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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.

John Muir Trail Northbound: Florence Lake to Yosemite Valley

About John Muir Trail Northbound 

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. 

ACCOMMODATIONS: We provide 1 night lodging at the Wyndham Garden Hotel and 12 nights of wilderness 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, 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 hotel breakfast on day 2 through lunch and trail snacks the final day 13. Our "Backcountry Gourmet" meals have been acclaimed in Sunset Magazine and we take pride in providing excellent meals even in remote surroundings. We can handle common dietary requests; just indicate your preferences on the reservation form. Special requests can also be handled, though occasionally there may be an extra charge for specialty items. Note you are responsible for any front-country meals in the restaurants: dinner at Wyndham Garden Hotel on arrival, lunch at Tuolumne) 

YOUR PRICE INCLUDES: Meals (as noted above), group camping gear (as noted above), personal camping equipment (as listed above), remote food drop at Red’s Meadow, accommodations (as listed above), transportation to and from the remote trailheads from Fresno, CA, ferry crossing at Edison Lake, all applicable permits, professional mountain guide(s), pre-trip planning packet, and trip support from our friendly office staff. 

NOT INCLUDED: Meals while in the front country (noted above), alcohol, personal items, tips for mountain guide (10-20% of trip cost is typical), and optional trip cancellation insurance, which we always highly recommend. 

PREPARATION: Train for both strength and endurance. The John Muir Trail is a committing trip where you have set mileage to cover each day. It’s not about whether you can climb a high pass, but whether you can wake up 12 days in a row and climb a high pass (with a weighted backpack on) and still have fun doing it! To build up aerobic and cardiovascular endurance, we recommend the following training: carrying a weighted backpack on full day hikes, hiking stadium bleachers up & down, working on strength exercises and cycling. A training schedule of just running is not quite enough. Besides physical training, reading The Guide to the John Muir Trail by Thomas Winnett may also be helpful. 

Full Itinerary: John Muir Trail Northbound

Day 1: Your John Muir Trail Northbound trip begins by travelling to Fresno, California, and arriving at the Wyndham Garden Hotel Airport Hotel adjacent to the Fresno air terminal by 5:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. you will meet your guides for a trip orientation and briefing. We’ll also do a final gear check and discuss the details of the trip. Dinner is on your own at the hotel.

Day 2: Meet at 7:00 a.m. after a hotel breakfast on your own. Our private shuttle will drive us about three hours to Florence Lake where we’ll start hiking. We’ll then begin the first leg of the trip, which starts with a ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325') into the John Muir Wilderness. Today’s hike will be a mild 6.2 miles with a 400-foot elevation gain to the junction of the John Muir Trail.

Day 3: 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 just beyond Marie Lakes to our camp. 10 miles

Day 4: Today’s hike is 11 miles downhill (except for a stout, but brief uphill climb of Bear Ridge) into the Mono Creek Drainage at 7,870'.

Day 5: We’ll have another uphill day of 8 miles over Silver Pass (10,880') across the Silver Divide, named because of its silvery appearance.

Day 6: 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 to where we’ll make camp for the evening. 11-13 miles

Day 7: 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

Day 8: Our next day will be a long one, up and over volcanic ridge, down into Shadow Lake, and then up again to our secluded camp along the 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

Day 9: 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

Day 10: 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

Day 11: 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

Day 12: 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

Day 13: 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 at the Airport to shower up and regroup before flying home in the morning. Alternatively, late evening flights on this day are an option. 7 miles 

NoteThe John Muir Trail is a very challenging route and the itinerary above reflects what fit folks who have been training specifically for the trip feel is a good pace without being rushed. That is, there will still be some time in the day to swim in the lakes or relax for a bit at camp in the evening with this itinerary. 

*Similar trips include: Yosemite High Passes LoopJohn Muir Trail, Rae Lakes LoopYosemite Grand Traverse BackpackTrans-Sierra TrailSierra High Route

Trip Details

13 days / 12 nights

Group size
4-13 participants with 1-2 mountain guides

Difficulty Rating

$3445 per person on group size of 8-13 people
$3945 per person on group size of 4-7 people

price based on shared room occupancy
Single Lodging Supplement: Requested Single $120; Forced Single $60

2019 Trip Dates
September 7-19, 2019

2020 Trip Dates
September 6-17, 2020


I just spent the most amazing week with SYMG hiking the famous John Muir Trail. It was a new backpacking offering from the company - Florence Lake to Yosemite Valley, so about half the length of the full trail, so perfect for anyone without the time or the endurance to complete the whole 211 mile trail. It was still very challenging - daily mileage of between 8-12 miles, elevation gains/losses of 2,000 - 3,000 feet - and all while carrying a 40lb pack. Our guides, Fred and Ashley, were consummate professionals who looked after our every need - tending to our blisters and wounds, creating the most delicious food out of what seemed like nothing, sharing their encyclopedic knowledge of the geology, fauna and flora of the High Sierras, and all the while encouraging us when the going got tough. To say they were hardworking would be an understatement. If you ever want to experience the JMT as it should be seen, this is the company to do it with. Thank you all at SYMG.

-Fiona Bensen, JMT Northbound, 2019


We just wanted to let you know that we had an absolutely spectacular trip with Nick. It was everything we were hoping for in experiencing the JMT. Nick was outstanding – he had us well organized, picked the best sites for camping, and kept us well fed!!

Our thanks to you and to Nick for a great experience.

Best wishes

-Peter and Judy Dillon - JMT Northbound, 2017

A belated note from me and all the crew to say thanks for organizing and guiding a great trip on the JMT. Please pass on our huge thanks as well to Drew and Chris (and Lindsay in support) - we thoroughly enjoyed their company as well as their expertise.

We all have many, many highlights and great memories from our ten days. Personally friends I've spoken with about the trip want to get over there and do it too. The good news is that we'll probably be back for the other half of the JMT soon, no joke!

Thanks again to all you guys, have a safe rest of the summer trekking and we'll be back in touch someday.

Henry Talbot

-Henry Talbot Pvt - JMT Northbound Aug, 2013

The JMT itself is extraordinary, but it was the coordination, organization and support by SYMG that really made this journey so good. That and a bloody good group to boot.

Roddy, in particular was fantastic. He was not only an outstanding guide, with great trail and local knowledge, but he was a great ‘chef’, leader and friend along the way. Roddy encompasses all that a guide should be. He enabled the group to safely enjoy the JMT experience. He was strong (both physically and mentally), decisive when required, consultative, supportive, informative and always considerate of the group’s and individual’s needs. Nothing was too much trouble for him. Logistically he was also outstanding. This was particularly evident in his management of supplies and re-supplies. You should be very proud to have Roddy on your team.

My thanks to all concerned, including yourself, Colby, Ryan, Drew and Alex for a great trip.

Warm regards,


-Alan Henderson - JMT Northbound July, 2011

We had the best time! We will certainly recommend SYMG to our friends and can't wait to get back and do a longer trip in the years to come. Melissa was an outstanding guide, chef and companion through the amazing backcountry of the Sierra. Just a marketing note--SYMG might be good for those who are just getting comfortable in the backcountry, but for those of us with lots of trips under our belts, it was even better.

-Dave and Tracy Flum, July 1999