Grand Traverses: Sierra High Route

Breathe in the views and grandness of the Sierras without the crowds of the John Muir Trail.

Table of Contents | Pfiffner Traverse, CO | Roan Highlands, NC/TN | Sawtooth Ridge, WA | Ruby Crest, NV | Great Northern Traverse, MT | Sierra High Route, CA | Monroe Skyline, VT | Superstition Ridge, AZ | Guadalupe Ridge, NM/TX | Teton Crest Trail, WY | Greenstone Ridge, MI | Franconia Ridge, NH | Great Range, NY

Distance 26 miles

Gain 7,700 feet

Difficulty 7

Why it’s grand The Sierra High Route (SHR) is the alternative to the John Muir Trail, letting you escape to a private paradise of granite and alpine lakes. We think Muir would approve forsaking his namesake trail for this.

Do it Much of the SHR requires alpine routefinding and scrambling, but the four-day, 26-mile section from Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes makes for a killer short trip. It never gets more technical than class 3 (and only then for a short bit), all the while staying close to the Sierra Crest, gaining 7,700 feet, and avoiding established trails. Optional: If you’re up for exposed class 2 terrain, tag the summit of 12,648-foot Mt. Conness via its wild and trailless east ridge on your first day.

In the 1930s, the Sierra Club created the Yosemite Decimal System, used to grade the difficulty of hikes (class 1-4) and climbs (5.10, etc.) in the Sierra Nevada. Think of the now-widely adopted scale this way: class 1 = trail; class 2 = tricky trail; class 3 = scrambling with hands; class 4 = simple climbing; class 5 = technical climbing.

(209) 372-0200;

Sierra High Route by Steve Roper ($18;

July to October

Required; free ($5 plus $5/person for reservations)