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There’s this slice of heaven extending along the crest of the Sierra and it’s called John Muir Wilderness. This remote area in California is the perfect setting for a 6-day backpacking journey in the backcountry—rippling rivers, alpine lakes, burnt-red mountains, jagged granite cliffs, it’s got it all. We will backpack along the John Muir Wilderness Trek, a 40-mile loop through the off-the-beaten-path region of the Sierra, with plenty of time to swim and relax at gorgeous campsites. We will even scramble up to ~12,000-foot peaks! You won’t find this route in any guide book—this experience has been created by passionate guides out of their love for the region and for people in search of an exhilarating adventure. So for a true escape from the everyday grind, look no further than the awe-inspiring John Muir Wilderness Trek.

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  • Logistics made simple

    Both frontcountry and backcountry accommodation included, as well as all food on trek, transportation, and all camping equipment

  • More than a dozen alpine lakes

    For an invigorating break from hiking, there’s nothing better than jumping into a crystal-clear lake

  • Challenging trek in the wilderness

    Trek through a truly remote and demanding area of John Muir Wilderness

Itinerary

The John Muir Wilderness Trek is a 40-mile route meandering through the remote Sierra Mountains. Over the course of 6 days, we will discover this truly wild area, brimming with jagged granite cliffs, dark pitted canyons, burnt-red mountains, rushing rivers, and divine lakes. The route also includes 6-8 miles of off-trail travel with scrambles to ~12,000’ peaks along the Le Conte Divide. Hotel accommodations pre- and post-trek are included, as well as tents and all other camping equipment during the trek, and your guides also take care of all meals and dishes. Not a thing to worry about—you just get to Fresno and let expert guides do the rest!

  • Reach Clovis in California and check into your hotel (included in the price of the tour). Make sure you get some rest for tomorrow, as that’s when the trip officially begins!

    Accommodation: Hotel in Clovis

    Clovis, California
  • Your guides will coordinate organized transport and pick you up at your hotel between 8 and 9 am. If you’re not staying at the accommodation which is included in the tour, talk to your guides prior to the trip to discuss your pick-up. Begin the journey to the trailhead at 8,000 ft (2,440 m) near Courtright Reservoir and John Muir Wilderness (about a 2.5 hour drive from the Fresno/Clovis area). Guests who are driving in may optionally meet the group at the guide’s Shaver Lake Cabin at 10 am. The goal is to make it to the trailhead by lunch, where you’ll do a final pack-check, get to know the team, and talk safety before beginning an afternoon hike to camp on the trail.

    Accommodation: Tent
    Meals: Breakfast and dinner
    Hiking: Moderate with a short uphill gain and gradual downhill loss of 850 ft (260 m)

    Wildflowers of Hell For Sure
  • The pace will be brisk as you cover miles on a good trail with a long and gradual climb towards Red Mountain Basin to camp near Fleming and Disappointment Lakes, which truly never disappoint.

    Accommodation: Tent
    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
    Hiking: Long moderate-to-intense uphill with multiple stream crossings, with a 2,000-foot (610-meter) climb

    Red Mountain, California
  • A moderate morning hike will take you to Hell For Sure Lake by lunch, where you’ll enjoy our afternoon. An optional up and back, off-trail scramble to the summit of Red Mountain (~12,000 ft / 3,660 m) will be on the schedule. If trail and group conditions permit, you’ll begin your ascent toward camp on the ridge of the LeConte Divide with views of Arctic, Horseshoe and Hell For Sure Lakes.

    Accommodation: Tent
    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
    Hiking: Gradual uphill to camp & up and back day hike

    Hell For Sure Lake
  • Weather and trail conditions permitting, with an early morning start we will go off-trail over The Knob of Mt. Hutton (~12,000 ft / 3,660 m), traversing rugged granite terrain. Continue off-trail toward lake-studded Bench Valley, with time to explore Schoolmarm, Holster, Bullet, Wahoo, Crabtree, and the many other lakes surrounding the Bench Valley camp.

