We are actively monitoring public health information resources (including the WHO and CDC) so that we can provide informed responses to any questions or concerns related to travel to our destinations in Yosemite and the High Sierra. As an informed traveler, we encourage you to do the same but we are also available via phone or email.
When you register, we do still recommend purchasing travel insurance to safeguard your travel investment. In addition to your standard coverage, we recommend adding "cancel for any reason" to your trip departure insurance coverage and contacting TravelGuard for additional clarification regarding their policies in regards to the coronavirus.
SYMG is a full-service outfitter and we pride ourselves on taking care of the details for you. The list below highlights what is included on all our multi-day trips:
An evacuation is defined as any time you need to come off the trip before the scheduled exit. In these cases, your guide(s) and our office team will devise the best plan for a safe and efficient exit from the backcountry, all dependent on your location, specific situation, and available resources. You can also count on SYMG to arrange any logistics that you may need in the front country once you exit, including shuttling, lodging, medical care, etc. There may be costs associated with your evacuation and these costs will be your responsibility. We will, of course, do our very best to minimize these costs while still ensuring a safe and efficient process for you as well as for the rest of the group remaining on the trail. Shuttling, lodging, heli/medivac transports, staffing resources, stock-support, meals, shipping, and other needs may all be factors depending on what needs to be done to get you out efficiently and safely. We highly recommend purchasing trip insurance through our partner TravelGuard to help protect your travel investment in the event that you need to be evacuated.
All of our guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level. Each guide carries a large comprehensive first aid kit appropriate to the trip. Cell phones are carried at all times, and on all remote backcountry trips, a Garmin Inreach GPS device will be brought and used in the event of an emergency. There is no “typical” emergency and actual procedures depend on location, type of injury, and resources available. Office staff can always be reached after hours in the event of an emergency. We will also provide you with after-hours emergency contact information that is included in your pre-trip information packet.
There are several possibilities, depending on your itinerary. When you book a trip with us, we give arrival directions, which have the most convenient airports noted. Generally, here are some thoughts: for those who are including visits to the California coast on their trip, it makes more sense to fly in and out of San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, as it is generally cheaper. For those just visiting the Yosemite area, the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is best. Although tickets can be more expensive than flying in and out of San Francisco, it saves half a day’s driving on either end of the trip, plus gas, etc. Fresno is best for most of our trips along the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Grand Traverse, Ansel Adams Wilderness departures, etc. Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Reno airports can work well for trips originating on the east side of the Sierra (JMT: Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne, Mt. Whitney w/ Stock Support).
During the summer months, average temperatures in the backcountry (7,000-10,000’) range between 65-75°F during the day and 30-40°F at night. Multi-day storm systems are rare, however, rain or snow showers can happen any afternoon in the summer, so it is important to bring proper rain gear. Each part of the season has different historical characteristics. Here’s a link to our favorite and most accurate high elevation forecast: NOAA Yosemite High Country Weather. For day trips in and around Yosemite Valley (4,000’), you can expect warmer temperatures (averaging mid 70s- high 80s°F and lows of 40-50°F) Yosemite Valley Weather.
Guide assignments are often scheduled in advance and you can ask our office staff who will be leading your trip in the weeks prior to your trip departure. However, guide assignments are subject to change and often do given the dynamic nature of our industry. In most cases, you will not hear from the guide in advance as they work primarily in the backcountry and are out of cell and e-mail range. Our office staff is happy to assist with trip-related questions, which keeps information accurate and avoids any gaps in communication. Read more about our Guiding Staff.
You will likely see wildlife given the remote nature of our trips which will include but is not limited to: deer, marmots, birds, reptiles, etc. Black bears are the only bears in the Sierra Nevada mountains and they are quite rare to see on our trips. Black bears often seek out food but are not interested in humans otherwise. As a precaution on all of our trips, we store our food in bear-proof cans or boxes, but on most trips, it's pretty rare to see a bear.
For multi-day trips, a non-refundable deposit is due at the time of booking to secure your spot on our trips. Final balances are due at 90 days prior to the trip date. Full payment is due upon registration for all day trips (hiking and rock climbing). For the complete payment and cancellation schedule, please refer to our Terms and Conditions.
