One Hundred Hikes in Yosemite

North and West Backcountry
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Introduction: There are so many trails leading into Yosemite's north and west backcountry that their descriptions could easily fill a book. Actually, in past years they have helped to fill four small books: Pinecrest, Tower Peak, Matterhorn Peak, and Hetch Hetchy High Sierra Hiking Guides, published by Wilderness Press. Of these, only Hetch Hetchy is still in print, though in 1990 Pinecrest and Tower Peak were replaced by Dr. Ben Schifrin's Emigrant Wilderness and Northwestern Yosemite. The Matterhorn Peak guide contained only two routes not described in this Yosemite guide. One is through awe-inspiring, although lakeless, Buckeye Creek canyon, which offers a long way in to the backcountry. The other is up a trail south from Mono Village to a use trail that climbs south to a saddle above the head of Spiller Creek canyon. These two routes are shown on this book's map, along with many other undescribed trails outside the Park.

The trail description in this section includes the shorter and more-desirable approaches. All the trails within Yosemite's north and west backcountry are described. This area's landscape is characterized by many parallel or nearly parallel canyons, which, generally, speaking, get progressively deeper toward the east. Many of the canyons lack trails, and the Park's management is to be applauded for keeping them that way. In the author's opinion, this Yosemite backcountry and the adjacent Emigrant Wilderness together contain the finest assemblage of cross-country routes to be found in the Sierra Nevada-a last stronghold for the true wilderness experience.

Supplies and Services: Absolutely everything you'll need for a Yosemite outdoor experience can be purchased in the western-foothills town of Sonora. This includes full backpacking and mountaineering gear, available at the Sierra Nevada Adventure Company. Supplies in Bridgeport, on Highway 395, are also quite complete, and each of these towns has at least one hospital. Limited supplies can also be purchased in smaller settlements such as Groveland, Pinecrest, Strawberry, Dardanelle, Lee Vining, and Mono Village. Mono Village, a large resort, has one of the best backpacker-oriented stores to be found in any Sierra mountain resort.

Wilderness Permits: If you want to reserve a permit, rather than get one in person, see the "Wilderness Permits" section. In person, for Hikes 1 and 2, get your permit at the Summit Ranger Station, located at the Pinecrest "Y." For Hikes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, stop at the Bridgeport Ranger Station for permits if you're coming from the north. It is on Highway 395, about 1/2 mile south of Bridgeport. Those driving from the south on Highway 395 may prefer to get a permit at the Lee Vining Ranger Station, on Highway 120, 1.2 miles west from the Highway 395 junction. For Hike 7, permits are also available at the Saddlebag Lake Resort, near the trailhead. Those following Hike 8 should stop at the Groveland Ranger Station in the small community of Groveland, about 14 miles before the Cherry Lake turnoff. For Hikes 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, use either the Information Station at the Park's Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, or use the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station, by the Mather Ranger Station. The latter is open from about early April through late October.

Campgrounds: For Hike 1, if you are driving up from the west, use Baker Campground, located just off Highway 108 about 9.2 miles before Sonora Pass. If driving from the east, use Leavitt Meadow Campground, on Highway 108, 7.1 miles west of Highway 395 and 8.0 miles east of the pass. Also use this campground for Hike 2. For Hikes 3 and 4 use any of the five campgrounds along Twin Lakes Road or use the private campground in Mono Village. For Hikes 5 and 6, camp at Virginia Lakes Camp ground, just yards from the trailhead. Saddlebag Campground is best for Hike 7, since it is only a minute's walk from the trailhead parking area. Sawmill Walk-in and Junction campgrounds are along the Saddlebag Lake road, and five more campgrounds are along Highway 120 between Highway 395 and Tioga Pass. For Hike 8 use Cherry Valley Campground. From the major intersection near the trailhead parking area go left 0.5 mile west up Road 1N04, then branch right and go 0.5 mile to the campground's entrance. For Hikes 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, you could spend the night at Dimond O Campground, about 5.6 miles north on Evergreen Road, which begins from Highway 120 just 0.6 mile before the Park's boundary below the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station. If you have a wilderness permit, you can stay at the Hetch Hetchy Backpackers Campground, located on the loop road by the O'Shaughnessy Dam trailhead.

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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