Weekend Backpacker San Francisco

Emigrant Wilderness
  |  Gorp.com

At 150 miles due east of the Bay Area, 113,000-acre Emigrant Wilderness is, for many, the gateway to the High Sierra. Granite outcrops, trout-filled lakes, and flower-studded meadows define this wilderness. Black bear, marmot, northern flying squirrel, and pika are among the local residents, and elevation changes (from close to 5,000 feet in Cherry Creek to 11,570-foot Leavitt Peak) allow for plant life that ranges from ponderosa pine and black oak to lichen, algae and rockfringe.

Recommended Trip

Burst Rock Trail to Deer Lake. Return by Crabtree Trail via Jewelry, Gem, and Piute Lakes. Roughly 23 miles with a second car.

From Burst Rock Trail parking area, follow Burst Rock Trail south briefly past a turn-of-the-century hunting cabin. Continuing east, notice a short spur trail that runs north to Powell Lake. Less than a mile past this spur is Chewing Gum Lake Trail, running south. Pushing on, pass the southerly Y Meadow Lake Trail and enter Whitesides Meadow.

From Whitesides Meadow, the trail continues southeast, passing a number of trails and minor lakes until reaching its end at Deer Lake.

Crabtree Trail runs almost due west for most of its 11.3 miles. Returning by this route is considered by many a fisherman's dream, passing a string of trout-filled alpine jewels.

Getting There

Two cars are helpful. From Stockton take California 120/108 East. Prior to Sonora, 120 heads down toward Yosemite. Continue east on 108 to just south of Pinecrest. At 0.8 miles northeast of Cold Springs turn right on Forest Service Road 4N26. Follow this 9.1 miles to the junction with Road 4N47. Turn right here and travel the half mile to Crabtree trailhead. Park one car here. Continue north and east up Road 4N47 for four miles to the Burst Rock parking area.

If you have one car: The four miles of road between the two trailheads is no more than 1-1.5 hours' walk (especially with a light pack). Another option is to double back on Chewing Gum Lake Trail, but that is a greater time commitment and may call for a third day.


Backcountry visitor permit is required. No fees, no quotas. Call or visit the Summit Ranger District in Pinecrest for details.

Recommended Guide

Emigrant Wilderness and Northwestern Yosemite , by Ben Schifrin. Serves as a good synopsis of natural and human history of the area. Comes with a detailed topo map.

Maps available: Topo map covers the Emigrant Wilderness and the northwestern part of Yosemite. Also available from the Summit Ranger District.

For More Information

GORP Emigrant Wilderness

Stanislaus National Forest
Summit Ranger District
#1 Pine Crest Lake Rd
Pine Crest, CA 95364
(209) 965-3434

Thanks to Ranger Dave Montoya.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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