John Muir Trail Northbound: Florence Lake to Yosemite Valley

Activity Level
Trip Length
13 days
Group Size
up to 13 guests

John Muir Trail Northbound: Florence Lake to Yosemite Valley


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Graham Ottley
Graham Ottley

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(800) 231-4575
Enjoy stunning "postcard country" of the Ritter Range
Hike the JMT's iconic northern section
Traverse high-mountain passes: Selden, Silver and Donahue

The John Muir Trail is one of the most famous trails in the world. It follows the rugged spine of the Sierra Nevada, passing by pristine alpine lakes, wildflower-strewn meadows and hulking glaciated peaks. This section will take us northward from Florence Lake to Yosemite Valley, tackling the imposing Selden, Silver and Donahue Passes, visiting Cathedral Lakes, and continuing to the Northern Terminus of the JMT: Yosemite Valley. The JMT Northbound takes you backpacking through what the guides call “Postcard Country” among the sparkling lakes beneath the imposing Ritter Range.

2020 Trip Dates

September 5 - 17, 2020
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2021 Trip Dates

September 4 - 16, 2021
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$3695 per person
Price based on shared hotel occupancy

Single Room Supplement:
Requested $110, Forced $55

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Trip Itinerary

Day 1-Meet Your Guide in Fresno, CA

Your trip begins in Fresno, CA at the Wyndham Garden Hotel across from the Fresno airport. You can check in at the hotel anytime after 4pm. At 6pm you will meet your guides and group for a trip orientation, where you'll do a final gear check and discuss the details of the trip. Dinner tonight is on your own at the hotel.

Day 2-Hike from the Florence Lake to the John Muir Trail junction

Meet at 7:00 a.m. after a complimentary hotel breakfast. Our private shuttle will then drive us to Florence Lake (about 3 hrs drive) where we’ll start hiking. The first leg of the trip starts with a ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325') into the John Muir Wilderness. Today’s hike will be as we approach the junction of the John Muir Trail.

4.5 miles, Elevation: +920’ / -460’

Day 3-Visit Sallie Keyes Lakes and climb Selden Pass

Today we’ll hike past the picturesque Sallie Keyes Lakes as we approach our first pass, Selden Pass (10,880'). We’ll finish our day of hiking to our camp just beyond Marie Lakes.

8.9 miles, Elevation: +3297’ / -1103’

Day 4-Descend to Mono Creek Drainage & Resupply at Edison Lake

Today’s hike is mostly downhill (except for a stout, but brief uphill climb of Bear Ridge) into the Mono Creek Drainage at 7,870'. Here, we'll meet our first resupply.

10.6 miles, Elevation: +1321' / -3470'

We’ll have another uphill day of 8 miles to Chief Lake over Silver Pass (10,880') across the Silver Divide, named because of its silvery appearance.

8 miles, Elevation: +3150’ / -413’

Descending from Silver Pass, we’ll follow Silver Creek down into Tully Hole (9,520’). From there, a short but steep climb takes us to the stunning Virginia Lake for lunch and swimming. From there, rolling terrain will take us past Purple Lake and then to Duck Creek where we’ll make camp for the evening.

11 miles, Elevation: +2210’ / -2870’

Day 7-Resupply at Red's Meadow

We’ll have a relatively easy day today on rolling to downhill terrain into Red’s Meadow. We’ll arrive late afternoon and meet our resupply in the front-country campground. A small camp store, payphones and showers are available here.

11.5 miles, Elevation: +670’ / -2984’

Our next day will take us up and over a volcanic ridge, down into Shadow Lake, and then up again to our secluded camp along Shadow Creek. Along the way, we’ll pass into Devil’s Postpile National Monument where we’ll make time for a visit to the otherworldly geologic features of the area.

11 miles, Elevation: +2905 / -1482’

Day 9-Travel Beneath the Ritter Range and Thousand Island Lakes

Today has some of the most scenic mountain-scapes on all of the John Muir Trail (which puts it in the running for most scenic world wide). We’ll hike underneath the imposing Ritter Range, past Garnett and Thousand Island Lakes. We’ll camp alongside the creek, with sweeping panoramic views of the region.

10 miles, Elevation: +2656’ / -1533’

Day 10-Climb Donahue Pass & Descend Lyell Canyon

This morning we’ll climb up and over mighty Donahue Pass (11,050’) and into Yosemite National Park. After dropping off the pass we’ll descend along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, camping among the sprawling meadows within the canyon.

