High Sierra Lake Hop

Backpacking Lake Adventure in Emigrant Wilderness North of Yosemite

Situated just north of Yosemite is a High Sierra wonderland that gets a fraction of the crowds. And with the number of people getting outdoors these days, that’s hard to find! The Emigrant Wilderness is 113,000 acres of granite ridges, wildflower-strewn meadows, and cobalt lakes. It’s a fantastic destination for backpacking. And a big bonus for you last-minuters: The wilderness permits aren’t on a quota system … yet (unlike Desolation Wilderness and Yosemite).

Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness

Camping at Y Meadow Lake Emigrant Wilderness

hammock at Chewing Gum Lake Emigrant Wilderness

For a nice and easy 3-day backpacking trip where you camp at a lake each night, head for the Gianelli Trailhead near Dodge Ridge Ski Resort. Starting at a whopping 8,640 feet in elevation, most of your climbing is done in the car! Follow the trail up to Burst Rock (reached in a little over a mile). Back in the 1850s a pioneer woman gave birth under a bark enclosure at this rock, sometimes called Birth Rock. But set your sights a few miles further to Chewing Gum Lake.

wildflowers and hiker in the Emigrant Wilderness

swimming at Chewing Gum Lake Emigrant Wilderness

Lake view in the Emigrant Wilderness

Camping opportunities abound at this beautiful little granite lake. Although we didn’t see any fish, it’s a great swimming lake with a few big rocks to swim out to for the ambitious. Make sure to time your dinner or evening whiskey for sunset—they’re awesome up here. If you want another mellow day, then hike 3.5 miles to Y Meadow Lake.

hiker in the Emigrant Wilderness

Sunset at Chewing Gum Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness

Sunset at Chewing Gum Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness

You’ll backtrack from Chewing Gum Lake out to the main trail and ascend a ridge to more spectacular views of distant Sierra peaks in Yosemite. Y Meadow Lake is long and narrow and just like the other lakes, surrounded by granite! Camping spots abound on the eastern side of the lake (although not a lot of shade). Set up camp and explore the area: Granite Lake is about a mile away; follow the rock cairns southwest. No matter what you do, it’s hard not to relax, kick back, and start thinking about that next backpacking trip.

Hikers at Burst Rock in the Emigrant Wilderness

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In Episode 34 "From the High Sierra to Mount Everest" Weekend Sherpa co-founders talk about highlights of their backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada's Emigrant Wilderness.

Emigrant Wilderness is reached on Hwy. 108. Pick up your free and mandatory wilderness permit at the Summit Ranger Station on Hwy. 108 in Pinecrest. Fires are allowed below 9,000 feet, but with the current drought be super careful and check with the ranger station beforehand, as things change. Dogs are allowed. Practice Leave No Trace and keep this beautiful place wild!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View