Wood trail construction material in Desolation Wilderness. Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Ant on the trail.
Peaks South of Meeks Bay trail head
Wood trail work
Rubicon Peak South of Meeks Bay trail head guarding Tahoe's Western Shore
Trail Life, Ant

 

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The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Meeks Bay Trailhead



Long Distance Backpacking
Trip Planning,
Mileage
&
Hitting
the Trail

 

PLANNING
THE
TAHOE TO YOSEMITE
BACKPACKING TRIP:
TYT OR PCT
Routes

--and--

MILES & ELEVATIONS
TYT
& PCT
TO
YOSEMITE
BY
SECTION

 


--And Finally--

Hitting The
MEEKS BAY TRAILHEAD
of the
Tahoe
to Yosemite Trail

 

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40 Days to Whitney

Introduction Tahoe to Whitney

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Trail
Guide


Section
INDEX


Road Map

Lake Tahoe
Trailheads

 

FINDING
Meeks Bay

TWT INTRO

MEEKS BAY
Resources

South
TYT

TRAILHEAD ROAD


1st
Junction,
Trail
Begins

Topo
Map


Meeks Bay
to
Dicks Pass

Maps
INDEX

Miles
&
Elevations


Meeks Bay
to
Echo Lake
Miles
INDEX
PERMITS

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

All
Permits

local
temps

Tahoe
Weather

 

 

All
Weather

Hiking
the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Meeks Bay Trailhead
Backpacker's Index

AN
INTRODUCTION
to the
TAHOE to YOSEMITE TRAIL

What We Need to Know
hiking either the
TYT or PCT
to

Tuolumne Meadows

The
"Best Field Trip Ever"

 

Backpacking
the
North Sierra



Physical
Description & Divisions
THE BASICS
The first introduction on the previous pages addresses the whole Tahoe to Whitney trip. That intro generally discusses what it takes to get ourselves physically, experientially, and psychologically ready to hike the length of the Sierra Nevada from Tahoe to Whitney starting from the status of an inexperienced couch potato.

This introduction below takes a much closer, more detailed look at the requirements of our hike across the North Sierra from Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows.

Backpacking the Tahoe to Yosemite or Pacific Crest Trail routes South from Meeks Bay Trailhead to Tuolumne Meadows entails hiking five distinct sections of trail across six wilderness areas crossing four trans-Sierra highways.

These four highways sport three resupply spots over a span of roughly 173 miles.

 

 

TYT-PCT
Miles Review by Trail Section
Constructing our North Sierra
Hiking Plan

 

 

Let's Conceptualize
Our Tahoe to Whitney trip begins by hiking the length of all six North Sierra Wilderness Areas (Admin Units) spanning the length of the Sierra from Meeks Bay in the Tahoe Basin to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.
First, we're going to inspect the maps of these wilderness areas across the North Sierra to understand the scope of each section of trail, where the highways and resupply spots are located, and try to get an understanding of the grand sweep of the terrain each section our hike across the whole North Sierra entails.

 

Let's start building a great mental image of the Sierra in our mind.
Our own "Brain-o-graphic" representation of the Northern High Sierra.

We'll start by creating a framework of abstract information reflecting the requirements the environment of each section demands of us. Then we will test our concepts, our plans, and ourselves in action.

 

Map Resources Note
The red dots on all the maps below link to the trail guide entry for that dot's location. The black dots depicting our TYT-PCT routes on all the maps below except Meiss Country link to detailed maps. The Meiss Country map below is the detailed map of the smallish
Meiss Country Roadless Area.


North Sierra Wilderness Areas
and their
Maps


The six wilderness areas (Meiss Country is actually a roadless area) start with the
PCT and TYT sharing their route around the West and Southwestern shores of Lake Tahoe
in

Desolation Wilderness
(Map)

down to
Meiss Country Roadless Area
(Map)

to exit out the Southern end of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

 

 

Continuing South out of the Tahoe Basin the PCT and TYT
split-up hiking their respective routes South across the East and West Flanks
of the

Mokelumne Wilderness
(Map)
and the
Carson Iceberg Wilderness
(Map)

 


before their distinct routes
crossing

Emigrant Wilderness
(Map)

converge entering the Northwest corner of Yosemite.

 



The TYT and PCT rejoin entering the

North Yosemite Backcountry

to share most of the last 54 miles of the
trail across the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows.

 

 

Our final run of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in the N Yosemite Backcountry brings us across the...

Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry
draining into
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River

 

Click
All Marked Routes
on
Maps Above
for
Detailed Maps

All the maps above also link to the maps North and South of their areas of coverage.

 

Miles
All the miles of each of our 10 potential sections of trail from Meeks Bay South to Mount Whitney are indexed.



A Closer Look
On the page below we break off the Northern half, the Northern 5 sections of our Tahoe to Whitney hike, to take both comparative and cumulative overviews of the mileage figures for the PCT and TYT across the North Sierra from Tahoe to Yosemite.

Our goal is to use the maps, miles, and guide information to ascertain the best route, or combinations of routes, for each of us.

If we already know our route, we will use this map and mileage information to better assess and tune our food, time, gear, and energy/endurance requirements to the level demanded by the mileage and difficulty of each section of trail.

 

Route Options
We can exclusively hike either the TYT or PCT South to Tuolumne Meadows. Or, we can weave together a unique combinations tying together various sections of each trail.

Our route options continue within each section of trail. We can tie segments of both trails together as we hike across the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas.

The proximity and connectivity of the TYT and PCT in the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas also allows us to easily put together shorter local backpacking loops and trailhead to trailhead trips remaining within each wilderness area.

On the other hand, we can really "pump up" our hikes across the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness sections by tying different segments of the PCT and TYT together across these two wilderness areas.

 

Trans-Sierra Highways
We cross four trans-Sierra highways hiking from Tahoe to Yosemite. These highways split our hike into its sections, they divide the wilderness areas, and locate our resupply points.

The four trans-Sierra highways we cross are Highways 50, 88, 4, and 108. Highway 120, the Tioga Road through Tuolumne Meadows, marks the end of our hike on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, but is only the halfway point for those of us hiking South to the Whitney Portal from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Schematic
High Sierra
Road-Trail Map


Trans-Sierra Highways Google Road Maps


North Sierra Resupply
We start hiking out of Meeks Bay in the Lake Tahoe Basin, which has ample nearby
Resources for Backpackers
and other potential
Tahoe Basin Trailheads



Our three potential resupply points South of the Meeks Bay Trailhead on our way South to Tuolumne Meadows are
Echo Chalet, Lake Alpine Lodge,
and
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

 

2015-16
Update

Echo Chalet no longer a resupply spot.

Lake of the Sky Outfitters
Lots has assumed resupply duties in South Lake Tahoe.

 

Echo Chalet is the first (resuppy) point we encounter hiking South from Meeks Bay where food and drink are available. We could potentially cache a resupply here in a car in the parking lot.

Echo Chalet is located on the Southernmost end of Desolation Wilderness 28.71 miles South of our starting point through Desolation Wilderness' Northernmost trailhead at
Meeks Bay.

Hiking from Meeks Bay to Echo Chalet crosses the full length of Desolation Wilderness.

 

High Sierra Backpacker Resupply Spot
Index & Information

 

(See the Whole Sierra Introduction.)

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PCT-TYT
Shared Route
The North and South Ends
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail shares the North and South ends of its route with the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

Unified Northern End
The PCT and TYT share the trail hiking for 30 of the 41.32 miles South from our Meeks Bay Trailhead to our exit from the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap. It's about 11 miles from our Meeks Bay TYT Trailhead to where we merge with the PCT in the North end of the Desolation Wilderness.

From there the unified routes of the PCT and TYT carry us South, first through Desolation Wilderness above the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, then into the tiny Meiss Country Roadless Area marking-out a unique triangle of terrain in the far Southern end of the Tahoe Basin.

SE or SW
At the furthest South end of Meiss Country, which is also the furthest Southern end of the Tahoe Basin, we will be standing on the Southern Rim of the Tahoe Basin looking at our Southbound backpacking options. The Pacific Crest Trail route continues Southeast where our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route breaks-off to the Southwest.

 

Their Divergent Center
Splitting up departing the Tahoe Basin for their very different routes South, the PCT and TYT both cross roughly 60 miles from where they split exiting the Tahoe Basin to their reunion entering the far Northwestern corner of Yosemite.
(Emigrant and North Yosemite Backcountry map)

 

Unified Southern End
After entering the Northwestern-most corner of Yosemite National Park the TYT and PCT remain unified for most of their remaining 54 miles South across the North Yosemite Backcountry to Tuolumne Meadows.
They only diverge for a short distance where the TYT swings around Tilden Lake where the PCT loops around Wilmer Lake.
(Northwest Corner of Yosemite Map )



I have the
PCT route at 173.65 miles,
and the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route at 175.57 miles. *
(Hiking from Meeks Bay in Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows.)

Trail Miles: A Slice in Time

 

Omission
Our measurement of the length of the TYT is roughly 11 miles less that cited by most authorities. This is because our figures do not include hiking 8.32 miles West from the Saint Marys Pass Trailhead down Highway 108 to the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station's road. Nor does our mileage figure above include the mile down the Kennedy Meadows Road off Highway 108 to where the TYT resumes out of the South end of the resort.

 

No Highway Hiking
Hiking West down Highway 108 from Saint Marys Pass Trailhead to the resumption of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on the South end of Kennedy Meadows Resort adds about 9.32 miles of "highway hiking" to the trail miles cited for the TYT on this guide.

 

Yikes!
I hitch-hike West from Saint Marys Pass to Kennedy Meadows to avoid hiking along this narrow, steep, deeply twisting highway. Highway 108 is made even more dangerous by unfamiliar and unskilled tourists, speeding sportsmen, and other Summer visitors.

Hitch-hiking from the Sierra Crest to Kennedy Meadows (guide)

 

 

PCT-TYT
Route Differences
The Middle
The routes of the PCT and TYT diverge where the Pacific Crest Trail points itself Southeast exiting the Tahoe Basin.

PCT
Exiting the Tahoe Basin the PCT points itself Southeast to stay high up along the Sierra Crestline, which roughly traces out the Eastern edges of the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness Areas before entering the Northwestern-most corner of Yosemite National Park.

TYT
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail exits the South end of the Tahoe Basin tracking Southwest onto the Western flank of the Sierra. The TYT climbs over Round Top and The Sisters to enter and begin crossing a series of massive granite canyons draining the West Flank.

Our TYT route tracks across the Western Flanks of these same Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness Areas while the PCT stays up on the Sierra Crestline & high up along their Eastern flanks.

The Western Flank route of the TYT across these three wilderness areas takes us hiking three great swings down the Western Flank of the Sierra, then back up to the Sierra Crest again.

These great swings down the Western Flank on the TYT bring us down and back up four major granite canyons decorating the Western flank of the High Sierra crossing the Western sides of these sweet North Sierra wilderness areas.

The major canyons we hike into, through, and have to climb back out of are Summit City Canyon into the North Mokelumne River Canyon (Map) , the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus (Map), and Summit Creek above the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River (Map), among a bevy of minor Western flank canyons we cross and/or climb through as we hike South.

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The
Tahoe
to Yosemite Trail
Information Indexes



A Basic Outline
of its
Sections,
Guide Pages, Maps, Miles, Elevations,
and
Resupply
Information

Below we present an outline of the information on this trail guide covering each of the five sections of the TYT and PCT between Lake Tahoe and Tuolumne Meadows.

Map Notes
The red dots on every map link to the trail guide entry for that location. The black-dotted routes on the large-scale 30 minute maps link to the detailed 7.5 minute map covering the specified area.

 


TYT & PCT
Five Trail Sections

MAPS-MILES,
TRAIL GUIDE PAGES
&
RESUPPLY POINTS

SOUTH

1
Shared
TYT-PCT
Route

Desolation Wilderness
Tahoe Basin

Highway 89
to
Highway 50

TYT & PCT
Trail Guide Index

TYT & PCT
Desolation Wilderness Map

 

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
TYT-PCT Maps List



TYT-PCT
Miles and Elevations



Resupply
Echo Chalet

2
Shared
TYT-PCT
Route

Meiss Country Roadless Area
Tahoe Basin


Highway 50
to
Highway 88

TYT & PCT
Trail Guide Index

TYT & PCT
Meiss Country Roadless Area Map

 

Echo Summit to Carson Gap
TYT-PCT Maps List



TYT-PCT
Miles and Elevations



Resupply
No Resupply


3
Distinct
TYT-PCT
Routes

Mokelumne Wilderness

Highway 88
to
Highway 4

TYT & PCT
Trail Guide Index

TYT & PCT
Mokelumne Wilderness Map

 

TYT

TYT MAPS
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Maps
LIST


TYT
Miles and Elevations

 

PCT

PCT MAPS
Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass
PCT Maps List



PCT
Miles
and Elevations



Resupply

Lake Alpine Lodge

4
Distinct
TYT-PCT
Routes

Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Highway 4
to
Highway 108

TYT & PCT
Trail Guide Index

TYT & PCT
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map

 

TYT

TYT MAPS
Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass
TYT Maps
LIST


TYT
Miles and Elevations

 

PCT

PCT MAPS
Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass
PCT Maps List



PCT
Miles
and Elevations



Resupply

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station


5
Distinct
TYT-PCT
Routes Across

Emigrant Wilderness
into the
Shared TYT-PCT Route Across
North Yosemite Backcountry

Highway 108
to
Highway 120


TYT & PCT
Trail Guide Index

TYT & PCT
Sonora Pass Region
&
North Yosemite Map

TYT & PCT
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River

 

TYT

TYT MAPS
Kennedy Meadows
to
Bond Pass
TYT Maps
LIST



TYT
Miles and Elevations

Resupply
Kennedy Meadows

 

PCT

PCT MAPS
Sonora Pass

to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT Maps
LIST



PCT
Miles
and Elevations



Resupply
Tuolumne Meadows

We discuss and compare the
Miles
on the
TYT and PCT

Across each section of the North Sierra, below.

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North Sierra
Backpacker Resupply

Each of our three resupply spots (index) hiking South to Tuolumne Meadows from the Tahoe Basin are in close proximity to one of the trans-Sierra Highways, independent of which route we hike South. Echo Chalet is near Highway 50, Lake Alpine Lodge is on Highway 4, while Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is offset a mile off Highway 108.

Tahoe Area Resupply
Echo Chalet (info) at the bottom of Desolation Wilderness is in close proximity (two miles North) of Highway 50 crossing Echo Summit (guide).
Carson Pass (guide) just outside the South end of the Tahoe Basin on Highway 88 has no resupply facilities.
Both Carson Pass and Echo Summit are located on main highways close to South Lake Tahoe's extensive resources. Both are an easy hitch-hike away from South Lake Tahoe.

You will note that Echo Chalet no longer provides a mail-in resupply package service.

Highway 4
About 42.28 miles further South down the Sierra Crestline from Echo Chalet our proximity to the Lake Alpine Lodge (guide) depends on exactly which trail we hike South.

The TYT (map) passes less than a mile North of the Lake Alpine Lodge, while the PCT (map) crosses Highway Four at Ebbetts Pass along the Sierra Crestline 15 miles East of Lake Alpine.

Hikers on the PCT who want to resupply at Lake Alpine can hitch-hike these 15 miles West down Highway 4 to Lake Alpine, then back to Ebbetts Pass to continue hiking South.

The vast majority of the annual Northbound hoard of PCT hikers bypass the resupply stop at Lake Alpine. That's their loss. One of the casualties of the need for PCT speed is missing valuable experiences. I consider Lake Alpine and the terrain around it as one such loss.

The standard resupply pattern of PCT hikers across the North Sierra is across the 75 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Kennedy Meadows followed by the 75 miles from Kennedy Meadows to our Lake Tahoe Basin resupply.

Unique Routes
Northbound PCT hikers also have the option of hitching down to Lake Alpine from the PCT at Ebbetts Pass, then continuing our Southbound hike along the TYT by hiking the challenging unmaintained section of trail and route through Summit City Creek North of Lake Alpine.

We can get off the line of our Southbound hike along the TYT after entering the Carson Iceberg Wilderness by linking up with the route of the PCT via one of the four trails linking the TYT to the PCT across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness (map) South of Highway 4. Or visa-versa.

This set of connector trails links the TYT and PCT across the length of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness as the rungs of a ladder link its side pieces.

The most logical trails connecting the PCT and TYT South of Highway 4 for long distance backpackers are the trails through Highland Canyon and via Boulder Lake.

Highway 108
The Southbound TYT hiker passes through Saint Marys Pass Trailhead onto Highway 108. Saint Marys Pass Trailhead is located near the top of Highway 108, just about three-quarters of a mile West of, and a few feet lower than the Sierra Crestline where the PCT arrives at Sonora Pass.

While the Pacific Crest Trail drops into and out of Sonora Pass, the route of the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail continues South from the Highway 108 corridor out the South end of the
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station (guide)
.

The road out to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is located on Highway 108 a little over nine miles West down the West Flank from the Saint Marys Pass Trailhead, being a little less than ten miles West of Sonora Pass.

Down to KM
Hitch-hiking 9 miles West of Saint Marys Pass brings us to the very well marked mile-long quasi-paved Kennedy Meadows Road turning South off Highway 108. We will find Kennedy Meadows Pack Station and the resumption of the Southbound TYT at the end of that road.
However we get there, hiking or hitch-hiking, the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hiker passes by Kennedy Meadows' front porch.

We TYT hikers will pick up our last resupply for this last and longest section of our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, this final 75 mile section of the TYT down to Tuolumne Meadows, at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Store.

I also take the opportunity to eat some good food, rest up for the hard terrain down to Tuolumne Meadows, and hang out with the staff, customers, backpackers, cowboys, hunters, horsepackers, and fishermen at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

 

Contrast and Compare
TYT-PCT
DISTANCES -- DIFFERENCES -- DIFFERENTIALS
First, let's examine and compare the Miles and Elevations figures for the
Pacific Crest
and
Tahoe to Yosemite
Trail Miles

We're going to compare the PCT and TYT miles hiking Southbound across each of the five sections of trail. The lengths of these sections determine our resupply possibilities crossing the four trans-Sierra Highways between Meeks Bay and Tuolumne Meadows. Our resupply access points are located along these trans-Sierra highways.

The Trans-Sierra Highways
The East-West routes of the trans-Sierra highways also roughly mark-out the federal administrative divisions of the North Sierra National Forests and Wilderness Areas. The lines of the trans-Sierra highways also loosely correspond with broad changes in the character of the terrain we experience as we hike further and further South.

The North Sierra Trail Sections
The trans-Sierra highways allow us to divide our North Sierra hike into five manageable trail sections. Manageable logically, logistically, and for access. Logically, the trans-Sierra highways mark the limits of the wilderness areas between them. Logistically, the trans-Sierra highways offer access points for resupply to keep our long-distance packs light. The trans-Sierra highways provide access to a range of High Sierra Trailheads for local and long-distance backpacking trips along the Sierra Crest and its upper flanks.

The trans-Sierra highways across the North Sierra can help us organize a clear understanding of the unique characters of the terrain in each of the wilderness areas between them.

North Sierra
and
North Yosemite-Tuolumne Meadows
Two Google Road Maps
Schematic
High Sierra
Road & Trail
Drawn Map

Once we ascertain mileages and elevations of each section of trail between our trans-Sierra highway resupply points we can focus on understanding the important differences between the TYT & PCT routes. We can see that the TYT demands much higher levels of observation, analysis, then free-form engagement with the terrain than the PCT. The TYT requires sufficient degrees of skills and fitness to deal with segments of very demanding unmaintained trails and routes (definitions) along the TYT.

Character Differences
Mileage is not the main, nor the greatest difference between the TYT & PCT. The real differences are the very different characters of the trail and terrain each crosses.

The profound physical differences are due to the very different aspects the East and West Flanks of the Sierra have on regional weather patterns and their very different geological histories within their shared overall history. These climatic differences magnify these two trail's very different expressions of the Sierra's shared geological history.

Variety of Experience
We are going to personally examine the nature of the relationships between rock, sky, direction, and man that makes each of these trails a special experience in its unique relationship to the Sierra Crestline, the regional weather patterns, and the very different geologies they cross.

These physical differences between the TYT and PCT also reflect and support very different social and cultural environments. An isolated environment exists along long lengths of the TYT. This in turn draws out backpackers with different approaches and interpretations of what it is to backpack through Nature. Maybe I should say, "schools of thought," about how to approach Nature.

I'm talking about you, Mr. Allspice!

The TYT is a very different trail than the PCT in trail conditions, the surrounding terrain, and its skeletal hiking culture. These factors combine to make the TYT a very different experience than the PCT. It is much more difficult, more isolated, infrequently traveled, and occasionally ambiguous, frequently elusive, even absent across its more interesting segments.

These very interesting conditions draw out different and unique types of backpackers than those who trod maintained trails. Our expectations must be tuned to, and prepared for the extra demands these conditions create.

Responsible Route Finding
Backpackers willing to venture into unmaintained terrain take on the responsibility of finding a route, if not the best route. This requires a significant degree of outdoor experience, some training to be properly fit, with a sufficient evolution of our route-finding skills to find our way through the most difficult segments along the TYT.

We will be very well aware of the level of skills and fitness we are bringing with us onto the trail, if we're smart about our approach. We've got to know our limits to stay within them.

A good thing is that the difficulty of the unmaintained and untrailed segments of trail scattered along the length of the Tahoe to Yosemite route work to mitigate the annual overcrowding we experience hiking the PCT and JMT routes along the Sierra Crest.

Fine Balance
Hiking the long trails down the Sierra Crest will bring us through both isolation and socialization, each in its turn. Especially if we continue hiking South to the Whitney Portal once we finish the TYT. Having both isolation and socialization as we hike down the trail allows us to enjoy both.

My expectation is to enjoy every physical and social environment I encounter. Even the painful ones. The true Joy of engaging Nature across long time spans and distances is composed of fully experiencing its attendant metaphysical pains and pleasures as we rise above them into quite unique zones of perception.