    Accommodation: Tent
    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
    Hiking: Intense uphill, then down, majority of the day off-trail

    Mt. Hutton in John Muir wilderness
  • Begin your descent on and off trail past Colt, Horsehead, Guest and McGuire Lakes, before a meeting up with the North Fork of the Kings River, and our camp near the “waterpark” with natural pools, waterfalls and slides.

    Accommodation: Tent
    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
    Hiking: Long gradual descent, majority of day on-trail

    Twilight in John Muir Wilderness
  • An early start will get you back to Courtright Reservoir around lunch where you will reload cars, and return to the town of Shaver Lake to share a hearty group meal. A final stop for showers at the cabin in Shaver Lake is optional, and then it’s back to Clovis to your hotel—this night is also included in the price of the tour.

    Accommodation: Hotel in Clovis
    Meals: Breakfast and lunch
    Hiking: Reconnect with loop trail and exit, moderate up and downhill

    River in the John Muir Wilderness Area
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Meet your guides

Dirk Veenema
5.00
Dirk Veenema
Dirk has been guiding with TSX since 2018 and has been happy in the woods since he was a kid at the creek. Originally from the east coast and trained as a mechanical engineer, Dirk found a home in the mountains of California after moving for grad school. He loves running, hiking, cycling, paddling, or anything else that keeps him moving in nature and especially exploring in the wilderness.
Kate Hill
5.00
Kate Hill
Kate's love for being on trail stems from a childhood spent in the Sierra as well as her history as a runner. Through she has recently dipped her toes in the world of ultra running, Kate’s primary focus is backpacking. She considers backpacking the John Muir Trail as a life-changing experience, as she then decided to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and many other multi-week trails around the West. Kate finds herself drawn to guiding because she can fuse her main career, teaching, with her love for backpacking, and helping people experience the beauty of the Sierras is a dream come true.
TSX
5.00
TSX
TSX has been guiding people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels ever since 2010. Among several other locations, they trek across Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Mt. Whitney, and the Grand Canyon. TSX’s goal is to create an experience where individuals with limited or no backpacking skills can safely and confidently venture into the rugged beauty and tranquility of the US backcountry.
5.00 (6 reviews)
Chris W (source: Guide’s website)

I had very high hopes for this trip and they were more than exceeded! I’m a solidly “older” woman and had backpacked once prior about 30 years ago, so this was a bit of a leap. I did make sure to be in reasonably good physical shape to prepare (day hiking – some at altitude + strength/endurance training), but otherwise I had no idea what I was doing. From minute one, I was welcomed, coached, supported and guided into an unforgettable adventure. The route was fantastic – a ton of variation from lush forest to meadow to lake side to barren granite mountain tops with amazing views. Our camp sites were gorgeous, we swam in lakes almost daily and did some challenging hiking, both long and sometimes technical. And let’s not forget about the food! Biggest surprise of the trip was how delicious all the meals were! Challenge is the right word to describe this trip, because it is not easy. But it is an absolutely do-able challenge, especially with the team focus that TSX brings. And now I not only have amazing memories and pictures but I also have the confidence to go and do more backpacking and exploring. Can’t wait to do the next trip!

Joyce Weckl (source: Guide’s website)

Just finished a bit of an abbreviated version of Hell for Sure. This is my second trip with TSX, the first being the Grand Canyon. The pictures above tell it all. It’s stunning, amazing, and awe inspiring. If you haven’t done a trip with TSX rest assured that everything is taken care of. They do a great drop of providing meals, guidance, emotional support, little touches that make things special, and great knowledge of the trip. The trips are hard but there’s nothing like a physical and mental challenge to make you believe in yourself and others. TSX has done a great job of providing a supportive environment for those who want to get out in nature with equally minded adventurous people. My experience is that many new friendships are forged and old ones are solidified. Amazing memories are made!
Training is very important but at the age of 61, I was able to do these trips. Never thought I would, but so grateful they’ve provided an environment to accomplish these goals. Thanks, TSX!

Ali Hartman (source: Guide’s website)

Another incredible TSX trip completed! Thanks to Dave for an amazing Hell For Sure Challenge experience, he is a wonderful guide and cook and has a pretty good playlist for the van ride too! The Shaver Lake Pizza and Beer on the deck of the TSX Headquarters was the icing on the cake!

