The SHR is a 195-mile trekking route that runs north-south through the heart of the High Sierra, the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada Range. It passes through two National Parks—Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Yosemite—and two wilderness areas—John Muir and Ansel Adams. It is a rugged alternate to the John Muir Trail (JMT), boasting about 100 miles of cross-country travel, numerous Class III scrambles, and seemingly endless miles of boulder fields. SHR hikers are rewarded with pristine alpine settings, uninterrupted stretches of solitude, and a sense of true adventure. The route was developed by climber Steve Roper back in the late-1970’s.
Starting and Ending Points
The southern terminus is at Road’s End in the South Fork of the Kings River, about 90 miles east of Fresno. Its climbs into the high country via the Copper Creek Trail. The northern terminus is at Mono Village, at Twin Lakes, just outside of the northwest boundary of Yosemite National Park, about 13 miles southwest of Bridgeport. If you do not wish to hike the entire SHR, it is possible to do it in sections, though because the trail is so remote and because vehicle access is so limited, this is logistically difficult and often involves hiking long distances from nearby trailheads before the SHR is even reached. But, in that sense, portions of the SHR can easily be integrated into loop hikes.
SHR versus the John Muir Trail
The SHR and JMT are of similar distance (195 for SHR, 218 for JMT) and both go north-south through the High Sierra. Additionally, the SHR uses about 30 miles of the JMT corridor. But otherwise the trails—and the experiences they provide—are markedly different. First, the SHR is not an official trail; it is a route. It is not labeled on any maps and there is no signage for it on the ground. Very few people know about it, and even fewer hike it. It is not a continuous footpath—about half of its length is off-trail. In almost perfect contrast, the John Muir Trail is an official trail; it is labeled on maps and there is signage on the ground; lots of people know about it and hike it; and it’s a continuous footpath.
It’s estimated that about 10 people hike the entire SHR each year, i.e. thru-hike it. There may be more or less, but—whatever the exact number may be—it’s small. Like all long-distance trails, it receives more traffic from section hikers (and, perhaps in the most accessible portions of the route, day hikers). But, again, this traffic is peanuts compared to elsewhere in the High Sierra.