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Difficulty descriptions are by nature very subjective. The categories below represent generalized distinctions in terrain, level of commitment, time spent at elevation and overall trip duration. Level of commitment refers to the ability to opt out of activities such as peak ascents from a base camp. A committing trip requires a daily mileage to be completed each day.
These trips typically travel on groomed trails at a leisurely pace. You can expect maintained trails, gentle grades and more flexibility in terms of your destination for the day. Hikers will carry mainly the essentials in a light daypack and travel anywhere from 3 to 8 miles depending on the trip or preference.
These include hiking, backpacking, or stock-supported trips that take place mostly on maintained trails to get to camp. These trips hike into a set basecamp and then offer optional destinations with varying degrees of challenge. You can expect modest climbs on uneven terrain. Total distances are often 4-7 miles of hiking per day over 3-4 days of hiking.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking or stock-supported trips. The trails can consist of uneven terrain with modest to difficult climbs and some steep passes (gains of 1000-2000’). These trips are typically 3-5 days in duration but can be longer. For backpacking trips, they can include carrying a fully weighted pack (30-42lbs) and travel 6-10 miles per day.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking, backpacking or stock-supported trips with uneven terrain and steep grades and passes. These trips are more physically and mentally challenging and usually 7-8 days in duration. For backpacking trips, pack weight will consist of (30-40lbs). Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment is high. Trips in this category spend significant time at higher elevations and often cover 8-12+ miles per day with average gains/losses of 1,500-3,000’ per day. The most successful people on these trips have some prior overnight backcountry experience.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking on uneven terrain with steep grades. These trips travel 10-12+ miles per day and can vary from 8-21 days in length. Given the mileage and duration, there is an increased amount of physical and mental challenge throughout the trip. Pack weights will consist of 35-45lbs depending on the resupply schedule. Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment to reach your destination is high. The most successful people on these trips have extensive overnight backcountry experience.
Named by National Geographic as one of the “World’s Top 15 Trails”, the YGT has reached almost mythical status since SYMG designed it in 2009. It's now featured as one of the "25 Classic Hikes in North America" by famed Adventurer Peter Potterfield. This pack trip is a nearly 60-mile hiking traverse through the heart of Yosemite and spends equal time the most remote and most iconic regions of the park. Highlights include an ascent of Cloud's Rest, entering Yosemite via 11,000ft Isberg Pass, a section of the John Muir Trail, and a lakeside camp beneath the famous Cathedral Peak. This stock-supported version ups the ante with exceptional food, comfy camp amenities, and leaving you to hike unburdened each day with just a small daypack.
Accommodations: We provide your first night lodging at the Piccadilly Inn at the Airport in Fresno (pricing based on double room occupancy). Six nights tent camping.
Equipment: We supply all group camping gear (stoves, cookware, water filters, group first aid kit, etc.). We can also supply personal camping equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, ground pads, trekking poles, and tents) upon request with no additional fee. You are welcome to bring your own personal camping equipment if you prefer. A detailed gear list will be sent to you upon registration.
Meals: We provide meals starting with lunch on day two through lunch and trail snacks the last day. Our "Backcountry Gourmet" meals have been acclaimed in Sunset Magazine. We take pride in providing excellent meals even in remote surroundings.
Your Cost Includes: Meals (as noted above), group camping gear (as noted above), personal camping equipment (as listed above), accommodations (as noted above), transportation to and from the remote trailheads, applicable permits, pack stock support throughout trip, professional mountain guide(s), pre-trip planning packet, and trip support from our friendly office staff.
Not Included: Personal clothing and footwear, personal gear not listed under “Equipment” above, meals while in the front country, tips for guides (10-20% of trip cost is customary), transportation to and from Fresno, and optional trip cancellation insurance.
Preparation: Training is paramount to the enjoyment and success of your trip. We recommend exercising in the months prior to your trip to bolster sustained cardiovascular/aerobic activities as well as core and leg strength. Day hikes with a full backpack, preferably on hilly, off road terrain, is the best way to train for our trips. Activities such as cycling and step-master type machines are also excellent and preferable to a routine comprised solely of running.
About the Packstock: Mules will be carrying all of our equipment and your personal gear each day. We won't be hiking with the mules and perhaps not even camping with them depending on the day. You will need to pack your personal belongings efficiently into one mid-sized compression sack or duffel as outlined in our pre-trip materials. You are welcome to pack anything extra in your daypack.
Day 1: Check in at the Piccadilly Inn at the Airport anytime after 4pm. Meet your guide(s) and group in the Lobby at 6pm for a brief orientation. Dinner is on your own at the Hotel.
Day 2: After an early breakfast on your own, our shuttle will meet us at 7am to drive to the remote trailhead (7,100'), about a 3-hour drive. The hike to our first camp will be roughly 4.4 miles to Knoblock Meadow. That evening there may be time to explore while your guide(s) prepare dinner. The day ends with a campfire and stargazing.