Mike (source: Guide’s website)

This was a great way to see and experience the headwaters of the North Fork of the Kings River. I would definitely recommend the Hell For Sure TSX trek! The food and snacks were good all week long. Our helpful and accommodating guide Dave was on top of everything as he led us through forests, over granite, and into streams. Plus, he always knew where the campsites with the amazing views were located.

Larry Herko (source: Guide’s website)

I’m 72 and do a serious backpack trip about once every 5 years, the last also with TSX across the Sierra’s. TSX does an incredible job of putting these trips together and executing. The Hell-for-Sure is special because your off-trail on a custom TSX route for parts of 3 days. The leadership is great, the planning is great, the food is great! So as long as you’re in reasonable shape and have a positive attitude, it’s very doable!

Seamus M Callaghan (source: Guide’s website)

We had an amazing trek with our guide Chris! Food was good, scenery was amazing, we will definitely be back again for a third year in a row trekking with the TSX team!

Things to know

  • What you get on this adventure:

      • An experienced, local hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
      • 6-day backpacking tour along the John Muir Wilderness Trek
      • Accommodation
        • Tents in the backcountry
        • One night pre-trek and one night post-trek in a hotel in Clovis, CA (Best Western or Hampton Inn & Suites)
      • Transportation between designated Fresno/Clovis area meeting points and trailhead
      • All meals and snacks in the backcountry (your guides take care of the cooking and dishes)
      • Backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and pad at no additional cost (upon request)
      • Personalized pack-check prior to departure
      • Group gear and equipment (cleaning pad and soap, cooking utensils, first aid kit, fuel bottles and fuel, cooking pots, lighters and matches, small shovel, stoves, water carriers, water filters and purification tablets, bear cannisters)
      • 5% NPS Recovery Fee

    What’s not included:

      • Transportation to the meeting point
      • Meals in the front-country
      • Guide gratuities — optional
      • Travel and medical insurance — optional
  • Backpacking the John Muir Wilderness Trek is set in a very remote area over the course of 6 days. The trek is a 40-mile (65-kilometer) looped route, including roughly 6-8 miles of off-trail travel with two hand and foot scrambles to ~12,000-foot (3,660-meter) peaks along the Le Conte Divide.

    In general, this tour is beginner-friendly, but it still requires good fitness levels. You have to make sure you’re fit enough to cover 40 miles of backcountry terrain over 6 days while carrying a fully loaded backpack. As this is a group tour, you’ll have to keep up with the group’s pace. Your guides will be with you the whole way through and create a supportive and welcoming environment for people who want to spend some time in the great outdoors!

  • Pack & shelter

      • External or internal frame pack with belt (60-70L)
      • Sleeping bag + stuff sack
      • Sleeping pad
      • Tent with rain fly
      • Hiking poles

    The items above can be provided at no additional charge on request. Let us know upon booking what you need!

    Footwear & clothing (top—4 layers minimum, bottom—2 layers minimum)

      • Mid or lightweight socks (pack 2 wear 1)
      • Hiking shoes (comfortable and broken in)
      • Lightweight camp shoes
      • Moleskin (1 package, wrapper removed)
      • Instep crampons
      • Base layer (long underwear/thermal, for top and bottom)
      • Long-sleeved shirt
      • Short-sleeved shirt (pack 1 wear 1)
      • Warm jacket (fleece or puffy)
      • Poncho or rain jacket
      • Hiking pants or leggings
      • Underwear (pack 2, wear 1)

    Other personal gear

      • Pack cover or large garbage bag (≥33 gal)
      • Bandana
      • Sun cap or hat with brim
      • Beanie/tuque/knit cap
      • Gloves or mittens
      • Headlamp (preferred) or small flashlight
      • Sunglasses (100% UV protection)
      • Sunscreen (rated at least 30 SPF)
      • Insect repellent
      • Mosquito head net
      • Toothbrush & toothpaste
      • Toilet paper & small hand sanitizer
      • Water bottles (2) or bladder (at least 2 liters capacity)
      • Ziplock bag
      • Plastic bowl (≥ 6 inches)
      • Plastic cup (≥ 8 oz)
      • Spoon or spork