PCT vs. TYT
SE vs. SW
VOLCANIC vs GRANITE

The PCT
The PCT exiting the Tahoe Basin tracks Southeast along the Sierra Crest into the arid volcanic terrain characterizing the Sierra Crestline South of the Tahoe Basin. The volcanic terrain stretches pretty much all the way down to the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

The granites we do see are magnificent. Dropping into then climbing through the headwaters of the East Carson River along the route of the PCT shows us ancient granites that were long ago buried by volcanic eruptions that are now emerging, being slowly eroded out of their volcanic prison.
These fantastic views of emergent granites are notable exceptions to the ubiquitous stark beauty of the volcanic terrain capping and characterizing virtually the whole length of the North Sierra Crest South of the Tahoe Basin to the Northern Yosemite boundary.

The TYT
The TYT exiting the Tahoe Basin tracks Southwest off the Sierra Crest into the vast granite canyon running Southwest carrying Summit Creek off the Sierra Crest. We follow Summit Creek through its massive granite canyon down until it sits as a hanging canyon on the flank of the very much larger volcanic valley of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River. Standing on the mouth of that hanging canyon is nice.

Lake Alpine
We drop into the granite zone surrounding Lake Alpine after climbing out of the North Mokelumne's amazing bifurcation of vast granite blocks and walls into, and then over, Mount Reba's volcanic crown.

Carson Iceberg Wilderness
Our hike across the Carson Iceberg Wilderness South of Lake Alpine brings us skirting under and around the volcanic-capped Sierra Crest, threading around the uber-ancient volcanic formation of The Dardenelles to make our way first into the canyon of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River, then up to and out of its headwaters bowl.

The run of the upper Clarks Fork marks out a long interface line along the River between the increasing volcanic material to our North along the Sierra Crest and the granite to its South, an interface that we are hiking up into as we proceed further up the Clarks Fork. As we hike further up the volcanic features of Stanislaus Peak to our North, above us, is first revealed, then well-contrasted against the granite wall under it, and by the sweet granites making up the canyon wall to our South.

We are tracing out an ancient interface.

Our last great climb to the Sierra Crest begins out of our next resupply spot at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. Like out hike up the Clarks Fork, we trace out a long volcanic-granite seam following Summit Creek back up to the Sierra Crestline climbing across the highest elements of Emigrant Wilderness.
We rejoin the PCT just under the Sierra Crest after entering the North Yosemite Backcountry.

From that point both the PCT & TYT will be West Flank trails crossing the challenging
Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry (description).

The Range of Experience
PCT and TYT
The TYT and PCT share significant lengths of trail on their North and South ends. Between their shared portions both trail cross terrain unique to each of them. Each of these trails explores different aspects of the Sierra. Any comprehensive understanding requires examining both trails to even get a basic view of the breadth of experience along both flanks of the High Sierra Crestline from Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.


Trans-Sierra Highways
The sections of the PCT and TYT South of the Tahoe Basin are defined and divided by the trans-Sierra highways. These Highways cross mountain passes at the top of the Sierra Crestline which cap the major river systems draining the Flanks of the Sierra.

Thus the natural and administrative divisions of the Sierra are reflected by the organization of the trans-Sierra highways.

Tahoe Basin Highways
From North to South the Tahoe Basin is serviced by Highway 80 around its North Rim (Donner Summit, 7056 feet), Highway 89 down the West Shore (6239 feet at Meeks Bay Trailhead), Highway 50 wrapping around the South Shore (7377 feet at Echo Summit Trailhead), and Highway 88 crossing the Sierra at Carson Pass (8600 feet) just beyond the South end of the Basin.

Tahoe Basin
Road Maps

Trans Sierra Highways
Further South we find Highway 4 crossing the Sierra through Ebbetts Pass 8732 feet of elevation, then Highway 108 crossing the 9624 foot line of the Sierra Crest through Sonora Pass.

Hiking South of Sonora Pass our next contact with civilization will be at the end of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail when we reach Highway 120 crossing Tuolumne Meadows just West of Tioga Pass (9943 feet).

We note the line of the Sierra Crest is rising in elevation as we hike North to South from Tahoe to Yosemite. This trend continues from Tuolumne Meadows South all the way up to the top of Mount Whitney.

North Sierra
and
North Yosemite-Tuolumne Meadows
Road Maps

 

North Sierra
Resupply Points Offset to the West
PCT hikers will find that both of our potential North Sierra resupply points between Tuolumne Meadows and the Tahoe Basin, being the Lake Alpine Lodge and Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, are both offset by ten miles+ West down their respective Highways 4 and 108 from the PCT's route along the crestline.

This offset requires we hitch-hike (guide) West down each of these mountain highways to resupply followed by a hitch back to the crest to resume our hike. Echo Chalet is an exception, being located along the route of the PCT-TYT on the South end of Desolation Wilderness.

The Range of Experience
TYT & PCT

The great physical divergence of the TYT & PCT routes highlights the very different characters of these trails. We reflect on the vast differences in the temperament of the trails, the terrain, the distribution of forests, animals, and environmental conditions that makes the Sierra Nevada a vast experience within a vast space.
That's why hiking both the TYT & PCT from Tahoe to Whitney is instrumental to get a good look at the whole spectrum of the physical and biological diversity of the range along its crest and both flanks.

This guide follows both routes South to Tuolumne Meadows, so we can scout-out both of them from here.

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Trail and Terrain
Granite and Forest
vs.
Volcanic Terrain
The route of the TYT crossing lower elevations on the Western Flank puts us deeper into the Winter rain shadow caused by Pacific Storms running up the West Flank's gradually rising elevation.
The West Flank puts our TYT route under much more forest cover than the PCT's very exposed route along the crestline. The advantages of forest cover are offset by the rising heat we experience dropping down into lower elevations manzanita zones compared to the cooler air in the whitebark zone along the more exposed Sierra Crestline.

Life is a balance of contradictions and tradeoffs.

Most of the TYT's Western Flank route that diverges from the PCT is below the volcanic zones of terrain covering the Sierra Crestline. This vulcanism dominates the vast majority of the PCT's crestline route South of the Tahoe Basin to Tuolumne Meadows. The majority of the PCT's crestline route is through volcanic terrain almost all the way down to the PCT's entrance into North Yosemite.

Which Side of the Line?
The TYT's relationship with the interface between volcanic and granite terrain is best described by the images of our hike up Summit Creek South of Kennedy Meadows.
The TYT is either below or on the volcanic-granite interface across the North Sierra as it runs up and down amazing West flank canyons. The PCT is above it.


Canyonland
The lower elevation route of the TYT across the Western Sierra Flank brings us through four fantastic major-size granite canyons North of Yosemite. The PCT looks down into a series of great granite and volcanic canyons, but mostly volcanic canyons, as we hike South.
Southbound PCT hikers observe the upper section of the East Carson River as it is emerging, really eroding out from under its long burial under ancient volcanic flows.

TYT hikers on the Western Flank move up & down and across an endless series of major and minor granite canyons full of rivers, forests, and meadows. The major canyons the TYT encounters are Summit City Canyon, the North Mokelumne, the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus, and Summit Creek above the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. This list omits a long line of minor canyons.

The PCT finds its way South along the volcanic cap topping these canyons along the Sierra Crestline from Carson Pass down to Dorothy Lake Pass. Dorothy Lake Pass marks the PCT hiker's entrance into the North Yosemite Backcountry and the beginning of the end of our hike across the North Sierra, independent of which route we've followed.
This last and most difficult segment of the trails between Tahoe and Yosemite begins when we enter the North Yosemite Backcountry and ends when we drop into Cold Canyon after crossing the famously difficult Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry.

The Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry
Once the TYT and PCT merge entering the far Northwestern corner of the North Yosemite Backcountry our again unified trails share the splendors and rigors of hiking the massive granite "Five Canyons" of North Yosemite draining the Western Flank of the Sierra Nevada.

North of Yosemite the TYT experiences most of the granite terrain, but they share the grandeur of North Yosemite's granite terrain once the TYT and PCT come together entering the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

Trail Conditions
The PCT is super-well maintained. I call it the SuperHighway of Trails. The TYT is not.

The necessity of route-finding is an accepted part of the TYT adventure. This explains the emphasis I put on having the required level of backpacking skills and experience as well as fitness.

If you do not accept route-finding as part of the TYT, then don't hike it.

Fantastic fitness makes up for a small deficit of skills.
Expert skills can supplement a little less fitness.

I have observed many times that "strong and stupid" have a strange balance... haha. But, I would rather not rely on blind strength and stupid luck for good outcomes.

Planning, training, and experience are the basis of great backpacking trips.

Then we get lucky.

That's "Smart Luck."

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Section Hike
the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
We don't have to hike the whole TYT (or the PCT) from Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows all at once. We can break the trails down into sections between the trans-Sierra Highways that we have suitable time, energy, and skills to hike.

Backpacker Treats
Most sections along the long trails, such as the Pacific Crest, John Muir, and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails can be broken down into a series of smaller bite-sized medium distance backpacking trips, with a few long sections thrown in for good measure.

There is a whole population of long distance backpackers pursuing the long trails one section at a time. They are logically called, "Section Hikers."

Sierra-centric
ORGANIZATION
Even our first 30.71 mile section South across Desolation Wilderness can be broken into smaller trips suitable for a range of skill and fitness levels. We're going to take note of the potential side trips and local backpacking loops made possible by hiking in-and-out to the main line of the PCT-TYT from local trailheads along the line of our PCT-TYT-JMT route down to the Whitney Portal.

We will take note of the local backpacking loops and trips these trailheads make possible as we hike South across Desolation Wilderness out of Meeks Bay Trailhead. In fact, this whole guide is organized by the line of the Sierra Crestline itself.

Stay on The Line
This trail guide is organized along the lines of the main Sierra Crest trails between Tahoe and Whitney. Everything on this guide is organized to get us onto the Sierra Crest trails, and keep us there for as long as possible.

Though we will hike sections of trail and grand backpacking loops that include trails and trailheads off the line of the Sierra Crest, each of these supporting trails and trailheads is either bringing us to or from our true goal: hiking the Sierra Crestline trails.

We are Sierra-centric here.

All backpackers are always welcome on the Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide, but the Sierra Nevada is the center of our universe here.

Another Link in the Chain
Your input, experiences, comments, questions, and suggestions about understanding and expanding our hiking options as we hike South from Tahoe to Whitney are personally solicited and through the links to the Trails Forums.

I, and the Trails Forums cover every section and every segment of our High Sierra trails South to Tuolumne Meadows, and continuing on down to the Whitney Portal. Your input, questions, and comments are always welcome.

TYT FORUM

Unique Routes
and
Unmaintained Trails
The Unique
The PCT and TYT are connected by webs of trails across the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas.

We can use this web of trails to easily combine segments of the TYT and PCT across the Carson Iceberg (MAP) and Emigrant Wilderness (MAP) to create unique long distance TYT-PCT backpacking routes across, or design custom local trips looping around these two wilderness areas.

The Unmaintained
As I mentioned above, two segments of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail are composed of extended lengths of unmaintained trail with a segment of untrailed terrain. As of 2015 we are adding in a third segment of unmaintained trail.

NEW
Unmaintained Segment
The length of TYT from the North Fork of the Mokelumne River to the position Overlooking Spicer Meadow Reservoir has not been maintained for a very long time.

This segment of trail has been added to the two existing unmaintained-status segments of trail along the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

North Mokelumne to Spicer Meadow Reservoir Forum

Though the loss of trail here is serious, it is not the real problem. The TYT's old route is disappearing under a sea of falling snags and thick underbrush left behind in the wake of an old major forest fire.

Uh-Oh
We can see that this segment of forest was severely burned long ago. This area was an old burned-area over 25 years ago when I first hiked through. The burned forest here has not been able to get even a toehold of re-forestation going since it burned.

Sadly, the forest fire here was timed with the beginning of the long-term reduction in snow and precipitation the Sierra has experienced over the past thirty-plus years. This new emergent weather pattern appears to have been, and is continuing to deny this burned zone the moisture it needs to regrow over the long-term.

This is a "growing" problem.

Unmaintained Bookends
The Northernmost segment of unmaintained trail along the TYT requires we find our own way across the heart of the Mokelumne Wilderness (trail guide).

The Southernmost segment of unmaintained trail challenges us to find the optimal route climbing out of the South end of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness (trail guide) through Saint Marys Pass.

In the middle of the TYT we now find this forest of fallen snags obscuring our route.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is fully maintained South of Saint Marys Pass and North of Summit City Canyon. But we may well find bits of unmaintained trail outside of the known unmaintained segments of the TYT.

Unmaintained TYT Trail
Updates Forum

I discuss the dangers of hiking unmaintained trails and further certify my seriousness about the inherent difficulty and danger of High Sierra Backpacking in this site's
Terms and Conditions of Use.

If that's not enough:

Backpacking Can Be Dangerous!

As I like to say,
"Nothing in this trail guide will protect you against yourself, or the occasional Fury of Nature."

Nature can tear us up.

I just try stay out of the way and not get squished by
man, nature, or my own stupidity.

&

"Sometimes dancing through life requires running for your life."

BE READY

Other than those caveats, hiking from Tahoe to Yosemite to Whitney has the potential to be one of the most beautiful, engaged, and rewarding experiences of our lives.

It was so fun that I caught on fire the last time I was in the mountains...

Meeks Bay Trailhead
into
Desolation Wilderness

Maps--Miles--Elevations
Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass Map
15 minute Backpacking MAP
Desolation Wilderness Map
30 minute Backpacking Map

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit Miles
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Hollywood in the Hills

Video Playlist
Meeks Bay to Pacific Crest Trail



Local
Trail and Town
Resources
South Lake Tahoe Backpacker
Rest and Resupply Resources
Echo Chalet
Backpacker Resupply Service
South Lake Tahoe
Lake of the Sky
Outfitters

This page considers the basis of a successful
long distance backpacking trip.

Backpacker Resources
and
Hiker Information
On this page

 

Let's
Get Started!
Physical Divisions
Above

 

Preliminary Issues
What it Takes

 

Tahoe
to
Yosemite Trail

Hitting the Trail

 

Trip Planning
PCT & TYT
Miles to Yosemite

 

Trip Planning
The

Hiking Plan

 

Hiking Plan
Considerations

HIKING STRATEGIES

 

Meeks Bay Trailhead

 

Video
Hitting the Trail

Weather and Road Information

Below find the closest Ground Stations, Point and Regional Forecasts
along the
West Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Satellite and Radar Imagery
provides
Long Range and Regional Overviews.

Echo Summit
Point Forecast

NWS
Echo Summit
Point Forecast

NWS
Tahoe City
Point Forecast

Regional Forecasts

NWS
Regional Forecast Greater Lake Tahoe

NWS
Regional Forecast
West Slope Sierra
Tahoe to Yosemite

All
South Lake Tahoe
Regional Weather Information
All
High Sierra Weather Resources
Real Time
South Tahoe Basin
Ground Reporting Stations

Rubicon 2

Fallen Leaf

Echo Peak

Meyers

All
Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest
N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Road Conditions

All
Lake Tahoe Basin Highway Conditions

Big View
Radar

North California
Radar

Big View
Space

Western US
Satellite

All Weather and Fire Information

All High Sierra Weather Resources

Comprehensive High Sierra Fire and Smoke Information

> Backpacker's Forum <

The
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
FORUM

All backpackers can post text comments about the Meeks Bay Trailhead page of the Desolation Wilderness section of the trail guide.

All of our thoughts are pretty-much focused on looking as far down the trail and as deeply into ourselves to ascertain accurate information vital to plan and prepare for hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

That's what we're dealing with through the comments links on this page. Also check out the Planning Forum too.

Every trail guide page has comments links because I seriously want to hear your updates, experiences, and perspectives planning and hiking these remarkable trails.

Every segment of our trails down to Mount Whitney can be reflected on, disputed, corrected, commented up, questioned, or updated by us and our fellow backpackers. Post up your latest adventures to keep us current.

I would like to see your response to both the objectivity of the miles figures I give, and the subjective trail descriptions of trail and terrain. This is important, as different backpackers have different capacities, expectations, and very different perspectives on exactly the same trails.

Some parts of the route are literally "etched in stone," cut through timeless unyielding granite while the trail through meadow and forest are in constant flux.

Registered Members can post up text, images, maps and embed videos in the Trails Forum to supplement and update this page's coverage of how we approach Meeks Bay Trailhead.

In any case, check out the Tahoe to Whitney .org
Backpacking Trails and Topics forums.

Post Up Your Perspective

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Let's Get Started!

Hitting the Trail

The first steps of any backpacking trip are exciting.
Any Desolation Wilderness trip is an exciting backpacking trip.

Hiking the 175 miles of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is very exciting.

Hiking past Yosemite to Mount Whitney on the JMT begins a 40+ day High Sierra experience we will never forget.

We've planned, trained, and sent out our resupply packages.

We review our preparations below, then Hit the Trail.

Forest alongside Desolation Trail out of Meeks Bay Trail headForest on the ridge alongside Northwest edge of the Desolation Trail out of Meeks Bay Trail head.

This is looking off to our Right, to our North-Northwest, while a diminishing meadow sits off to our Left.

Rough Mileages

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
175.57 miles

Tahoe to Yosemite (PCT route)
173.65 miles

NOTE
The TYT figure does not include walking down Highway 108.

Tahoe to Whitney
353 miles minimum, 550 miles maximum, +/-, depending on route selection.

We can really stretch out the
Tahoe to Whitney Trail.

(more below)

DISTANCE NOTE

Highway 108
Segment of TYT
We do not count the 8.32 mile distance the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is offset down Highway 108 from the Saint Marys Pass Trailhead to the intersection with Kennedy Meadows Road. Nor is the mile down the KM road to the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station counted in the 175.57 miles figure cited above for the TYT.

No Highway Miles
175.57 miles is the distance of the TYT counting no distance from our exit out of the Saint Marys Trailhead on Highway 108 to where we begin hiking South through the gate on the South end of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

I generally pick up a ride hitch-hiking across this segment of "trail," being our second "road" segment along the TYT. Our first road segment was from Arnot Creek Trailhead up to the Clarks Fork Trailhead along the old Clarks Fork Road.

I happily walk the Clarks Fork Road. It is amazing how many car campers are out there during the height of the Summer Vacation Season.

Why Not?
I don't suggest hiking down Highway 108 to Kennedy Meadows. The West Flank of Highway 108 is a very steep, twisting, and narrow road. It is a series of blind decreasing radius turns stitched together into one long "Corkscrew." "Corkscrew," as in the famous corner at Laguna Seca International Raceway.

The nice paved country road out to KM from Highway 108 is cool for peds, if you watch out for cars, as is Clarks Fork Road.

Highway 108
There are lots of tourists on Highway 108 who are unfamiliar with the road, and with driving mountain roads in general. There are also some sportsmen, and local crazies going fast.

I rode my fully modified 1978 GS 1000 superbike very fast over Highway 108 many-many times in the late '70s and '80s. These are fine roads for safe and careful sportsmen!
Today, I measure my MPH in the very low single-digits, but my trips take weeks!

Personally, I don't like to walk down Highway 108. I hitch from Saint Marys or Sonora Pass down to Kennedy Meadows. Highway 108 is a great road for a biker, but not the best for a hiker!

I hitch-hike.

Hiking the 9.32 mile hike down Highway 108 (including the mile out Kennedy Meadows Road to the gate) brings the total of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to
184.89 miles.

Post Up Your Perspective

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Preliminary Issues
First Things First

Getting Ready
for a
Lifetime
of Long-Distance Backpacking
for
Beginning Backpackers
and/or
Low-Altitude Backpackers

Don't begin your backpacking career with a long distance High Sierra backpacking trip.

High Sierra Trails are among the most difficult trails.

They involve oxygen depravation due to altitude, very steep trails, rough terrain, and we can get ourselves long distances from rescue or medical services. Other local or seasonal risks include the Spring Thaw making fording dangerous, Summertime lightening and downpours from local and/or tropical thunderstorms, unexpected temperature declines, and classic unexpected North Pacific storms out of the Northwest rolling through.

Successful long distance backpacking trips are built on the foundation of a series of short backpacking trips designed to build our experience, fitness, and gear to properly and safely address long distance high altitude High Sierra trails, and safely deal with the issues that do arise during our trips.

Adventure is adventure because it is challenging.

A series of short trips will build both our physical skills and experience, as well as allowing us to determine our gear, food, and even our rest requirements. Every backpacker has different tolerances for hot and cold, different demands of hunger and thirst, different capacities of strength and endurance, and different levels of understanding to interpret the significance and meaning of our experiences.

A series of short trips allows us to accurately assess our personal capacities and skills. Our goal is to integrate our growing experiences into effective practices, sharpening competence up to minimum High Sierra standards. We're going to do this by properly matching our skill and fitness to a progression of increasing difficulty backpacking trips we are capable of successively completing without suffering too much.

Now that's a plan! After mastering ourselves and our Summer skills we will begin probing cooling conditions until we finally enter the snow covered mountains.

Training to determining our capacities are always our first steps to prepare us for any major backpacking trip. It may only take a little work to get our skills and fitness together, or it may take some time and effort to get in shape and readiness for the long trails. It depends on what levels of fitness and experience we are starting from, and how consistently we pursue our training and prep trips.

You flat landers in Florida and the Great Plains gotta find some stadium stairs to train on.
Training on the flat is not sufficient, as I've learned after having numerous discussions with flat landers hiking the JMT. They all told me they would have sought out more stadium stairs as a larger component of their training.

How you
See It is How you Be It.

Your approach will be the most significant factor determining your outcome. If you are blind to your skills, fitness, and gear needs you can suffer unnecessarily and potentially put yourself in mortal danger as you become painfully aware of the requirements of High Sierra travel.

It's don't have to be like that, if we properly prepare ourselves.

Backpacking Skills Forum Sixteen Things at Once

Emergent Capacity
Modern folks live life based on a number of almost unseen assumptions. Their most basic assumption is that the weight of our lives will be supported by electro-mechanical energy. Backpacking removes this most fundamental assumption of the modern human.

That's heavy.

