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Yosemite: Treasure Of The Sierra

Forget what CNN and Your Daily News say about Yosemite's crowds and crime and traffic. the "treasure of the Sierra" is still a golden place for backpackers to escape.

John Muir, Trail Guide

Widely known as a naturalist, Sierra Club founder, and ardent defender of all places wild, John Muir receives scant attention for his stint as a Yosemite tour guide. Granted, he didn’t ride a park bus with microphone in hand, but he did devote a chapter of his book The Yosemite ($10, Sierra Club Books, 800-935-1056) to great hikes in the park, several of which have been updated at right.

The Valley to Mt. Hoffman

Exit the Yosemite Valley via Snow Creek Trail to May Lake. Muir approached the peak on a cross-country route from Porcupine Flat, but thick brush makes the climb from May Lake a better option. Follow trails to Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Nevada Fall, and Happy Isles. “From Mt. Hoffman nearly all the Yosemite Park is displayed like a map,” wrote Muir.

Illilouette Basin

Exit the valley via Happy Isles and the John Muir Trail and make your way to the Illilouette Creek Trail, which you follow upstream to a trail junction at Lower Merced Pass Lake. A modern-day shortcut is to drive to the Mono Meadow trailhead along Glacier Point Road. Take the Ottoway Lake Trail into the basin between Red and Merced Peaks. “The most interesting glacial phenomena of them all,” said Muir about the basin. Make a loop by following trails past Washburn and Merced lakes to Happy Isles.

Tuolumne Meadows to Mt. Dana.

For Muir, the climb to Mt. Dana was the capstone to an 80-mile circuit that started in the Valley. You can reach the summit from Tioga Pass entrance station in about 3 hours. “The view from the summit is one of the most extensive and sublime to be found in all the [Sierra] Range,” said Muir.

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