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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.

Moderate- Basecamps
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.

Alpine Lakes

About the trip

The high country lakes and peaks of the Ansel Adams Wilderness along the southern Yosemite border are truly spectacular. This trip takes you deep into a seemingly unspoiled subalpine environment where granite peaks, clear lakes, cascading streams, and wildflower filled meadows captivate all who travel here. This trip is for those who want to get away from the crowds and who would like to enjoy the dramatic landscapes of Southern Yosemite while travelling with a professional, friendly, and knowledgeable guide. We'll spend our days exploring this rich mountain environment, via established on- and of-trail routes. There's even the option of a peak ascent of one of the 10,000+ ft peaks making up the southern border of Yosemite!

Accommodations: We provide your first night's lodging in a chalet on beautiful Bass Lake. Facilities include lakeside pool and hot tub, as well as tennis courts, market and restaurants (pricing based on shared room occupancy).

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 breakfast 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), applicable permits, 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, 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.

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Check in to the Pines Resort on beautiful Bass Lake anytime after 4pm. Meet your guide and group at 6pm in the main lobby for a short meet-and-greet and trip orientation. Dinner tonight is on your own at one of the many local restaurants.

Day 2: After an early breakfast on your own (there is a nice bakery in the Pines village), we’ll meet you at 8am to drive to the nearby trailhead (7,600’). The drive, which takes about an hour, is your responsibility to and from the trailhead. After a quick gear sort we’ll hit the trail. We will hike approximately 6 miles, first through fir forests and finally into the high sub-alpine lakes basin where we will make basecamp.

Day 3: Today your guide(s) will lead a hike through the pristine upper lakes basin via established on- and off-trail routes. Exact destinations and distance vary depending on the preferences of the group members. The guides excel at customizing the itinerary to meet the preferences of the group. The day ends with swimming at our lakeside camp, a hearty dinner prepared by your guide(s), and stargazing.

Day 4: After a hearty breakfast prepared by your guide(s) we’ll set out again to explore the surrounding area. An optional summit hike to one of the nearby 10,000'+ peaks that make up the southern border of Yosemite National Park is a possibility. Also day hikes to other nearby alpine lakes with great fishing, swimming & photo opportunities are possible, depending on your interest.

Day 5: After a leisurely morning we’ll bid farewell to our cozy camp and make out way back to the trailhead. Expect a 12-1pm departure from the high country.


Want to experience this trip but don't want to carry a full backpack? Click Here for our stock-supported version of the same itinerary!


*Similar trips include: Ansel Adams High Sierra CampHigh Tour

Trip Details

5 days

Group size
maximum 12 ppl

Difficulty Rating
Moderate / Basecamp


$995 per person price based on shared room occupancy Single Lodging Supplement: Requested Single $220; Forced Single $110

2020 Trip Dates
June 24-29, 2020
July 15-19, 2020
August 5-9, 2020
August 26-29, 2020
Custom dates & pricing available!


I just a quick note to say our trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness with Gretchen was absolutely amazing -- experience of a lifetime department! The itinerary was perfect, the equipment was great, food was awesome and Gretchen was completely amazing. Gretchen in particular made the trip really special, she connected with our girls so well and made everyone super comfortable. Happy to leave a review in the right place or tell you more, but as I jump back into the swirl of work I just wanted to say thanks for a really first-rate experience from start to finish. Warm regards.

-Darren M, 2019

I'm the Aunt who went along with my nephew and nieces. I didn't realize what I was exactly getting into, but being I'm in pretty decent shape I went along. Ryan could be my son and he was the most thoughtful, considerate guide we could have had... Considering I never have been in the mountain, the meals Ryan made were exceptionally good. It was a very memorable experience for all of us. Next year when we come Ryan will be our guide. Thanks again for such an exciting experience

-Trish I, 2015

We had a wonderful time on your trip. Both Alexes were really excellent - cheerful, great to be around, fun, knowledgable, really good with kids. All of us would certainly love to go on a trip with them again. We appreciated the quality of the food, and it's general healthiness - much better than I was ever expecting. The scenery was gorgeous and the route was perfect. I would tell any of my friends to book with you. Thanks for everything it was really great!

-Phil F, 2015

I am just back from my trip to Alpine Lakes and I wanted to share that Brendan and Riley were absolutely outstanding guides in every way. They were not only incredibly kind, thoughtful, fun, gracious, graceful and extremely well prepared, their knowledge and enthusiasm for their work came through in everything they did. I had the pleasure of peaking Madera with Brendan and it was one of the most thrilling and memorable experiences I've had in the outdoors. His skill, foresight, strength, pacing, smarts and good nature are second to none.

-Christina G, 2015

A quick note to say THANK YOU both for all that you did to make our Alpine Lakes trip happen. The trip was 100% perfect -- all because of the patience, sense of humor, and technical + human skills your office staff and guides demonstrated throughout our experience. Oh, and the very awesome itinerary. I went from thinking that the trip wouldn't happen, to having had the long weekend of a lifetime. Huge thanks to all of you for putting up with our slow responses to emails, dietary insanity, fears of injuries, mosquito panics, and my own mental breakdown toward the top of Mount Sing. Through it all, the office staff, guides and the porter were super cool and patient and optimistic. All of that positivity was contagious. Looking forward to more trips in the future, and to one day subjecting Scott to a trip that includes my three wild kids + husband -- they're already fired up after hearing my stories and seeing my pics.

-Sophie H, 2018

Ian, My family and I had a great time on the Alpine lakes backpack trip! Chudy and Drew took great care of us and were very professional. We got some phenomenal photos but they don't begin to portray the vistas we encountered. From Chittendon Lake and Sing Peak Summit to Jones Store the trip met our every expectation. I hope that you are able to continue to get people into the backcountry. Thanks again.

-Francis S, 2016

So I just got back from the Alpine Lakes trip. It rocked. The dynamic duo of Jenny and Ryan really made it fun for all and it was by far the most relaxing trip I have had in the mountains. The site they found was idyllic and the way they tailored day trips to the varying needs of the group was impressive especially since athletic prowess varied among participants. Next summer I'd like to plan a trip with 1-2 other families. Kudos to you for building up SYMG into the corporate Titan it is today.

-Reed M, 2013