The energy necessary for transportation, to provide food, shelter, bedding, the daily cycle of clothing, and all our personal needs will be provided by the backpacker. Everything we use will be physically carried and paid for with our own energy, pain, sweat, tears, triumphs and tribulations. Being overloaded for our personal carrying capacity puts extraordinary strains on all aspects of our physical and psychological being.

We have two ways to address this: We can increase our carrying capacity or decrease our load.

This simple source of fundamental pain is the Mother of Invention that birthed
the whole "ultralight" movement.

My approach is to gradually build strength over time, matching the increasing challenges of my backpacking trips with my gradually increasing fitness and skills.

The Weight of Responsibility
The bottom-line is that we must be fit and strong enough to carry everything we need to keep us safe, regardless of what that gear weighs. Carrying the required weight for safety should not put such a load on ourselves that it detracts from our ability to observe our environment clearly, that it degrades our clear analysis of what we are seeing, so that we maintain the quality of observation and analysis necessary to support excellent decision-making. We've got to be ready to maintain perfect clarity while we are experiencing the stresses, strains, and pains of working under a wide range of heavy-loading and adverse environmental stresses.

Clarity through Pain.

We train to make ourselves safe, secure, self-perpetuating mobile mountain observation units capable
of operating across the beauty and ferocity of the wide range of conditions the Sierra throws down.

Though carrying the weight of responsibility initially weighs us down, it ultimately sets us free. The hard part is making the physical and psychological transition from modern to natural assumptions as smoothly and painlessly as possible. Fitness is a great help. Once we make this transition we will be fine. Better than fine. The key is not to break ourselves, our kids, or our significant others while making the transition.

Thus the fitness and skills self-assessments we make during our short prep trips will show us the degree of training we need to bring both fitness and skills up to snuff without overworking and physically or psychologically hurting ourselves.

Harden Thyself
It is not just fitness, per se. Preparatory backpacking trips show us the degree of preparation and "hardening" we need to make our transition from a modern to a natural context as smooth, painless, and rewarding as possible. It is a great idea to use a series of short backpacking trips to harden the feet to being in the boots across many long miles on the trail, to get the knees used-to the constant impacts, and to acclimate our shoulders to the strains of heavy loading before hitting the long trails.

Reality Exists
Though this process can be executed gradually by the weaker and less fit, and more quickly by the strong and fit, it will be done. I advise you to be aware of this, and acclimate yourself to the stresses, strains, and pains of backpacking the High Sierra before starting your long trip in as safe and controlled a manner as possible.

Gradualism
This is especially important for kids and "significant others," that you may find yourself bringing backpacking into the mountains. It is much more pleasant to gradually acclimate rookies to the mountains than subject them to the full stresses. The soundtrack of the complaints of suffering spouses and kids highlight the wisdom of properly matching trips to the hiker's fitness and skill levels, let alone their comfort level.

On the trail each backpacker supports their own assumptions.
The first assumption to disappear on the trail is that of luxury, not comfort. Our notions of "luxury" are not actually going to disappear, but are going to change radically. We will maintain comfort if our fitness and skills are up to the situations we put ourselves into.

In terms of fitness we must not be so strained and drained each day that we cannot fully recover overnight for the next day's hiking. We will lose comfort and our ability to recharge will be compromised if we are not properly prepped both physically, in terms of fitness and gear, and with the skills able to construct physical comfort and shelter in the field.
This becomes a real problem if our failure to select and learn how to properly deploy the correct gear for our needs is compounded by physical exhaustion. Being tired, cold and uncomfortable in camp sucks, will slow recovery, and can lead to disaster and even death if bad weather blows in.

Each aspect of life on the trail becomes more pressurized by the weight we're carrying, by the altitude and the angle of climb we endure, and are compounded by cold and topped off by fatigue brought on by our engagement.
Have I said that the Pain and Pleasure of backpacking are both part of a process?

The Price of Poor Preparation
If we failed to break in our boots, feet, body, and gear before starting a long distance backpacking trip in this already stressful environment we are putting ourselves at some serious risk of establishing pain as both the physical and psychological basis of the trip. If our feet blister when we are already cold and tired we will lose all notions of the concept of comfort, let alone luxury, and be swimming in pain.

I have seen this state of being more times than I can count every Summer.
I am here to prevent it from happening to you. Get the training, engagement, and hardening process started now.

We will be in real trouble if a cold rain falls and we cannot remain warm, dry, and well-fed under such stressful circumstances, especially while exhausted. I would much rather that the factors of success come together under stressful situations than fall apart. Our training and prep trips give us the best shot at pulling a rewarding success together when things get sketchy.

That is very fun. Very serious fun.

We will find that reaching out and engaging Nature using our increasing physical and perceptive tools brings deep rewards and true joy through hard work, sweat, strains, and pains that are unobtainable in the human-created world.

Our "investment" in our own health, fitness, and natural engagement skills radically resets our
perception from passive observer to engaged participant.

This is living joy rather than passive entertainment. This type of work in Nature will fix up your mental and physical abilities to engage and enjoy all experience, let alone Nature Itself. These practices heal the body and soul from the physical and spiritual damages the evil of our times have done.

Me: My Best Frendemey
Our most fundamental tool on the trail is our own self. We are a "multi-tool," in that our assets are spread out across our physical capacities to work and our abstract abilities to observe, analyze, and plan things out. The point is to form our work within the environment into a configuration that nourishes us, rather than tortures us. It's best if our fundamental physical and psychological tools don't hurt too much at the beginning of this process.

Getting our body "broken in" with training is the first step; working out gear use in the field on a few short "test-trips" will work out all our little glitches with food planning, cooking, and exactly what it takes to keep each of us warm and dry setting up and using our gear in adverse environments.
These prep trips will get the feet, shoulders, butt, knees, and even our attitude all broken-in under actual trail conditions, and allow us to garner the experience and basic conditioning necessary to understand the requirements for success on longer and harder trips.

Do It...
DO IT NOW
Our capacities, skills, strengths and weaknesses will quickly become apparent. We will know what we need to fix up after a "break in" trip or two! Get on the bike! Walk up that hill! Jog those trails!

Every section of this trail guide across the North Sierra is full of short and medium distance in-and-out backpacking trips, trail segment backpacking trips from point "A" to point "B,"and longer backpacking loops that can be crafted by tying together lengths of the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails around the North Sierra wilderness areas.

Don't start with a long, hard, high, backpacking trip. We'll get there soon enough!

WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE WILDERNESS?
Pick a short length of trail or a nice medium-short backpacking loop to shake the cobwebs out of your mind, body, and gear. Then hike a long distance trip. Our backcountry experiences will get us riding, walking, jogging and weight-lifting at home to bring us to "trail shape," and subsequently maintain a minimal level of year-round fitness keeping us comfortably prepared for when we next hit the High Sierra Trails.

Backpacking the Sierra can be a fine year-round activity supporting a lifetime of strength, clarity, and fitness.

READY
Once we have a handle on the true workload we are looking at in the Sierra, how our body was designed to take it, and have compiled the gear and skills we need to keep ourselves warm, dry, well fed, and fairly pain free, we can think ourselves as ready as anyone can be for the long trails.

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Inside-Out
HOPP
The Harness of Pain and Pleasure

Prior to getting started on the long trails we have a number of specific external and internal issues to engage.

External Prep
By external issues I mean the conceptual framework holding our trip plan together.

External issues are our specific route, distance, miles per day, daily campsites, days between resupply and when, where, and how much rest we will need along the way.
External issues are the physical logic of our trip plan.

Internal Prep
All of our external-issue questions are answered by our our internal capacities. Our actual strength and endurance against our trip plan requirements determines the possibility of our plan's success.
Our plan's pace, our gear, and how much food we need are all determined by our personal capacities, which should be what determines the parameters of our trip plan.
We've also got to have a bit extra energy to cope with the very real physical realities our trip can possibly put us into.

Internal issues are our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual capacities we use to address the trip's external requirements.

An internal requirement is how much food we need for "X" amount of miles. It is our personal degree of cold tolerance. It is how many miles a day we can repeatable hike. It is our pain tolerance.
Our internal capacities and requirements are our own personal "tool kits" (we are tools) we use to make our external plan happen.

Our "external" perceptions write the check, the internal assets cash it.

The Marines sharpen tools hard and fast. I suggest a more reasoned approach.

How well our external planning and assessments are matched to our internal levels of fitness, skills, and gear needs determines if our plan is valid.

The trail is the arena where the actual balance between the internal and external realities of our trip planning are revealed and play out.

The outcome of our trip and specific experience we have are predictable from the divergence between our capacity and our plan.

Our balance of Pain and Pleasure lays in the accuracy of our plan matching our capacities. We are shooting for fun!

Real Hard Fun, but Real Fun nonetheless!

If we have balanced our capacities with our trip properly, we will be fine. The greater the mismatch between plan and capacities, the greater the potential for struggle, discomfort, fatigue, and disaster.

We've got to see our internal and external factors at play clearly, tell ourselves the truth about them so we can balance them our as the foundation of a very-very fun Tahoe to Whitney backpacking adventure.

Our goal is a Dream Trip, rather than an Ambulatory Nightmare.

Dream or Nightmare is determined by how effectively we've balanced our skills, fitness, and gear against the requirements of our trip.

This is a very serious form of fun, as you can plainly see.

The balance of our pleasure and pain, and maybe even our lives, lays in the accuracy of our analysis.

That's FUN !

Balancing
The
Internal and External
Stresses
of
High Sierra Backpacking

External Issues

Maps

 

Plan

 

Route

 

Distance

 

Pace

 

Permits

 

Resupply

Internal Issues

Fitness

 

Food

 

Skills

 

Gear
Selection

 

Getting Started
Gear Selection II

 

Gear
List

Our plan and our ability to execute our plan must be reasonably close.

Pain, injury, failure and even death results when our internal and external requirements fail to match and balance.

The more pain we experience on the trail, the less we will see, and even less will we understand and enjoy.

This pain will condition our experience towards dreadful from delightful.

Be Ready.

HOPP
The Harness of Pain and Pleasure
The Harness of Pain and Pleasure.
Where's my Tool?
You, you there! Put me on!
Now!
Hike! Hike Faster!

Many of these issues are not restricted to backpacking.

Balancing the internal and external aspects of our lives is always good practice.


Information
for
Trip Planning
on the
Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails

Mileage Information

Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows

Below we lay out the North Sierra mileages to get some context on the differences between the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail routes between Lake Tahoe and Tuolumne Meadows.

The differences in mileage between the PCT and TYT sections are not so great, and are certainly
not the biggest differences between the routes.

We discussed the significant physical differences between the routes above, and on the TYT page:
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. These are huge physical and biological differences.

Geological References

The Most Important Difference
As we said above, the routes of the TYT and PCT have very different physical characteristics and navigational demands across the divergent middle sections of their routes than their shared beginning and the end of the TYT.

Hooray for the Difference
The most important practical differences between the trails in terms of measuring mileage are the miles of unmaintained and the actually untrailed lengths of "route," along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Traditional Unmaintained Sections
The 9 miles of the TYT's unmaintained trail across the center of the Mokelumne Wilderness is our first cross-country challenge along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Further South we find difficulty increasing where we enter the 6.42 miles of unmaintained trail and route-finding challenging us to find our way out of the South end of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. Our exit through the headwaters bowl of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River offers high levels of route-finding and physical challenges.

Plus, if you screw-up the physical demands can become very. very difficult.

Dangers of Backpacking,
and
Especially Backpacking Unmaintained Trails

New Unmaintained Addition
2014-2015
We've been getting reports that the rough segments of the TYT South of the Silver Trailhead are dropping from sadly maintained status through unmaintained status into segments of route requiring some route-finding skills.

CLARKS FORK
Untrailed Segment
The unmaintained segment of the TYT through the South end of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness leads us up to Clarks Meadow. There is no formal trail above Clarks Meadow through Saint Marys Pass. We follow a self-selected route up to, and climbing out of the very difficult terrain composing the Headwaters Bowl of the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus River up to Saint Marys Pass. Saint Marys Pass is about where we begin picking up the short length of maintained trail leading down to Saint Marys Pass Trailhead along Highway 108.

Detail
There are a few wild ducks marking the route from the North edge of Clarks Meadow to Saint Marys Pass. I say we should stay to the Left, pushing South along and above the North edge of Clarks Meadow. Following the River or hiking up the Right side are more trouble than trail.

We will begin to look Right, for the channel up through the cliff face to our South, once we get around and above the North side of Clarks Meadow.

Difficult Miles Take Longer
These segments of unmaintained trail and route-finding are very important to our miles figures and trip planning. That's because hiking across unmaintained trail takes significantly longer and is much more difficult than hiking maintained trail.

Maybe even a whole lot more time and effort to hike across, if we can't find or stay on the optimal route.

A Different Experience
Those two segments of unmaintained trail and route-finding are a significant part of why the TYT has a very different "feel" than the PCT. The others would be the huge differences in the temperament, character, and geology of the terrain the TYT crosses along the West Flank of the Sierra versus the route of the PCT up along the Sierra Crest and East Flank.

Let's start at the end, by citing the total miles of the TYT and PCT from Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows.

TYT
Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows

175.57 miles *
PCT
Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows

173.65 miles

Trail Miles: A Slice in Time

North Sierra
Miles by Trail Section

On the page below we break down the specific mileages of each section of the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails hiking South to Tuolumne Meadows. We add up the cumulative totals for each route as we hike South across each successive wilderness area. We keep running totals for both trails as we hike section-by-section from Lake Tahoe down to Tuolumne Meadows.

The guide's main "Miles and Elevations Index" brings us to the miles pages covering the miles within each individual section of the TYT and PCT. These pages break down each section's miles internally, into the distances between the main landmarks, campsites, climbs, and trail junctions within each section of trail. Each of these miles pages above looks carefully at the miles within each section from the "bottom-up."

Below we take a look at the total miles of each section of trail from Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows from a "top-down" perspective, looking at each section of trail as a discrete element woven into the overall plan and span of rest of the sections making up our hike.

Each section of our two trails South to Tuolumne Meadows, both the TYT and PCT, each stands out as a unique pearl of hiking experience. The overall length of our hike is built from just how we tie these sections, or series of sections, together.

We can measure out to the number of trail sections required to reach the desired length of our hike, which can be designed and approached as a stand-alone "section hike" using elements of the TYT and the PCT across the North Sierra.

Broken down into their natural sections between trans-Sierra highways, the TYT and PCT offer a range of backpacking "section" trips along their lengths down the North Sierra spanning from a bit less than thirty miles to a bit over 75 miles.

We can create trips of almost any length by breaking down or tying together the individual sections of PCT and TYT trails through the North Sierra.

Index
of
North Sierra Miles
PCT-TYT
Desolation
Wilderness
PCT-TYT
Meiss
Country
PCT
East
Mokelumne
TYT
West
Mokelumne
TYT
West
Carson Iceberg

PCT
East
Carson Iceberg
TYT
West Emigrant
North Yosemite
PCT
East Emigrant
North Yosemite
PCT
TOTALS
TYT
TOTALS

 

Trail Miles
A Slice in Time

 

The West Tahoe Basin
Desolation Wilderness
PCT - TYT - TRT

Meeks Bay
Trailhead

to
Echo Summit

Across Desolation Wilderness
LTBMU
Desolation Wilderness
Miles and Elevations
LTBMU
Desolation Wilderness
Permits

Desolation Wilderness Map

 

Meeks Bay Trailhead
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Mile Zero

28.71 miles
Meeks Bay Trailhead
to
Echo Chalet Resupply

30.71 miles
Meeks Bay Trailhead
to
Echo Summit

TYT Mile
11.5
PCT-TRT JUNCTION
TYT, PCT, and TRT
UNIFIED

After that,
Southbound Together
Across Desolation Wilderness

17.21 miles
TYT-PCT-TRT Trail JUNCTION

to
Echo Chalet Resupply

19.21 miles
TYT-PCT-TRT Trail Junction
to
Echo Summit


LTBMU
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

 

INTRODUCTION
North Sierra Backpacking Options
PCT and TYT
Below we keep track of the PCT mileage hiking South from Lake Tahoe as if one was hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Meeks Bay Trailhead to Tuolumne Meadows, rather than hiking the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

We are measuring the miles below hiking from "Tahoe to Yosemite," but along the route of the PCT. We also break down the TYT into sections, too.

Hiking Out to the PCT
Our guide starts at Meeks Bay Trailhead. We first encounter the PCT 11.5 miles South of Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Thus the PCT route adds the 11.5 miles hiking out from our Meeks Bay TYT Trailhead to the miles of the PCT across Desolation Wilderness. These first 11.5 miles along the TYT must be added to the mileage total of the PCT route from Tahoe down to Tuolumne Meadows.

That's because this guide's coverage of the PCT begins tracking the mileage of the PCT from its junction with the TYT near Middle Velma Lake in the North Desolation Wilderness.

This guide begins measuring the length of the PCT from this point near the North edge of Desolation Wilderness all the way down to where the JMT turns off the PCT to climb Mount Whitney at Crabtree Meadow.

We have to add 11.5 miles from Meeks Bay Trailhead out to the PCT to the total of PCT miles when beginning our PCT-based hikes out of the TYT's Meeks Bay Trailhead.

In any case, hiking the TYT out of Meeks Bay Trailhead merges us into the PCT's Southbound route a bit North of Middle Velma Lake. If we stay on the PCT all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows we will have a very different trip than if we switch to the TYT when we exit the Tahoe Basin.

Unified Trails through the Tahoe Basin
From this Northernmost TYT-PCT junction the shared routes of the PCT & TYT (& TRT) run South together down the center of the length of Desolation Wilderness. Crossing Highway 50 the trails begin bending together around perimeter of Meiss Country in the Southwestern-most corner of the Tahoe Basin Bowl down to the Southernmost end of the basin.

At Meiss Cabin the TRT turns Northeast into the Carson Range.

South of the Tahoe Basin
TYT-PCT hikers exiting the Southern end of the Tahoe Basin have the options of following either trail South to Tuolumne Meadows, or we can even mix and match bits of the TYT and PCT together before they rejoin entering the North Yosemite Backcountry far to our South.

Many Hiking Options
This trail guide covers both the TYT and PCT routes South from Tahoe to Yosemite, so we can inspect both trails and most of their connecting trails, to determine the best route for us, or the best mixing and matching of their individual sections and segments as we hike South suiting our tastes, capabilities, and skills.

The TYT and PCT are well connected across the lengths of the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas, so we've lots of backpacking route options hiking South. We've got a library-full of many, many hiking options below.

Harder or Easier
We can extend the standard length of the TYT while making the objective difficulty of its route easier by diverting onto the PCT around its unmaintained sections. Or we can extend the miles and difficulty of either route by adding-in extra segments of trail by using alternative routes to switch from PCT to TYT and back again across the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas. We can even add in selected elements of the unmaintained TYT to our PCT route.

Both the PCT and TYT routes from Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows are wonderful trails on their own inherent merits. The trails linking the middle sections of the PCT and TYT are like interlocking fingers of our Eastern and Western Sierra trails.
We can use these trails to tie Eastern sections of the PCT to Western sections of the TYT into a series of unique routes.

Alternative and Unique Routes
Besides having two distinctly different routes from Tahoe to Yosemite to compare and contrast, we can do a lot more than mix and match sections of PCT with the TYT as we hike South. We can focus our attention on specific wilderness areas.

We can create a wide range of unique local backpacking loops and trips focused on closely exploring each of the wilderness areas from Tahoe to Yosemite by weaving together pieces of the PCT with the TYT into grand loops remaining within each section of trail.

We can really explore North Sierra Wilderness Areas using the web of trails connecting the PCT and TYT across two of the three North Sierra Wilderness Areas.

Local Backpacking
Thus the PCT, TYT, and the trails connecting them aren't just good for cooking up a series of intriguing alternative routes for long-distance backpackers.
The deep interconnectivity of the PCT and TYT across Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness Areas opens up a fantastic variety of local backpacking trips looping around both of these awesome North Sierra Wilderness Areas.

There is not so much "trail connectivity" between the PCT and TYT across the Mokelumne Wilderness. We are faced with an "either the PCT or the TYT" situation up there. The opposite is true South of the Mokelumne Wilderness.

The PCT and TYT running parallel across the
Carson Iceberg
and Emigrant Wilderness
are deeply interconnected by a series of trails tying them together.

This configuration of interconnected trails makes for great local long-distance backpacking loop trips around the whole of either the Carson Iceberg or Emigrant Wilderness Areas while at the same time opening up a whole lot of unique long distance route options for long distance backpackers hiking South from Tahoe to Yosemite.

Our options are not too bad
The closer we look at the North Sierra Nevada the deeper details of its inherent beauty become apparent. Hiking short distances over short days gives us more time to observe local details that escape the notice of hasty backpackers.

On the other hand, the longer and further we hike down the Sierra Crestline, the better an outline of a long view of the shape of the range down its length reveals the vast scope and fantastic variety of beauties along its trails.

Finding a good balance across the different scales of beauty here, across the wide range of beauty near and beauty far gives us fantastic sets of backpacking options, of goals to choose from. I can't find the end of High Sierra Beauty hiking long trips fast or short trips at a slow pace, looking at its wonders through binoculars, microscope, or telescope.

Big Picture
This variety of route options, levels of difficulty, and types of terrain that we can weave together hiking South from the Tahoe Basin to Tuolumne Meadows (and on down to Yosemite Valley to finish the TYT properly...) reveals an incredibly wide variety of beautiful experiences hidden on and off the main routes across the North Sierra wilderness areas.

Under-Explored Territory
I believe the PCT and TYT across the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness are highly underrated and underutilized lengths of High Sierra trails. The heart of the Mokelumne Wilderness is generally empty.
This is especially true when the relative quiet of the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness across the middle of our North Sierra hike are compared against the at-capacity over-use of Desolation Wilderness and Yosemite National Park we experience at the beginning and end of our trip.

EPIC
There are still epic secluded backpacking trips remaining within, looping around, or just hiking across these amazing North Sierra Wilderness Areas. These are also great trails to get our "backpacking legs" under us before hitting the long-distance trails.

