MTS’ exclusive, mule-supported hiking expedition along the spine of the famous Sierra Nevada
Any hike on the epic John Muir Trail is a real adventure. Set in California’s stunning Sierra Nevada, this northbound half of the John Muir Trail begins in Lake Florence and ends in the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows of Yosemite National Park—an iconic voyage through three national parks and several nature preserves. Travel + Leisure hailed it as one of the “50 Great American Adventures.” MTS has developed this unique itinerary with full mule support; it is unlike any other trip available. Every day, enjoy challenging hikes through the high Sierra, while remaining light on your feet with nothing but a daypack while our professional packer and team of mules charges ahead with the heavy load to set up camp for your arrival at the day’s end. Your expert, MTS mountaineer guides will fill invigorating days on the trail with in-depth knowledge of the flora and fauna, and entertain you with plenty of trailside legends of the other great explorers and trail blazers who walked before you. And once you’ve earned your stars traveling northbound, you’ll be ready to take on the southbound trek—MTS’ ultimate challenge!
NOTE—this trail does not include the climb of Mount Whitney. If you are interested in the "southbound" half that does include the climb, see our award-winning trip The John Muir Trail - Southbound.
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, and arrive at the Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel adjacent to the Fresno air terminal by 5:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m., the guides will have a welcome dinner and orientation talk. We’ll also do a final gear check and discuss the details of the trip.
Day 2 : Sallie Keyes cut-off
Meet at 7:00 a.m. after a hotel breakfast on your own. We then drive about three hours to Florence Lake where we’ll meet the horse-packer and mules to off load our gear. We’ll then begin the first leg of the trip, which starts with a ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325') into the John Muir Wilderness. Today’s hike will be a mild 6.2 miles with a 400-foot elevation gain to the junction of the John Muir Trail at the Sallie Keyes cut-off.
Day 3 : Rosemarie Meadow
Hike 10 miles over our first pass, Selden Pass (10,880') to Rosemarie Meadow, past the picturesque Sallie Keyes Lakes, which were named after Sallie Keyes Shipp, the daughter of the principal owners (and sheepherders) of Blayney Meadows from 1890-1940. An aspen tree in the meadows is rumored to still have her name carved in it.
Day 4 : Mono Creek
Today’s hike is 11 miles downhill (except for a stout, but brief uphill climb of Bear Ridge) to Quail Meadows and into the Mono Creek Drainage at 7,870'. Mono Creek, named after the Mono Indians, drains from the nearby Mono Divide, first crossed on August 2, 1864, by the Brewer party of the Whitney Survey. Mono Creek serves as a main artery in the California watershed.
Day 5 : Chief Lake
Another uphill day of 8 miles to Chief Lake over Silver Pass (10,880') across the Silver Divide, named in 1907-09 by the USGS survey from Theodore S. Solomons’ 1896 map of the area. Solomons gave the creek its name because of its silvery appearance. We’ll get our first of two food drops here.
Day 6 : Duck Lake
Just over 11 miles of up and down hiking takes us past Tully Hole and Purple Lake to our camp at the Duck Lake junction (9,600'). Tully Hole was named after Gene Tully, who was one of the original 60 rangers of the US Forest Service. He helped rid Yosemite National Park of sheep from 1905-07. Tully Hole was where he rested his stock during his six-week patrols of the mountains. One of today’s highlights is a lunch stop at the picturesque Lake Virginia.
Day 7 : Red’s Meadow
It’s 11½ miles of cruising to Red’s Meadow in the Mammoth area, where views of the Minarets and Mount Ritter and Banner Peak will last a lifetime. The Ritter range was named after famous geographer Karl Ritter. John Muir made the first ascent in October 1872 and his account of the climb is legendary to mountain climbers. Here we’ll meet our second food drop and be treated to a natural hot spring-fed shower.
Day 8 : Shadow Creek
Today we enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness, named after the famous photographer and conservationist who took all those iconic photographs of the West. Highlights include the unique Devil’s Postpile National Monument. It’s an 11-mile hike to Shadow Creek, our next camp, where we'll spend the next two nights—tomorrow is a layover day to photograph, fish, hike, or just relax.
Day 9 : Layover day
Today is a well deserved 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
A 10-mile hike takes us 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 12 miles over towering Donahue Pass (11,050') beneath the highest peak in Yosemite (Mt. Lyell at 13,114’) and down to the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park. Donahue was a sergeant in the cavalry and the peak and pass were named after him by Lt. McClure in 1895, when Donahue made the first ascent.
Day 12 : End trek – Return to Fresno
Hike the remaining 6 miles along the John Muir Trail and finish our long journey in Tuolumne Meadows, where our shuttle will meet us with cold drinks and a fresh lunch. After lunch the shuttle will take us back through Yosemite Valley before returning to the Piccadilly Inn in Fresno for a celebration dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Day 13 : Depart
Today you’ll take the free airport shuttle to the terminal to catch your flights, which can be scheduled to depart at any time.
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.