- Why SYMG?
- Our Trips
- Calendar & Pricing
by Elliott Ross, Filson Life, 2016
"The mountains are calling and I must go." -John Muir
"When Colby Brokvist, a seasoned explorer and old friend of mine who manages the outfit Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, invited me along on a trek that promised many of the harder to reach secrets of the park, I assuredly signed on. Supported by a team of mules, we navigated a sixty mile route Colby dubbed the “Yosemite Grand Traverse” at a purposely slow meander that took us up and over high alpine tundra, descending below into stands of gnarled whitebark and foxtail pines, past expansive electric green meadows nested at the bottom of valleys wrought over eons by the slow plodding of glaciers."
by Brendan Leonard, National Geographic, Oct 2014
"These big adventures are true American classics"
"Two or three weeks of hiking the John Muir can be enough to hit your reset button, according to Colby Brokvist, senior backcountry guide for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, who’s hiked the JMT a dozen times. “There’s something to be said for the long trip,” Brokvist says. “You can take someone on a four- or five-day trip, and they’re refreshed and rejuvenated and all, but if you take someone on a hike like the John Muir Trail, it doesn’t matter what was happening in their lives or at work. On a long trip, say on day six or day seven, you see something change in people, where all that other stuff is just gone.”
by Clint Carter October, 2013
Pack up Friday, head to the wilderness, and return Sunday with energy and a clear head.
"People overlook the powerful impact that even a single night in the wilderness can have," says Ian Elman, founder of Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides. "It's always worth the effort."...[Even] Hiking a few miles puts you far enough into the woods that you're isolated, Elman says. But it's not so far that you can't carry good food and a little booze to sip around the campfire. "You can tackle the big peak on Saturday, and on Sunday, pack up and still be home by 9pm."
In the Fall of 2012, SYMG and the Motion TV crew again teamed up for a televised High Sierra adventure. This year we tackled Yosemite's Mt Conness via the 3/4th class mountaineer's route in the rugged northern ranges of the park. Done in mini-expedition style, we had all the luxuries of a well-stocked base camp, including stock-support, leaving us fully fueled and free to explore this remote region of Yosemite.
by Peter Potterfield 2012
"The Yosemite Grand Traverse, an epic route, is one of those hikes that is tremendously enhanced by a local, knowledgeable guide service that can handle the troublesome transportation issues and hard-to-get permits for this route. And since the hike was discovered and refined by Ian Elman and his guides at Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, author Peter Potterfield personally endorses Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides as the premier choice for hikers who want to embark upon this new classic week-long Sierra route."
In 2008, Frommer's named the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides' Hikes as the best among the guided hiking and backpacking trips in Yosemite. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides employs professional hiking guides that take guests on day trips, weekend hiking adventures and backpacking adventures that last up to eight days. The guides specialize in taking guests away from the more popular regions of the park to explore lesser-known areas, while still giving hikers the chance to spot popular vistas like Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome. The guide works with hikers to choose trails and routes based on hiking experience and the group's goals. Up to 10 hikers may join a group, and all levels of hiking, including cross-country hiking, are possible with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides.
In the Spring of 2010, the Motion TV crew called to see if SYMG was interested in offering something unique to their fan base. They wanted us to design a trip that could be filmed for a TV show episode, that included beautiful scenery, great food, and the ability to take a diverse group through rugged terrain. And we did it! The trip ended up being a brainchild of the show's popular host and former SYMG guide, Greg Aiello and Ian Elman, the owner of SYMG, who ended up leading the trip with the first 10 people who signed up. The 5-day trip was a stock and horse-pack supported adventure on the John Muir Trail from Agnew Meadows in the Inyo National Forest through to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. As it turned out the trip ended up "quite adventurous" with some interesting turn of events. The crew filmed for 5 days straight as 15 of us walked over 30 miles and 2 high mountain passes. The show aired in October, 2010 and here's a link to the final edit which showed in over 50 million households! The show is wonderfully produced and shot in High Definition. Enjoy one of the most memorable trips of the season and keep an eye out for the offering as we are hoping to do this again.
25 Best New Trips - The Sierra High Route
National Geo. Adventure Magazine chooses Sierra High Route as one the Best New Trips for 2010! "What makes the Sierra High Route so unique," says Ian Elman, owner of Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, "is that it's not a trail, it's a concept." That concept-invented in the 1970's by Steve Roper, who wrote The Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country-is to trace the highest points across the Sierra while staying above tree line and away from other hikers. The thing is it's exceedingly difficult to execute this concept on your own: Only a handful of people complete it each year. Lucky for you, Andrew Skurka (...the trekker extraordinaire and our [NGA's] 2008 Adventurer of the Year) will lead the inaugural Sierra High Route outfitted crossing for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides in 2010. Starting in Kings Canyon National Park, you'll hoof it 195 miles north, passing the John Muir Wilderness, the Ansel Adam's Wilderness, and Yosemite National Park..."This is an old-fashioned adventure travel trip, " says Elman, referring to the fact that route-finding can be hit-or-miss. SYMG has room for just 6 hikers and extensive backpacking experience is required.