We highly recommend trip insurance for all our multi-day trips to protect your travel investment. This is especially true for our bigger departures such as those on the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Grand Traverse, and Trans-Sierra Trail. The most common reason guests need to make a claim is for missing the trip entirely due to injury/sickness before the trip (either to yourself or loved-one). We highly recommend our travel insurance partner TravelGuard Insurance. When we send you your confirmation packet we will be sending you instructions on how to purchase the right policy for you. You can get a quote for travel insurance here: TravelGuard Insurance.
The prices of our trips are based on double occupancy at accommodations included in your trip (hotels, lodges, and cabins). If you would like to request a room for yourself, we require a “requested single supplement” fee. Fees vary for each trip and are listed under the pricing on the specific trip itinerary page. Single supplements do not apply to tents while on the trail. All single travelers will receive their own tent if you are borrowing one from SYMG.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodation we will assign a roommate of the same gender to share your room. Occasionally, due to the demographic makeup of your trip, there is no one able to share your room. In this instance, you are required to pay a “forced single supplement”.
Tipping is customary and our guides depend on them. We recommend 10-20% of the total trip cost for a job well done. This is a total amount, not per guide. Cash or a check given directly to the guide(s) is the best method. For trips with multiple guides, the gratuity will typically be split down the middle or, in rare cases in proportion to workload. Tipping to the lead guide is preferred.
For trips with stock-support, it is also customary to tip the packer. For basecamp trips where your gear is dropped off at camp and then picked up later, a tip of $10-20 per participant is recommended. For traveling trips where the packer is moving camp each day and caring for the mules, 3% of the trip cost is customary. Tips can be given directly to the packer or passed on through the trip leader.
Once you reserve a trip you will hear confirmation from our office that we have received your registration form and credit card for deposit (or full payment). We will then e-mail you a detailed trip packet with all you need to know about your trip! For multi-day trips, our office will contact you via e-mail at 90 days prior to final trip payments and again in the weeks prior to your trip to check in with any final trip details. Of course please feel free to call our office anytime for any questions.
We know you've been looking forward to your trip and so are we! Some weather is expected in the mountains and with the aid of our recommended gear list, you’ll have everything you need to be comfortable and have fun. Occasionally there are environmental factors that cause access issues beyond our control that warrant rerouting (nearby fires, snow-pack issues that affect the mules on stock supported trips, government trail closures, etc). In this case, we will plan an alternative itinerary, in the spirit of the original, and give you as much notice as possible. We do not give refunds for natural disasters, including forest fires. We highly recommend Trip Insurance to protect your trip cost investment. For rock-climbing day trips, we will cancel in the case of rain, snow, or lightning, as this is a safety concern. We will do our best to reschedule as conditions improve.
It is uncommon that our trips do not reach the minimum number of participants, but it does happen on occasion. Even more uncommon is SYMG staff not being able to find a practical alternative option. We will notify you if the minimum has not yet been met and we can discuss alternative options. However, last-minute sign-ups are common to many of our departures and we will not fully cancel a trip more than 30 days prior to the trip start. Ultimately, if SYMG cancels the trip due to low participation, a full refund is always an option. If you prefer, we will also work with you to find an alternative solution that you are happy with. In the past, guests have opted to join a different trip in the same time frame, transferred their trip cost to a future trip, or even split the cost of a small group surcharge to make the original trip happen.
Yes! Children 16 and over are welcome to join any of our regular departures when accompanied by a parent. Some departures are also appropriate for 12 years and older such as our Ansel Adams Wilderness High Sierra Camp, Alpine Lakes or High Tour backpacking trips, Hiking Weekends, and Rock Climbing trips, again when accompanied by a parent. We also sometimes make exceptions for children who have had prior experience and success on the type of trip you are interested in joining. Past that, we’ve found it best for families with younger children to create a private trip for just the family which we are happy to do. This way the entire trip can be catered to your interests and abilities, and having a private guide will give lots of flexibility for the younger kids, meaning more fun for everyone. Feel free to contact us to discuss your family’s interests and we can help you plan a memorable adventure here in the Yosemite area.
Of course! Solo travelers are welcomed on any of our scheduled group trips. Joining a trip as a solo traveler can be a great way to meet other like-minded individuals and to create lasting friendships. Note that day trips are scheduled privately.
