Alpine Lakes of the High Sierra

Merced, CA

Trip Highlights

  • High Sierra Views
  • Pristine Lakes and Creeks
  • Beautiful Campsites
  • High Mountain Passes
  • Granite Peaks & Cliffs
  • Fascinating Geology


Join Wildland Trekking and explore the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in the stunning Emigrant Wilderness just north of Yosemite National Park.  This 5-day trek takes us along glacially carved canyons and past beautiful creeks and lakes, massive granite peaks, lush meadows and aromatic pine forests. This trip  defines California’s famous “Range of Light” as we discover a shimmering wonderland of granite domes and pristine lakes, many above tree line in the alpine zone. If you’d like to experience the wonders of the Sierra backcountry, but with much more solitude than Yosemite, this trip is a fantastic choice!

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From USD
$1810 Per Person
Trip Type: Guided Backpacking Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 2-6 Guests
Trip Length: 5 Days
Distance: 39MI / 62KM


Scale of 1-5. 1 is least difficult; 5 is most difficult

This trip follows well maintained trails and has generally moderately strenuous hiking distances of 6-9.5 miles. Some obstacles include loose dirt, large stepping stones, mud, tree roots and creek crossings.

Hiking Distances:

6-9.5 miles

Backpack Weight:

35-45 lbs


Moderately Rugged

Max Daily Elev. ↑↓:

Up to 1728 feet

Heights Exposure:


Please Note: Terrain, Elevation Gain and Heights Exposure ratings reflect the section or day of the trip with the maximum difficulty of each. Much of the trip is at easier levels. See the trip itinerary for more detailed information. Backpack Weight ratings are estimates that account for Wildland-provided gear, guest clothing, personal items and a share of group food. By packing light it’s often possible to stay on the lower end of the weight range. Pack weights also decrease during the trip.


  • Hiking uphill or downhill with a 35-45 lb backpack for 6-8 hours
  • Maintaining balance and footing on moderately rugged terrain
  • Hiking with occasional, light heights exposure
* For an official and complete list of physical requirements, please see our Essential Eligibility Criteria.


1 least solitude, 5 most solitude

We rate this High Sierra backpacking trip a solitude 4. You can expect to see a couple other groups of hikers per day.


Travel in perfect company by booking a private trip exclusively for your group!

Our sliding scale for private trips is based on the final number of guests in your group. Rates are per person and do not include sales tax, national park fees or guide gratuity. The final rate is based on the actual number of guests on the trip and may adjust based on cancellations or additions.

Please Note: you can also enjoy a private trip at our normal scheduled rates by filling any empty tour to capacity. However, if group members drop from the tour those spots will automatically become available on our website for instant booking. By purchasing a private trip at the rates listed below, your trip will remain exclusive to your group regardless of cancellations. 


  • 2 People: Rate x 2.5
  • 3 People: Rate x 1.75
  • 4 People: Rate x 1.25
  • 5+ People: Rate x 1.15
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We’re here to help. If you have any questions, call 800-715-HIKE or contact us online.
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Day 1

  • Shuttle: 2 Hours
  • Hiking Distance: 6.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1215 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1075 feet

Well get an early start and enjoy a short, scenic shuttle to our starting trailhead. Our trek starts with a gentle ascent to warm up our legs. We’ll pass a beautiful mountain lake and drop into a broad valley, named after its many mountain lakes. After a trail lunch prepared by your guide, the trail continues in a classic up and down fashion before dropping us into our camp at a breathtaking, lush meadow system. Here, we will enjoy a hearty dinner and get some rest for a longer day tomorrow.

Day 2

  • Hiking Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1728 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1773 feeet

A longer day on the trail today means waking up early to hot coffee and breakfast, and then quickly breaking camp. Our trail descends into a stunning high alpine flat dotted with wildflowers and a majestic creek surrounded by sheer walls of granite. After lunch along the creek, and refreshingly dipping our feet in its ice cold water, we will make our way uphill toward tonight’s camp in a gorgeous meadow intersected by a crystal clear mountain stream. We’ll get camp set up and settle in for a relaxing evening, wonderful dinner, and a brilliantly vivid star-filled sky.

Day 3

  • Hiking Distance: 8.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1239 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1204 feet

Our third day begins with another delicious breakfast with hot tea or coffee. Our hike starts with a short but steep climb out of our beautiful meadow and up to a high mountain pass at roughly 9700 feet. We will take a break here and enjoy the views of the stunning High Sierra Mountain Range. The hard work paid off not only with great views but also a well deserved downhill section. This section of trail is the namesake of the trip, we will descend 1200 feet over 5 miles into the Emigrant Lake Basin. We pass both Emigrant Meadow and Middle Emigrant Lake before settling into camp at the massive and breathtaking Emigrant Lake. We will dine lakeside tonight and enjoy the alpenglow fading over the horizon.