Properly picking our trails and planning our trips across the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness Areas can put us into some reasonably isolated locations even during the height of the Summer backpacking season.

We will also find bits of backpacker heaven here if we have developed our long distance cross-country hiking skills. There are a fine selection of unmaintained routes along the TYT, and in proximity to the PCT.

Mokelumne Wilderness Map
Backpacking Map
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map
Backpacking Map
Emigrant Wilderness Map
Backpacking Map

The Map and the Miles
out of
Meeks Bay Trailhead
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Maps List
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations

comments

Miles Index

The South End of the Lake Tahoe Basin
Meiss Country Roadless Area
PCT-TYT

Echo Summit
to
Carson Pass

LTBMU
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Miles and Elevations
LTBMU
Meiss Country Roadless Area
PERMITS


LTBMU
Echo Summit to Carson Pass Map
15 Minute Backpacking MAP



TYT - PCT - TRT
UNIFIED

11.2 miles
Echo Summit Trailhead to the Carson Gap

12 miles
Echo Summit Trailhead to Carson Pass

Carson Pass
is
12 miles South
of
Echo Summit
along the

PCT-TYT & a segment of the TRT



The Tahoe Rim Trail turns Northeast 9.09 miles South of Echo Summit Trailhead at Meiss Cabin. The TRT points itself Northeast for its hike North up the length of the Carson Range wrapping around the East shore of Lake Tahoe.

The TYT and PCT continue Southeast together for the short climb out of the Southern end of Meiss Meadow up to our exit from the Lake Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

The first of three trail junctions breaking Southwest off for the TYT is just a few feet South of our exit from the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

The Carson Gap is our exit point from the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Carson Gap lays 41.32 miles South of Meeks Bay on the combined Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails.

The Carson Gap is where the trail conditions, terrain, route and mileage of the PCT and TYT finally part company. Their unified routes South split up here.
The PCT and TYT will rejoin again after they both enter the top of Jack Main Canyon in the far Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park.

Carson Pass is another 1.39 miles South of the Carson Gap along the PCT, putting Carson Pass at 42.71 miles South of Meeks Bay along the PCT.

 

Running Totals
PCT-TYT PCT-TYT
Meeks Bay
to
Echo Summit

30.71 miles
Meeks Bay
to
Carson Gap

41.32 miles

 


PCT
Meeks Bay
to
Carson Pass

42.71 miles

 

Carson Pass
on
Highway 88
Though we cross the year-round trans-Sierra Highway 88, there are no resupply or water facilities at Carson Pass. There are garbage cans and pit toilets. TYT hikers who venture the routes around Woods Lake encounter fresh water, pit toilets, and garbage cans at the Woods Lake federal facilities.

Carson Pass
It is not unheard of for Northbound hikers on the PCT who run short of food to hitch-hike into South Lake Tahoe out of Carson Pass. Highway 88 West to 89 South into Meyers, then from the 50-89 junction Northeast into South Lake Tahoe.

The PCT hiker in South Tahoe
Northbound PCT hikers take two main approaches to resupplying at South Lake Tahoe. They either pick up their resupply at Echo Chalet and keep hiking North, or they hitch down to South Lake Tahoe and kick back for a major rest and resupply stop when they arrive at South Lake Tahoe.

 

Echo Summit to Carson Pass Map
15 Minute Backpacking MAP
Echo Summit
to
Carson Pass
Miles and Elevations

comments

 

Miles Index top of page


South
Out of the Tahoe Basin
PCT-TYT
SPLIT

 

Carson Gap
&
Carson Pass

The
PCT & TYT
routes
Diverge

Departing the Lake Tahoe Basin Southbound the PCT and TYT routes split up.

 

Trail Guide Index discussion
PCT & TYT
at the
Carson Gap


The Pacific Crest Trail
across the

East Mokelumne Wilderness
PCT

Carson Pass
to
Ebbetts Pass
PCT

Carson Pass
to
Ebbetts Pass PCT

Miles and Elevations
Across
The Mokelumne Wilderness
of the
Toiyabe National Forest
PERMITS

 

NOTE
SOUTHBOUND
Permits issued by the
Carson Pass Cabin
or the
Amador Ranger District
of the
El Dorado National Forest

We can order permits from the Carson Ranger District of the Toiyabe NF if we are driving in from the East on Highway 88 or the Amador Ranger District of the El Dorado NF if we drive in from the West.

Both Forests will write permits South out of Carson Pass along the Pacific Crest Trail.

NOTE
CARSON PASS MANAGEMENT AREA
Restrictions
Only the Amador Ranger District and Carson Pass Cabin will write permits into the Carson Pass Management Area surrounding Carson Pass. The CPMA is our gateway South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail into the unmaintained trail through Summit City Canyon.

 

Hikers on the PCT are generally unconcerned with the CPMA.

Carson Pass
to
Ebbetts Pass
PCT
27.88 miles

 

The PCT Through Carson Pass
North PCT-TYT Mokelumne Wilderness PCT Total PCT
Meeks Bay
to
Carson Pass

42.71 miles
Carson Pass
to
Ebbetts Pass

27.88 miles
Meeks Bay
to
Ebbetts Pass

70.59 miles

 



South on the PCT from Carson Pass

Carson Pass
to

Sonora Pass
PCT
57.32 miles
Carson Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
131.03 Miles



There are no resupply facilities at Carson Pass or Ebbetts Pass.
NEXT RESUPPLY SOUTH
Lake Alpine Lodge is a 15 mile hitch-hike
West down Highway 4 from Ebbetts Pass.

 

Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass PCT
Important Information
Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass
PCT Maps List
Mokelumne Wilderness Map
PCT-TYT Backpacking Map

 

Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass
PCT Miles and Elevations

 

Just Thinking...
Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows following the PCT route spans
173.65 miles

We have covered 70.59 miles of that distance along the PCT arriving at Ebbetts Pass, with
103.06 miles remaining South to Tuolumne Meadows.

 

Lake Alpine Lodge Resupply

comments?

Miles Index top of page

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
across the

West Mokelumne Wilderness
TYT

Carson Gap
to
Lake Alpine
TYT

WARNING
This section contains Unmaintained Trail

 

Carson Gap
to
Lake Alpine

Miles and Elevations
The Mokelumne Wilderness
EL Dorado National Forest
PERMITS

Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT
26.28
miles

 

North TYT-PCT Mokelumne Wilderness TYT Total TYT
Meeks Bay
to
Carson Gap

41.32 miles
Carson Gap
to
Lake Alpine

26.28 miles
(Carson Pass Route)
Meeks Bay
to
Lake Alpine

67.6 miles

 

Three Routes to the TYT
We start measuring the differing mileages of our three TYT route options to the Round Top Lake trail junction from our exit point out of the Lake Tahoe Basin through Carson Gap. Just a few steps South of Carson Gap is where we find the first of our three potential routes break off for the TYT, the first of our three options that all reconverge up at the Round Top Lake trail junction.

The Footbridge Route and Lost Cabin Mine Trail both approach Round Top Lake from the North by bending East and West around Woods Lake, respectively. We approach these two Northern trail options hiking to Round Top Lake via Woods Lake from the South flank of the Carson Gap.

Our third trail option to the TYT approaches Round Top Lake from the East via Winnemucca Lake. The trail for Winnemucca Lake is located 1.04 miles South of Carson Pass along the PCT. We'll follow the PCT South from the Carson Gap to and through Carson Pass to access the TYT via Winnemucca Lake.

Our first two routes up to Round Top Lake break off from the PCT as we exit the Tahoe Basin to the North of Carson Pass, while the third route onto the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail breaks off the PCT South of Carson Pass.

 

The CPMA
Round Top and The Sisters (map) , and the terrain around this fine mountain massif are all part of the tiny little
Carson Pass Management Area. (permits)

The Carson Pass Management Area is a special area in the Amador Ranger District of the El Dorado National Forest, but it is administered and manned by volunteers from the El Dorado National Forest Interpretive Association, or ENFIA.

Three Routes
The Carson Pass Region Map shows all three of our options for
hiking South out of the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap onto the TYT
across the Carson Pass Management Area.

 

3 Routes South

Carson Gap
TYT-PCT
to
Round Top Lake
TYT

Carson Pass- Winnemucca Lake Route
4.79 miles

Footbridge Route
3.90 miles

Lost Cabin Mine Route
3.40 miles

Round Top Lake to Lake Alpine
21.49 miles

Which route we take up to the Round Top Lake trail junction determines the final length of our hike from the
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine.

Footbridge and Lost Cabin Mine Routes

The shorter the route the steeper the trail.

The South end of this section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crosses
Highway 4 a half-mile East of our next resupply spot at the
Lake Alpine Lodge on the East Shore of Lake Alpine.

 

Lake Alpine Area Backpacking Map

 

South on the TYT from Carson Gap
Carson Gap
to
Lake Alpine
TYT

26.28 miles
(Carson Pass Route)
Carson Gap
to
Saint Marys Pass
TYT
60.85 miles
Carson Gap
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
134.06
miles

The TYT crosses Highway 4 half a mile East of the Lake Alpine Lodge.

 

Carson Gap to Lake Alpine TYT
Important Information
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Maps List
Echo Summit
to
Lake Alpine Map
30 minute backpacking map

Carson Pass
to
Lake Alpine
TYT Mileages and Elevations

Lake Alpine Lodge Backpacker Resupply

comments

Miles Index top of page

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
across the

West Carson Iceberg Wilderness
TYT

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Lake Alpine
to
Saint Marys Pass

TYT

WARNING
This section contains Unmaintained Trail

 

Lake Alpine
to
Saint Marys Pass

Miles and Elevations
Carson Iceberg Wilderness
Stanislaus NF
PERMITS

Lake Alpine
to
Saint Marys Pass
TYT
34.57 miles

 

 

North TYT Carson Iceberg Wilderness TYT Total TYT
Meeks Bay
to
Lake Alpine

67.6 miles
Lake Alpine
to

Saint Marys Pass

34.57 miles
Meeks Bay
to
Saint Marys Pass

102.17 miles

 

South on the TYT from Kennedy Meadows Gate
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Trailhead
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
73.21 miles

 


Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
175.38 miles

We actually continue South on the TYT from Saint Marys Pass Trailhead through the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. The Kennedy Meadows Pack Station turnoff is separated/offset about eight miles West down Highway 108 from the Saint Marys Pass Trailhead, then another mile South to the gate at the end of the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station road.

Therefore the distance between our Southbound exit through Saint Marys Pass Trailhead on Highway 108 to our resumption of Southbound trail through the Kennedy Meadows Trailhead is a variable depending on how we decide to cross this 9 mile offset distance between our exit and entrance trailheads.

Walking the whole distance measures out to 82.24 miles from the Saint Marys Pass Trailhead to Tuolumne Meadows, as opposed to the 73.21 miles from the gate at the South end of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Tuolumne Meadows.

We could add nine miles of hiking West down Highway 108 and out the road to Kennedy Meadows to the 73.21 mile total above, or we could hitch-hike down, and maybe hike the one mile out to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, depending on the quality of our ride.

Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass
Miles and Elevations

I don't hike down Highway 108 in the Summer. The road is too twisting, with too many tight blind corners being navigated by drivers unfamiliar with the challenges of this narrow mountain road.
Thus I prefer to hitchhike from the top of Highway 108 down to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Resupply

comments?

 

Miles Index top of page

The Pacific Crest Trail
across

East Carson Iceberg Wilderness
PCT

The Pacific Crest Trail
Ebbetts Pass
to
Sonora Pass
PCT

Ebbetts Pass
to
Sonora Pass

Miles and Elevations
Into
The Carson Iceberg Wilderness
Stanislaus NF
PERMITS

Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass
PCT
29.35 miles

 

North PCT Carson Iceberg Wilderness PCT Total PCT
Meeks Bay
to
Ebbetts Pass

70.59 miles
Ebbetts Pass
to
Sonora Pass

29.35 miles
Meeks Bay
to
Sonora Pass

99.94 miles

 

South on the PCT from Sonora Pass
Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
73.71 miles
Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
173.65 miles

 

Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map Ebbetts Pass
to
Sonora Pass
Miles and Elevations

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Resupply

comments

West Emigrant
and the
North Yosemite Wilderness
TYT

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Saint Marys Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows

TYT

TYT
Kennedy Meadows
to
Tuolumne Meadows

71.4 miles
Kennedy Meadows
to
Tuolumne Meadows

Miles and Elevations
Into
The Emigrant Wilderness
of the
Stanislaus NF, then Yosemite NP
PERMITS

 


Heart of
Emigrant Wilderness
North Yosemite Emigrant + Yosemite

TYT
Kennedy Meadows
to
PCT Top of Jack Main Canyon

16.91 miles

PCT-TYT
Top of Jack Main Canyon
to
Tuolumne Meadows

54.49 miles

TYT
Kennedy Meadows
to
Tuolumne Meadows

71.4 miles

 

Sonora Pass Region Map Saint Marys Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations

 

Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
173.57
miles

Meeks Bay
to
Lake Alpine
TYT
69.6
miles

Lake Alpine
to
Kennedy Meadows
TYT
34.57
miles

Meeks Bay
to
Kennedy Meadows
TYT
104.17 miles


TYT
Kennedy Meadows
to
Tuolumne Meadows

71.4 miles

Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
173.57
miles

 

Tuolumne Meadows Resupply

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Miles Index top of page

East Emigrant
Toiyabe NF and Yosemite Wilderness
PCT

The Pacific Crest Trail
Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite
PCT

Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
73.71 miles

Into
The Emigrant Wilderness
of the
Stanislaus NF, then Yosemite

East Edge of
Emigrant Wilderness
North Yosemite Emigrant + Yosemite
PCT
Sonora Pass
to
TYT
at the

South Bond Pass Junction
below
Dorothy Lake Pass

19.22 miles

PCT
South Bond Pass Junction
to
Tuolumne Meadows

54.49 miles

PCT
Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows

73.71 miles

Sonora Pass Region Map Emigrant and North Yosemite Map

Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
Miles and Elevations

 

Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
173.65
miles

NORTHERN TRAIL SECTIONS

PCT
Meeks Bay
to
Echo Summit

30.71
miles

PCT
Echo Summit
to
Carson Pass

12
miles

PCT
Carson Pass
to
Ebbetts Pass

27.88 miles

 

Ebbetts Pass
to
Sonora Pass
PCT
29.35 miles

Sonora Pass
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT

73.71 miles

Meeks Bay
to
Tuolumne Meadows
PCT

173.65
miles

Tuolumne Meadows Resupply

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Pacific Crest Trail
HIKING
Tahoe to Yosemite
on the
PCT

Pacific Crest Trail
Totals

PCT Section Mileages
from
Tahoe to Yosemite

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
30.71 miles

Echo Summit to Carson Pass
12 miles

Carson Pass to Ebbetts Pass
27.88 miles

Ebbetts Pass to Sonora Pass
29.35 miles

Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
73.71 miles

Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
173.65 miles

Trail Miles: A Slice in Time

Miles Index top of page

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
TYT

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Totals

TYT Section Mileages
from
Tahoe to Yosemite


Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
30.71 miles

Echo Summit to Carson Gap
10.61 miles

Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
26.28 miles

Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass
34.57 miles

Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows
71.4 miles

Meeks Bay to Tuolumne Meadows
TYT
175.57 miles

Trail Miles: A Slice in Time

Last guide Page
Finding Meeks Bay Trail Head
Trail guide Page South
Desolation trail junction

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Miles Index top of page

Pick your Pleasure
Above we have the miles for each section of trail between resupply points from Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows along both the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails laid out for our inspection.
This information, along with our desired/projected daily miles, will help us determine each of our nightly campsites.

A Final Backpacking Trip Assessment:
Tahoe to Yosemite by PCT route, Oct., 2009.

Also see
High Sierra Backpacking Trips Planning Forum

Each of the sections of trail between highways measured above is an excellent section of trail to hike on it's own, as a "section" of the PCT, TYT, or Tahoe to Whitney Trails. Better yet, each of these wilderness areas between resupply spots/highways can also be hiked as a grand loop.

Well, the Carson Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness can be looped pretty easily. The terrain in the Mokelumne Wilderness makes hiking loops up there difficult.

My favorite loops in the North Sierra Nevada Mountains involve hiking the PCT in one direction and the TYT in the other around the high elevation portions of the wilderness areas we cross on our Tahoe to Yosemite and Tahoe to Whitney Trails.

Throw in a couple of connector trails, and we have some fine loops around the North Sierra wilderness areas.

Long vs. Deep
As much as I love to hike the long trails down the Sierra Crestline, I always find myself coming back to each North Sierra wilderness area to use my long-distance "superpowers" to more deeply explore terrain that the long trail forces us to pass quickly over.

We can easily craft 50 to 90 mile loops around the North Sierra wilderness areas. It is a bit harder to do that around the Mokelumne Wilderness, but we can hitch-hike up and down the Highway 4 corridor connecting the PCT at Ebbetts Pass with the TYT at Lake Alpine to close the South end of our Mokelumne Wilderness backpacking loops. Or we can close the South end of the loop using the Highland Lakes Trail to connect the TYT & PCT.

You can see that I believe that developing long distance backpacking capabilities imparts the ability to much more deeply enjoy and exploit the potential of shorter trips. The less we are physically encumbered the better we can explore our environment.

You should develop this long distance hike power if you do not have it. If you do have long-distance backpacking "superpowers," you should apply them to closely exploring shorter lengths of trail and even whole wilderness areas.

You will be amazed at what you see if and when you speedy long-distance backpackers slow down a bit...

This is hilarious.
I seek to get couch potatoes onto the trail, average backpackers deeper, stronger, and longer into the High Sierra, and slow down the long distance hikers enough so they can better immerse themselves in the details and beauties of the terrain.

Everyone needs a little balance.

Miles Index top of page

TRAILHEADS SOUTH of MEEKS BAY
Eastbound Trail Junctions along PCT-TYT to Lake Tahoe Trailheads
Short Trip Exits South of Meeks Bay

Trails East to Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp from Middle Velma and Fontanillis Lakes.
Local and Long Loops
in
North Desolation Wilderness

Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp
Trailheads

Local Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness
Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp are the next trailheads South of Meeks Bay on Highway 89 along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.

We can hike from Meeks Bay to either as a nice little North Desolation Wilderness backpacking trip, or we can hike a loop starting out of either Eagle Falls or Bayview Camp that hikes around Fontanillis and Middle Velma Lakes before returning to the trailhead.

The climb out of Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp Trailheads is considerably steeper than the climb out of Meeks Bay, but much shorter in length.

The second trail junction South of Middle Velma Lake leading Northeast to Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp Trailheads is 12.69 miles South of the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

From that trail junction it is 3.89 miles to either Eagle Falls or Bayview Camp Trailheads, for a total length of 16.58 miles. Check out the diagram above in conjunction with the Meeks Bay Trailhead Map.

These are the closest trailheads we can run a point-to-point
backpacking trip South out of Meeks Bay.

Check out the
SPECIFICS
of the
Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp
LOOP OPTIONS
on the
Phipps Pass to Heather Lake Map

North Desolation Wilderness Backpacking Loop
Hiking West from Middle Velma Lake we follow the Velma Lakes Trail out to Camper Flat. From Camper Flat we can hike South through Rockbound Valley crossing Mosquito Pass to the junction with the combined PCT-TYT on the North Shore of Lake Aloha.

This segment of trail paralleling the PCT-TYT to the West from Camper Flat South through Rockbound Valley can compose the "turnaround leg " of grand Desolation Wilderness backpacking loops starting from any of the trailheads surrounding Desolation Wilderness.

Check out the South Desolation Wilderness Map, which shows the Eastern Leg of this backpacking loop through Rockbound Valley via Camper Flat and the Eastern Leg of our potential loop using the TYT from the North Shore of Lake Aloha to Middle Velma Lake.

Also inspect the massive Full Desolation Wilderness Map to understand how this loop in North-Central of Desolation Wilderness is situated in context of surrounding trailhead access, including those from the West administered by the El Dorado National Forest.

Desolation Wilderness Map Index

Desolation Wilderness Permits

Western Access
El Dorado NF Permits

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

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Previous Page: FINDING Meeks Bay Trail Head           top of page         Hiking South: Desolation trail junction

Let's get Started!

Making Our

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Hiking Plan

Principals and Practices for Successful Planning Complex Long Distance Backpacking Trips

The Preliminaries
ATMOSPHERICS

THIS YEAR
2017

April 21, 2017
Update

April 1, 2017 BACKPACKER ALERT:
In force through May??

Always review conditions and weather.

 

March 22

Prospects
2017 has decisively broken the last six year's (excluding last year) increasingly earlier and earlier Spring Thaw and High Sierra trail opening dates.

Last few year's weather characterizations

Steady flows of tropical rains from November through February deposited a record snow pack while overfilling and flooding many reservoirs, lakes, and rivers. Oroville Dam is not out of risk at the time of this writing in late March.

High Sierra News: Feb-March 2017

High Sierra News: Dec 2016-Jan 2017

DANGEROUS SPRING THAW
At this point we are looking at the potential for incredibly dangerous Spring Thaw conditions when the thaw begins in earnest. The main rivers and streams will not be crossable during this phase. The potential for warm rains or a heat wave bringing a catastrophic thaw and flooding conditions still exists generally across California and locally, in all the individual Sierra Watersheds.

March 22 2017 Backpacker Alert
Spring Status and Disposition factors

February 2017 Backpacker Alert

SNOW ON THE CREST
In the meantime, ski resorts along the Sierra Crest are planning on being open until July 4. This is indicative of how much snow they believe could be on the Crest long past the point most PCT hikers are going to be expecting clear trails.

The trails through the high passes along the Sierra Crestline may not clear of snow until August, if at all. This depends on exactly how the weather and temps work out through Spring.

I've discussed the basic factors controlling our
likely weather outcomes on March 8.

March 18 Update

NEW EXPECTATIONS
PCT hiker expectations of an early start and an early passage through the Sierra should be moderated, if not dashed, right now. Unless you are very experienced traveling in very difficult Spring snow conditions.
Current conditions should create expectations that the Sierra will not be passable for Summertime-geared hikers, and especially those deploying ultralight gear, until at least mid-July for those without snow travel skills and the proper snow gear.

