High Sierra BackpackingNorthern California's crown jewel

6 Days
6 Days
19.7 miles
$1,895 non-peak member
About the trip

The Mountains are Calling

Spend a week in the heart of the range that inspired John Muir and countless others before him. You'll hike into the remote wilderness to see flowing waterfalls, shimmering lakes, rugged peaks, and vibrant wildflowers. Few places in the country are as diverse and dramatic as this region but you'll have plenty of time to immerse yourself in its beauty over the course of your awe-inspiring expedition.

Your Guide
John Benincasa
Senior Guide

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Level 7/10
6 Days



Arrive in San Francisco, Drive to Mammoth

Your trip begins with an arrival in San Francisco. For anyone flying in today, plan to arrive by 12PM into San Francisco International Airport. Early morning city pick ups can be arranged for anyone staying early in town. After saying hello to your Discover Outdoors guide and team, you'll be transported to the charming town of Mammoth, your launching point for your adventure. The afternoon drive will take you through some of California's most stunning terrain and you'll have plenty of time to stop and stretch your legs. (Meals: no meals included)

Hike to Pioneer Basin

Your first day of hiking is here and you'll be glad to wake up refreshed to take it on. You'll wake up early and enjoy breakfast in town before setting off on your adventure. Today's seven mile hike is a challenging climb and with a pack on your back and high elevation to contend with, you'll definitely feel the work of the climb. Take plenty of time to breathe in the mountain air and observe the ancient forest around you before arriving at the payoff for the day - a wide open view of the stunning peaks and valleys from Mono pass. Camp tonight will be in Pioneer Basin, where your DO guide will cook up a delicious backcountry meal for everyone to enjoy while enjoying the golden sunset. (Meals: D)
Hiking Distance: 7.2 milesHiking Time: 9 hours

Explore, Hike to Third Recess

After yesterday's climb, you'll certainly enjoy some time to explore without the weight of a full pack. You'll leave your gear at camp and just take what we need for the day. The destination for today's hike is Third Recess Lake - a remote and stunning alpine lake nestled in the heart of the mountains. Take a swim or simply bask in the sun along its shores - the reward for your hard work. After enjoying an afternoon by the lake, you'll head back to camp to enjoy your final night in Pioneer Basin. (Meals: B, L, D) 
Hiking Distance: Up to 6 milesHiking Time: 8 hours

Hike to Ruby Lake

Today, you'll again load your pack full of gear but with your legs feeling their strongest after a few days on the trail, you'll feel ready for the challenge of the day. Another climb over Mono pass awaits, with plenty more photo ops and sweeping views awaiting you. Continue to keep your eyes peeled for the mountain wildlife including big horn sheep, deer, and beavers. Tonight is your final sleep in the backcountry and you'll snooze well next to a peaceful mountain lake. (Meals: B, L, D)
Hiking Distance: 5 milesHiking Time: 6 hours

Hike to Trailhead, Drive through Yosemite

A short hike back to the trailhead will get your blood pumping this morning, but a drive through the stunning Yosemite Valley will keep your heart pounding. You'll have time to see the famous sites in the park such as El Capitan and Yosemite Falls on your leisurely trip along Tioga Road. Tonight, you can enjoy a bit of luxury in a full service lodge just outside of the park. Toast to a wonderful trip over dinner with your new friends. (Meals: B)
Hiking Distance: 1.5 milesHiking Time: 2 hours

Return to San Francisco, Depart

It's time to say goodbye after an amazing trip. After a delicious breakfast, your DO guide, will transport you back to San Francisco. For anyone flying out today, departures should be booked at 1PM or later to leave time for the drive and goodbyes. (Meals: no meals included)

Here’s what you need


Essential Gear
  • Backpack, sized 55-75 L
  • Backpacking Tent (available to rent for an additional fee)
  • Sleeping Bag, rated 0 degrees or lower (available to rent for an additional fee)
  • Sleeping Pad (available to rent for an additional fee)
  • Water bottles or Camelbak, 3L total minimum capacity
  • Headlamp
  • Mug, bowl, and utensil
  • Small towel or facecloth
  • Toiletries
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
Recommended Gear

Trekking Poles
Sleeping bag liner


Essential Clothing
  • Hiking boots, waterproof with sturdy soles
  • Wool hiking socks, multiple pairs
  • Long sleeve base layers (synthetic and moisture wicking)
  • Long pant base layer (synthetic and moisture wicking)
  • Light synthetic shirt or tank for warmer days
  • Hiking pants or shorts (at least one pair should be long pants)
  • Insulating mid layers (fleece jacket or vest, down jacket)
  • Waterproof, windproof shell
  • Light gloves
  • Heavy gloves or mittens
  • Warm hat
  • Balaclava or buff
  • Casual clothes for camp

Trip Package

  • Round Trip Transportation from San Francisco
  • Licensed and medically trained guide team
  • Accommodations
  • Meals as outlined in itinerary
  • Group equipment
  • Park permits and fees
Not included
  • Airfare to San Francisco
  • Personal gear and equipment
  • Meals not outlined in itinerary
  • Gratuity for guides


For those traveling from outside Northern California, you'll fly through San Francisco International Airport. Please plan to arrive by 12PM or earlier on day one of the itinerary to allow time for the drive to Mammoth. Departing flights should be scheduled for 1PM or later on day six of the itinerary to allow time to drive from your lodge. If you wish to extend your stay in either direction, your DO guide can arrange transportation from or to your hotel in the San Francisco metro area.


Each night, with the exception of the first night in Mammoth and the final night outside Yosemite, will be spent at a backcountry campsite. If you do not have your own backpacking tent, you can opt to rent one. On trail, all gear, food, and equipment will be carried by the group. Campsites along the route are established sites with access to water.

Lodge accommodations in Mammoth and Yosemite will be double occupancy with full amenities.


The high mountain areas have extremely variable weather. The evenings can turn cold and the days can warm up substantially, even in the alpine environment. Strong winds, rain, hail, even the occasional snow shower may be encountered. Daytime time temperatures typically range between 50-70 degrees. Overnight lows typically range from 35-45 degrees but often fall below freezing. For that reason, an adequately rated sleeping bag and warm clothing is essential.


This trip does not require technical climbing skills or experience. It does, however, require a high level of physical fitness. We strongly encourage our hikers to experience hiking on rugged trails, particularly up and down steep hills, while carrying weight. The difference in difficulty while carrying the weight of a fully loaded backpack can sometimes come as a surprise to hikers, so you are encouraged to try challenging day hikes with a weighted backpack. Those who are in good shape are more likely to enjoy the experience and the views along the trail.

Give yourself adequate time to prepare, particularly if this form and intensity of exercise is new. For three days a week, focus on an hour or more of aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. Gym equipment such as stairmasters and rowing machines can supplement cardiovascular training. Day hikes or other longer endeavors will help you prepare for the endurance required for a backpacking trip. Carrying a 20 to 30 pound pack uphill on trails or stadium steps will simulate the real climb better than anything. Lifting moderate weights to increase core body, leg, and arm strength is also a good idea. Focus on quads and hamstrings—legs need strength and endurance. Being generally fit and having some solid stamina for long days is the overall goal.

Upon registration, a member of the DO team will consult on your experience and fitness and recommend a regimen for training.

Dates and Prices

The right trip,
at the right time.

Price From
Aug 3, 2019
Aug 8, 2019
Aug 10, 2019
Aug 15, 2019
Aug 17, 2019
Aug 22, 2019