This past autumn the senior staff at SYMG had the opportunity to take our friends at Columbia Sportswear on an excursion into the Sierra high country. The designers were eager to see how their new designs were holding up and we were eager to show them! The outing proved exciting, with a 4th class ascent of a 12,242' peak, strong, cold winds and even some snow! We also found time to talk with the Columbia gang about SYMG, being backcountry guides and living the mountain lifestyle.
You bet we were excited when ABC's hit new travelogue show MOTION, (on the Live Well HD Network), called to see if we would be interested in having their crew out to film a travel episode on Hiking with Families in the Yosemite area. The show was shot in the field in September, 2009 on our Ansel Adam's High Sierra Camp . The trip is a perfect one for families or people who want to enjoy the wilderness with great food and no heavy backpacks because it's horsepack supported. The show is being continually aired in over 25 million TV households across the country! We had a great time filming, eating, fishing and hiking with two families and other hikers who joined for this special event. Check it out, we think you'll love watching the show and be excited to bring your families and friends on an adventure with us soon.
SYMG Voted "Best Outfitter on Earth" 2009
For the second time in as many years, we've conducted an unprecedented survey of adventure travel companies, based on the idea that a traveler's most important decision is not always where to go but who to go with. For the 2009 edition, we spoke to more guide services-and their clients-than ever before.
25 Best New Trips - Yosemite Grand Traverse
"On this eight-day, 57-mile trans-Sierra backpacking tour, which crosses the whole of Yosemite National Park from South to North, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides has done all the logistical work for you. You start at one point, end at another, and never see the same terrain on any given day".
"Of the dozens of outdoor recreation companies that offer guided hiking and backpacking trips throughout the Yosemite region, the best of the bunch is Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides. For nearly 2 decades the professional guides from SYMG have been leading visitors of all ages to the spectacular wilderness regions throughout Yosemite National Park and the High Sierra. SYMG founder and president Ian Elman and his staff are among the top outdoor guides in the nation and are masters at providing a fun, thrilling, and safe experience for all their clients, whether it is a casual naturalist-led day hike through the Giant Sequoias or a 7 day backpacking odyssey through Southern Yosemite's Ansel Adams Wilderness (one of the best kept secrets of the region)..."
SYMG Voted "Best Outfitter on Earth" 2008
"Since 1991 this Yosemite outfitter has eschewed the Sierra Nevada's more popular routes in favor of backpacking and hiking trips through lesser-known areas, such as the Ansel Adams Wilderness. When its guides do enter more touristy locales, like Mount Whitney, for instance, it's only after spending a bulk of their time traversing the Sierra backcountry."
Adventure Weekends May, 2006
"Meet Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides at the Mammoth Trailhead, and drop 1500 feet into the North Fork of the San Joaquin canton to Sheep Crossing. Over the next 2 days, you'll trek 10 miles deeper into this granite-walled wilderness. Cast for brookies and rainbows under the long shadow of 13,157 foot Mt. Ritter."
by Nicole Davis - August, 2005
"Splurge...Welcome to the High Sierra the way Galen Rowel captured it. The folks at Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides are renowned for their intimate knowledge of the nooks and crags of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. The outfitter has led this trip for more than a decade...You'll tackle 10-miles a day at 8,000-14,000 feet, then kick back over walnut pesto chicken and black bean burritos..."
"Outside Magazine's winner for Trip of the Year - March, 2004
"Every mile on this classic American Ramble along the spine of the Sierra has a highlight...Why go with a guide instead of hoofing it on your own? For one thing, a small mule train will follow behind your group, carrying food, tents and 15 lbs of your personal gear..."
by Sarah Tuff-Dunn - June, 2003
"Mount Whitney has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Sierra Nevada. Too bad it also has the population density of Manhattan. Avoid the backcountry interstates this summer by following Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides on a new 9-day west-to-east 83-mile traverse of the Sierra. You'll be taking the backdoor route to Whitney..."
by Maria Streshinski - May, 1995
"Last summer I explored this area [Ansel Adam's Wilderness] with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, based in Bass lake. SYMG let's the clients set the pace. They provide permits, maps, a lot of hearty food, and equipment, such as packs, sleeping bags, pads, and tents...Standing on top of the a mountain, or at the end of a trail and filling your lungs with cool clean air, feeling dirtier and healthier than ever before, the hard part slips from your mind as you revel in the view, the air, and the accomplishment."
by Lisa Taggart - June, 1993
"The trouble with wilderness is this; after you've sweated your way to 1,000 feet above the tree line, pitched the tent, and lit the stove, you rarely get food worthy of the view...In addition to eating good food (examples include honey-wheat pancakes with fresh strawberries, Armenian-style sandwich rolls and homemade pesto), hikers on SYMG treks begin their trip in the lap of luxury, the hot tub-equipped Pines Resort on Bass Lake. "We want people to wake well rested for their first day in the wilderness," says Mike Maciaszek, Director.
