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Did you know that Yosemite boasts one of the World’s Top 15 Trails, according to National Geographic? Yosemite Grand Traverse has reached an almost mythical status ever since SYMG—the very guides who will be leading you—put it together back in 2009. On this thrilling 8-day adventure tailored for nature enthusiasts, we’ll visit iconic sites such as Isberg Pass, Clouds Rest, and Cathedral Lake, and uncover hidden treasures along the way. With just one trip, you’ll be able to cross Yosemite off your bucket list, witnessing its most famous landmarks, and completing one of the World’s Top 15 Trails! Don’t miss out on this epic journey.

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Adventure highlights

  • The standout landmarks of Yosemite

    Isberg Pass, the Merced River, Echo Valley, a section of John Muir Trail—all of that in just a week

  • Scenic Clouds Rest summit

    Challenge yourself and scale the Clouds Rest summit at almost 10,000 feet / 3,050 meters

  • Lakeside camping under Cathedral Peak

    Swim in the Cathedral Lake, marvel at the jaggy Cathedral Peak above you, and sleep under starry skies

Itinerary

Embark on the ultimate Yosemite adventure! This challenging backpacking trip spans 8 days, offering a carefree experience with guides handling all meals, transportation, and gear rental. Explore iconic sites like Isberg Pass, Clouds Rest, and Cathedral Lake while camping by serene lakes and majestic peaks. With expert guidance and breathtaking scenery, this 50-mile (80 kilometers) hiking tour promises an unforgettable immersion into Yosemite’s wilderness. Relax and revel in nature’s wonders on this hassle-free exploration of one of America’s most beloved national parks.

  • Our journey kicks off in Fresno, CA, where you’ll be staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites conveniently located across from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Check-in time at the hotel starts from 4 pm onwards. At 6 pm, it’s group rendezvous time! You’ll gather for a trip orientation with your guides and fellow hikers. We’ll go over the final gear check and discuss the details of our tour. Dinner’s up to you tonight, either at the hotel or wherever suits your fancy.

    Accommodation: Fairfield Inn & Suites

    Bedroom at the Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • Following an early breakfast, a shuttle will meet you at 7 am. Your destination is a remote trailhead sitting at an elevation of 7,100 feet (2,164 meters), about a 3-hour drive away. From there, you’ll hike to your first camp, Knoblock Meadow, which spans roughly 6 miles (9.7 kilometers). After your arrival at the campsite, there may be time to wander and explore the area while your guide prepares a delicious backcountry dinner. You’ll cap off the day by delving into astronomy and stargazing under the night sky.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 6 miles / 9.7 km
    Elevation: +1,800 ft / +550 m | -300 ft / -90 m

    Hiking through the Yosemite wilderness
  • After dismantling our campsite in the early morning, we’ll begin our hike towards Isberg Pass, standing tall at 11,100 feet (3,385 meters). The path will lead us through a breathtaking high lakes basin before we conquer the pass itself, which marks the official border of Yosemite. In the evening, we’ll settle into a serene lakeside campsite nestled at the headwaters of the Merced River, enveloped by stunning peaks ranging between 11,000 to 12,000 feet (3,355 to 3,660 meters) in elevation.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 8 miles / 13 km
    Elevation: +2,300 ft / +700 m | -800 ft / -245 m

    Climbing the Isberg Pass
  • Hike on Day 4 offers a majestic descent, following the winding paths of the creek drainages that form the mighty “Wild and Scenic Merced River”. Along the way, we’ll have an opportunity to take in breathtaking vistas of the Clark Range, and enjoy plenty of picturesque meadows, cascading waterfalls, and swimming holes. The trail leads us down a 2,500-foot (760-meter) descent for approximately 7 miles (11 kilometers) and ends at the banks of the Merced River, where we’ll set camp.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 6.8 miles / 11 km
    Elevation: +150 ft / 45 m | -2,300 ft / -700 m

    Clark Range in the Yosemite National Park
  • Continuing our tour, we’ll stick to the path alongside the Merced River, passing by the famous high camp and entering Echo Valley. From there, we’ll gradually regain our lost elevation, making our way over large granite ridges with spectacular views of Little Yosemite Valley. The trail winds steadily, unveiling the pristine beauty of the Sunrise Creek area as our ultimate destination.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 10.5 miles / 17 km
    Elevation: +1,565 ft / +475 m | -1,385 ft / -420 m

    Merced River waterfall
  • Prepare for a challenge! Waking up early, we’ll break camp to set our sights on the summit of Clouds Rest elevated at 9,926 feet (3,025 meters). By late morning, we’ll stand atop the peak, greeted by awe-inspiring views of our route and the breathtaking expanse of Tenaya Canyon sprawling 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) below. The ascent to the peak itself entails a 3.6-mile (6 kilometers) round-trip detour from the main trail, a trek we’ll undertake without the burden of full backpacks. In the afternoon, our hike continues towards the camp at Sunrise Lakes. Here, we’ll have time to unwind, freshen up, and savor the tranquility of the surroundings.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 8-8.5 miles / 13-13.5 km
    Elevation: +2,746 ft / +835 | -1,591 ft / -485

