Sierra High Route | CA, USA, 2011

Distance:  195 miles (314 km) approx.

Avg.Time:  15 days

Start/Finish:

  • Mono Village, Yosemite National Park, CA (northern terminus)
  • Which hiking direction you choose for the Sierra High Route (SHR) is six of one, half a dozen of the other. If you don’t have friends that are helping you out on the transportation front, then going south to north is a little easier logistically speaking (see below).

Transport:

  • There is no public transport to either trailhead.

  • Southern Terminus: My friend and I took a taxi for the 85 mile journey from Fresno (nearest big city) to Road’s End (2011). We paid $150 between the two of us. A cheaper option is to advertise for a ride via Craig’s List, where you should be able to find transport for less than $100.
  • Northern Terminus: From Mono village it’s an easy 14 mile hitch to the town of Bridgeport, from where onward public transport is available with Eastern Sierra Transit.

Season

  • July to mid-September.

Maps & Info:

  • Steve Roper, The Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country. Highly recommendedWritten by the man who pioneered the SHR. Includes 1:24,000 black and white maps, hiking notes and lots of other great information on the region. The maps aren’t ideal for navigation purposes. Best option is to combine Roper’s excellent route descriptions with either one of the mapping options listed below.

  • Permits: You’ll need a backcountry permit for the SHR. If beginning at the southern terminus of Road’s End, you can pick one up at the trailhead. Alternatively, you can organize one in advance via the Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP or Yosemite NP websites.
  • Bear Canister: Legally speaking you are required to carry a bear canister in many places throughout the High Sierra. See the Sequoia Kings NP and Yosemite NP websites for details.

  • Resupply: Red Meadow is the  primary resupply point on the SHR. Situated approximately 118 miles north of Road’s End, Red Meadow has a small store, restaurant, laundry and cabins. The store selection is limited, so it’s best to send a resupply box. See the Red Meadow website for details. If you don’t plan on overnighting, you can still do some laundry and get cleaned up at the ‘hot spring’ showers at the nearby campground.
  • Resupply 2: A mere 27 miles south of the northern terminus is the Tuolomne Meadows Store. Burgers, ice cream and beer is available. It’s two miles off route. Just saying………….

  • Overview Map: Click here for an overview map of the SHR.

Route/Conditions:

  • A largely cross-country hike, which as the name suggests, takes the walker on a high-level route (virtually all between 9,000 and 12,000 ft.) through some of the Sierra’s most pristine wilderness.
  • Navigation: Due to the trail-less nature of much of the SHR, good route finding & map/compass skills are required.
  • Altitude: From the southern terminus of Road’s End,  the initial climb from the Copper Creek Trailhead takes the hiker from 5050 ft to over 10,000 ft. If you are coming from sea level, this may prove to be a potentially head spinning proposition.  To minimize the chances of AMS symptoms, consider making an afternoon start and camping mid-climb.

  • Swimming: If you happen to be a water lover,  there are enough swimming opportunities on the SHR to satisfy your average mermaid. At these altitudes, the water temps can be a little on the brisk side.
  • John Muir Trail Vs Sierra High Route:  When people think of long distance hikes in the High Sierra, the John Muir Trail is the first name that usually comes to mind. How do the JMT and SHR compare? Both are stunning hikes which are similar in length and travel in a North/South direction through the High Sierra.  That being said, despite their close proximity the two walks remain quite distinct in character. The JMT is a well maintained trail from start to finish, spends considerable time traversing valley floors and along with the Appalachian Trail, is perhaps the most popular long distance hike in the United States. In contrast, the SHR is a route rather than a trail, stays almost entirely between 9,000 and 12,000 ft., receives little in the way of hiker traffic and remains relatively unknown outside of the U.S. long distance hiking community.

Overview:

  • Granite spires, majestic glacier carved valleys and countless alpine lakes. In my opinion, the Sierra High Route has more jaw dropping vistas per square mile than any other long distance hike in the lower 48 states.
  • John Muir: As a long time admirer of the writing of John Muir, the Sierra High Route holds a special place in my heart. The pristine, untamed quality of much of the route encapsulated the spirit of Muir’s words. For those who have been inspired by the great man’s descriptions of the “Range of Light”, the Sierra High Route has an almost pilgrimage-type feel to it:

“The white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it seems above all others the Range of Light.”

 – The Yosemite (1912)

 

 

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