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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.
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.
Named by National Geographic as one of the “World’s Top 15 Trails”, the YGT has reached almost mythical status since SYMG designed it in 2009. It's now featured as one of the "25 Classic Hikes in North America" by famed Adventurer Peter Potterfield. The route is a nearly 60-mile hiking traverse through the heart of Yosemite and spends equal time the most remote and most iconic regions of the park. Highlights include an ascent of Cloud's Rest, entering Yosemite via 11,000ft Isberg Pass, a section of the John Muir Trail, and a lakeside camp beneath the famous Cathedral Peak.
Accommodations: We provide your first nights lodging at Wyndham Garden Hotel at the Airport in Fresno and 6 nights tent camping (pricing based on double 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), transportation to and from the remote trailheads, 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 except as noted above, 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.
Day 1: Check in at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at the Airport anytime after 4pm. Meet your guide(s) and group in the Lobby at 6pm for a brief orientation. Dinner is on your own at the Hotel.
Day 2: After an early breakfast on your own, our shuttle will meet us at 7am to drive to the remote trailhead (7,100'), about a 3-hour drive. The hike to our first camp will be roughly 4.4 miles to Knoblock Meadow. That evening there may be time to explore while your guide(s) prepare dinner. The day ends with a campfire and stargazing.
Day 3: We’ll pack up camp early this morning with our sights set on Isberg Pass (11,100’). After passing through a high lakes basin, we’ll surmount the pass itself, which marks the official border of Yosemite. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a lakeside camp at the headwaters of the Merced River, surrounded by picturesque 11-12,000 foot peaks. 9.4 miles
Day 4: Today's hike is a grand downhill, through the creek drainages that eventually form the mighty “Wild and Scenic Merced River”. Views of the Clark Range are abundant and there are plenty of beautiful meadows, waterfalls and swimming holes to distract us. The day's hike drops us 2,500' over roughly 9 miles and we'll camp along the Merced River.
Day 5: This morning we’ll continue following the Merced past the famous high camp and into Echo Valley. From there, we’ll regain our lost elevation as we traverse large granite ridges enjoying spectacular views of Little Yosemite Valley along the way. The trail eventually leads to the Sunrise Creek area. 9 miles
Day 6: We'll be up and out of camp early to begin making our way to the top of Cloud’s Rest (9,926). We’ll reach the summit by late morning, and will have plenty of time to enjoy the stunning views of our route and of Tenaya Canyon 4,000 feet below. The peak itself is a side trip off of the main trail, 3.6 miles round-trip, which we will complete without our full backpacks. In the afternoon we’ll continue on to our camp at Sunrise Lakes where we will have time to relax, clean up and enjoy camp. 9.2 miles total, including the summit side-trip
Day 7: Our second to last day we’ll connect with the famous John Muir Trail in the Tuolumne region of Yosemite. We’ll pass some stunning alpine meadows and otherworldly glaciated peaks on our way to what many guides call "the most beautiful spot in Yosemite," Cathedral Lake (9,600'). We’ll have time in the afternoon to explore the area via one of several off-trail routes, or just relax and enjoy the swimming and stunning views from the lakeside camp. 6miles plus an optional excursion in the afternoon.
Day 8: After breakfast, we'll pack up camp one last time and head out the remaining 4 miles to the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows in Northern Yosemite. We'll be meeting our shuttle here mid morning for a scenic drive through the park back to Fresno. Expect a 5-6pm return to Fresno.
Note: Due to new regulations regarding Half Dome permitting Yosemite has disallowed Half Dome climbs to be associated with any trip that originates outside of Yosemite NP beginning in 2017. Instead we will summit the guide favorite Cloud's Rest (9,926'), seated in the Tuolumne Region of the park and overlooking Tenaya Canyon with views of Half Dome far below.
Want to experience this trip but don't want to carry a full backpack? Click Here for our stock-supported version of this same itinerary!
I turned 50 this year and I wanted to mark it with a family holiday like no other. The Yosemite Grand Traverse proved to be the most exhilarating and wonderful adventure for me, Shona and our three children (aged 20, 18 and 16). SYMG gave us all the information in advance to prepare for the 7 days and six nights in Yosemite and we had two incredible guides in Chris and Dan. Words can't capture the beauty of our surroundings nor the lasting impression that Yosemite leaves us. A truly magical experience that we cannot recommend enough.
-David Hughes - 2019
Just wanted to state the obvious: Wilson and Sierra are THE GREATEST GUIDES YOU HAVE!
Both Wilson and Sierra are professional, respectful, intelligent, calm, supportive and patient (yes, in spite of having to get 6 women onto the trail in the mornings... Which by the way is like herding cats). They are wise beyond their years, genuinely, with great knowledge of biology, geology, backcountry skills, and history, which I find critical in this type of adventure. Their love of the outdoors was palpable and very real, which helped to thoroughly engage women who wanted to know about the Sierra.
In any case, just thought I would take a second to give a shout out to W & S and thank you, Ian, and SYMG for a formidable, epic, well planned back country experience.
-Sarah - YGT Backpack 2016
I just wanted to send a quick thank you note over to SYMG about the trip we just finished, because it was phenomenal! Wilson and Fred were unbelievable guides; they were not only knowledgeable, professional, clearly very experienced, but they took such great care of our whole group! From delicious snacks/meals, to help with blisters, to carrying packs across rivers they were always happy to make sure we all got the help we needed. I have dairy and gluten free dietary restrictions and they took it so seriously and never once made me feel like it was an inconvenience, plus everything they made was fantastic.
They also facilitated a really strong group dynamic, which helped a ton when we were tackling more challenging parts of the hike. They gave us support on the trail when necessary, but also trusted us to help each other and push I own boundaries, which I think went really far to build a cohesive team quite quickly.
The off trail travel was challenging, but they made it manageable and so fun! The whole trip was a blast and we can thank you enough for all the hard work that went into making it happen. I know the conditions added a level of uncertainty and risk, but for us that just added to the experience.
Thank you so much for everything! We had a fantastic time!
-Lilly Whitham, July 2017
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed my Yosemite Grand Traverse trip. I saw Yosemite in such a way that will stay with me forever. The food, the guiding, the route and the views were all perfect! The best part of the trip was our guide Csuri Odry. She is by far in all my years of expeditions around the world, the finest guide I have ever had the privilege of learning from. She is a real gem and made the trip extremely fun, safe, memorable and one that I would recommend to anyone.
-Alex Farr, San Francisco, CA
My wife and I can't say enough good things about Chris and Wilson. They are both consummate professionals and, perhaps more importantly, very personable. You couldn't ask for better representatives of SYMG.
-Jim & Jackie St. Cyr - 2014
Amazingly fit and hard working. Really an honour to hike with such an elite mountain guide willing to take responsibility for the safety of 13 people.
-Scott Ross- 2014
Hi Ian and Colby, I wanted to let you know that both my brother and I had an incredible time on our SYMG adventure. There were so many highlights that I can't possibly even begin to list them all. One thing that deserves a special mention were our incredible guides, Ashley and Ryan. They were professional, courteous, easy going, passionate and knowledgeable and kept us all in great spirits (and incredibly well fed!!!) throughout the entire trip. Simply put, I can't imagine having had a better guide experience. Sincerely,
-Stefan & Jean-Michel B. Aug, 2013