    Clouds Rest summit
  • On the penultimate day of our backpacking adventure, the trail will bring us to the legendary John Muir Trail in Yosemite’s Tuolumne territory. Along this scenic trail, we’ll traverse enchanting alpine meadows and surreal glaciated peaks, ultimately arriving at the captivating Cathedral Lake at an elevation of 9,600 feet / 2,925 meters. Nestled beneath the famous Cathedral Peak, the lake is often referred to as “the most beautiful spot in Yosemite” by experienced guides. You’ll have the afternoon to leisurely explore the surrounding area, either by following one of several off-trail paths or simply unwinding and taking in the magnificent vistas while swimming by the lakeside camp.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    Hiking: 6 miles / 9.7 km
    Elevation: +1,322 ft / +405 m | -896 ft / -275 m

    Cathedral Lake
  • Bye, Yosemite! After breakfast, we’ll pack up our camp for the last time and embark on the final 4-mile (6-kilometers) trek to reach the trailhead situated in the serene expanse of Tuolumne Meadows in Northern Yosemite. Here, you’ll meet your shuttle in the late morning and go on a scenic drive through the park, bound to Fresno. You can expect a return to Fresno around 5-6 pm.

    Meals: Breakfast and lunch
    Hiking: 3.7 miles / 6 km
    Elevation: +230 ft / +70 m | -1,293 ft / -395 m

    Meadow at the Yosemite
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Meet your guide

Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides
5.00
Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides
Founded in 1991 by a trio of close friends, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides strive to intertwine their passion for the outdoors with their professional lives. This blend of personal and professional dedication propelled SYMG to the forefront of the active travel and mountain guiding world, providing carefully planned and executed trips in the most spectacular wilderness areas of California and beyond. Over the years, they’ve introduced countless adventurers to the beauty of Yosemite and the High Sierra, earning accolades such as being recognized as one of the “Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.
5.00 (4 reviews)
Alex Farr (source: Guide’s website)

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.

Scott R. (source: Guide’s website)

Amazingly fit and hard working. Really an honor to hike with such an elite mountain guide willing to take responsibility for the safety of 13 people.

Stefan B. (source: Guide’s website)

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,

David K. (source: TripAdvisor)

I turned 50 this year. I feel this is important to mention for those of you considering this trip and wondering if you’re up for the challenge. You got this and the guides have your back 100% of the time. On our trip the guides were tested right from the beginning. They had a guest reschedule the night before, and dropped one more guest on day two with altitude sickness. Escorting this guest to safety was seamless. This safety maneuver was handled professionally and with no impact to the remaining guests. The food was off the hook! The overall food requests made by the guests varied. We had a vegetarian, gluten free, and someone that requested as much meat as possible. The planning and effort put into the menu was amazing. It’s going to be hard to go back to the boring meals I typically backpack with. After night 3 the group really came together, our oldest backpacker was around 62 and the youngest 33. This diverse group made the experience amazing. I would recommend SYMG one hundred percent.

Things to know

  • What you get on this adventure:

      • Experienced local hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
      • 8-day Yosemite Grand Traverse backpacking and camping tour
      • Accommodation (first night’s lodging at Fairfield Inn & Suites and 6 nights of wilderness tent camping with permits ensured)
      • Transportation to the trailhead (private shuttle from Fresno to starting trailhead and from ending trailhead to Fresno)
      • Backcountry gourmet meals (from breakfast on Day 2 to lunch on Day 8) including trail snacks and hot tea or coffee each morning
      • Personal backpacking gear rental (backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, trekking poles, and tents—solo travelers get a single tent, otherwise you can choose from a 2 or 3-person tent) — provided upon request free of charge, let us know upon booking
      • Group gear (provided by the guides):
        • Water filters
        • Stoves
        • Cookware
        • Group shelter
        • Emergency GPS device
        • Group first aid kit
        • Group bathroom kit (trowel & toilet paper)
        • Bear cans

    What’s not included:

      • Transportation to Fresno
      • Dinner on Day 1
      • Personal clothing & footwear
      • Guide gratuities — recommended
      • Travel and medical insurance — strongly recommended
  • The Yosemite Grand Traverse is tailored for hikers with excellent fitness levels. You will be hiking through varied terrain, covering an average of 8 miles / 13 kilometers each day, encountering significant changes in elevation along the way. Check out the itinerary for detailed info on distances and elevation changes day-by-day.
    It is strongly encouraged that hikers have recent backpacking experience or adequate practice before tackling the Yosemite Grand Traverse. Those who have done a backpacking trip carrying a fully weighted pack (30-40 lbs / 13.5-18 kg) for 3-5 days usually handle the Yosemite Grand Traverse better. If you haven’t had this experience, it is highly recommended to ensure you’re at the similar fitness level and commit to a detailed training plan.

