MTS’ exclusive, mule-supported hiking expedition along the spine of the famous Sierra Nevada
Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the longest contiguous mountain range in the continental United States, the John Muir Trail stands as a living monument to Yosemite National Park’s celebrated philosopher, advocate, and naturalist. With crystal clear mountain lakes, wildflower-strewn meadows, and large granite walls, it is no wonder that Travel + Leisure hailed it as one of the “50 Great American Adventures,” and National Geographic Adventure featured it on their list of “top ten trails on the planet,” calling it “one of the most beautiful trails in the world”! We’ve split the trail into two separate, MTS-exclusive expeditions with two very different terrains to choose from—one northbound (a shorter but still strenuous trek) and the other southbound (a few days longer and considerably more challenging)—both of which were honored with Outside Magazine’s “North America Trip of the Year” Award.
While other hikers are burdened with large backpacks and heavy gear, MTS has designed this unique trek so that all you’ll carry is a day pack—a packer and a team of mules will travel separately from the group with your belongings to make sure they are waiting for you at camp when you arrive. To ensure that your meals are fresh and delicious—far beyond the average, boring camp fare—we’ve even had special panniers designed for the mules to carry coolers! MTS’ professional guides are true mountaineers. Not only will they enrich your days with detailed information on the flora and fauna (not to mention some juicy trailside legends), but they will also do all of the cooking! However deluxe, any expedition requires participation of the entire group, and you will be asked to set up your tent, solar showers, and to filter water.
On this departure, we’ll trace the Sierra northbound from Florence Lake in the John Muir Wilderness to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. We’ll traverse mountain passes through several protected areas, including the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness areas, to arrive in Yosemite—totaling 103 miles through one of the most scenic mountain ranges in the world! The scenery of 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks, countless lakes, huge granite walls, and rich meadows is unsurpassed. This is a tough, demanding trip with lots of elevation changes to test your legs and lungs and rugged terrain to conquer. But no real reward ever comes without a challenge, and you’ll find this to be one of your most memorable treks into the wild. Peppered with plenty of picture-perfect moments, you may enjoy yourself so much, you might decide to come back and try our southbound expedition.
Important Note! This trip does not have similar services/comforts available as on our trekking trips to South America or the Himalaya, where we have 10-20 staff members to set up your tents, dining tent, and a full camp/cook crew. This adventure has two guides (the one mule packer has his hands full with the mules!) who do all the cooking and guiding, so this trip is participatory in nature. You are expected to set up your tent, filter water, set up solar showers with an “expedition team” mentality to help the guides and everyone on the trip in general. Think of this trip as a “backpacking” trip where you do not have to carry a 70 lb. pack!
11 days strenuous hiking (max. elev. 11,050')
- Hike through the Sierra Nevada (with full mule support) on one of the world's most scenic wilderness trails on this exclusive MTS expedition, honored with Outside Magazine’s "North America Trip of the Year Award”
- See California’s high Sierra at its finest with mountains and verdant meadows filled with wildflowers—hailed by Travel + Leisure as one of the “50 Great American Adventures”
- Descend from the Pacific Crest into the Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite—one of the most iconic crown jewels of the National Park Service
- Travel + Leisure hailed this trip as one of the “50 Great American Adventures,” and National Geographic Adventure featured it on their list of “top ten trails on the planet,” calling it “one of the most beautiful trails in the world”!
- Learn trailside lore, flora, and fauna from your MTS professional mountaineer guides
Duration: 13 days Start Location: Fresno End Location: FresnoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Travel to Fresno, California
Travel to Fresno, California, gateway to the Sierra.
Day 2 : Sallie Keyes cut-off
Drive to Florence Lake and meet the horse-packer and mules. Ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325') and begin hiking in the John Muir Wilderness. Cross Selden Pass (10,880') and hike into the Mono Creek Drainage at 7,870'.
Day 3 : Rosemarie Meadow
Hike over Selden Pass to Bear Creek Meadows.
Day 4 : Mono Creek
Mostly downhill hiking into the Mono Creek Drainage (7,870').
Day 5 : Chief Lake
Cross Silver Pass (10,880') and the Silver Divide to our next camp at Chief Lake. Here we'll meet our first food drop.
Day 6 : Duck Lake
Hike past Tully Hole and Purple Lake to camp at Duck Lake junction (9,600').
Day 7 : Red’s Meadow
Hike to Red's Meadow in the Mammoth area, where we'll pick up our second food drop and camp with superb views of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak.
Day 8 : Shadow Creek
Enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness, named after the famous photographer and conservationist. We'll spend the next two nights at our camp near Shadow Creek—tomorrow is a layover day to photograph, fish, hike, or just relax.
Day 9 : Layover day
Layover day in the heart of John Muir Trail country to photograph, fish, hike, wash socks, and just plain “hang out.”
Day 10 : Upper Rush Creek
Hike through the famous “postcard” John Muir Trail country of Garnett, Waugh, and Thousand Island Lakes. Hike over Island Pass (10,205’) to our campsite on Rush Creek.
Day 11 : Lyell Fork
Hike over towering Donahue Pass (11,050') and down to the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park.
Day 12 : End trek – Return to Fresno
Hike the remaining 6½ miles along the John Muir Trail and finish the journey in Tuolumne Meadows.
Day 13 : Depart
Transfer by free shuttle to the airport for homeward-bound flights.
DATES: Best time to go: August Departures: Jul 26, 2015 - Aug 7, 2015
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.
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.