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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.

Yosemite High Passes Loop


About the trip

The high country lakes, peaks, and passes of the southern Yosemite high country are truly spectacular. This 50-mile loop takes you deep in the heart of this alpine environment, through pristine lake basins and over breathtaking high mountain passes with expansive views of the Sierra Nevada Range. Along the way, we’ll cross Red Peak Pass (11,180’) the highest pass on trail in Yosemite, make camp in the shadow of Triple Divide Peak, and tour the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Merced River. This is a rugged trip, and those who don’t mind the physical challenge will be rewarded with a Yosemite experience wholly different from the usual tourist routes.

Accommodations: We provide your first night's lodging in a chalet on beautiful Bass Lake and 5 nights tent camping (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 lunch 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 rigorous exercise in the months prior to your trip to bolster sustained cardiovascular/aerobic activities as well as core and leg strength. Day hikes with a weighted 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 (or stadium stairs) are excellent for training as well and are preferable to a routine comprised solely of running. Be sure to include hill and steep climbs wherever possible on all training.

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. The hike to our camp in the upper reaches of the Fernandez Lakes Basin (8,900’) will be roughly 8 miles. That evening there may be time to swim while your guide prepares dinner beneath the high peaks. The day ends with stargazing and storytelling.

Day 3: Today is a long one at roughly 10 miles. Highlights will be hiking up and over the Fernandez Pass (10,000’) and glimpsing views of the distant Half Dome from Merced Pass (9,600’), the 2 lowest of the 4 passes. Our final destination is Upper Merced Pass Lake (8,920’).

Day 4: Today’s hike is a grand one, through the Ottoway Lakes cirque and over the incredible Red Peak Pass (11,180’) nestled high within Yosemite’s Clark Range. From there, we’ll descend into the Red Devil Lakes basin (10,000’) with expansive views of the Clark Range and Triple Divide Peak. This crossing of Yosemite’s Clark range will be about 8 miles.

Day 5: Today we’ll start heading southeast towards the border of Yosemite, winding our way through creek drainages and wildflower-strewn meadows. We’ll make an easy crossing of the Triple Fork of the Merced before climbing to our camp at Lake 10K, known for amazing sunsets. Total distance is about 9 miles.

Day 6: We’ll wake this morning and begin our ascent toward Post Peak Pass (10,750’). Along the way we’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the glaciated Ritter Range as we traverse the ridgeline that makes up Yosemite’s southern boundary. After the pass, we’ll drop about 1,100’ to the Staniford Lakes Basin within the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 9 miles

Day 7: After breakfast, we’ll pack up and hike the remaining 6 miles to the trailhead where we started a week earlier. Expect a 12-1pm departure from the high country.


*Similar trips include: Red Peak Loop, Yosemite Grand TraverseTrans-Sierra Trail to Mount WhitneyRae Lakes Loop

Trip Details

7 days/ 6 nights

Group size
3-12 participants with 1-2 mountain guides

Difficulty Rating

$1,495 per person

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

2020 Trip Dates
July 6-12, 2020
August 3-9, 2020
Custom dates & pricing available!


Thank you so much for your leadership and comradeship over the SYMG trip. Out first interaction was your personal letter when Christine & I were MIA. We absolutely loved the letter
You are such an awesome lady!

-Earl Hersh - July 2014

It was awesome. Nick was great and I really appreciate him showing us something we had never experienced before, much different than car camping. We got lucky to have great weather, good group and an awesome guide. I didn't know what to expect out of a guide but he exceed anything I expected. Thanks for everything.

-Greg - YHPL 2016

Ian, Just wanted to let you know the trip was absolutely fabulous. We had a great group and a wonderful trip. The guides, Roddy and Jenny were both exquisite. They were always helpful and cheerful and the cooking and food were excellent. I'm looking forward to another trip and will definitely bring back some friends.

-Mel Bass

Just wanted to give you some feedback, had an absolutely amazing week. I have to confess my heart sank at the pre hike briefing when I saw the size of the group and I still think 12 is too many however in this case it worked really well as we seem to have had the perfect mix of ages and personalities to make it gel. Obviously the jaw dropping scenery and excellent weather makes it easier but I thought Drew and Reilly were superb, wonderfully safe but also understated which is exactly what you want. They were a credit to the organization. Have trekked in all four corners of the globe but cannot remember when I had so many photogenic moments on one hike, that loop is really special. With best wishes,

-John F, Aug 2013