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Backpacker Magazine – June 2001

Splendor Hiking The High Sierra

Take the finest mountains in the world, add high-country meadows, glacial valleys, alpine lakes, pine-and-hemlock forests, and what do you have? A recipe for backcountry bliss.

by: John Harlin


Permits: Required. Call the ranger stations or visit their Web sites as soon as you've picked a hike; ask when you'll need to book the permit.

Bears: Land managers strongly recommend-and sometimes require-the use of bear-resistant canisters, which can be rented or bought from many local outfitters and ranger stations.

Seasons and weather: Summer brings the most predictably sunny weather, but surprise storms do roll through. Snow levels vary from year to year; lower altitudes (below 9,000 feet) typically melt out in May. Check with rangers about snowfields and swollen creeks. The best time for hiking in the Sierra is September, when cooler temperatures and bug-free solitude abound.

Shuttles: For shuttle services to all trailheads, try Sierra Express Transportation, (760) 937-8294.

Guides: The numbers given with each book refer to the routes marked on the map; note that few of these original hikes are completely described in any guidebook. All titles are available at

  • 100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra and Coast Range, by Vicky Spring (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; $14.95). Hike: 2.
  • The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, by R. J. Secor (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; $29.95). This is the comprehensive guidebook to all the Sierra backcountry. Hikes: 4, 5, 8, 10, 12.
  • Hiking Northern California, by Ron Adkison (Falcon Books, 800-725-8303; $19.95). Hike: 10.
  • Hiking Yosemite National Park, by Suzanne Swedo (Falcon Books, 800-725-8303; $14.95). Hike: 3.
  • Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country, by Steve Roper (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; $16.95). This book describes a 195-mile, almost trail-less route through the best of the Sierra. Hikes: 7, 9.
  • Wild California: Northern and Central Regions, by Ron Adkison (Falcon Books, 800-725-8303; $19.95). Hike: 1.
  • Yosemite Once Removed: Portraits of the Back Country, photography by Claude Fiddler (Yosemite Association, 209-379-2648). This forthcoming book isn't a guidebook, but its essays and photos are the best inspiration going. Hike: 3.
  • More guidebooks are available from Wilderness Press (800-443-7227;, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (760-873-2411;, and the Yosemite Association (209-379-2648, Maps: All of these maps of the Sierra are available from the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (760-873-2411; or the Web sites given below.
  • Tom Harrison's elegant maps combine USGS quads with subtle shading and are printed on plastic. Contact: Tom Harrison Maps, (800) 265-9090;; $6.95 to $8.95.
  • USGS 7.5-minute quads (888-ASK-USGS;; $4).
  • Yosemite National Park and Vicinity (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227;; $6.95).
  • Yosemite National Park and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park (Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643;; $9.95 each).
  • USDA Forest Service maps (530-647-5390;; $6 to $10). Contacts:
  • Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, (775) 882-2766;
  • Inyo National Forest, (760) 873-2400;
  • Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, (530) 573-2600;
  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, (559) 565-3341;
  • Sequoia National Forest: (559) 784-1500;
  • Sierra National Forest, (559) 297-0706;
  • Stanislaus National Forest, (209) 532-3671;
  • Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-0200;

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