Day 4

  • Hiking Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1443 feet

Today we will head back to a familiar location from Day 1, the meadow we camped in on night 1. Our looped itinerary takes us through more meadows and past two prominent mountain lakes, both dotted with multiple, thickly-vegetated islands. Our trail continues north on an ascent up to a crystal clear, naturally fed creek coming from a massive granite dome to the northwest. After a lovely trail lunch, we will continue on to our familiar camp where we will enjoy one last night together before starting our trek home. We will celebrate our last night in the backcountry with a final delicious dinner prepared by your guide, and go to sleep with the peaceful sound of the alpine breeze murmuring through the trees.

Day 5

  • Shuttle Time: 2 Hours
  • Hiking Distance: 6.1 Mile
  • Elevation Gain: 1075 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1215 feet

Today we retrace our steps from Day 1 as we head back to our starting trailhead. Our trek starts out with a nice warm up ascent before descending back into a broad valley. Just a few more miles to go and we are back at our vehicle. Your guide will prepare lunch and transport you back to Merced for our fond farewells.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes. Normal terms and conditions apply to trips with itinerary changes.

Trip Dates & Booking


Click on a date to register. You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.

Available to Book


This trip is available and bookable online! Click on the date to register now or contact us online to book through our award-winning customer service team!

Going Fast


This trip has 1 or 2 spots remaining and is bookable online! Click on the date to book now or contact us online to book through customer service.

Request a Reservation


This trip is exclusively booked through customer service due to logistics with lodging, permits, staffing, availability, or something else. Please contact us online or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to request a reservation.

Don't see your dates? Call us! We may be able to add new trip dates.

800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Details

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, backcountry sleeping pad and multi-day backpack
  • High quality, synthetic sleeping bag (professionally laundered after every use) – or bring your own.
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • Trained hiking guide(s) with years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. See Guide Bios.
  • Transportation originating and ending in Merced, CA
  • Bear cannisters for food storage
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and communication device (InReach Explorer or satellite phone)

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear and footwear (see recommendations)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about what to pack.

Meals: What to Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:

  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware synthetic-fill sleeping bags (or bring your own)
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Bear cannisters
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

Guest Packing List

When you register for this tour you’ll receive access to a printable, downloadable trip information packet with a detailed packing list specific to this trip (click here to see it now.) All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, a recommended clothing system, a headlamp or flashlight, a hydration system (water bottles and/or bladder) and other items specific to each trip.

Additionally, some guests choose to bring their own sleeping bag. We supply high quality, synthetic fill bags that are professionally laundered after every trip. Synthetic fill is non-allergenic, insulates when damp and stands up well to repeated washings, but is heavier and bulkier than down. If you’re able to bring your own down sleeping bag, there are multiple benefits. If not, we’ve got you covered!

Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics

How Do I Register?

Reserve your spot today! In the Trip Dates & Booking section of this page, the green and red dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you’re ready to register we’ll email you a link to a registration profile. You’ll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit.

Feel free to call us for more info – we’re here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

This trip meets in Merced, CA at 5 pm the evening before the trip begins for a pre-trip orientation meeting. Your guide will be in contact approximately 10 days prior to coordinate the rendezvous.

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about flights, shuttles, recommended lodging and more.

Travel to Merced, CA

By Rail (Amtrak): you can travel by rail on the Amtrak San Joaquin Train directly to the city of Merced serviced by most large cities in California. Amtrak offers 4 trips daily from Fresno (the nearest airport) to Merced.

By Rental Car: some guests choose to rent a vehicle in Fresno or San Francisco and drive to Merced. The drive time is 55 minutes from Fresno, and 2 hours and 45 minutes from San Francisco.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day’s rendezvous time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will be out of the backcountry normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time) on the final day.

Safety Precautions

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT’s, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. Guides adhere to standardized risk management protocols in case of any potential or actual incident, and all tours carry an emergency communication device and comprehensive first-aid kit. Additionally we have a “24/7” system through which guides or guests can reach Wildland support personnel at any time.

If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Essential Eligibility Criteria (“EEC”) have been specifically identified to help you understand the skills and abilities necessary to participate on each Wildland trip, and they apply uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability.

Once you identify a trip in which you may be interested, please carefully review the EEC and itinerary details. If after reviewing the EEC that apply to your desired trip, you determine you need an accommodation in order to meet the EEC, please contact us prior to registering to discuss your requested accommodation.

The EEC exist for your own safety and the safety and enjoyment of all participants. If you are unable to meet the EEC for the trip, with or without an accommodation, you are not eligible for that trip. If you register and arrive for a trip for which you do not meet the EEC, you will be disqualified from participation on the trip and will be dismissed or evacuated from the trip without a refund.

Guide Shifts

High Sierra guides work daily shifts from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. During off hours (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) the guides’ time is their own, and they are free to sleep, rest, take personal time, postpone guest requests until the next morning, and any other legal, reasonable activity people engage in when not working. We ask all guests to respect the guides’ off-duty hours by not waking or asking anything of them unless there is a true emergency. Also, state law requires that employees receive an uninterrupted 10 minute break every four working hours, so guides are required to take four 10 minute breaks between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Age Restrictions

Age restrictions on this trip are as follows:

  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Sierras

Being a high mountain environment, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in the mountains. On trips in June, snow is a possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)



Backcountry Sleeping


Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and synthetic-fill sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

Backcountry Cuisine


Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

Amazing Campsites


Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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