Leadership skills are of equal importance: "I look for people with a customer service background; guides have to be able to relate to people," says [SYMG] guide Ian Elman. "...there are a number of comprehensive guide-training curricula. Including Elman's Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides which will launch it's Guide's Training Course in May..."
by Doug Robinson and Sean Jones - April, 2005
For decades, climbers have flocked to Yosemite, Tuolumne, Bishop, and The Needles, but now, after a three decade-long start-and-stop discovery process, another Sierra Gem has been developed. Shuteye Ridge offers incredible vistas, a wilderness environ, and now world-class routes.
"Luxurious wilderness trip" might sound like an oxymoron, but Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides proves otherwise. First, you have the luxury of doing absolutely nothing to prepare for this camping trip. SYMG supplies the tents, sleeping bags, mattress pads, stoves, water filters, and the rest. You simply show up, put on your backpack (guests carry their personal gear; guides carry just about everything else) and put one foot in front of the other. Once you hit the trails, the breathtaking views of the High Sierra back country aren't the only reward; you'll also enjoy fresh, nutritious, gourmet meals. No freeze-dried veggies or franks and beans here. Some guides even carry woks. Trips last 3 to 23 days and are tailored to the fitness level of your group. (At altitudes of at least 8,000 feet, even fit hikers may have to slow down a bit.) Whether you hike four miles or eight, you'll feel a world away from the daily grind, as you inhale the cool, thin, pine-scented air and take in the lush meadows, clear lakes, and granite peaks of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
by Bill Becher - Winter, 2005
If you want football shaped lunkers, head for western hothouse tailwater fisheries...but if small bejeweled trophies from lightly fished waters amidst spectacular scenery sounds intriguing, then Yosemite is for you. Mike Maciaszek, a guide with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, says that fishing Yosemite's small creeks is the kind of angling that many fly fishers started with before they joined the drift boat parade on the Missouri or spent thousands of dollars to hunt Christmas Island bonefish."
"Our friendship bonded in the mountains, says Ian. "The mountains can do that to you."...The result was Southern Yosemite [Mountain Guides]. Southern Yosemite supplies everything from simple guidance to gear and gourmet food and caters to customers from highly experienced to the highly impetuous-the novice who, says Mike, can see an adventure in a magazine and that same weekend get to live it "without even learning how to read a compass."
"Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides; Rock Climbing trips [#4 on on our affordable Adventures list]. "Enjoy awe-inspiring views as you climb throughout Yosemite or Joshua Tree. Private guides and women's only trips are available; all ability levels welcome."
by Laurie Sammis - Summer, 2000
"If you choose to escape the crowds in a more adventuresome manner, plan a trip fly fishing or exploring with one of the naturalist guides from Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG). Although SYMG does offer rock climbing classes and adventures in and around the Yosemite area, they are most popular for their extensive array of more upscale luxury outdoor programs...Want to camp in luxury with all the comforts of home (they even bring a French coffee press) try a pack trip or backpacking into the High Sierra...
by Mark Sundeen - December 2004
Vagabond Rocker [and SYMG Guide] Tim Bluhm lives in a 1995 Chevy Sportvan, but don't let that throw you: The lead singer of the San Francisco band the Mother Hips has still managed to release nine albums, play more than 2,000 concerts, and build a cultish fan base all the while stringing together a life of wilderness rambles that are as much Jack London as Jack Johnson. He tramps up and down the Golden State, skiing Mount Shasta, free-soloing Tuolumne Meadows' Cathedral Peak, surfing the cold Northern California coast, and telemark-skiing the Sierra. This summer, he broke a 14-year concert streak and worked as a climbing guide in Yosemite. With a sun-soaked sound that blends Merle Haggard with the Beach Boys, Bluhm pitched his tent on a plot of California's imagination and has been singing into the roar of the bulldozers ever since, a self-proclaimed "time-sick son of a grizzly bear" along the lines of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, with a similarly loyal following. In February, lines formed around the block in San Francisco for the premiere of Stories We Could Tell, a feature-length documentary about the band. This month, Bluhm releases California Way, a two-day session that Fog City Records producer Dan Prothero calls a "love letter from and about a disappearing place." Reached by cell phone on a highway in the Sierra, Bluhm admitted that if he'd hit the jackpot ten years ago, he "probably would have just spent it all. Now," he said, "I'd buy a better van. Or at least get my brakes fixed."