Right now I would say that this upcoming hiking year is going to set records for the number of PCT hikers requiring rescue...

2017 Backpacker's Calendar

 

2016

Backpacker Alert
2016 Backpacking Tracking

A fairly normal Winter and typical, if a bit early opening date for Sierra Trails

compare
2016 Backpacker's Calendar

 

 

2015
Addition to the Hiker's Planning Toolbox
is
Fire Awareness

Image of FLAMES. FIRE Image of FLAMES.

Looking at The Dry Sky

The consolidation of fierce fire conditions after four years of record drought during the Summer of 2015 turns our attention to addressing growing safety concerns.

These intensifying fire conditions indicate High Sierra backpackers should have a "rolling fire plan" that observes for indications of fire while accounting for potential escape routes as we cross drainages.

2015

2015 Backpacker's Calendar

New
Fall 2015 Backpacker's Alert

The High Sierra Backpacker's "Personal" Fire Plan

All Backpacker Alerts

Fire and Smoke
INFORMATION
CalFire InciWeb

California Smoke Information


High Sierra Weather Information

Monitoring Seasonal Transitions
Weather information and awareness are vital. We use a number of different tools to monitor Winter Weather in the Sierra. We are mainly focused on the progression from Winter's depths through the Spring Thaw into full Summertime conditions to inform Summertime backpackers.

Our goal is to ascertain the unique progression of each year's Spring snow backpacking conditions into Summer's open trails, follow the declining Sun and temperatures through late Summer into Fall, and finally back into the depths of Winter, when Nature begins charging-up the cycle again.

Ascertaining Seasonal Character and Trends
These same observations of the "opening" of High Sierra Summer conditions give us insight into the evolution of each season's unique character and emergent trends. These observations inform our departure date and establish our temperature and trail conditions expectations. The evolution of High Sierra trail conditions out of Spring to when they open for Summer hikers is especially vital for PCT hikers. PCT hikers need to properly time their border-departure date with the expected opening of the High Sierra Trails and their arrival at the foot of the South Sierra.

All of these weather trend observations are vital for backpackers to properly time their departure dates and tune gear selection to conditions in the sky and on the ground.

Adjusting the Backpacker
The alignment of our planned and expected departure date with the actual conditions in the sky and on the ground may become important. The Sierra does not act for, nor fit itself into human expectations. The Sierra does what it does, and either we are ready, or we are not. Trips planned with start dates in May and June are especially dependent on cooperative atmospheric trends.

Only careful observation and analysis of the weather and its trends will balance our trip's plans and our personal expectations with the actual realities we will experience in the sky and on the ground during our trip dates.

Traditions, Trends, and Traps
The snowpack has not traditionally cleared from the high passes along the Sierra Crest Trails until mid-July. The steady trend of earlier and earlier High Sierra Trail opening dates over last 40 years have been gradually changing backpackpacker's expectations.
The slow trend of the High Sierra Trails opening earlier and earlier have been significantly accelerated by our last 4 years of exceptional drought.

Trends
The slow change in the seasonal weather patterns coupled with the virtual lack of any snow over the last 4 years have worked together to create the unreasonable and unsafe expectation in many backpacker's minds that the Sierra clears of Spring Snows in May! It does not.

Traps
Expecting clear trails in May will be a very unpleasant expectation when the current trend of early Spring Thaws finally "reverts to the mean," and we again have episodes of very heavy snow falls in May and June.
Despite the steady pushing of the Fall and Spring Sierra Seasons into Winter and the significant lengthening of Summertime over the last forty years, I know that we will still experience our "traditional" seasons in the High Sierra. We will just experience our traditional weather patterns much less frequently along a trend line rapidly pushing us to a whole new and different weather pattern.

Hot Mess
The Sierra does not reliably clear of snow and open in May, even now. The Sierra only clears of snow in May during times of emergency and serious a-historical conditions. We are "there." The North Pacific weather pattern controlling Sierra weather has been undergoing what I can only describe as a, "long slow-motion train wreck."

Current Trends
A slow but steady set of alterations to our North Pacific weather pattern have brought dramatic changes to every aspect of our historical High Sierra weather pattern. One of the main elements of change is the strong trend towards "Indian Summers," of warm and dry Fall-seasons stretching right into Winter. Fall's warming trend has been generally reinforced and complimented by the long term trend of weakening, shortening Winters, and this whole warming and drying trend has been consolidated by earlier and earlier Spring Thaws.

Winter has been slowly shortening over the past decades, and has virtually disappeared for at least the duration of our drought. It will return, and we must be ready when it does.

This new pattern has given many backpackers the impression and expectation that the High Sierra Trails open in May and close in November. They do not. Well, not reliably, which gives me concerns for the safety of early and late season backpackers. Snow in May and June during Spring should not be unexpected, nor should bouts of early-Winter snows falling in October be surprising.

Buyer Beware
These warmer and drier conditions we are experiencing earlier during Spring and later in Fall are still happening within a context of low or declining seasonal air temperatures. These conditions always bring the potential for serious snow storms.

This fact requires that we always enter Spring conditions knowing what the odds are that a late-season freak Winter/Spring storm could quickly lay down two feet of powder snow. This would cover our trail and radically change the look of the terrain and likely obscure our landmarks. Two feet of unexpected snow makes hiking very cold and very difficult. Even desperately difficult.

This is the source of both great risk and great pleasure for Backpackers who venture into the High Sierra during early Spring and late Fall. Be perfectly aware of them before departing.

Backpacker Be Ready
Hikers on the trail near and beyond October 1st and those on the trail before the 1st of July risk being caught out by early and late-season snow storms, respectively. The important point is that we know these are risky behaviors, that we monitor their likelihood of their occurrence, and that we prepare ourselves for unexpected worse-case weather trends.

High Sierra Weather Resources

Also see our Annual
High Sierra Calendar
to track the
Evolution of High Sierra Seasons

Planning
Long Distance High Sierra Backpacking

Identifying and Balancing the Factors of Success and Failure

Practical Goals
and
Fundamental Principals
Our first goal hiking out of the Meeks Bay Trailhead is to successfully pull off the 175.38 mile backpacking trip down the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite while staying safe, healthy and fit. This requires we be able to stay warm & dry, well-nourished & well fed, and well insulated and sheltered.

We previously discussed the
differences between the TYT and PCT routes South to Tuolumne Meadows.

The well-nourished and fed part of this equation requires excellent planning and logistics.
Being warm, dry, and properly sheltered is a function of good gear as much as having the knowledge and skills to anticipate weather conditions to properly select and deploy the gear we will need during our trip, especially if and when the winds and weather get going. Weather happens.

Once we have developed the skills, fitness, experience, and gear to successfully hike from Tahoe to Yosemite we will be fully fit, capable, and checked out for hiking the Tahoe to Whitney, the PCT, the AT, or any other long trail. But use caution. Once you put a foot on the trail you may never get off again!

COLD START
Reaching our long distance hiking goals from "scratch," beginning cold with no backpacking experience requires a bit of training, practice, and study. We must train our bodies, practice the backpacking arts, and study the patterns and behaviors of Nature, especially the weather. Everything is tuned to the weather. The mostly benign activities of the plants and animals* in the Sierra Nevada follow seasonal rhythms, but only the weather will kill you.

Most typically through lightening strikes and failed fordings, but improperly insulated hikers who are cold and tired die of exposure on a regular basis.

If we have backpacking experience, we must make it current. We must brush the rust off our skills, and recharge our physical fitness. All hikers should plan a series of increasingly longer and more difficult hikes to bring our field skills up to speed. We need to have a good understanding of our current comfortable backpacking capabilities long before we hit the trailhead.

Find Your Feet
These prep trips will be first designed to find our current levels of fitness and skills, and work out the bugs. This information will help us plan the correct series of evolving difficulty backpacking trips necessary to consolidate, then begin evolving our skills, fitness, experience and knowledge to the highest level of difficulty and pace appropriate, safe, and comfortable for each of us.

These trips will give us all the specific information about ourselves that we need to understand and plan long distance backpacking trips appropriate for our capacities.

Meeks Bay backpacking into Desolation Wilderness is a good place to get started on our personal program, starting the TYT, and finally beginning our Tahoe to Whitney hike.

All three, given enough time.

*If you sleep with your food a bear could kill you going for the food, though injury is more likely. I consider mishandling of food a "human caused" danger, and not inherent in the bear's activity or behaviors. At least not in the Sierra Nevada. Black Bears outside the Sierra Nevada behave differently in different places.

See
Camp and Trail Skills
Bear Culture

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Resupply Planning
General Outline & Strategy

We have three potential resupply points between Tahoe and Yosemite. Many times I hike the TYT I only use two of the three resupply points, by-passing the Northernmost Echo Lake Chalet. My rational for this is more social than practical, though practical too. Socially, I want to get the heck away from the crazy busy conditions at the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead and Echo Chalet as soon as possible.
As beautiful as Desolation Wilderness is, it is very crowded. The facilities at Lower Echo Lake are the center of that concentration of social access. I really want to hit some secluded trail after hiking across "Desolation" Wilderness!
I was once driven into Lower Echo Lake for a backpacking trip planned to hike North into Desolation during early Summer. As soon as we pulled into the upper parking lot I asked my ride to bring me back out, to Echo Summit, as soon as I saw the crowds.

Desolation Wilderness gets crazy busy with backpackers.

I ended up hiking South to Lake Alpine from Echo Summit after seeing the crowds massing in the Desolation Wilderness parking area. These same crowds afford a degree of comfort to new backpackers. Desolation Wilderness is a good place to work out skills and fitness issues with a heck of a lot of folks around if you have a degree of discomfort being along in Nature.

You are never alone in Desolation Wilderness. I consider its name ironic.

And, the beauty of Desolation Wilderness remains intact, regardless of the max capacity crowds and culture surrounding its natural splendor. The permit and quota system maintains Desolation at its maximum capacity of traffic without suffering more degradation.

This is a fantastically beautiful Sierra landscape where rookie backpackers can evolve their backpacking skills close to easy bail-out options and with lots of company on the trails to provide a comforting environment. Desolation Wilderness is not just a great start for our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacking trip, but is a great place to begin High Sierra backpacking itself.

Desolation Wilderness is rookie backpacker heaven.

Echo Chalet is only 30 miles South of our TYT starting point out of Meeks Bay Trailhead, so this section of trail a great option for a warm up trip to get us ready for longer and longer runs down the Sierra Crestline.
Echo Chalet is also an optional resupply spot for all Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hikers, depending on our current carrying capacities, preferences, and goals. Yet the 42.28 miles from Echo Chalet to the Lake Alpine Lodge added to the 30 miles pushing our first resupply point out to 72.28 miles might be beyond the capacities or desires of many backpackers. It will be just right for others.

In either case the 15 lbs of food weight required for the unresupplied run down to Lake Alpine makes for a heavy pack weight starting out of Meeks Bay.

Echo Chalet's location North of our other two potential trailheads in the South Lake Tahoe Basin described on this trail guide makes it irrelevant for anyone hiking South out of them.

Those are the Echo Summit and South Upper Truckee Trailheads in the
Southwestern and most Southern parts of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

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ALT TRAILHEADS
Starting out of the Echo Summit or South Upper Truckee trailheads reduces the distance of our hike to Tuolumne Meadows by roughly 30 and 33 miles, respectively, than hiking South out of Meeks Bay. The trails out of the Echo Summit and the South Upper Truckee Trailheads are significantly less crowded than the trails hiking through Desolation during Summertime, especially the South Upper Truckee Trailhead.

Sadly, these other trailhead do not hike through the granite wonderland that is Desolation Wilderness. But they are very quiet and deeply forested trailheads and trails, when compared to Desolation Wilderness. The beauty is not less, but is a more subtle mix of forest, rock, meadow and valley.

Sections Between Resupply Points
Skipping Echo Chalet as a resupply point hiking South out of Meeks Bay puts the distance from Meeks Bay to our first resupply at the Lake Alpine Lodge at 67.6 miles along the route of the TYT. The distance from Lake Alpine to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is 34.57 miles, and the final leg of the TYT from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows measures out at 73.21 miles.

The last section of trail from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows is not just long, but it also presents a higher degree of physical difficulty than the previous sections of trail. We cross the Five Canyons of the North Yosemite Backcountry along this section of trail.

Notes on the Trans-Sierra Highways

Unmaintained Segments of the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
We must take the unmaintained segments of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail across the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness Areas into our accounting of what it will take to hike each section's miles. Unmaintained trails are much harder to hike and take significantly longer to cross than an equal distance of maintained trails. Even longer and harder if we cannot follow and stay on the optimal route.

Night and Day
Ironically, though the TYT begins in what is often the busiest Wilderness in the USA, Desolation Wilderness, it quickly passes into a couple of the most remote segments of the most remote wilderness areas in the Sierra Nevada. The change is like Night and Day. The Western edges of the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness are not anywhere as busy as the Desolation and Yosemite Wilderness Areas to their North and South, and their unmaintained segments along the TYT are quite isolated even during the peak of the Summer backpacking season.

Including Echo Chalet as a resupply spot breaks our first section down into 30 miles to Lower Echo Chalet from Meeks Bay Trailhead followed by 37 miles from Echo Chalet to the Lake Alpine Lodge. Otherwise it's 67.6 miles hiking South from Meek Bay to Lake Alpine, as mentioned above.

Heavy and Light
Using Echo Chalet to resupply keeps our pack weight low across our first section of trail, which will be important if our fitness and carrying capacity are not up to our highest potentials. We've got to match our plans to our level of fitness and experience, gradually increasing both. In this case using Echo Chalet to resupply keeps our pack weight down during our first days acclimating to the rigors of the trail. That's always nice.

The point here is that we've got the option of hiking South to Lake Alpine on one resupply or none. Starting out of the Southern Tahoe Basin Trailheads (Echo Summit and South Upper Truckee) eliminates Echo Chalet as a resupply option.

Each of these sections of trail between resupply points can be hiked as an excellent stand-alone backpacking trip. Hiking a section of the PCT or the maintained elements of the TYT across the North Sierra is a fantastic way to get our backpacking skills going, once we get our body and mind woken up a bit.

Easy Acclimation
Using this plan of evolving our skills through a series of shorter trips of increasing distance and difficulty will quickly ready us for the long trails along the Sierra Crest with the minimal amount of pain. We can begin with short trips within Desolation Wilderness and the South Tahoe Basin, then expand our distance capacity sufficiently to first span the shorter sections of trail between resupply points, then the longer.

This is a good way to begin approaching all long trails, including
the TWT, TYT, the PCT, CDT, or AT.

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PRACTICAL
External and Internal Constraints
of Resupply Planning
Time, Distance, Food Density, and Weight
HOW ARE WE GOING TO PLAN THIS?
STANDARDS
We've a pressing need to figure out a good resupply plan that will nourish us properly over the six weeks (or so) it takes us to cross the distances between all of our resupply spots from Tahoe to Whitney. We don't want to carry too much, nor too little food between resupply points.

How much food we need is determined by how many days it takes us to hike each section, which is determined by how many miles we can walk every day, over a series of days.

The nature of today's culture dictates that most people's backpacking trips are taken with emphasis on, and within restricted time constraints. We have a certain number of "days" we can get away, so our trips must fit within these time constraints. Thus our trip distance is the product of the number of days we have times the number of daily miles we are capable of crossing each day. I'm not a big fan of this approach, but you've got to do what you've got to do to get what you need...

Let's say we can string together the time necessary to hike from Tahoe to Whitney. Or our desired sections of trail. From five to fifty days.

In that case the constraints of our planning are our expectations about the nature of the trip we want to have between each resupply point. First, our plans must be within the constraints of our capacities and experience. This requires we know our capabilities. We cannot make good plans unless we understand our capacities.

Thus we execute a series of training trips.

Once we got that covered, I prefer to divide the overall distance of the backpacking trip I want to hike by the number of miles I want to hike each day, then modify that number within the practical constraints of the terrain, the distance between resupply points, and the food and gear weight, including the food brought for potential days off in sweet locations, some planned scrambles to explore the terrain, and emergencies. Oh, and staying at my favorite campsites along the way.

That's the logic I prefer to use planning my backpacking trips, if circumstances permit. This approach gives us a lot of flexibility both planning and executing trips.

Our social-work-"real-world" time constraints may deny us the time necessary to hike the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, let alone hiking the Sierra Crest from Tahoe to Whitney. Thus we are thankful we can section hike and hike fantastic loops in the North and South Sierra.

Contradictions
&
Capacity

Planning for the Longest
TYT Section between Resupply Points
15 MPD

Planning Specifics
OK, now that we've got our trip-planning logic matched to the trips we have time for, we've got to make sure that we can handle the requirements our hiking plan puts on our level of fitness across the longest and most difficult length of trail between resupply points on our Tahoe to Yosemite backpacking trip.

That's the 73.21 mile section from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Tuolumne Meadows. Let's round this up to 75 for convenience.

First, let's look at the Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows section "structurally." By "structure" I mean looking at the physical outline of the trail in terms of miles and difficulty against some typical levels of backpacker performance.

The Structure
The "M," being the number of hiking miles per day we can sustain for "D," the number of days we can hike those miles determines "TD," the total days it will take us to cross this 75 mile section. Our "D," the number of hiking days is then multiplied by the weight of each day's food to determine our final pack weight.

This means the distance of any trip is divided by our "M" to find its "D," which is then multiplied by the weight of one day's food to ascertain the starting weight of our pack.

Our Capacity
7.5 miles per day
If the maximum daily miles we can hike is 7.5 miles per day, and this is a hard section, and each day's food weighs 2.5 lbs a day, then our 7.5 miles per day requires 10 of hiking. Ten days of hiking requires we carry 25 pounds of food. Most of us will struggle and suffer badly carrying the weight of a ten day trip cross this long, difficult section of trail.

Our Capacity
10 miles per day
If the maximum daily miles we can hike is 10 miles per day, then our 7.5 days of hiking will require we carry 18.75 lbs of food. Most of us will exhibit various degrees of stress and strain carrying the weight of a seven-point-five day trip cross this long, difficult section of trail.

Going slow will not help us. The extra weight required will punish us.

The 18.75 lbs of a hike of 7.5 day's duration is still punishing.

Our Capacity
15 miles per day
You might not think that 15 a day is a merciful pace. But it is.
The distance from KM to TM takes 5 days if we can sustain 15 miles per day. This brings our food weight down to 12.5 pounds, still heavy, but much more manageable than the 25 pounds required for a ten day passage.

We are trading a considerable increase in hiking distance for a considerable reduction in pack weight. I consider this as a very productive trade-off, in that it is responsive to our adjustments. We can lighten-up our pack for the "lightening" runs, and fill it up for our more leisurely strolls.

The Central Contradiction
All backpacking reflects the contradiction between our pace, the weight of our pack, and the duration of our trip. The heavier our pack the slower our pace can be, but a longer duration of trip will be necessary for the same distance.

The lighter our pack the faster our pace can and must be, to attain higher miles per day,
to shorten the duration of our trip.

Two Sides of the Same
BACKPACKER
Now, if we are planning on joining the heavy-side we have to assess our carrying-capacity, our ability to endure under heavy loading conditions, especially when crossing difficulty terrain. We need to know our strength and level of fitness are sufficient for the steep terrain under heavy load.

On the light-side we must assess if our aerobic and endurance capabilities are sufficient to maintain 15 mpd for five and a half days crossing the 75 miles dividing Kennedy Meadows from Tuolumne Meadows.

Hard Trails
The maps of this section of trail reveal the very challenging set of climbs and descents crossing the Five Canyons in the heart of the North Yosemite Backcounty. The hike approaching this most difficult segment of trail out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is one of our major climbs back to the Sierra Crestline from lower elevations along the Western Flank. Let's take a closer look.

Measuring the miles and elevations of our climbs and descents marks this out as a
very difficult section of trail. We climb from 6400 feet of elevation at Kennedy Meadows to 9760 miles crossing Brown Bear Pass over a little less than 11 miles.

North Yosemite Backcountry
Once we begin crossing the North Yosemite Backcountry we find a closely spaced series of difficult steep ascents and bone-rattling descents into the series of deep canyons dividing this set of massive ridges running off the West Flank of the Sierra wrapping around the North end of Yosemite National Park.

This section is noted as the "Washboard," and "The Five Canyons" of the North Yosemite Backcountry. It is formidable terrain. OK, now we know that our longest 75 mile section of trail is also very physically demanding.

A Difficult Section
The Hardest Section of the TYT-PCT
The hardest segment of the trail from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows begins in earnest where we hike East out of Jack Main Canyon beginning our 34.51 mile hike across the "Washboard," ending where we climb out of Virginia Canyon into the top of Cold Canyon. From the top of Cold Canyon it's a big downhill run to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp.

It is a Hard-2 trail to get up and into Jack Main Canyon hiking South from
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. The trail South out of Jack Main Canyon to the top of Cold Canyon across the North Yosemite Backcountry achieves our highest rating of Hard-1.

Hardest Section between Tahoe and Whitney
Our trip planning/map review will identify the character of this whole 73 mile section trail from Highways 108 to 120 as difficult, with this 34.51 segment of trail from Jack Main Canyon to the top of Cold Canyon as the hardest degree of High Sierra trail difficulty, and the physically hardest segment of trail along the whole length of the Tahoe to Yosemite, John Muir, and Pacific Crest Trails between Tahoe and Whitney, in my opinion.

The difficult nature of this section of trail establishes that we will suffer terribly if our trip plan exceeds our physical capabilities by too much, or if we make the most common of rookie mistakes.

Prep Trip Evaluation
We have a need to establish and verify that our capabilities are sufficient for our objectives, and at least determine the sustained miles we are capable of hiking, as well as the food and gear necessary to support and maintain our pace before we plan or try to execute this difficult section of trail.

These needs suggest the utility of a couple of local prep trips for rookie backpackers to establish their capacities, and maybe a couple of short Sierra prep trips for experienced backpackers who have gotten out of shape and practice.

