Hike the crown jewel of the spectacular Sierra and summit iconic Half Dome
If you want to explore the legendary high points of the Sierra Nevada carrying nothing but a daypack, then this is your trip! With pack mules hauling your gear, you'll be free to enjoy the awesome scenery on this trans-Sierra trek through Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
You'll start off in Southern Yosemite, far from the crowded Valley floor, then hike the high country to emerge near the breathtaking Cathedral Lakes in Tuolumne Meadows. Along the way you'll cross Post Peak Pass, walk sections of the John Muir Trail, and trace the drainages that flow into the mighty Merced River. A summit hike to Half Dome caps our trip: no matter how many pictures you've seen of its sheer granite face, nothing compares to standing atop this iconic monolith. So let the mules do the heavy lifting while you explore the unparalleled beauty of Yosemite National Park!
7 days strenuous hiking (max. elev. 10,750')
- Exclusive fully mule-supported trans-Sierra hike (nobody else offers this)
- Explore the legendary high points of Yosemite, Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Tuolumne Meadows—including a summit day on Half Dome
- Enjoy vigorous hikes by day and watch the stars in gorgeous lakeside camps by night
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Fresno End Location: FresnoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Fresno
Arrive in Fresno, California, and check in on your own at the Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel adjacent to the Fresno air terminal between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. The guides will meet you in the evening for “welcome” cocktails and go over a summary of the trip at 6:00 p.m. Get a good night’s sleep in preparation for our upcoming days of hiking!
Day 2 : Knoblock Meadows
After breakfast on your own at the hotel, we’ll take a scenic van ride to the trailhead, which is at about 7,300 feet in elevation. Ever since the Gold Rush, horse packing has been the preferred way to move heavy loads around the High Sierra, and we’ll get acquainted with our pack animals and their guides. Loading these horses is really an art form, and after you put what you need for the day into a small backpack, the packers will strap the rest of the gear onto the animals using the unique diamond-hitch system. After about four and a half miles of hiking, we’ll reach Knoblock Meadows (8,200') where the guides will prepare dinner in the mountain twilight. This day—like all the days to come—ends with stargazing beneath the high mountain peaks. (2½ hours driving)
Day 3 : Isberg Pass and Lake 10K
We’ll be in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness today, established in 1964 as part of the original Wilderness Act, and renamed in 1984 for the famed nature photographer. This is a hard but rewarding day of hiking as we climb the switchbacks over Isberg Pass (10,750') and cross into Yosemite National Park itself. We’ll camp at Lake 10K, so named because of its elevation (10,005'). If you want to wash off the trail dust you’re free to take a dip in the frigid waters of the lake, or else just sit back and enjoy the views of Isberg (10,996'), Long Mountain (11,502'), and Forester Peak (12,057'). (11 miles hiking)
Day 4 : Triple Fork of the Merced River Camp
After yesterday’s climb, today’s downhilltrek will come as a welcome relief. We’ll be hiking through the creek drainages that eventually form the mighty scenic Merced River, which, along with the Tuolumne River, drains Yosemite National Park. Along the way we’ll have excellent views of the north-south running Clark Range, named after Galen Clark who discovered the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and was known as the “Guardian of Yosemite” for 21 years in the mid-1800s. The day’s hike drops us 2,500 feet over the course of 11 miles, and we’ll camp on the shores of the Triple Fork of the Merced River 7,400 feet.
Day 5 : Sunrise Creek
We’ll make a westerly turn and begin our approach to Half Dome, whose iconic mass is known the world over. Seven and a half miles of gradual ups and downs brings us to the Sunrise Creek area (7,200'), where we’ll have dinner and then turn in early to get ready for our big climb tomorrow.
Day 6 : Half Dome
Before the sun rises, we’ll be up and walking toward Half Dome (8,836'). This granite monolith rises 4,800 feet from the floor of Yosemite Valley, and the summit was considered inaccessible as late as the 1870s. Today a cable route has been installed to help hikers make it up the final 900 feet. The route is difficult but well-maintained, and completely doable for hardy hikers. Once on top, we’ll have unparalleled views of Yosemite's high country and the Yosemite Valley floor. If you don’t mind heights, check out the famous overhang known as the “Visor” , a small perch 4,000 feet above Yosemite Valley (Round trip up and down the Dome is 9 miles). Exhilarated, we’ll travel back to basecamp for a relaxing afternoon.