Day 3: We’ll pack up camp early this morning with our sights set on Isberg Pass (11,100’). After passing through a high lakes basin, we’ll surmount the pass itself, which marks the official border of Yosemite. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a lakeside camp at the headwaters of the Merced River, surrounded by picturesque 11-12,000 foot peaks. 9.4 miles
Day 4: Today's hike is a grand downhill, through the creek drainages that eventually form the mighty “Wild and Scenic Merced River”. Views of the Clark Range are abundant and there are plenty of beautiful meadows, waterfalls and swimming holes to distract us. The day's hike drops us 2,500' over roughly 9 miles and we'll camp along the Merced River.
Day 5: This morning we’ll continue following the Merced past the famous high camp and into Echo Valley. From there, we’ll regain our lost elevation as we traverse large granite ridges enjoying spectacular views of Little Yosemite Valley along the way. The trail eventually leads to the Sunrise Creek area. 9 miles
Day 6: We'll be up and out of camp early to begin making our way to the top of Cloud’s Rest (9,926). We’ll reach the summit by late morning, and will have plenty of time to enjoy the stunning views of our route and of Tenaya Canyon 4,000 feet below. The peak itself is a side trip off of the main trail, 3.6 miles round-trip. In the afternoon we’ll continue on to our camp at Sunrise Lakes where we will have time to relax, clean up and enjoy camp. 9.2 miles total, including the summit side-trip.
Day 7: Our second to last day we’ll connect with the famous John Muir Trail in the Tuolumne region of Yosemite. We’ll pass some stunning alpine meadows and otherworldly glaciated peaks on our way to what many guides call "the most beautiful spot in Yosemite," Cathedral Lake (9,600'). We’ll have time in the afternoon to explore the area via one of several off-trail routes, or just relax and enjoy the swimming and stunning views from the lakeside camp. 6miles plus an optional excursion in the afternoon.
Day 8: After breakfast, we'll pack up camp one last time and head out the remaining 4 miles to the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows in Northern Yosemite. We'll be meeting our shuttle here mid morning for a scenic drive through the park back to Fresno. Expect a 5-6pm return to Fresno.
Note: Due to new regulations regarding Half Dome permitting Yosemite has disallowed Half Dome climbs to be associated with any trip that originates outside of Yosemite NP beginning in 2017. Instead we will summit the guide favorite Cloud's Rest (9,926'), seated in the Tuolumne Region of the park and overlooking Tenaya Canyon with views of Half Dome far below.
Want to experience this trip as a traditional backpack? Click Here for the backpacking version of this same itinerary!
It was a GREAT trip. Good group of people. Amazing scenery. Wonderful guides. A+. I look forward to doing another.
-Harrison Hobart - 2018
My brother and I recently completed the Yosemite Grand Traverse trip with Jenny and Ryan as our guides. It was a fantastic trip that we would recommend to anyone. The itinerary was well planned and we could not have asked for better guides. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, personable, and great chefs! Many thanks for a memorable trip!
Thanks again to all you guys, have a safe rest of the summer trekking and we'll be back in touch someday. Cheers
-- Sims Riggan Yosemite Grand Traverse pack trip July, 2013
"I recently returned from my first backpacking trip ever. A friend convinced me to to join her on SYMG's Yosemite Grand Traverse (with mule support). I really had no idea what I was getting into and SYMG made this one of the most memorable travel experiences ever. All aspects of the trip were incredibly well organized including the initial briefing, the route, the mule support, the campsites and the food. Our guides, Colby and Jenny, were just amazing - knowledgeable about the geology, plants, animals, and history and lore of Yosemite. They were exceedingly patient, hardworking and fun. They provided each guest with individual attention so that we all had our own Yosemite back country adventure. Their experience and good instincts were invaluable throughout the trip. It's clear that they love their jobs and they are true professionals. I would highly recommend SYMG and am looking forward to my next trip."
-Cheryl - YGT Horsepack 2016
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for an AWESOME trip on The YGT!!!! It was the most fun I have had in a long time and the best trip I have ever been on! From exploring the Ansel Adam's Wilderness to climbing the Isberg Pass (which was an incredible hike) to following the Merced River drainage, to the climb up Half Dome (hiking up Subdome is a bitch!) to getting to the Cathedral mountain range through such beautiful alpine meadows, to getting an awesome tour through the valley and seeing the falls and El Cap, it was so awesome! The second, third, fourth and fifth days were my favorite!
Jenny and Drew were amazing guides, they took such good care of us. Jenny's cooking is so good that some of her backcountry meals blow away anything I have had to eat in my own home. She made sure that as vegetarians my brother and I always had lots of great options for all our meals. Drew was such a nice person and was constantly giving our group encouragement and energy. When I was sick one afternoon, he walked with me when I couldn't go as fast as everyone else, and when I had a heel blister, he put a moleskin patch on me right away and made sure I was ok. On the last night our tent broke and Drew fixed it so well with duck tape, (I was amazed at his resourcefulness)!
SYMG is truely a first class organization, and I am already planning to do the Half Dome and Cloud's Rest trip you guys offer next year with my wife.
Tejas had a such great time and has now been converted to a person who loves and appreciates the outdoors. It was great having a week to bond with my brother. Also, please say thanks to Colby from us for setting up such a great picnic at El Cap! This trip was really a once in a lifetime trip and I thank you so much Ian for putting it all together and running such a great company!
Talk to you soon,
-- Brijesh Bodiwalla YGT w/ stock support July, 2011