Just what are we shooting for with our training and prep trips?

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Standard Time, Distance and Weight Capacities
15 MPD with Proper Gear

Yup, it's 15 mpd. I consider the ability to hike 15 miles per day over a five day span at high altitude in steep High Sierra mountain terrain the minimum distance and time standard capacity for safe and successful long distance backpackers. This is a level of fitness. It requires the capacity to hike 75 miles over five-day week.
This capacity allows us to cross long distances between resupply points without being required to carry excessive food weight for extended periods of time. Unless you want to, and can hike heavy and slow.

Making 15 miles a day through this 75 mile long section of trail over five days requires excellent fitness, or intermediate fitness and a higher degree of suffering. I would prefer to structure this section of trail from Highways 108 to 120 on a 5 day, 15 mpd basic schedule to maintain low food weight. But that might be kind of crazy.

I always advocate carrying an extra day's food as we will see in the food section below. My rational is that I've hiked so far, long, and hard to get into the middle of "nowhere" that I am going to have the food to give me the time to kick back and enjoy it.

We will also discuss this in the food section, but suffice to say that our extra day of food will give us slack on the trail if we are not as fit as possible, and slack to explore more, and take full advantage of the fitness we do have.

The bottom line is that if we show up at our starting trailhead ready to roll out 15 miles per day as we reach acclimation, we have arrived with the physical resources necessary to succeed.

Let's Roll
If our fitness is an ornament to the correct gear we selected, compliments our solid logistics, and reflects the wisdom of our evolving experience, we are ready to roll!

Weight Capacity

Having the capacity to carry heavy weight is important over the length of this 75 mile section, and will become even more important over the much longer 130 miles separating our last resupply point at Muir Ranch from the end of our trail through Whitney Portal.

I figure the distance from Muir to the Portal is at least 130 miles for us after we visit Darwin Bench, do some scrambling around upper Evolution Basin, and explore Center Basin. There are lots of cool places to explore along the John Muir Trail with our extra days of food.

We can get by with lower physical standards hiking the section from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows, but we will have a very difficult time carrying the weight of our pack from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal if our range is only 10 miles per day. Ten miles per day means that the 13 days of food we would have to pack will make the weight of our packs quite unpleasant.

Therefore it is it vitally important that we are capable of maintaining our 15 mpd pace over the nine days (+/-) hiking the section from Muir to Whitney, but we are going to have to do it while carrying a heavy pack by anyone's definition of heavy.

Even by my crazy standards, and by the military's even crazier standards, too.

Lightweight backpackers cry when they see my pack... Marines laugh knowingly.

Quotes from Mountain Trainers

A great Marine Quote:

"Hump it Dude! Hump it"

Another favorite US Marine Quote:

"We're the ones who will scrape your dead frozen ass off a tree."

I loved that "dead tree hugger" quote. I was laughing when they told me that... I do Winter work around the East Carson River South to Leavitt Peak, so I sometimes run into Marines out there during my Winter expeditions. The next day one group I met drove their snow cat "thing" out searching for me to deliver hot coffee and skol!

There are some pretty cool Jarheads out there.

Just as one should adjust to backpacking gradually, so too should we gradually increase our carrying capacity, distance, duration, and speed capacities. Gradually increasing the length and duration of our prep trips gradually increases our pack weight. These heavy prep trips will encourage us to do our sit-ups and weight training, as well as our road work.

The mountains will bring you to your potential and/or to your knees.

Hell, its done both to me, repeatedly. Up and Down.

How We Roll
Hey, I'm not being critical about lightweight nor heavyweight backpackers. Each to their own. Each has its time and place. I've met (and been a) successful slow and heavy long distance backpacker. It's just that "slow and heavy" is a tough way to go! Backpackers should train for a productive balance between strength, endurance, and speed.

If you can't do the daily distance carrying the weight required for safety you must improve your capacity to carry heavier weight over longer distances and timespans. It is as simple as that.

Don't use lightweight gear to make up for your physical deficiencies. Train for the capacity and competence to carry everything that you need, then extend that capacity with lightweight gear. Don't put the cart before the horse.

WHY
Having the capacity to sustain 15 miles a day is sufficient to hike across the two longest sections of trail between Tahoe and Whitney. Both the 75 mile section of trail from Highway 108 to 120 and the 130 miles from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal demand our most close attention during planning, and not just for their extreme lengths.

Difficulty
The next question is "15 miles a day over what?" The section of trail from Highway 108 to Highway 120 is one of the two hardest sections of trail between Tahoe and Whitney, if not the hardest. Our even longer Muir Ranch to the Portal section is the other. These are both extremely difficult sections of trail, as well as being very long.

I believe the Five Canyons crossing the North Yosemite Backcountry is the most physically demanding segment of the Tahoe to Whitney Trails. The terrain across the section from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal is not as physically demanding, but covers a significantly longer distance. Duration makes up for sheer difficulty.

For difficulty due to length and terrain the Muir Ranch to Portal section is hardest, but the North Yos Backcountry contains the single most difficult segment of trail difficulty between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney. Well, that's how I rate them.

All Hard Trails
Though both of these two sections are exceptionally difficult, we cannot underestimate the high degree of difficulty that the "average" High Sierra trail presents. All of our trails between Tahoe and Whitney are difficult, steep, high altitude trails crossing remote terrain that present a number of objective and subjective dangers.

High Sierra Mountain Safety

Risk Analysis
Especially see Example of Risk Number
Disclaimer
Backpacking can Kill or Wound you

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Welcome to the
The Twilight Zone

Though we are focusing on the number of days we will be on the trail, the distance we must hike per day, and how these factors determine our food and total pack weight, the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route also has some serious route issues we must contend with.
The TYT contains two substantial lengths of unmaintained trail. Our workload per mile increases significantly on unmaintained routes, and our psychological and physical stresses and strains will radically increase if we are unable to stay on and follow the optimal line of the best route through these unmaintained sections.

We can get ourselves into real trouble if we are in sub-par fitness and get off-route along the unmaintained segments of the TYT. A heavy pack is also troublesome in unmaintained conditions. It is vitally important that backpackers on the unmaintained segments of the TYT have the fitness and route-finding skills required to maintain safety across these more challenging and difficult segments of the TYT.

Dangers of Hiking Unmaintained Trails

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Fitness Vs. Difficulty
The levels of fitness a backpacker approaches the Sierra Nevada with establishes the subjective level of difficulty they will experience on any particular trail. These intertwined levels of backpacker fitness and "objective" trail difficulty determine both the nature of the each backpacker's subjective experience, and the span of time they can maintain their efforts.

Our trip plan must be within our physical capacities and limits or it will fail.

Below the fundamental level of the "success vs. failure" of our trip is the quality of our subjective experience.

The Balance
of
Pain and Pleasure

The balance we craft between the external physical and navigational demands of the terrain against our resident internal physical and navigational capacities, balanced upon our personal expectations determine not just if our backpacking plan is feasible, but the nature of the subjective experience itself.
This balance between our expectations and reality determines just where the line between
pain and pleasure falls across our trip.

We can suffer greatly, get lost, and even die if we have mis-assessed our capabilities and skills for the level of difficulty of the unmaintained segments of the TYT. We can rise to, meet, and overcome great internal and external challenges if our trip is close enough, if not perfectly matched to our skills and fitness.

These intertwined time, distance, and difficulty parameters are the three most important external physical factors determining our planning and resupply planning needs, but the real key to balancing these external factors are each backpacker's internal physical capacities.

Each of us entertains psychological expectations that are wedged between the external demands of the environment and our internal physical capacities. Every backpacker has some sense of expectations about how the trip will work out.
The success of our expectations is dependent on how well we matched our trip selection and planning against our fitness and skills.

Three backpackers hiking with each other on the same trip can have very, very different experiences! One can be in full joy mode while the second is struggling along at capacity as the third is suffering terribly.

I want to be the one in full engagement mode. Therefore a series of prep trips to establish capacity, grow skills, and temper expectations to reality is a wise approach to building the physical, psychological, and experiential foundations for successfully planning and executing long distance backpacking trips.

Training with honest self-analysis shows us our capacities and guides our trip selection to properly balance the pains and pleasures of our backpacking trips within a reasonable set of expectations.

Bracketed somewhere between the pains and pleasures of our long walk through Nature lies the meaning of life. I certainly can't tell you what that is for you. But I can tell you where you can find it for yourself, and practices helpful for hunting it down for yourself.

I see the meaning of the life within me best when I can reflect the spirit of life in Nature around me. My backpacking research leads me to believe that the power of nature congregates within large, uninterrupted natural spaces, and that this power can be reflected and concentrated to revive and recharge the spirit of life in even the most damaged humans.

As I see it, all of our backpacking training and prep are to shake off the cobwebs from our natural abilities to engage with, and reflect the Spirit of Life in Nature. Part of this engagement is physical, part of it is psychological. Part of it is inside of you, the rest outside.

My goal is to get your physical and psychological reflective lens cleaned up and engaged reflecting Nature in a self-perpetuating manner while constructively balancing pain and pleasure.

It's all gravy after that.

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Training-Not Torture
I have seen many, many suffering backpackers on the PCT, JMT, and TYT.

One of the most common mistakes I have seen hundreds of times on the trail is that folks did not include breaking in their boots and preparing their feet for the high stresses and strains that working across 15 miles of hard terrain every day puts on them. Any little lack of preparing our feet and footwear for the duration and degree of stress they are going to endure assures some degree of suffering with blisters and sore feet.

Ass rash is another minor malady that can spoil our pain-pleasure balance. We may get a series of soft-skin rashes if our rubbing skin parts are not hardened to walking 15 miles a day. For some folks it's their armpits, others their crotch, some their butt cheeks. Lots of chicks have rubbing thighs that will torture them without proper prep.

Everyone has something soft that rubs the wrong way! Only training will tell what that is, and harden it for the trail.

Knee, hip, and shoulder pain are the common products of lack of use and training for each of these "backpacking joints." These are all unnecessary pains on the trail.

Worse-Case
The strain of a heavy pack cutting into soft shoulders is passed structurally through sore hips and knees down into our blistered feet. Every movement generates pain.
We can easily prevent all of these stresses if we bring our shoulders, hips, knees and feet all up to the level of exertion required by backpacking gradually, rather than just throwing ourselves out of the frying pan into the fire at the trailhead.

All of these issues should be confronted and mitigated on prep backpacking trips and through training.

Could Have, Would Have, Should Have...
We may very well be within our actual physical limits, but small lapses in planning to prepare our feet, knees, shoulders, hips, and bum for the cumulative effects of long-term backpacking repetition quickly turns what could have been a pleasurable trip painful.

The Vortex of Pain
These minor flesh, joint, and structural maladies can quickly combine to magnify the aerobic/metabolic strain we are already suffering under, all of which ultimately work together to multiply the "apparent," weight of our pack.
Everything seems heavier, harder, and more exhausting when blisters, ass rash, and/or aching knee, hip, and shoulder joints are simultaneously torturing us!

The freeking joy of backpacking!

Small physical issues that could have been easily mitigated by some prior prep training can shift our subjective experience on the trail from delightful to dreadful in an instant. Ironically, we may easily have had the capacity to perform the hike pain-free, if only we had trained and properly hardened ourselves for the tasks.

The stresses of backpacking can produce a huge amount of pain when applied "cold"
to soft bones, muscles, and tissues.

These are the reasons my pack is named HOPP, the Harness of Pain and Pleasure.

It is a Wise Proverb that says,
"Slowly boiled frogs stay for dinner."

Napoleon should have added feet and asses to the stomachs
that carry successful long-distance pack-carriers to their goals.

Long Term Planning
A good trip plan goes well beyond the logistics and difficulties of the trail to include our personal and physical preparation and training. We must be able to effectively burn the calories we carry, which means our planning must include prepping our heart, lungs, legs, and feet for the trail and the shoulders, back and hips for the pack.

The Art of Walking
The physical and psychological skills we discuss above are the fundamental elements of the Art of Walking. I have rough drafts of the Training and Art of Walking sections up, but I will not finish them until I've got the Guide and Forum substantially complete.

One of the greatest joys is the feeling of full engagement with Nature. The Art of Walking is the process of weaving the elements of our physical, "social," intellectual and spiritual perspectives into full and active engagement with the natural realities around us.

The bottom end of Full Engagement is exercising the capacity to find our feet the perfect stepping spots along the route while simultaneously keeping our moving position in the surrounding terrain on the optimal line of the route while fully observing the patterns of life, weather, and movement within the environment around us.

We were designed by nature to move over all terrains in all weather conditions while observing all factors surrounding us while chasing or being chased.

The Art of Walking is about bringing our self as close to full engagement with Nature across every aspect of our existence as possible. It is our very physical contact with the trail and its abstract reverberations. It is the fundamental layers of experience, observation and analysis we apply to each aspect of our existence. It is the sounds in, and the "feeling" of the air. It is our navigational awareness, it is matching our pulse to our pace, it is our awareness of every factor at play within and without us as we cross natural terrain.

Hiking through It is the goal, the beginning and the end.

It is the endless trail of Life.

Sierra Trails are portals into some of Life's most magnificent manifestations.

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FOOD
Planning and Logistics
The Basics
Food works out to weigh about two and a half to three pounds a day. This specifically depends on how many calories per day we need. A big dude is going to need significantly more calories than a little chick to be doing exactly the same distance over exactly the same time span. Both will need significant calories to maintain high work output over successive days and weeks on the trail, but the weight of food each needs for the same task will be considerably different.

Each hiker's weight, body type, metabolism, and level of fitness determines their specific food needs for various levels of daily mileage. Nonetheless, we all choose our specific menus, which determines how much a given number of calories weighs.

I maintain a rough 100 calories average energy content per ounce of food weight for my food. This means that one pound of food contains roughly 1600 calories, putting my daily food consumption of +/- 3200 calories at two pounds.

How many calories a day you need, and how much these calories weigh are going to determine how much your food and therefore your pack weighs across each section of trail between resupply points. I pack as dense high-calorie foods as possible, balanced by the need for fruits and fiber. This works out to an average of 100 calories per ounce of food carried.

The weight of our clothing, personal, survival, and cooking gear is consistent during each hiking season, and between resupply points along our route. Thus the weight of our food is the unique variable that determines our pack's final weight for each section of trail on a given trip.

Once we establish our food needs, set our hiking schedule, and get all of our gear established we can know what our pack will weigh starting each section of trail from Tahoe to Whitney before we even put a foot on the trail.

This weight represents our obligation to train or suffer. And, it gets better.

Extra Day's Food
My standard policy is to carry one extra day's food between resupply points for flexibility along the trail. One day's extra food provides two half-days off for rest, observation, climbing, or scrambling. I have a long list of locations along each section of trail demanding exploration.

Carrying an extra day's food allows us to spend two nights at one "base camp" location to pull off a major local scramble, to bag a local peak, or just to wander around a selected area for some basic understanding.
Or we can take two half-days off at two different locations, with us having a half-day's scrambling time at each. Or rest time. Time to observe. I know what you fisher-folk will be doing!

However you use it, Food is Time. Time is flexibility on the trail. Food is weight, and weight is pain.

Knowing that a little extra pain (food weight) can multiply our pleasures on the trail gives our training program even more meaning. Our training allows up to get much deeper into nature with much less pain per pound.

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HOPP
The Harness of Pleasure and Pain
AKA
My Backpack
My basic pack weight has hovered around 35lbs (+/-) without food or water for quite some time now. That is considered a "heavy" pack by the lightweight crowd. My Winter pack begins without food at 45 lbs, in case you were wondering. This is not all gear.

TRAIL GUIDE GEAR
Pack weights include a tripod, two cameras, extra batteries, solar charger, a day pack, and lots of note paper. I also carry an extra pair of light "tennis shoes," a tent, and most times a book or two. All that is in addition to my standard insulation, camp, and cooking gear.

I even carried a set of 35mm lenses for a while. The cowboys at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station say I'm a mule. I believe the expert balance of capacity, training, expectations, imagination, and pain management make anything possible.

More practically, I say carry what you need, need what you carry, and always have a bit of extra space in your pack for a little bit more. Call that your safety margin. Always design one into every aspect of your backpacking plans.

Four Season Gear List

THE ANNUAL CYCLE
As a Wintertime backpacker I've come to view the Summer trails as a type of training ground for Winter activities, therefore a heavy Summer pack is just the first step to Winter Joy. We'll soon be trotting up and down the Sierra Crest with that heavy bad boy Summer pack, muttering "Winter is Coming!," after not too much time on the trail.

We know life is good when we are trotting down Summertime High Sierra Trails chasing the thoughts of Winter travel right through Fall into the rigors of Winter... and it gets better.

We can lighten our gear and extend our snow trips as Winter breaks down into Spring, the days get longer, and the beauty of backpacking the High Sierra Spring snow pack crowns the promise of the upcoming thaw, and takes the measure of the potential upcoming blooming of the Engine of Life that is Spring in the High Sierra.

FOOD COMPONENT
Once I get done packing all my snacks, hot drinks, and tasty "extras" that I deeply enjoy on the trail, my one day food weight can run up to 3 pounds, and pack over 4000 calories. So I generally call it 15 pounds for a five day food supply.

Tailor your daily food supply to your specific physical needs and pleasures, and make its weight consistent and reasonably predictable for each day.

FINAL WEIGHT
3 lbs of food per day over 5 days packed into my 35 lb pack puts my typical KM to TM pack weight at 50 lbs. This will be carried over 75 miles in a standard five day crossing. This will make for fairly long hiking days, with little slack. If we pack six days of food we be able to take a full day, or a couple of half-days off, giving us a bunch of time to study, and soak in the nature of the terrain much more closely.

YOUR RIG
What's your gear-only pack weight? What's your "Poundage Per Day" of food perfect for you? What will your pack weigh with the five days of food necessary to hike from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows? Adding an extra sixth day of food?

The bottom line here is "bring what you need, need what you bring," and "don't exceed your carrying capacity." Getting need and capacity balanced and squared away requires figuring out our current capacities and applying the training through practice trips required to understand what it will take to successfully complete the hardest section of our trail.

MY RIG
Again, my fifty pound pack is considered very heavy. It requires training and prep to carry without excessive pain. Without training pace is restricted, pain unleashed. Your pack should not weigh as much as mine, either proportionally to your weight, or in real weight. But, my pack weight is not so much a specific weight as it is an approach to backpacking.

We confront the demands of backpacking directly with strength through training, not by diminishing our load.

I am looking to constantly improve my carrying capacity. Well, at least preserve my capacity to occasionally reach the potential I have. I am a Mule. Your range of goals is dependent upon your perspective and expectations. You must adjust your plans to suit your carrying capacity, as well as who, and what you are, in terms of moving logically towards who and what you want to be.

Finding either brings the other. Both are measured from Nature's standards.

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Altitude Acclimation
Dealing With
and
Avoiding Bad Starts

Backpackers commonly experience three negative responses during the beginning & early stages of acclimation to High Sierra backpacking. I've seen many well-conditioned backpackers experience stomach discomfort and lose their hunger, get fierce headaches, and get locked up by constipation during the early stages of high altitude Sierra backpacking trips.

I put the line where elevation altitude problems begin at 7000 feet. This is the altitude where work is noticeably more difficult and our bodies automatically begin acclimating.

I've lost my own hunger on the first days of a Sierra hike, gotten a headache that could knock down the mule, and become locked up like Fort Knox, completely constipated, all while making a difficult transition from city to natural environment.
Altitude acclimation problems are a big "Ace of Spades" sign warning us to mitigate our workload and carefully monitor the progress of our physical status under the reduced load.

Altitude effect phenomena are not at all uncommon. My remedy for the latter, for constipation, has been to start the trail diet a few days before hitting the trail. Overall, I find that being well-trained, well-rested, and well-hydrated before hitting the trail reduces the impact of acclimation that kills hunger, constipates the bowel, and aches the head.

A night or two at high altitude without work, such as camping at our high altitude trailhead the night before starting our trip, helps the body adjust to altitude before putting it under stress.

Mayo Clinic, Prep for Altitude, pdf.

Altitude alone is a significant hazard. Altitude amplified by hard work under a heavy pack up a steep Sierra climb during a heat wave is a significant shot to the metabolic balance of even the fittest backpacker.

The interface between Objective and Subjective Hazards
I look at altitude acclimation as an Objective Danger who's specific impact is Subjectively experienced. This means each of our unique transitions to altitude acclimation must be accurately assessed during the first days of every trip above 7000 feet of elevation. Each acclimation episode is different for the same person because our fitness and capacities change.

I put altitude acclimation and blisters into the same category. Most times neither bother me, until they do. Thus we will monitor both, along with every other health and safety factor involved in our adjustment to the increased altitude and work load. It is far better to prevent problems with a little forethought and planning than experiencing breakdowns through ignorance.

In practical terms this means if we were planning on hiking ten miles the first day of our trip we would acknowledge the possibility of cutting down to seven miles, or even less, if our our acclimation is harsh. It happens. The fact is that we will experience both hard acclimation and soft feet, if we spend enough time on the trail. With enough time, all the things that can happen on the trail will happen on the trail, both good and bad.

16 Things at Once Altitude Forum

Respond to Circumstances
In cases of reduced hunger, headache, and/or constipation backpackers must adjust/reduce their pace as much as possible until the condition passes. The most dangerous condition is the altitude-affected backpacker. They must be monitored. If the headache-lack of hunger and weakness persists or worsens I suggest bringing the affected hiker down to low altitude as quickly as possible, and for a medical check-out if symptoms persist at lower altitude.

Most hikers pass though a brief one or two day period of hard adjustment, then continue to slowly improve acclimation over the succeeding weeks. A very few hikers will be seriously compromised, and will have to either stop or retreat to recover.

A Dangerous Degradation
Though fairly rare in the High Sierra Nevada, full-blown altitude sickness can kill. The key is not to press yourself during acclimation. Take a "zero day" if you are experiencing a harsh transition to altitude. Proceed the next day if you've recovered, retreat if you are still badly compromised.