12 miles, Elevation: +1074 / -2263’

Day 11-Visit Tuolumne Meadows and Camp at Cathedral Lakes

A morning of cruiser flat hiking gets us to the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows in time for lunch. From there, we’ll hike through the meadows and then up to our camp at the iconic and spectacular Cathedral Lakes.

13 miles, Elevation: +1591 / -839’

Day 12-Hike to Sunrise Creek

From Cathedral, we’ll pop over the inconspicuous Cathedral Pass and then begin our descent toward Yosemite Valley. We’ll camp along Sunrise Creek in the evening, where we can watch the sunset over Half Dome.

10 miles, Elevation: +924 / -2483’

Day 13-Descend along the JMT with views of the Mist Trail, exit Yosemite Valley

From Sunrise Creek, we’ll descend the mist trail below Nevada and Vernal Falls Plan to arrive back to Fresno around 4pm. We recommend a night at the Wyndham Garden Hotel (Fresno Airport) to shower up and regroup before flying home in the morning. Alternatively, late evening flights on this day are an option.

7 miles, Elevation: +245 / -4227’

What's Included


  • 1st nights lodging at Wyndham Garden Hotel in Fresno
  • 12 nights of wilderness tent camping (permits included)


  • All group gear including stoves, cookware, water filters, group first aid kit, etc.
  • Personal backpacking gear provided by request: backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, trekking poles, and tents


  • Day 2 private shuttle from Fresno to starting trailhead
  • Day 2 ferry across Florence Lake
  • Day 13 private shuttle from Yosemite Valley back to Fresno


  • Starting with breakfast on Day 2 and ending with lunch on Day 13
  • Backcountry gourmet meals including trail snacks
  • Hot tea or coffee served each morning
  • 2 remote food resupplies

A Few More Notes

Travel & Logistics

This trip begins and ends in at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Fresno, CA. The hotel is conveniently located across the street from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and provides a complimentary shuttle service from the airport if needed. Plan to arrive at the hotel before 6pm so you can meet your guides and group for your trip orientation. If you are driving to Fresno, you are welcome to leave your vehicle parked at the hotel during your trip for no additional fee. Any additional luggage you have can be stored at our secure facility during your trip. At the end of the trip, a private shuttle will pick up the group in Yosemite Valley and will drop off at the Fresno airport or at the Wyndham hotel. We recommend booking flights no earlier than 6pm on the last day.


To help keep pack weight down as much as possible, we schedule 2 food resupplies for this trip on Day 4 and Day 7. The first resupply takes place in the backcountry at the inlet of Edison Lake. The second resupply (Day 7) is at Reds Meadow where there are bathrooms, showers, payphones, etc. You are welcome to pack certain items for yourself to be included on the Reds Meadow resupply only. More details about the resupplies and what to pack will be sent to you upon registration.

Training & Preparation

The JMT Northbound is one of our most difficult trips, traveling long distances over high mountain passes with uneven terrain for 12 trail days carrying a fully weighted pack (30-35 lbs). Not only do we want you to complete the trail with us, but we want you to have fun doing it! On the JMT, it’s not a question of whether you can climb a high mountain pass, but if you can get up the next morning and climb another... and then another... which is why training for this trip is so important. In addition, long sustained periods in a remote wilderness setting requires a unique mental toughness.

We recommend a rigorous training plan in the months leading up to your trip, focusing on:

  •  Endurance, cardio, and aerobic activities
  • Core and leg strength (don't forget those abs and quads)!
  • Day hikes and overnight trips with a weighted pack (30-35lbs) to train for both the physical and mental aspects of backpacking
  • Cycling, running, step-master or stairs are great cross-training
  • Include hilly terrain and steep climbs whenever possible

Looking for more tips? Check out our blog!

Prior Experience

We strongly encourage having recent backpacking experience or practice before embarking on this section of JMT. The most successful people on these trips have completed several backcountry trips carrying a fully weighted pack (35-40lbs) for 3-5 days. If you do not have this experience, we recommend joining us on a "shake-out" trip prior to joining the John Muir Trail trip.

What's Not Included
  • Personal clothing & footwear
  • Dinner on Day 1 and snacks in Tuolumne
  • Recommended 10%-20% gratuity for guides
  • Trip Insurance (strongly recommended)
  • Airfare
  • Evacuations

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