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Experience Level



6-7 miles/day


8,600-11,000 ft

Registration Fee


Program Overview: Join a naturalist guide and fellow adventurers for a Yosemite Field School backpacking trip through a remote area of Yosemite. On this challenging four-day trek, you’ll dig into alpine ecology and geology and learn how shifting conditions are affecting snow and ice in the Sierra Nevada. This is a strenuous backpacking trip. We’ll cover about 25 miles over the course of four days, at high elevations, through rugged terrain.

The trip kicks off with a Thursday evening get-together where you’ll meet your guide and fellow adventurers and review the route, Leave No Trace ethics and safety tips. On Friday, your four-day journey from Tuolumne Meadows begins. As you backpack to the eastern edge of the park, you’ll learn about the area’s icy history, observe an alpine habitat up close, and consider how human-driven climate change is shaping the future of Yosemite’s ecosystems. By the time you hike back out to the trailhead, you’ll have a deep appreciation of the High Sierra, home to hardy plants and animals, strong winds, beaming sunlight, sporadic mountain storms — and visibly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Know Before You Go

  • When: Thursday, September 1 (orientation at 7:30 pm) to Monday, September 5. Depart for backpacking trip on September 2 at 8 am, return September 5 at around 3 pm.
  • Where: Start from Tuolumne Meadows on the John Muir Trail, turn towards Vogelsang High Sierra Camp along Ireland Creek Trail, optional hike to Ireland Lake, then loop back to the John Muir Trail on the Rafferty Creek Trail.
  • Registration includes: Guided backpacking trip, park entry (as needed), bear-proof canister rental, Yosemite Wilderness permit, and two nights of tent camping at a shared campsite before and after the trip (September 1 and September 5). There is no discount if you choose not to use the included gate pass or campsite.
  • Lodging options: Tent camping (included), or upgrade to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge (September 1 and 5) for an additional fee. Camping and lodging dates cannot be adjusted. The upgrade option expires 30 days before the program. Lodging information will be sent immediately after registering.
  • Experience level: Participants must have prior backpacking experiences at elevations above 10,000 feet, be very physically fit, and be ready to carry personal gear for 22 miles of high-elevation hiking over four days. We recommend spending a few days and nights at high elevation immediately before the trip to adjust to the altitude.

View a suggested packing list.

COVID-19: We have implemented special safety measures to keep participants and instructors safe during the ongoing pandemic. Please review our COVID-19 procedures for details.