Backpackers who are altitude affected to a lesser degree and continuing down the trail will find their observation, physical self-control (balance), and decision-making can be compromised. We must be aware of this degradation in our self-awareness, and offset it with razor-sharp accurate observations of our status.

Self awareness is the Solo Backpacker's best friend.

Self and situational awareness are every backpacker's best friend!

Changing Capacities
The effects of altitude not only reduces the bounds of our capacity, putting our ability to "stay within ourselves" to the test by reducing our physical strength and endurance, but even more dangerous is the reduction in the effectiveness and accuracy of our observations and analysis.

Losing our good judgment and excellent decision-making skills can get us into real trouble. Especially when a "bad head" is sitting atop a weakened body.

Staying within Ourselves
Our ability to "stay within ourselves" is dependent on our ability to accurately monitor and ascertain the extent of our ever changing capacities. These assessments guide wise adjustments to our pace, controlling our daily level of exertion to preserve our ability to completely recover each night for the next day's work.

While working at high altitudes climbing high angles carrying heavy weight.

We must be able to accurately assess our own level of degradation and reduced capacity so we can properly adjust our output to compensate for our changing physical status.

This assessment can become difficult when our awareness and observation skills are degraded by a harsh combination of altitude, overwork, and fatigue.

The object of our inquiry is, "can we get ourselves (or our hiking partner) safely through this harsh transition by slowing down? Must we hunker down to rest, or does the condition merit retreat?

Making the correct decision is vital, especially when we are subjecting ourselves to heavy internal and environmental stresses. We will learn how to juggle fire quickly if we find ourselves suffering altitude acclimation woes while blisters, rashes, and aching joints all begin howling at once like a pack of coyotes.

16 Things at Once

RECOVERY
From the point in time and space we make a basic physical recovery from the worse effects of altitude degradation/headache/constipation we will need to figure out how to re-jigger our schedule to make up for the loss of miles during the period of our stressful acclimation.

From that point how we catch up with our increased daily mileage requirements will be be limited by the trajectory of our physical recovery from the initial altitude shock. Our pace and the number of hours we can hold it on the trail over a series of days are a basic function of our level of fitness and our acclimation to altitude.

The good thing is that we find that our daily trail time and pace both increase with each day we spend on the trail. Not only does our acclimation increase, but our pack weight decreases by up to 3 pounds of food consumed per day.

Start Slow-Finish Strong
That's why it is a good idea to plan the first few days of our trips at lower miles than our known capacity. We need to write in some room on our schedule for adjustment and acclimation to the hard work at altitude and to recover from potential initial physical strains.

Comments, Questions, Share Experiences

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What is Success?
Success is Good Decisions
For me a successful trip is not reaching any particular destination, but making the correct decisions for the situation.

I say success is bringing together our ability to accurately self-monitor our own condition and capacities, accurately observe the environment, and bring our internal and external observations together by making good decisions suiting the mundane, the exceptional, and especially any critical situations we find ourselves in.
In a broader sense success is being fully aware of the specific trajectory of our physical status in reference to our objectives over the duration of our backpacking trip. Are we evolving or are we devolving?

Backpacking is a continuum of on the trail decisions balancing the brutal but mundane daily formula of, "hiking hours (per day) times miles (per hour) divided by our rate of exhaustion that this pace induces times the number of days we must sustain it."

There is a variation of this formula where we strengthen each day:

Our basic formula of hiking hours times miles per day is next multiplied by our daily strengthening, rather than divided by our daily rate of exhaustion, as in the first formula above.

I don't really expect you to write out and calculate formulas. I do expect you to be able to visualize and precisely track the balance between the distances and climbs we face against our personal reserve of energy, and most effectively balance them as we hike down the trail.

We discuss the nitty-gritty of our daily hiking plan below.

This formula tells us that our daily energy output induces a daily rate of exhaustion, which is multiplied by our number of days on the trail. The sum total of our daily rate of exhaustion must not exceed our total energy available over the length of our section.

I am constantly looking at the Sun for the time, at the mountain for the distance remaining up to the top, down the range to our series of remaining daily climbs and nightly campsites, and into myself to measure how well my remaining energy will cover the remaining segments of this section of trail.

Besides our mundane pace decisions we must occasionally make exciting route, fording, and sometimes even make instant decisions in critical situations when things go wrong.

Our mundane decisions about pace, daily hiking duration, and the timing of our breaks and daily meals determines the trajectory of our level of fatigue as we hike down the trail. These mundane decisions either keep us within, or put us outside our physical limits. If we are pushing ourselves beyond our limits we are entering the mental zone where decision making distorted by exhaustion can put us in danger.

Vortex of Doom
I cannot stress strongly enough that we are constantly making decisions that can potentially hike us into heaps of trouble or keep us safe. In either case it is our awareness that the implications of our decision-making creates the physical conditions and the mental space we are going to live within.

Bad decisions can put us in physical and psychological states of exhaustion and stress where we continue making bad decisions. Each bad decision leads naturally to the next bad decision, which compounds one upon the other into a classic example of the Vortex of Doom.

Spinning In
A classic example of bad decision making is to start a Spring or Fall trip with weak fitness and thin gear, followed by getting caught-out by unexpected snow or rain. Stress at the snow and wetness spurs overwork and dehydration, which contributes to insufficient food intake. These stress and strains degrade analysis sufficiently to contribute to bad route-finding decisions, which gets us lost.

Now we are cold, wet, tired and lost.

Climbing Back Out
This puts us at great risk if we cannot construct an excellent warm protective shelter within which we can warm up and recover our energy, get a bunch of good food and lots of water into us, and rest and recover our warmth and our observation, analysis, and decision-making skills sufficiently to navigate our way back to civilization.

A Successful Backpacking Trip
A successful trip is great decision making that keeps us out of the Vortex of Doom,
if not allowing us to climb back out of the Vortex after getting sucked in.

Most times our mundane backpacking decisions bring us to our destination. Other times our internal circumstances demand we take a break or change our pace in the face of exhaustion, acclimation, or injury.
Other times external circumstances demand we alter our route to get around dangerous fords or damaged trails, or even seek alternative destinations against fire closures, or even to avoid overcrowded trails.

Sometimes success requires a route modification, other times it demands a retreat.
To me success is all those outcomes, as dictated by our responding effectively to the logic and demands of our circumstances.

Finding
Happy Trails
"Success" ultimately comes down to individual expectations, which depends on each backpacker's standards and values. The definition of "success" should not include too much pain! The simple fact is that if you did not come prepared with the tools to succeed you will suffer. This comes down to a lack of basic physical fitness, most times, but can also be tracked to other failures of preparation, gear selection, or skills.

Not breaking in your feet and boots is another primary source of backpacker failure, with joint pain coming in a close second. Many folks do not realize that the basic mechanics of walking 15 miles a day puts tremendous strain on all locomotive joints, and irritates all soft skin that rubs.

Our feet, joints, and even our skin must be brought to the level of endurance and exertion demanded by High Sierra trails slowly, over time, with gradually increased work, over longer durations, under gradually increased loading.

My view of success is safety, coming out alive and in one piece, if possible. I'm pretty cautious. My ultimate standard for achieving "success" is not a particular "goal," but success is based on making accurate observations, deploying razor-sharp self-analysis, and making the correct decisions as my condition degrades, improves, and degrades again.

The values of my terms of "success" are based on survival and perpetuation of the conscious reflection of the natural environment, not getting to a particular location within it.

That'd be you and me making it through the experience.

Success is excellent observation guiding correct decisions maintaining observer and observed in long term balance and communication.

We can call it "not getting squished by Nature."

The Sierra Nevada is at least a Cathedral of the Church of Nature, a little bit of heaven on Earth.
To me it's Rome, but I'm a homer.

My goal is to visit, get as close to the alter as possible, and come back with all my parts intact.

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Internal
Constraints and Capacities

The effectiveness of our trip and resupply plans are dependent on the accuracy and honestly of our self-assessments about our capacity for repeated high daily miles over weeks based on our current level of fitness. That's where our trip planning proves its success or failure.

In excellent condition I will quickly establish 15 miles per day as my basic distance, and be able to exert great flexibility in reducing or expanding daily miles as required or desired.
In poor condition I will plan on a slow transition from 7 to 15 mpd over the length of the first section of trail to our first resupply point, and I know I will not have a great deal of flexibility to increase daily miles.

A day or two off might be required to properly recover after finishing the first section of our route if we start our trip in poor physical conditioning. If you think you are tired after a five-day work week at your normal job, wait until you finish five days hiking 75 miles at high elevation along the Sierra Crest trails with a too-heavy pack!

Accurately matching our hiking plans to our capacities is vitally important.

Deriving our Trip and Resupply Plan

The first steps of deriving our actual trip plan is to begin with the external approach. We figure out and divide the distance between resupply point by the number of days we have. This gives us a rough miles per day figure. We then modify our initial figure by the level of difficulty of each day hiking the route to derive our first real estimate of our required daily miles.

The next step is to contrast our true internal physical capacities and fitness against the miles we are supposed to cover, and adjust our daily miles total to one achievable from our current level of physical fitness.
At that point we can start to honestly assess how we are going to "feel," how our psychological expectations are going to be contrasted against the physical realities that these daily miles are actually going to impose on our minds and bodies.

If we planned everything correctly we will be able to "stay within ourselves," to maintain our daily miles over the duration of the trip without excessive pain, increasing weakness, and the threat of exhaustion and injury hanging over our heads. We will blossom under the pressure, growing stronger rather than folding like a lawn chair.

The outcome of the trip itself informs us if we are ready for more miles on the trail or need more training at home, and more short prep trips to harden us up sufficiently for the long trails.

The Endurance Factor
Our resupply plan depends on our assumptions about the number of daily miles we can hike over a given number of days between our resupply points and/or with days off, which will determine the total number of days between resupply points.

Our resupply plan is our statement about our assumptions, expectations, and capacities. It behooves us to get it right.

Resupply Planning Resupply Points

Figuring out how much food we need every day, how much weight we can comfortably carry over how many miles, and how long we can do it are the proper roles for our preparatory trips. Our basic capacities should be known facts when we arrive at the Meeks Bay Trailhead starting our long hike South to Mount Whitney.

We should not be planning long backpacking trips if we are not sure about our personal food and rest requirements and our strength and endurance capacities. We should be running a set of short trips to accurately ascertain the status of both our food, shelter, and insulation requirements against our mileage and endurance capacities.

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THE
NITTY-GRITTY

Days between Resupply Points

Hours Per Day/Miles Per Hour/Miles per Day

Consider that the length of the effective hiking day during the month of July is 14 and 3/4 hours. Consider holding a 2 mph average over those 14 and 3/4 hours. That's 29.5 miles. Yeah, sure. Now let's be reasonable.

The basic consideration about the length of our hiking day is our base level of fitness. Very few people can hit the trail and do 2 mph for almost 15 hours on a flat surface, let alone up high angles on high altitude Sierra Mountains with a heavy pack day after day.

Background Information

Start Smart-Finish Strong
WARNING
Pushing hard on the first days of a backpacking trip is common among aggressive males, and often results in debilitating blisters, sore muscles and strains, and lots of unnecessary pain. Even if you are very strong and capable of instant high mileages, it is very wise to bring yourself up to full exertion slowly.

We are shooting to set up a daily schedule that supports consistent performance over many days of many miles each day. We will find that this requires adjustments of various factors to suit changing circumstances.

Daily Plan
First is our daily trail time. I wake earlier, start earlier, and hike later in the day as I hike down the trail. My time on the trail increases every day I am on the trail. I call this my "TIP" time, or Time In Pack. TIP times increase steadily as we hike, until we are capable of dawn to dusk backpacking.
How long it takes us to reach this level of work is based on our initial level of fitness.

Second are our lunch and break times. Long days with high mileage requires an excellent daily trail plan to support these long efforts. My typical Summer day includes two hour-long lunch breaks, with at least three additional "take off the pack" breaks.
One lunch consists of a cold lunch of cheese and crackers with a wide variety of tasty snacks. Lunch two consists of a hot lunch of ramen or soup, coffee, and a wide variety of snacks. That measures out to 3 and a half hours of breaks per day over the length of a 14 3/4 hour day.

A comprehensive daily rest break and food plan is an example of "slowing down to speed up." If we do not derive a daily hiking plan that feeds, services, and supports our daily hard work on the trail we will slowly break down over time.
Most "rabbits" run their batteries down fast. They may initially get more daily miles by forgoing rest and food breaks, but most gradually begin losing miles, energy, and speed as their reserves are depleted.

Slowing down by keeping yourself within your rest and recharge limits allows you to speed up over time by not losing time to injury and exhaustion while potentially gaining more strength and endurance hiking further down the trail.

Our daily plan must at least give us the chance to succeed, if not excel and get stronger over time.

Changing Balance Points
So far, our hiking plan brings our 14.75 hours of daylight down to 11.5 hours of trail time per day with our 3.5 hours of lunch and "pack-less" breaks.
At 2 mph we are looking at 23 miles per day. Now that's more like it. But that would still be a crazy figure to base the first days of our trip plan on. We will be so tired that at least I won't have any fun at all. Let's work our way gradually up to twenty-plus mile days. This will become important.

Consider starting with a standard 8 hour work day with our 3.5 hour of lunch and breaks, putting us on the trail for a total of 11.5 hours of the 14.75 hours of available daylight. We can increase the length of our hiking day as we adjust to the workload. Starting with an eight hour hiking day over a 14 hour day gives us a couple of hours to screw around in camp every morning and evening.

Carefully building our capacity to squeeze out a few very high mileage 11 hour hiking days is going to come in very handy hiking the lengthy last section of our trail South from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal, as well as the long stretch from Highways 108 to 120.

The Long View
By the time we get down there to Muir Ranch we'll be fit to squeeze off a few 20+ days, and it will be a breeze. It will be a breeze if we carefully build our strength and endurance as we hike South. It will be a nightmare if we are breaking down as we hike South.

I've hit the ability to hike a marathon a day for as long as necessary, with minimal food. The actual level of efficiency the human machine can achieve is incredible. You've just got to develop your internal assets sufficiently to succeed.

Honest analysis of our "big" and "little" math as we hike South does not lie.

Big and Little
DAILY MATH

Little Math
I have a daily ritual. It begins each morning with an assessment of the day's hiking agenda and goals. At Sunrise we do the time dance. We are going take a few minutes and sit down to look at the map and do the day's little math every morning before we begin hiking.

Little math is our daily map assessment to check the locations and make plans for the day's upcoming major climbs, access to water, the best vistas and overlooks, and to try to time our breaks and lunches advantageously to mitigate the hard and enjoy the beautiful segments along the route of the day's hike. In any case, by doing our "little math" we are looking for the best approach to the difficulties and the beauties along the day's trail, while always giving ourselves the time to stop to enjoy the magnificent views and scenery, watch Nature, properly rest and recharge ourselves, and to meet cool people.

"Cool People" = Backpackers. And horsepackers. And trail crew. Wilderness Rangers. And dayhikers. And so on and on and on... about anyone who will stop and talk, and tell me what they see and know...
Little math is the logic of each hiking day, including our social time.

Big Math
My thoughts turn to the "big math" as the end of each hiking day approaches. The big math is the total remaining distance and difficulty to our next resupply point. I begin to think of where the end of this day's hiking affects the total miles we have to hike tomorrow.

Big Math is the total of all the miles, days and degree of difficulty remaining to the end of the section. Big Math is the total remaining miles divided by the number days of food we have remaining in our pack over the total amount of energy/endurance we have remaining within us. The "big math" is the sum of each day's "little math."

The success or failure of each day's "little math" becomes apparent as the end of each hiking day approaches, turning our thoughts to how this affects the "big math."

Once I establish camp I look at each remaining day's "little math," the upcoming challenges of each day's hike to the end of the section against our current level of food and energy. The point of doing the big and little math is to understand and control how each of our upcoming hiking days is really going to feel. We are going to maintain our trip plan by maintaining the proper food, rest, and hydration for our required miles, multiplied by the number of the remaining hiking days to our next resupply spot.

Spreading this load out properly is vital to maximizing our efficiency.

Our big and little maths are the technics I use to carefully monitor my energy and plan how we are going to maintain that level of energy over the remaining days, distance, and difficulty to the end of the section.

I imagine this approach of mine is why my trail name was "The Calorie King" one year...

Doing the big and little math shows us the daily and overall external score against what we have to work with internally. It suggests strategies for managing the distance and the terrain between us and our next resupply, how to manage the remaining food to cover that distance, and how to balance our metabolic capacity between the food and distance requirements.

That's Big and Little Math.

My goal is to put myself into the best regional campsite at the end of the day, and hopefully near my first climb of the next day. It is always nice to get one of the daily climbs done in cool morning air. That saves us a lot of calories.

Camp Irene is an example of just such a place on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. We're camping in a deluxe position under our next major climb over Mount Reba, which allows us to make the climb in cool early morning air. The same is true climbing Glenn Pass from Rae Lakes along the JMT in the South Sierra. Especially since we are going over Glen and Forrester in one day.

We've got to determine the proper daily balance between work, rest, food, and mileage that keeps our capacities in balance against our environmental demands to sustain maximal enjoyment of the terrain every day across each little bit of trail while putting ourselves into the most beautiful campsites along the way.

Our daily plan for mileage and the number days we must sustain it between resupply points must reflect a balance that suits us physically as well as aesthetically over the course of each hiking day and across the length of each section of our trail.

We only have a few simple factors to balance, but each is vitally important.

Stay Within Yourself
We must not only stay within our physical capacities, we also must stay within our psychological limits. Though challenging ourselves is fun, the physical pain of backpacking should not be underestimated, and the pain should not be greater than the pleasure. This is a subjective measure involving your specific expectations and tolerances, but it is really important to get the balance between pain and pleasure right. This will set the overall tone of our trip.

Hey, I'm down for a survival run every now and again, but the tone of our basic backpacking trips will be tuned by our daily hiking plan more towards pleasure than pain. This is especially important if you are a new backpacker, or bringing new backpackers into the mountains.

Gain acclimation to the stresses and strains gradually to avoid discouraging, if not injuring and exhausting yourself, or new backpackers! Don't break the new backpackers! What is difficult across the first steps turns out to be delightful with a careful, gradual application of work.

They won't even know they are working, for the joy it produces!

Then they will be hooked.

Understanding how to manage our capacities against the requirements we write into our long-term trip plans will determine the length of our personal hiking day at the start of the trip, the mileage we are required to cover during the length of our hiking day, and the number of days we are required to repeat this mileage and daily time under pack on the trail.

Therefore our plans must comfortably suit our capacities.

Though the days in July are nearly 15 hours long, we may start out our backpacking trip with 5, 8, or 10 hour hiking days, depending on our personal level of fitness, until we work up the capacity to hike from before Sunrise to after Sunset as we progress down the Sierra Crest.

We will get considerably stronger and deeply acclimated as we cross the 100, 200, and 300 mile marks hiking South. Give yourself a chance to get there.

These are the reasons I strongly recommend that we "stay within" ourselves, especially during the first few days of a long duration high mileage trip. It is much preferable to start slow and get stronger and faster on the trail than it is to start fast and fade.

Days Off
We must consider the number of days off we will need along the way, and how many days we can hike before we need a day off. I have come to follow the normal "civilized" work week of five days on, two days off. Days off should be coordinated with either the most beautiful locations along the trail and/or our rest and resupply spots.

I have used my extra day's food to allow myself to spend successive nights camping first at Bensen Lake, then the next evening at nearby Smedberg Lake. My extra day's food gave me the flexibility to do this short-miles day between these two stunning lakes and not worry about running out of food!

But, planning is an abstraction concerning our capacities that does not express the
raw physicality of the backpacking experience. Extra food is painfully heavy, but this pain purchased extra time and pleasure at a sequence of beautiful places along the trail otherwise unobtainable.

Pain=Pleasure?
Though backpacking is a beautiful experience, it demands direct physical engagement with difficult terrain and harsh environments that will tax every physical and psychological system in our bodies. It is vital that our estimates of our capacities can support our hiking plan.

Don't think that you will "magically" adjust to your expectations and requirements without proper training. We will painfully adjust to our requirements, if we don't break ourselves trying. There is a better way.

Be Realistic
Each step we take from the trailhead is taking us further from our social infrastructure, from help and support. This is when it becomes frightfully apparent that the pains and dangers of backpacking are just as real as the pleasures backpacking brings. Maybe more real.

The particular balance of pain and pleasure you are going to experience depends on the accuracy of your hiking plan's reflection of your capabilities, So be reasonable. Be realistic. If you can break out right now and jog seven miles, half that distance up 750 feet, and do it every other day, you will be fine. You will reach 15 mpd quickly, without too much trouble. Every degradation from that training standard makes every step down the trail harder.

A reasoned approach to the physical demands of backpacking requires training that will minimize the dangers of exhaustion, injury, and unnecessary suffering on the trail. A reasonable approach demands physical preparation prior to backpacking, and a good hiking plan on the trail that reasonably and realistically reflects your capacities, your skills, and your level of fitness. Finally, a good hiking plan is flexible to adjust to changing realities as they develop on the ground.

Thus we may determine that bringing an extra day's food along each section of the trail between resupply spots is (or is not) a wise idea. This gives us a "cushion" if we sustain an injury that slows us down, such as a sprained ankle, get some blisters, or get exhausted. This extra food gives us the flexibility to be able to take two half-days off at the finest scenic locations along each section of the trail, or to stay an extra full day at our favorite place.

Extra food gives us the ability to bail-out the injured, hungry PCT hikers, or other improperly supplied backpackers. In the South Sierra I've never found any shortage of hungry hikers on the JMT who somehow never manage to bring enough food. Well, these hungry JMT hikers are often counter-balanced by the numerous short-distance South Sierra backpackers who always seem to pack way too much food!

I meet stupid folks on the trail who are strong enough to survive their ignorance... and other who are not.

Life is weird.

One word that boils this all down: Training.

Training Converts
Ignorance
into
Experience
Experience
into
Wisdom
Fat
into
Muscle
Pain
into
Pleasure

Make Yourself Ready.

Last Call for Life
is
Always Sounding.

