BACKPACKING INTO EMIGRANT WILDERNESS IN STANISLAUS NATIONAL FOREST
TRIP · 3-day backpacking trip
FOR · Intermediate to advanced backpackers
VIBE · Challenging & rewarding
COST · $
DRIVE · 3 hours from SF
IDEAL DATES · July - October
PETS · Totally (I’ve even seen llamas)
Whenever I'm out in nature, I'm at home. There's no better place to escape from the rest of "life" and just live.
WHY I LOVE THE WILD
I love Emigrant Wilderness for it's balance of being both remote and accessible. You can get views of classic Sierra Nevada peaks just like in Yosemite but without the crowds.
I'M SHARING THIS TRIP CUZ'
The Clark-Skidmore Party was the first group to pass through the Emigrant pass along the West-Walker route in 1852 in search of gold
NEED TO KNOW
🚘 For a few years now, most backcountry areas in California do not allow campfires due to high fire danger
🍃 All Leave-No-Trace policies are in full effect
🐻 You’re in bear country
WHY EMIGRANT WILDERNESS?
Emigrant Wilderness borders Yosemite National Park to the north. Here you can enjoy the beauty of the Yosemite high country without the crowds. This is a great place to really “get out there” with only a 3-day weekend.
The land was first occupied by the Miwok and Piute starting over 10,000 years ago
HOW TO RESERVE A BACKCOUNTRY PERMIT
As of May 2021, you need to either email or call the ranger station to receive your permit, but normally you can just stop by the ranger station in Pinecrest on your way there and fill out your permit on the day-of. Here are more detailed instructions.
CAMP AT LOWER MONARCH LAKE OR CRYSTAL LAKE
The Lower Monarch Lake backcountry campground is on the shoreline of the lake, where people can camp first-come first served. Near the lake, there are about 8-10 flat spots that can accommodate tents, a food storage locker (shared with the entire site), and a pit toilet.
Crystal Lake is much more secluded and exposed. This site has 3 spaces for tents by the lake, and no other amenities. This site has 3 spaces for tents by the lake, and no other amenities. Both locations offer INCREDIBLE sunset views.
Wilderness Permit: Free!
LEAVE SF BY 6:30 AM
DRIVE TO SAWTOOTH PASS PARKING LOT
- Start at the Sawtooth Pass Trailhead, about a mile past the Mineral King Ranger Station
- Continue 4.2 miles to the first campsite at Lower Monarch Lake
CAMPOUT AT LOWER MONARCH LAKE
- Snag a spot by the water and go for a dip!
CAR TO CAMP: 4.5 miles | 2600 ft. of elevation gain | 4 hours
DAY HIKE TO COLUMBINE LAKE
- A 2.5 mile round-trip hike with 2,500 ft. of elevation gain
- Attach your permit to your tent, store any scented items, and pack a day pack to hike to Columbine Lake by ascending Sawtooth Pass.
- The first 1.2 miles uphill from Lower Monarch Lake are on very unstable terrain (imagine ascending a giant sand dune) so trekking poles and a light daypack are recommended.
- After heading downhill to Columbine for a good snack stop, make your way back over the pass to your original campsite for lunch by the water.
AFTERNOON TREK & CAMPOUT AT CRYSTAL LAKE
- A 2.6 mile one-way hike with 960 ft. of elevation gain
- In the afternoon, pack up your backpack and hike from Lower Monarch Lake to Crystal Lake by backtracking part of your Route from Day 1
- Lower Monarch Lake → Sawtooth Pass Trail → Crystal Lake Trail
- At Crystal Lake, you can see remnants of a dam built by the Mt. Whitney Power Company between 1903 and 1905.
PACK UP & PACK OUT BEFORE NOON
- Enjoy a bowl of oats at sunrise and hike downhill (finally!) to Sawtooth Pass parking lot
GRAB A MEAL & A MICHELADA AT THREE RIVERS BREWERY
- Located at 41763 Sierra Dr. in Three Rivers
- Open everyday, except Tuesdays & Wednesdays | 11 AM - 9 PM
- Three Rivers Brewery is a hidden gem with a back patio that looks over the Kaweah River. While you relax to the sound of windchimes and rushing water, sit back and enjoy some food truck noms and unique brews. My favorite is their Michelada, or the olive-infused IPA.
CAMP TO CAR: 4.75 miles | 200 ft. of elevation gain | 3 hours
WATCH OUT FOR 🦟
The only things that love Emigrant more than us are mosquitos. Early in the season as the snow is melting, mosquitoes will swarm the wet areas around lakes and rivers. The later in the season you go, the less you’ll be eaten.
LAST UPDATED: May 6, 2021
Born and raised in New England, I had never been to the West Coast before moving to California in 2018. Now based in Berkeley, my partner, Brooke and I love to spend our weekends hiking and backpacking, especially now that we’ve got a doggo in tow #pandemicpuppy.
Recently, we’ve started dehydrating and creating our own backcountry meals from scratch, so we can bring bold flavors to the wild. Learn more.
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