    Optional

      • Toiletries (hair brush, chapstick, menstrual products…)
      • Camera
      • Hiking shorts
      • Money (for souvenirs or guide gratuity)
      • Sleepwear
      • Fishing gear
      • Pen and paper
      • Personal first aid kit items
      • Pocket knife
      • Reading material
      • Sports bra
      • Swimsuit

    Dress comfortably and for the weather in clothes you can move in. We suggest bringing clothing appropriate for the season. Layers are best and don’t wear jeans.

    Make sure not to bring unnecessary items which will only make your backpacks heavier, as you’ll be carrying your backpacks with you the whole way through.

  • Group sizes and pricing

      • For this backpacking tour of the John Muir Wilderness Trek, the usual client-to-guide ratio is 6:1.
      • It takes a minimum of 2 people for this tour to operate, while the maximum is set at 10 participants.

    Backpacking the John Muir Wilderness Trek can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

    Min. age requirements

      • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
      • Minors younger than 18 may be permitted to join backpacking the John Muir Wilderness Trek on a case-by-case basis, but must be in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.

    If your group has hikers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

  • To get to Clovis in California, the starting point of your tour, most people fly into Fresno Airport (FAT). Make sure to fly in a day prior to the start of the tour, as pre-trek accommodation in a hotel will be organized for you.

    Then on Day 1, your guides will coordinate transportation from Central California (Fresno/Clovis area) and the Shaver Lake Cabin. Pick-up from Central California will be between 8 and 9 am, while the pick-up from Shaver Lake Cabin will be at 10 am. This is included in the price of the tour.

    The exact departure time will be confirmed on a trek-by-trek basis. The Fresno/Clovis area is a 3-hour car drive from the Bay Area, roughly 4 hours from Southern California. While food is not included in the front-country, your guides will stop for food and to refuel before reaching the trailhead. The goal is to reach the trailhead around lunch time.

  • We highly recommend that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance.

    With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more. Travel insurance covers canceled flights, natural disasters and other scenarios that may interrupt your travel plans.

    We also expect you to respect local regulations and take measures to protect yourselves, your guides, and the communities you’re traveling to. If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

  • Deposits

    You can secure one of the set dates with a 30% deposit upon booking. The remaining 70% of the trip price is to be paid 90 days prior to departure, at the latest.

    Secure your early bird spot with a 10% deposit! This tour gets sold out very quickly, but with early-bird booking, you will be the first one to know about any new upcoming dates. Pick your preferred dates without the risk of your bucket list adventure selling out!

      • Only 10% of the total amount should be paid as a deposit upon booking. This deposit is non-refundable, but can be transferred to another 57hours adventure anytime in case the dates don’t suit you.
      • Once the dates are set, you can confirm your booking by paying another 20% of the total amount.
      • The final balance is due 3 months (90 days) prior to departure.

    Cancellations

    Booking fees are non-refundable in all cases. During checkout, however, you can choose one of 57hours’ flexibility options:

    Basic

      • In case of cancellation within 48 hours after booking, the amount paid is fully refundable.
      • For cancellations 60 or more days before the trip, you are eligible for a 70% refund of the trip price.
      • For cancellations 0-59 days before the trip, there is no refund.

    Flexible

      • In case of cancellation within 48 hours after booking, the amount paid is fully refundable.
      • For cancellations 60 or more days before the trip, you are eligible for a full refund of the trip price.
      • For cancellations 30-59 days before the trip, you are eligible for a 50% refund of the trip price.
      • For cancellations 0-29 days before the trip, there is no refund.

    Super Flexible

      • In case of cancellation within 48 hours after booking, the amount paid is fully refundable.
      • For cancellations 30 or more days before the trip, you are eligible for a full refund of the trip price.
      • For cancellations 0-29 days before the trip, you are eligible for a 50% refund of the trip price.
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