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The
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
as a
Planning Exercise

We've worked out that it will take three nights to hike the 30 miles from Meeks Bay to the Echo Lake Chalet, four nights over the 40 miles to the Lake Alpine Lodge, four nights for the 35 miles to our last resupply point North of Tuolumne Meadows at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, and an additional six nights to cross the 73.21 miles to the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at Tuolumne Meadows.

That makes 17 days with at least 2 days off planned-in along the trail, as I have brought an extra day's food for each section between resupply points, except from Meeks Bay to Echo Chalet.

At our Echo Chalet and Lake Alpine resupply stops we will pick up four-day resupply buckets we sent ourselves, and a six-day resupply at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

We will likely take days off at premium locations in the Mokelumne, Carson Iceberg, and Emigrant Wilderness Areas as we hike South, as well as nights off at each resupply spot.

For example, we are going to take an extra day's food South into the Mokelumne Wilderness. Let's say we use that extra day's food to spend a full day kicking back, scrambling around, and enjoying Camp Irene. That means that our actual hiking will cover 35 miles in 3 days, putting our required daily miles at 11.66.

Now that we know how roughly many miles a day we are going to hike each day we can determine where we are going to find the best campsite each night, which finally gives us a pretty good idea of how many nights it will take us to get to each of our resupply points, and exactly how many miles we are going to hike each day. Our selection of premium campsites will make some days longer than others.

Figuring out our final daily miles by establishing our campsite selection finally tells us exactly how much food to actually pack for each section between resupply spots, and exactly how many miles we've set ourselves up to hike each day.
Now I'm ready to derive and write out my actual final itinerary, with my specific campsites along the trail between resupply spots. I'm going to set up the packing lists for the contents of each resupply bucket, check 'em twice, and work out just when to send them timed perfectly with my departure date.

On one end of the far extremes of planning I hiked the classic route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in 2009 stopping for no resupply at all. I carried all the food necessary to complete the trip without resupply. The pack was very heavy, weighing in well above 70 pounds.

On the other end I have hit every resupply point while racing down the TYT as quickly as my feet could carry me. Slow and heavy & light and quick.

You are going to have to sit with pen and paper, hiking maps, and miles lists deriving the itinerary that guides your food planning based on your assessment of how you can manage your level of fitness over the length of your day.

You need to plan a trip that perfectly fits your capacities, preferences, and reasonable expectations.

A Final Backpacking Trip Assessment:
Tahoe to Yosemite by PCT route, Oct., 2009.

Also see
High Sierra Backpacking Trips Planning Forum

Documentation
For an example of my approach to planning and resupply take a look at these planning documents that I worked up and brought on my 2002 Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip. I generated these documents when my plan came together. They guided the packing of my resupply buckets, then I brought them onto the trail to chart the difference between my actual progress against my planning. I marked up the planning documents as the trip varied from, returned to, then deviated again from my planned schedule as I hiked down the Sierra Crest trails.

I carry this set of planning-resupply-itinerary documents is in addition to the trip journal and trails and hiker journal I keep as I hike down the trail.
To save space I make up my own 15 page 8x11 animal, nature, and tree guide who's blank back pages make my basic 15 page trip journal. I use one of those Penway 4.5x 3.25 Composition Books as my "trails" and "hikers on the trail" journal.
I find this system helpful for noting and organizing lots of trail information that naturally divides itself between trail experiences, backpackers encountered, and trail information.

Having a clear system for recording planning, trip information, notes, and results allows us to keep our experiences straight, and create our own reference library of backpacking trip information and experiences.

Digital tech has expanded backpacker's ability to record experiences.

I designed the account features for members so you can set up your own private pages in your account where you can record, bring together, and organize your planning information, and to subsequently keep a record of your experiences and information generated on the trail for future reference:

TW Membership Private
Backpacker Notes

Creating a "Backpacker Note" after registering as a member works as your own personal "digital notepad" within your account that you can use to keep track of all types of backpacking planning and record keeping needs that your hiking requires.

Any unregistered, unidentified backpacker can post up in the public forums as well:

Public
Backpacking Information

As a member you can post up and share public backpacking information in the forums as well as keep personal, private notes in your account.

Navigate to the Trail or Topic Forum you want to post in before posting public information!

 

Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
Practically, "staying within ourselves" means that our nightly rest is sufficient to recover our daily energy expenditure, so that we are not wearing away bit by bit every day.

My real goal, my secret goal is full engagement with "the environment."

 

Standards
of
Pleasure

I believe it is important that we give ourselves the time to truly enjoy and soak-up the environment we are working so hard to hike through. My "standard of pleasure" requires not only that we have trained ourselves for the rigors of the trip, but that we have the energy to observe and enjoy it. To do this we must not just come with the proper experience and fitness for our trip, but must be ready to give ourselves time to acclimate to the altitude and work, as well as the protective camp environment and rest and recovery time necessary to recover from each day's efforts.

Finally, we must accurately monitor our physical status, being our level of energy and strength of our metabolism, and project its trajectory under our current work load to assure our physical survival, if not to locate the balance between work and rest that will allow us to thrive indefinitely.

Expanding Natural Engagement grows upon this stable platform.

Our most successful hiking plans are actually finished in Gym and Jogging Trail with our bodies, not by planning with pen and paper at the desk. We are going to have access to an endless series of great times and experiences once we have these fundamental levels of fitness, gear, and experience operating.

I have a pretty good idea about my capacities and how I will feel on the trail based on my level of training prior to starting a High Sierra backpacking trip. Hint: The better our fitness, the more aggressive trips we can plan, and the better we will feel doing them. Reciprocally, we should not plan aggressive trips until our fitness and experience have matured.

Start with a High Baseline of Fitness
My baseline for fitness is a standard stretching, jogging, and weightlifting program that I've been running for approaching 30 years now, though it has been punctuated by great periods of injury interruption.
At its top level the basic fitness program consists of jogging 7 miles through hills every other day while pursuing a strong free weight training program (bench, flys, curl, military and forearms) on the non-running days. Extensive stretching is executed on run days. Floor and core work is daily. That's situps and floor stretching.

At it's bottom level my training program shifts to injury recovery. It consists of slow attempts to get walking, walking longer and steeper on the way to short jogs. It is carefully probing stretching and range of motion capacities to find the depth and extent of joint-injury irritation preceding light work and weightlifting.

Our training program must be custom tailored to our current status, be it top-level fitness or bottom-line injury recovery. Likewise, our backpacking trips must also be tuned to our level of fitness. We must match our trips to the level of conditioning we maintain.

We can only consider aggressive and ambitious trips if we are well trained.

Baselines of Fitness
Knowing our baseline of our fitness gives us two bits of information. It gives us predictable outcomes at various levels of exertion. This allows us to plan our backpacking trip schedule for our current level of fitness. Knowing our capacities makes our trip plans work.

Top Level
In "standard" conditioning of jogging 7 miles at slow speeds accompanied by average weight training performance our transition to trail conditions is easy and high miles are achieved quickly. Nightly recovery is rapid.

If we are at the top level of fitness we will have to slow down to transition to Nature only in proportion to our rate of altitude acclimation, and nothing else. We will be able to control our exposure to high elevation, and how it effects us by increasing or decreasing our work output.

Starting backpacking trips in excellent physical condition means we can plan on reaching high daily miles quickly despite acclimation stresses.

Half-Fit
At half our "standard" level of conditioning our transition to trail is still smooth, but takes a bit longer with a higher degree of physical difficulty, of distress. High daily mileages on the trail take more days on the trail to achieve, and recovery from each day's exertions is slower and more stressful.
We are weaker, colder, and more drained.
We must plan for less-aggressive lower-daily mile starts to our trips.

Each degradation in our preparatory fitness degrades our initial mileage capability.

Unprepared
If we have no fitness, no training, and are depending on faith to carry us through our backpacking plan we will quickly find that pain and discomfort are our trail companions, that the miles we thought we could cross are totally unreasonable, and our overnight recovery does not bring us back to yesterday's level of energy.

This is a distressing position to be in.

Our pain increases, and our recovery slows with every diminishment from our "standard" level of training. The worse shape we're in, the longer it takes us to make high mileage on the trail. Or the more it hurts. Or both!
Our trip plan must honestly reflect our capabilities. We should defer our backpacking trip until we have the basic physical capabilities to support backpacking.

Fitness and Capacity equals Optimal Trip
It is vitally important that we must honestly access our level of fitness by finding our training level, and weave our awareness of our level of fitness into making a hiking plan that is suitable for our fitness and sustainable over the time and distance of our trip.

It is likely we will have to plan our daily mileage to start with shorter working days, and increase the length of our hiking day, hiking speed, and daily miles as our bodies adjust to high elevation, the heavy load, and long miles up steep mountains.

As we get stronger our packs also get lighter. Consuming each day's food lightens
our packs by 2 to 3 glorious pounds every day.

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More on Planning

Considering mileage, food, and physicality

Comments-Suggestions-Tips-Questions?

Preparation and Planning Sections
under Construction

Trail Guide Backpacker's Forum

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Enough planning. Let's hit the Trail.

Now we can Get Started!

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Trailhead

Desolation Trail Trailhead, Meeks Bay, Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Trail Trailhead, Meeks Bay, California

Meeks Bay Trail Head

A Dirt Road to the Southwest

6239 feet of elevation.

Mile 0 of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Above:
Looking Southwest from the gate at the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

To our Right we can see the descending forested ridge coming down towards lake level. To our Left we have a dry meadow being filled by lodge pole pines.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail follows the road Southwest along this ragged interface between meadow and forest for 1.2 miles to where the actual trail begins by veering Right off the road to begin traversing up along the ridge to our Right.

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Hiking Desolation Trail Trailhead
Dirt Road 14N42
The First Day South

Meeks Bay Trailhead
Desolation Wilderness

INFORMATION
THE FIRST TWELVE MILES SOUTH

Starting
The Tahoe Yosemite Trail
to
Middle Velma Lake

Climbs, Lakes, Campsites

Hiking Down the TYT
Distances Measured from Meeks Bay Trailhead

Elevation
6239 feet of elevation
at
Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Mileage
0 miles
Meeks Bay Trailhead.


Miles
0 to 4
A gentle climb traversing a ridge up to and through a gap into the bottom of the gentle upper valley.

Campsites along the way,
but none of note.


Miles
4 to 6.6
A series of very well used campsites along a series of lakes running in the gentle valley between Rubicon Peak and Peak 9310 starting with the

Lake Genevieve Campsites,

then,

Crag Lake,

HIdden Lake,

Shadow Lake,

see the map

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
USGS Topo Map

First Lake
along the
TYT to Phipps Pass
Lake Genevieve
4.39 miles
7400 feet of elevation,
+1161 feet above
Trailhead

A series of lakes follow Lake Genevieve.

We begin climbing away from this run of campsites & lakes from the South end of the last lake in the series, Stony Ridge Lake. This point is 6.62 miles South of Meeks Bay Trailhead.

1.13 miles up a steep segment of trail climbing 520 feet we find a sweet scene where the Last lake below the North Flank of Phipps Pass is wedged into a forested shelf on the mountainside:

Rubicon Lake
7.75 miles
8320 feet of elevation,
+2081 feet above
Trailhead

Campsites are scattered around
Rubicon Lake


Fantastic View
Climbing a little over a mile South from Rubicon Lake we traverse Phipps Pass amazing view of the South end of the Tahoe Basic looking over arms of shattered granite cliffs extending off the mountainside, wrapping around our view of the Velma's Basin backdropped by Tallac and Maggies Peaks.

It's a splendid view from Phipps Pass.

Phipps Pass
8.88 miles
8800 feet of elevation,
+2561 feet above
Trailhead

Sweet Granite Cliffs


Key Trail Junction
We intersect with the PCT & TRT 3.44 miles South of Phipps Pass which is 11.5 miles South of Meeks Bay Trailhead.

South Desolation Wilderness Map

Turning South on our now combined routes of the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails hiking .82 miles South brings us to Middle Velma Lake and its break and camp sites.

Velma Lakes Campsites
12.32 miles
7920 feet of elevation
-880 feet
&
3.44 miles below Phipps Pass

Lots of campsites scattered around the scattering of Velma Lakes.

Here we find trails East to Eagle Falls and Bayview Trailheads on Highway 89, West to Camper Flat and loops around Rockbound Valley, along with our route South along the combined TYT-PCT-TRT.

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Trail Difficulty to Phipps Pass
The difficulty of the hike up to Lake Genevieve from Meeks Bay is Intermediate3, the easiest of the three grades of middle-difficulty trails.

Lake Genevieve hiking South to the South end of Stony Ridge Lake is Easy.

The difficulty of the trail from Stony Ridge Lake climbing to Phipps Pass increases to Hard-3 or Intermediate-1.

Trail Difficulty Scale

Lake Genevieve is the first of this series of sweet lakes nestled in along the floor of a gently rising valley who's end marks the beginning of the steep climb to Phipps Pass.

Except for Rubicon Lake. Rubicon Lake is the last lake in this series of lakes, but it is not part of the series of lakes along the bottom of the valley.
We find Rubicon Lake wedged into a very attractive small forested ledge on the mountainside while hiking up from the end of the valley up to Phipps Pass.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
USGS Topo Map

miles and elevations

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Long or Short Hikes
in
Desolation Wilderness

Meeks Bay Trailhead

Meeks Bay Trailhead is the Northernmost trailhead into the Desolation Wilderness. North of Desolation there is a little state park along Highway 89, Sugar Pine State Park.

Meeks Bay is an excellent trailhead for local day hikes, short backpacking trips into and down the length of the Desolation Wilderness, and of course famous as the starting trailhead of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

The Meeks Bay to Lower Echo Lake Trailhead backpacking trip across the length of Desolation Wilderness is 30.71 miles.

For our purpose Meeks Bay is the start point of the Classic Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, and our point of departure for the Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip beyond.

This Trail Guide is set-up for long-distance backpacking, but you can easily use it to figure out excellent medium and short distance trips into and around Desolation and the rest of the wilderness areas, forests, and National Parks we cross hiking down to the Whitney Portal.

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Resources for our
Desolation Wilderness
Backpacking Trip

Planning our local hike or backpacking trip into the Desolation Wilderness, or as part of our longer trip down the Crest trails will be aided by:

Desolation Wilderness
Backpacking Information

Permits

Maps

Mileages and Elevations

Resupply

Weather

Gear

All Sierra Weather Information

 

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Video
Hitting
the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Meeks Bay, Northeast Desolation Wilderness

Your First Steps hiking to Yosemite?
Backpacking the length of the Sierra to Mount Whitney?
Hiking up to Rubicon Lake and back?

Duration 1:03

High Sierra for Everyone
We can hike for a few hours, a few days, or a few hundred miles. This trail guide is designed to help you find, develop, and deploy the backpacking capabilities resident within you to put together the perfect backpacking trips in the High Sierra between Meeks Bay all the way down to the Whitney Portal, independent of exactly how much you are capable of biting off.

That's what we're looking for! Your perfect trip. Biting off what you can chew!

A variety of ages, sexes, fitness levels, and perspectives enter the Sierra Nevada every year with very different goals and assets. There is a perfect trip for you in these mountains.

On our hike South to Mount Whitney we are going to encounter hundreds of trailheads and connector trails paralleling and feeding into the Sierra Nevada Crest trails. The first ones to our South are the trails East to Eagle Falls and Bayview Camp along the Western Shore of Lake Tahoe.

These are our first potential exit points for short backpacking trips starting out of Meeks Bay Trailhead.

My plan is to build the Tahoe to Whitney High Sierra Trail Guide South from Meeks Bay covering the main trails down backbone of the Sierra Crest.
By the main trails I mean the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir Trail between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney. Added to this basic coverage are the trails tying the TYT and PCT together across the North Sierra Nevada, and the local trailheads feeding the PCT, TYT, and the trails connecting them.

These Trailheads and trails along our way open up a wide range of shorter local trips in each wilderness area we cross. As we hike South down the Sierra Crestline we will find trails and trips suitable for all levels of fitness and experience in each of the North Sierra Wilderness Areas as we hike South. Even beginners.

It's a Family Affair
I'd say the best way to get started is by putting one foot into the environment by car camping. We'll need to gather the gear necessary for backpacking as we begin car camping, which will tune our gear selection with an eye on evolving from car camping to backpacking gradually, as we determine and tune our evolving capacities to our increasing level of engagement.
This means that young families can start out car camping their young kids gradually into day hikers. A few more years of car camping and day hiking soon brings the first short backpacking trips with unloaded kids, and each subsequent year brings bigger kids carrying heavier loads, until you've finally launched new, competent solo backpackers into the Natural and Social Worlds.

This process works equally well for gradually bringing adults onto the trail, too.

Car Camping the Sierra Forum

Study the guide and forum to find the best access point to begin a gradual evolution into High Sierra backpacking trips and trails to match your family's evolving fitness, skills, and experiences. Start 'em off easy with car camping and day hikes.

You-all will be hiking the John Muir Trail by the time the kids hit their teens...


Alternative Routes and Scrambles
The South Sierra
We are also going to explore the basic alternative routes and amazing scrambles off the main JMT-PCT routes that we can find hiking South from Tuolumne Meadows.

Side trips such to explore Lake Catherine under Banner Peak. Or to hike South from Reds Meadow into Fish Valley, to visit the remarkable Iva Bell Hot Springs, followed by walking the long way into VVR via Goodale Pass over the Silver Divide, rather than over Silver Pass and down to the ferry.

We follow up our unconventional route into Vermilion Valley Resort with an unconventional route out of VVR. I suggest exploring the isolated trail up Bear Creek that brings up back to the JMT on the South side of Bear Ridge.

Scrambling up to Darwin Bench departing Evolution Meadow and checking out the Ionian Basin by climbing out the top of Evolution Basin are both well worth the work necessary to see them. Exploring Center Basin on the way up to Forester Pass rounds out our short list of fantastic little side trips along the route of the JMT-PCT down the South Sierra.

If we keep our eyes open we will find some excellent scrambling and climbs to the top of some local peaks and domes along the way, among other distractions. I have been happily surprised to find ancient peak logs atop both the dome and the mountain I've climbed in Evolution Basin during Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trips.

One Range-Many Trips
Each of these "side trip" locations can be a destination or the high point of local backpacking trips
or section hikes.

South Sierra
Loops & Sections

In the South Sierra some of the Highway 395 trailheads paralleling the John Muir Trail offer access to great backpacking loop routes, the most prominent being the North to South Lakes Loop. From the West in Kings Canyon we have the Rae Lakes Loop along the John Muir Trail, and a bit further to the South we find the start of the Roper High Sierra Route out of Cedar Grove.

Another option is to hike the John Muir Trail through the South Sierra by sections from one remote East Sierra Trailhead to the next, South from Mammoth Lakes to the Whitney Portal.

There's lots of ways to skin a cat !

Backpacking Forums
Every page on this trail guide and every backpacking topic has a forum page. On these forum pages you can share your perspective, experiences, and approach to build an expanded understanding of the terrain and how we can approach and experience it.

My view is narrowed by being from one perspective. Mine. Adding your perspective considerably widens our view, doubling it in an instant. Consider this an invitation onto the High Sierra trails for those of us who have not yet experienced them, and a place to share experiences for those who have.
I want to hear how you skinned the cat. Or how it skinned you, as the case may be. I've survived both sides of the equation. So far.

You can help fill in our understanding of side routes and scrambles off the main trails, or relate a great loop you hiked using sections of the main PCT and TYT trails. Your trip reports are valuable information.

There's lots of unique experience and reflecting the natural beauty of the High Sierra that backpackers have experienced, and I want to hear them all. Tell me yours.

I've hiked dozens of side routes and scrambles between Tahoe to Whitney over the years, and I have a big list of places and things I still need to explore. Hopefully our combined knowledge will make sure nobody walks past beautiful vistas or their perfect little side hike.

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Onward!

Next Trail Guide Page South
Desolation trail junction

The First Trail Guide Page
TOPIC
Backpacker Resources
at
Meeks Bay Trail Head
Previous Trail Guide Page
TOPIC

Finding
Meeks Bay Trail Head

This trail segment's
Detailed Topo Hiking Map

Meeks Bay
to
Lake Genevieve

Navigating
this

Trail Guide

Tahoe to Whitney
TRAIL GUIDE NAVIGATION
TIPS
This trail guide backpacks North to South down the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails from Meeks Bay to the Whitney Portal.

The trail guide index offers access to each section of the trail's guide pages.

Each section's maps index lists the two scales of maps we have for the trails.
We can click to any 7.5 or 30 minute map in that section.

Map Links
Every map has red dots linking to the trail guide entry for that position.
The Black Dots marking our routes on the large-scale 30 minute maps link to the detailed map of the area clicked.

CLICK THE MAPS!

The labels on the maps pointing us North and South link to the adjacent maps, so check them out too.

From the Main Map Index we can quickly access any point on the trail guide.

The miles and elevations pages are the same, with each cited location linking on the miles list linking to that position's entry in the trail guide.

The main miles index allows us to move to any position on any section of trail in three clicks.

These index features allow us to easily move North and South through the different types of trail guide information and quickly check out specific locations on the trail from Tahoe to Whitney.

Navigate the guide very quickly using the
Trails, Maps, and Miles Indexes.

Soaking up and using this information will take a little longer.

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TRAILHEAD

FINDING
Meeks Bay Trailhead

Hike South

1st
Desolation Trail Junction

Backpacker Forums

Post it on
TahoetoWhitney.Org
The Backpacker's Forum.

Above we come to the Front Page of the High Backpacking Trails and Topics Forums. Below we break the forums down into categories:

High Sierra Trails High Sierra Topics

Anyone can post text comments in the existing forums, but only members can post up new topics, along with images, maps, and formatting.

Become a Member

If you have experiences, comments, questions, trip reports, trail conditions updates or pictures and videos of the Tahoe to Yosemite/Pacific Crest Trail from Meeks Bay to Echo Summit, post up here as an unknown hiker or as a member:

Section
Tahoe to Echo Summit
Segment
Desolation Trail

Last Page: Finding Meeks Bay Trail Head                                      Hiking South: Desolation trail junction

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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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