    To ensure an enjoyable and successful experience on the trail, it is suggested that you follow a rigorous training regimen leading up to your guided Yosemite tour. This should focus on:

      • Building endurance, cardio, and aerobic activities.
      • Strengthening core and leg muscles (including abs and quads).
      • Day hikes or short overnight trips with a weighted pack (30-35 lbs / 13.5-16 kg), as they can help prepare you both physically and mentally for backpacking challenges.
      • Cross-training activities like cycling, running, using a step-master, or climbing stairs, which can enhance overall fitness levels.
      • Incorporating hilly terrain and steep climbs into your training because it will further help in preparing for the demands of the Yosemite Grand Traverse.

    If you’re new to hiking and/or backpacking, check out this beginner-friendly tour in Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada.

  • Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

      • Water bottle or hydration bladder (3L capacity)
      • Personal clothing and footwear
      • Personal backpacking gear — available to rent at no additional cost, let us know upon booking
        • Backpack (large enough to carry all the items listed)
        • Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
        • Trekking poles
        • Tents — one-person tent available for solo travelers, otherwise choose from a two, three, or four-person tent
      • Lightweight hiking boots or shoes
      • Comfortable hiking clothes
      • Spare clothes for layering
      • Waterproof rain jacket
      • Sunhat
      • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, toilet paper, etc.)
      • Medications
      • Personal medical kit (small)
      • Head net
      • Headlamp or flashlight
      • Sunglasses
      • Camera — optional (but recommended)

    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.

  • During this Yosemite Grand Traverse backpacking adventure, your guide will take care of all meal preparation, from breakfast on Day 2 to lunch on Day 8. Get ready to taste some of the finest backpacking meals in the biz! Special dietary needs such as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free can be accommodated—just let us know upon booking.

    While your guides handle all menu planning and shopping, including snacks, feel free to bring along some extra snacks if you know yourself to be a hearty eater/snacker. Still, remember that space is limited in the provided bear-proof containers. Your guides are also open to specific snack requests when you book your trip.

  • During your Yosemite Grand Traverse adventure, you’ll spend the majority of your nights camping by picturesque lakes, with just the initial night spent at the hotel.

    Lodgings at the Fairfield Inn & Suites are double occupancy rooms, meaning you’ll share a room with another hiker on the first night. If you’re traveling solo and there’s no one you could share the room with, a forced single supplement fee of $55 will be applied. Alternatively, you can pay for a single supplement upfront at the checkout to ensure you have the room to yourself.

    While on trail, you will be sleeping in a tent. Your guides can provide a tent at no additional cost, but you’ll have to let us know upon booking. For solo travelers, single tents are available, while groups can choose between two-person or three-person tents based on their preference.

  • Group sizes and pricing

      • For this guided Yosemite Grand Traverse backpacking tour, the usual client-to-guide ratio is 6:1.
      • The maximum number of participants is set at 13.
      • It takes a minimum of 3 participants for this tour to run.
      • In the wild, you’ll be staying in tents. Solo travelers will be accommodated in single-person tents.
      • The first night at the Fairfield Inn & Suites involves double occupancy rooms, so if you’re traveling solo, you’ll likely share a room with another hiker. In case there is no one to share the room with, you’ll have to pay a forced single supplement fee (additional $55 in case there is no roommate available). There’s also a possibility of paying for a single supplement upfront during checkout to make sure you’ll have a room to yourself.

    Yosemite Grand Traverse backpacking tours can be arranged for larger or private 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 Yosemite Grand Traverse 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 the starting point of your Yosemite Grand Traverse, you first have to reach Fresno. Most people fly into Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), which is conveniently located just opposite your hotel.

    You’ll be staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Fresno, CA. Airport provides a complimentary shuttle to the hotel if needed. Make sure to arrive in Fresno before 6 pm, so you can meet your guides and your group for trip orientation.

    If you are driving to Fresno, you are welcome to leave your vehicle parked at the hotel during your trip for no additional fee. Any additional luggage you have can be stored at the secure facility during your trip.

    At the end of the trip, a private shuttle will pick up the group in Yosemite Valley and will drop off at the Fresno Airport or at the Fairfield Inn. If flying out on the last day, your guides recommend booking flights no earlier than 6pm.

  • 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!

  • A non-refundable deposit of $400 is due upon booking to secure your place. The remaining amount is paid 3 months (90 days) prior to departure. Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies.

      • Cancellations sixty one (61) days or greater in advance are eligible for a full refund less the non-refundable deposit.
      • For cancellations sixty (60) to thirty one (31) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking.
      • After that deadline, Client is not entitled to any refund. Any reimbursable expenses arising out of the Booking incurred by Guide prior to the date of cancellation (including but not limited to plane tickets, car rental payments, and lodging or transportation fees) are non-refundable as soon as they are incurred by the Guide.
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