Day 7 : John Muir Trail
The John Muir trail runs for 212 miles along the spine of the High Sierra. We’ll only do a short portion of it, but it’s a beautiful one, taking us through the Yosemite High Camp area that many people claim to be the most gorgeous spot in the entire park. We’ll camp at the iconic Cathedral Lakes (9,600'). (8½ miles hiking)
Day 8 : Tuolumne Meadows, return home
After breakfast we’ll pack up and hike the remaining four and a half miles to Tuolumne Meadows, a section of high country meadows studded with granite domes. At the trailhead we’ll meet up with a van that will drive us down into Yosemite Valley, which we’ve been viewing from above for the last week. We will return to Fresno to catch your flight home.
DATES: Best time to go: July - September Departures: Jul 18 - 25, 2015 Aug 29, 2015 - Sep 5, 2015
2014 & 2015 Prices
Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel
A superb full service hotel for business and leisure travelers alike, Piccadilly Inn Airport offers a combination of comfort, convenience and style with 185 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites. Experience a refreshing change of pace in our outdoor pool, set in a lush tropical setting. Or work off some energy in our fitness center and then relax in our heated outdoor spa.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
My first visit to the Sierra Nevada was back in 2002 on a three month backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails. Since that very trip, I have been infected with all that these mountains have to offer and, following that hike it took me only one year to find my way back to California on a more permanent basis. I'll be the first to acknowledge that it was the backpacking, climbing and horseback riding that drew me here, but what I find most intriguing is difficult to describe and certainly isn't apparent in photographs. It's the sound of the spring meltwater, the feel of the warm Sierran granite, and the haze that settles over the mountains just as dusk falls. These are the things that can only be realized by being here in the midst of it all. Throughout all of my travels, I've never found a better playground... or office.
I find space to be myself in the outdoors, and this place is my inspiration. As a child, my dad used to pack up the family for a week and head to Yosemite every summer. We drove our minivan from Los Angeles into the lower pines campground and parked. This was the great outdoors to me. Later, after high school I started working in the Park during my summer breaks - first with the concession service, then with the National Park Service. I interned with the wilderness department for two summers (once as an SCA volunteer) and during that time hiked about half of Yosemite's backcountry trails, about 400 miles. It was during this time that I discovered a deeper appreciation and love for wild lands and found my artistic inspiration. I am a teacher by training and have worked as a guide for the Boojum Institute and Naturlalists At Large. But, I'm a learner at heart, thus my interests and talents are diverse. I love languages, culture, art and poetry as much as the mountains and can find inspiration in all of them, especially in combination. During my time in Peace Corps Thailand, I was given an opportunity to teach yoga for the first time, and this winter during the guiding slow season I will start teaching in California as a certified instructor. I enjoy the stillness in the mountains and look forward to sharing my love for Yosemite and the world with each of you this summer.
Colby Brokvist hails originally from New England, a place where it is unusually difficult to commit to only one sport. Having a background in backpacking, mountaineering and rock climbing, he is a perfect fit for anything the Sierra has to offer. An enthusiastic naturalist, Colby also holds a degree in Environmental Sciences and finds his passion for guiding in providing interpretive and educational experiences for all of his clients. Describing his love for guiding, Colby wrote "It is both the serenity and excitement of the wilderness that compels me to it and I only hope to enjoy it with good friends". Colby can be found typically leading our longer backpacks such the John Muir Trail, Yosemite High Passes Loop, The Yosemite Grand Traverse and Trans-Sierra Trails. He has personally hiked the entire Appalachian Trail as well as most of the Pacific Crest Trail. When not in the Sierra high country, he can be found guiding interpertive trips in Polar Bear habitat as well as camp hosting in Namibia for adventure safaris.