Availability of both guides and permits is limited, so the sooner you book, the better. We suggest planning about 1 year to 6 months in advance, though we can sometimes find ways to accommodate your needs even at shorter notice.
The best training for hiking is... hiking! So, get outside and enjoy some local trails (preferably with elevation gain and loss). Also, think about striking a balance between cardio and strength training. Cycling, running, and swimming are fantastic. Gym workouts focusing on your leg muscles are great, as is training on stadium bleachers for those in flat areas. Daily stretching with Pilates or Yoga is also wonderful training when used in conjunction with the above. Our trips have a range of challenge levels, so you'll want to develop a training plan that best suits the nature of your trip. Our office is happy to provide training tips and recommendations specific to your trip!
SYMG has earned a reputation for providing delicious, and nutrient-rich foods during our trips and our meals have been described as "Backcountry Gourmet". Our guides take care of all the menu planning, food shopping, and cooking during your trip. You can expect to see a variety of foods that pack well for backcountry travel that include different grains, proteins, and unique flavors. We include as many fresh ingredients as possible (fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc.), and assorted trail snacks such as dried meats, fruits, nuts, trail mixes, and bars will be provided for you. For our longer backpacking departures, our guides work hard to keep meals lightweight without sacrificing quality taste or variety. We don’t have standardized menus, but instead we let our guides show off their own best dishes!
SYMG is happy to outfit you with the following high-quality gear free of charge at your request:
If you prefer to bring your own backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, you are welcome to for fit and familiarity. SYMG will also provide all group gear needed for multi-day departures including:
When you register for one of our trips, we will send you a full pre-trip package that includes a gear and clothing list specific to your trip.
Pack supported trips are unique in that they provide a remote wilderness experience without having to carry a heavy backpack. These trips allow people who aren’t able to carry more than 10-15 lbs on their back (or simply prefer not to) to still enjoy the solitude and beauty of the Sierra Nevada backcountry. The mules carrying your gear will not be traveling with the group during the day but will be at camp with all equipment and belongings when you arrive. Alternatively, backpacking trips involve each person carrying all their own equipment as well as a full bear can of food and group gear (from about 30-40lbs depending on the trip). Both pack supported trips and backpacking are incredible experiences and have their special characteristics. Need help deciding which type of trip is right for you? Contact our office staff, we’re here to help!
We've designed our itineraries with the acclimatization process in mind for trips at higher elevations. Besides training at higher elevations, increasing your cardio training is the best thing you can do on your own to help expedite the acclimatization process. Another tip is to hydrate well and limit the use of alcohol on the nights prior to the start of your trip. On trips over 8,000 ft, it is possible to experience mild symptoms of altitude effects (AMS) such as loss of appetite, lethargy, trouble sleeping, or headache. The good news is these symptoms typically disappear after the first or second night.
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.
Our professional mountain guides are there to facilitate a seamless and memorable trip for you. All guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level and are experienced backcountry travelers. Each guide has their own specialties, often associated with advanced coursework or certifications. They are well versed in the natural and cultural history of the area, cook excellent food, and are fun, personable people to spend time with.
Typically, the guides get up and get hot water going for strong coffee/morning drinks around 6:30 am. You can then begin packing up your clothing and gear. We’ll have breakfast, finish up camp breakdown and hit the trail around 8 am-9 am depending on the day’s mileage. We stop as a group for snack and lunch breaks. We'll get to camp in the later afternoon. After setting up camp, you’ll have time to relax, swim, fish or wash clothes before dinner, prepared by the guides. Each trip is different and some have more "downtime" than others.
We take pride in our efforts as a full-service outfitter. As our guest, you are only responsible for setting up and taking down your tent, packing your personal gear, and filtering your water. Of course, our guides are always available to assist. Other camp chores such as cooking, cleaning, hauling water, packing up/down of camp, etc are left to the guides, leaving you to relax and enjoy the backcountry.
On the trail, each group has its own dynamic and pace. Every group has folks who are faster, and folks who are slower. The guides excel at pacing the group appropriately, taking into account the ability of all participants. Typically, the group behaves sort of like an accordion. That is, there’s room to spread out and get into your own hiking groove. The guide, who is always in the lead (and another guide in the back on fuller trips), will periodically bring the group back together at trail intersections, lunchtime, tricky spots, or at points of interest.
