin River down to Reds Meadow Pack Station.
This means there are less alternative routes along the mainly combined route of the JMT-PCT hiking the South Sierra Crest than there were between the TYT-PCT dividing the East and West flanks of the North Sierra.
But we've got some excellent alternative routes, scrambles, peaks, and basins to explore as we traverse the South Sierra Crestline.