The Yosemite High Route intersects with three other popular long-distance trails in the High Sierra:
- John Muir Trail,
- Pacific Crest Trail, and
- Sierra High Route.
Thru- and section-hikers on these other routes can easily link up with the Yosemite High Route to extend an itinerary, change course, or inject more adventure and challenge. There are six specific link-up opportunities.
To view intersections and respective routes, start with the embedded map below. For easier viewing, open it in a new window. I have grouped the landmarks and routes for each link-up into a dedicated layer that can be turned on/off to remove clutter from the map.
If you decide to mix routes, you will need high quality topographic maps of each route, especially for the Yosemite High Route and Sierra High Route. Such maps are available in the Yosemite High Route Guide and in the Sierra High Route Mapset.
The exact impact
How is distance and mileage affected by following the Yosemite High Route instead of the John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or Sierra High Route? Consult the chart below.
1. JMT/PCT: Donohue Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
The JMT/PCT enter Yosemite National Park together at Donohue Pass, and hike slowly downhill in the bottom of Lyell Canyon along the meandering Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River until reaching Tuolumne Meadows. The miles are underwhelming, and you can’t reach the Tuolumne Grill soon enough.
The Yosemite High Route can be used instead between Donohue Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. From below Donohue Pass, it heads cross-country through Kuna Creek, over the Kuna Crest, and into the lightly trafficked Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River.
2. JMT: Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River to Yosemite Valley
About a mile below Donohue Pass, the JMT/PCT cross the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. And when they reach Tuolumne Meadows, they split — the JMT peels west to Yosemite Valley, while the PCT continues north towards Canada.
The Yosemite High Route is a challenging alternative to the JMT between the Lyell Fork and Yosemite Valley. It departs the trail for Macclure Creek, crosses the Cathedral Range at Russell Pass, descends into the Lyell Fork of the Merced, and finally traverses the Clark Range. Once it reaches the Merced River, you would follow the Merced Lake Trail downhill into the Valley.
3. PCT: Tuolumne Meadows to Grace Meadow
After the JMT/PCT split, the PCT crosses Tioga Road and enters northern Yosemite. It exits the park at Dorothy Lake Pass, at the head of Jack Main Canyon a few miles above Grace Meadow.
The Yosemite High Route would be an adventurous alternative to the PCT between Tuolumne Meadows and Grace Meadow. This northern segment is consistently awesome: in the 41 miles between Young Lakes and Grace Meadow, the Yosemite High Route features 34 miles of off-trail travel. Early in the season, the Yosemite High Route will hold more snow, but it will pose fewer water hazards (because it’s higher in the watersheds, before the creeks have gained steam).
4. SHR: Blue Lake Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
The Sierra High Route enters the park at Blue Lake Pass, and intersects with the Yosemite High Route on the alpine bench below Foerster Peak. After hiking cross-country off this bench, the SHR takes an all-trail route to Tuolumne Meadows.
The Yosemite High Route is an alternative to the SHR between this bench and Tuolumne Meadows. It’s a few miles longer but decidedly better, with extensive alpine terrain and several exciting passes. Mile for mile, it may be the best section of the entire route. Frankly, I think Roper erred with his routing — the SHR fails to showcase the best in Yosemite south of Tioga Road.
5. SHR: Tuolumne Meadows to Virginia Canyon
After reuniting at Tuolumne Meadows, the Sierra High Route and Yosemite High Route split again until Virginia Canyon, just below Stanton Pass.
The routes are comparable in distance, but the Sierra High Route is more stout. It crosses the Sierra crest twice and endures tedious talus below Sky Pilot Pass. The Yosemite High Route stays within the park and passes through three beautiful lake basins (Young, Roosevelt, and McCabe). If you need a momentary break from rough terrain, the Yosemite High Route would be friendlier but still adventurous.
6. SHR: Northern Yosemite
The Sierra High Route exits the park at Horse Creek Pass and descends to Twin Lakes, its northern terminus. I’m thankful that Roper choose this path, because it left open the opportunity for another high route to carry on into northern Yosemite.
The Core Route continues for 27 miles (with 21 miles off-trail) to Grace Meadow. From there, the shortest good route back to civilization is the Pacific Crest Trail, which follows the Sierra Crest to Sonora Pass. If that does not work out for you, consider one of the other exit options.