Yes, your guide will be carrying a satellite communication device (DeLorme InReach) and will plan to check in with the SYMG office staff every evening. These devices are intended for emergency use and will not be available for guests to use in non-emergency situations. You are welcome to bring your own, although there are limitations with these in the backcountry setting so please do not plan on reliably checking in with friends/family at predetermined times/locations. If you do plan on bringing a satellite device, please notify SYMG before your departure. We ask that you keep device use to a minimum to help maintain an "unplugged" backcountry experience for other guests.
Although the water in the Sierra is renowned for its cleanliness, you always have the option of filtering and we supply water filters on all of our trips. We use hand pumps and in some cases gravity filters or steripens as additional filtration options. Generally, as a trip participant, you are responsible for filtering your daily water. If you have a small personal water filtration device like a Sawyer Squeeze or Katadyn BeFree, you are welcome to bring it along to filter your own water along the way.
Yes, we are happy to accommodate most traditional dietary requests! Let us know on your reservation form what your dietary needs are and our guides will make sure to plan meals accordingly. We do appreciate the distinction between preferences vs allergies and notes if there is a concern about cross-contamination. There may be an additional fee for more elaborate dietary requests. We do pride ourselves in providing diverse and nutritious meals for long hiking days and we will be in contact if there is concern about accommodating a specific dietary requirement.
As a full-service outfitter, we take care of all menu planning and shopping, including snacks. Some guests who may prefer particular types of snacks or know themselves to be big eaters and/or snackers may want to bring something extra along, to supplement what we provide. Please keep in mind that there is limited space in the bear-proof containers that we use. We also welcome specific snack requests when booking your trip.
We know for some this can be an intimidating aspect of backcountry trips, but not to worry! Your guide will go over the proper etiquette and "Leave No Trace" practices as a part of camp orientation. We provide everything needed for wilderness bathroom procedures, including toilet paper, a trowel, hand sanitizer, and a personal bathroom trash kit. In most cases when there are no permanent bathroom structures, you'll use the cat-hole method to bury any human waste, and any materials used in the process (wet wipes, toilet paper, menstrual products) will need to be packed out. Many people like to bring their own hand sanitizer as well as wet wipes to practice good hygiene on the trail.
In your daypack, you’ll want to have water for the day (about 2-3 liters), raingear (a must in the Sierra), sunscreen, a warm insulating layer, sunglasses/hat, blister/first aid care, and a camera (optional). Keep in mind that you won’t have access to your belongings on the mules until you arrive at camp for the evening, so make sure you have what you need for the day. Everything else can be packed with the mules! Each person is allowed to bring 15-20 lbs (exact weight varies per trip) of personal items to be carried by the pack stock (more details will be outlined in your specific trip packet).
SYMG is happy to provide the essential gear you’ll use during your Camping Weekend. This includes a day pack, trekking poles, a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. All other gear & equipment for your camping experience is included with just a basic list of personal items you will need to bring like clothing, toilettries, etc. A full gear list will be sent to you upon registration for the trip.
The High Sierra lakes and streams we travel in are notable for the fishing opportunities! High Sierra Lakes hold fish in the 6-15" range typically. Brook (mostly) and Rainbow Trout are commonly caught but its also possible to catch German Brown and Golden Trout depending on your location. We typically recommend the practice of catch and release. If keeping fish, we recommend keeping fish over 12" and the Brooks only. You'll be responsible for cleaning your own fish and will need to discuss with your guide a plan for cooking and eating them. Each person will also need a CA Dept of fish and game fishing license which you can pre-purchase online.
As far as fly fishing gear. We recommend bringing a 3-7 piece, 4-6 weight rod for the lakes and streams of the Sierra. Hard cases for pack trips mandatory. Recommended fly patterns are:
If you use spinning rods, telescoping are best for packing. Small (1-2 lbs test is best). Lures should be barbless and single if possible, although treble hooks aren't mandatory.
Yes, we can provide climbing shoes, harnesses, and helmets at no additional charge. We also provide top-of-the-line gear and equipment including ropes, anchor equipment, and safety gear.
Yes! Our guided rock climbing days are open to individuals and groups of all skill levels. Rock Climbing Days are privately booked so you can choose the day that works best for you. For our Rock Camps and Rock Weekends, we recommend having basic rock climbing knowledge. Prior to arriving, consider taking a climbing class in the rock gym, reading rock climbing instructional books and/or watching rock climbing videos will help enhance your climbing experience and thoroughly prepare you for multiple days on the rock.
