High Lakes of the Emigrant Wilderness, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14131A, Backpack


  • Take in spectacular views from the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Explore Yosemite’s beautiful Dorothy Lake
  • Swim in alpine lakes


  • Group cooking equipment
  • Delicious backpacking meals
  • Food resupply midway through the trip


DatesJul 27–Aug 3, 2014
Difficulty4 (out of 5)
StaffJindra Goodman

Trip Overview

The Trip

Just north of Yosemite, the Emigrant Wilderness contains vast pine forests, grassy meadows, glacier-carved granite ridges, and hundreds of high mountain lakes. Our eight-day, 45-mile partial loop trek highlights some of the most scenic lakes of the High Sierra. Beginning at Sonora Pass, we’ll head south for three days along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Dorothy Lake, the most northerly lake in Yosemite. After a layover day, we’ll head west over Bond Pass into the Emigrant Wilderness, passing Snow Lake and Emigrant Pass and descending into the sprawling Emigrant Lake Valley. On the last two days we’ll head north and west over Mosquito Pass, past Relief Reservoir and into Kennedy Meadows.


The following is the currently planned day-by-day itinerary. However, snow conditions, water availability, and other unforeseen events may require rerouting and alterations to this itinerary.

Day 1: Kennedy Meadow. We will meet at Baker campground (which operates on a first-come, first-served basis) at 4 p.m.  We will spend the rest of the day discussing equipment, weighing packs, reviewing wilderness guidelines, and arranging the next-day carpool to Sonora Pass.  Dinner will be provided.

Day 2: Sonora Pass to Latopie Lake. (5.5 miles, 1,845 feet elevation gain, 1,042 feet elevation loss) We will begin our trek at Sonora Pass (elevation 9,628 feet), heading south on the PCT. Our path starts southwest and then follows a sweeping arc 1,200 feet up a dramatic north-facing slope, where we may encounter snowfields until we arrive at a 10,870-foot saddle. From here we head south along the nearly level spine of the divide.  As we cross into the eastern side of the divide, breathtaking panoramas of Leavitt Lake, Koening Lake, and, our destination, Latopie Lake reveal themselves.

Day 3: Latopie Lake to Upper Long Lake. (10 miles, 1,040 feet elevation gain, 2,800 feet elevation loss) We will continue south along the PCT, traversing snowfields and open volcanic slopes with sparse alpine flora before descending into Kennedy Canyon and the Walker River bottomlands. We will camp at Upper Long Lake.

Day 4: Upper Long Lake to Dorothy Lake. (5.5 miles, 1,180 feet elevation gain, 400 feet elevation loss) We’ll continue south, climbing past several small lakes as we enter Yosemite National Park.  Easing past Stella Lake, the trail brings us to our next campsite at Dorothy Lake.  Just inside Yosemite, we will meet up with the packer bringing our food and supplies for the remainder of the trip.

Day 5: Dorothy Lake Layover Day. Today is a layover day where we can fish, swim, hike to nearby Bonnie, Ruth, and Helen lakes, or just relax in the high mountain air and scenery.

Day 6: Dorothy Lake to Emigrant Lake. (10 miles, 950 feet elevation gain, 1,500 feet elevation loss) Leaving Dorothy Lake, we continue southwest over Bond Pass back into Emigrant Wilderness. We head north, crossing Summit Meadow, and ascend into Emigrant Meadows near Emigrant Pass. From there, we turn southwest by Middle Emigrant Lake and then west, descending slowly to our campsite at the east end of sprawling Emigrant Lake.

Day 7: Emigrant Lake to Saucer Meadow. (6 miles, 700 feet elevation gain, 1,200 feet elevation loss) We begin our two-day trek out by turning north over Mosquito Pass and then west via Lunch Meadow through pine forests to our creek-side camp near Saucer Meadow.

Day 8: Saucer Meadow to Kennedy Meadows. (6.5 miles, 970 feet elevation gain, 2,950 feet elevation loss) On our last day, we will continue west and then north by Relief Reservoir, finally descending into Kennedy Meadows.



Getting There

We will meet at Baker Campground, located beside Hwy 108 at the entrance to Kennedy Meadows, some 50 miles above the city of Sonora. The last checkpoint before getting there is the Dardanelle store on your right, about five miles from the campsite. Carpooling is highly recommended.  Most people from out of state will find it easiest to fly into San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose (a good four to five hours from the trailhead). 

Accommodations and Food

All food will be provided, starting with dinner on the first day and ending with lunch on the last day. All food will be stored in bear canisters. The Sierra Club will provide cooking utensils, stoves, toilet paper, emergency first-aid kit, and repair kit. All trip members are expected to share in the cooking and clean-up duties. A variety of high-energy, easy-to-prepare meals are planned, including gourmet dinners. The trip can accommodate vegetarians, however, the trip leader must know all dietary restrictions well in advance.

Trip Difficulty

The trip is rated 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 denotes the most difficult trips and 1 the least difficult. There are several strenuous days involving steep ups and downs, long hiking days, and campsites above 9,000 feet elevation. Participants must have been on at least one weeklong backpacking trip and have spent several days above 9,000 feet without side effects. Backpack weights will be 40 pounds, including personal gear, bear canister, group equipment, and two liters of water. Ultralight packs are not recommended and high-top hiking boots are required.

Equipment and Clothing

You can find a list of suggested equipment at; http://www.knapsack.org/basic_equipment.html



Schifrin, Ben, Emigrant Wilderness and Northwestern Yosemite, Wilderness Press.


USGS 7.5’ Topo Quadrangles

  • Sonora Pass
  • Pickel Meadows
  • Emigrant Lake
  • Tower Peak


In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964, established our country’s National Wilderness Preservation System. Starting with only 54 Forest Service areas in 13 states totaling less than 10 million acres, the system has now grown to more than 100 million acres in 44 states -– and is still growing.  Out of 54 wilderness areas designated in 1964, thirteen were in California. Today, California alone has 149 wilderness areas.  California is second only to Alaska in the percentage of its land area that is designated as Wilderness.

The Emigrant Basin was designated the “Emigrant Basin Primitive Area” in 1931, which began the protection of this special area. It became part of the Wilderness system on January 4, 1975. The impact of civilization on the Sierra Nevada is the conservation focus of this trip. The effects of logging roads, spreading communities, and the management of manmade lakes and dams will be brought into sharp focus in the pristine Emigrant Wilderness.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.



Jindra Goodman is an experienced backpacker who has participated in and led many High Sierra outings with the Sierra Club. In addition, she has backpacked in New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia, the Alps, the Tatras, and the Czech Republic, where she learned her backpacking skills as a youth. She is also an active member of several wilderness search and rescue teams in the Bay Area and Sierras. Jindra recently retired after four decades as a professor of meteorology at San Jose State University to enjoy her grandchildren, skiing, running, swimming and cycling.

Assistant Leader:

Douglas Goodman

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