No, personal transportation is required for all of our Rock Climbing offerings. Currently, there is no public transportation option in our immediate area. Keep in mind that the minimum age to rent a vehicle in California is 21. For our trips, you will meet your guide at a specific location and then follow them to where you will begin your approach to the climbing site.
We’ll meet you at a designated location just outside the Southern gate of Yosemite (near the town of Oakhurst). You'll follow your guide in your vehicle to the climbing site (this is a dirt road, all roads are accessible with a two-wheel-drive vehicle, though an SUV style vehicle may be more comfortable). Each day is tailored to your own abilities and interests. Tell your guide your goals and they will plan the day to best to meet your needs and help you enjoy your day on the rock!
Currently, we do not have a minimum (or maximum) age to rock climb, though children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by parent or guardian for all our rock programs. We can provide specialized equipment for younger climbers and our guides love facilitating family climbing days. Upon registration please let us know the age of each person in your party and goals for the day(s). We can find a climb for everyone!
If you’re interested in learning to lead climb, we recommend joining us on for a Rock Weekend, Rock Camp or Rock Climbing Skills Day. Your guide will teach you to lead climb in a series of steps. The first step is demonstrating and teaching lead climbing techniques, including gear placements, anchor building, lead belaying and rope management. Then your guide will set up an area for you to practice these skills. After, your guides will assess your gear placements, anchor building, and belay techniques and provide you with valuable feedback. Using the feedback, you will then learn to “mock lead”. Mock leading involves leading a rope up the climb while also being attached to a top rope. This will allow an opportunity to place or clip gear while climbing and get the feel of lead climbing while still providing safety in the instance of a fall. Note: We don’t permit actual lead climbing during our Rock Camp or Weekend.
We offer guided rock climbing in the Southern Yosemite high country, which is just south of the national park but not in Yosemite Valley. There are significantly less crowds, cooler temperatures, and great granite to climb on at the sites we go to, which is why we like them so much! If you'd like to check them out online, you can look up the climbing in these areas: Fresno Dome, Willow Creek Wall, etc.
All you need to bring is your lunch, personal clothing, and water for the day (2-3 liters per person) and we take care of the rest. Each SYMG guide carries with them a first aid kit, a trail map, interpretive guides to the park, and identification guides for flora and fauna you may observe on the trail.
Yosemite's most famous waterfalls include:
Yosemite Valley is home to an incredible number and variety of waterfalls. During spring and early summer, Yosemite has hundreds of cascades pouring from the rim of the valley and eventually reaching the Merced River. With all of our Day Hikes you will have the opportunity to see several of the most famous falls in the Park. We commonly visit Yosemite’s Grand Staircase which takes you along the beginning of the John Muir Trail past Illilouette Falls (370’), Vernal Falls (317’) and to the top of Nevada Falls (594’). You’ll also see Yosemite Falls (2425’) during portions of your day. In the later part of summer, some of the waterfalls will have less water (or will be dry), however, there are a few waterfalls that flow all year round!
When you join SYMG for a hiking tour in Yosemite, you can trust that you are traveling with an expert who knows the ins and outs of the park and can help make the most of your time. We offer an insider's knowledge to the best trail systems, bringing you to the postcard quality vistas while helping you experience Yosemite’s peacefulness without the crowds and traffic. SYMG guides are trained experts each with their own unique specialties in Yosemite’s specific geology, indigenous history, flora & fauna, cultural history, etc.
Your guide will be waiting for you at the designated meeting location wearing an SYMG hat and shirt. They will also be holding a sign with your name on it, so you can more easily identify who is your guide for the day.
For hiking and rock climbing, we recommend wearing breathable layers including a lightweight jacket, a mid-layer long sleeve shirt for sun protection and warmth as well as a baselayer including a t-shirt, tank top and/or shorts. We recommend moisture-wicking synthetic materials over cotton. We also encourage you to bring a hat and sunglasses!
For day trips in and around Yosemite Valley, you can expect warm temperatures (averaging mid 70s- high 80s°F). It's not uncommon to experience storms throughout summer, although they don't usually last very long.