Emigrant Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness is one of the most popular places for Northern California groups to complete a 50 mile backpacking trip.  There are so many trailheads, lakes, and worthwhile routes, that it would be impossible to name them all.  You can enter Emigrant from Yosemtie (Boundary Lake), Hwy 108 (Crabtree, Gianelli Cabin, and Kennedy Meadows), or the Sonora Pass (Leavitt Peak).  Permits are easily acquired at any of the Ranger Stations and up to 15 backpackers can be accommodated on a trek.  Bear cans are not required.

One of the most difficult places to find in Emigrant Wilderness is Hyatt Lake. There are no trails into the Lake, and only a very experienced backpacker can nagivate the ducks, granite faces, and ridgelines to make it there. It is 13 difficult miles from Crabtree campground, a large part of it uphill. Still, the few who actually make to Hyatt Lake find the ordeal worthwhile. The views hiking over the ridge into the lake are spectacular (a huge granite bowl as far as the eye can see), sandy beaches, and high and low rock faces that are perfect for jumping into the lake. Swimming is a must-do activity.

A few years back, I was at Hyatt Lake, and as usual it was a great trip. That time we shared the lake with two groups. One a batch of skinny- dipping women who were obviously enjoying the water and the sun. The other group brought fireworks, which they set off at night over the granite bowl towards Big Lake. Totally illegal, but after we got over our worries that they might be emergency flares from stranded hikers, we enjoyed the flashes inter-mingled with the stars.

5 Responses

  1. That was me who had the fireworks. I remember there being 2 other groups at the lake that weekend as well. I fired them over the lake and burned the empty canisters. There was no danger of a fire. Glad you enjoyed them!

  2. Robert, I agree with you. Fireworks and the Wilderness do not mix. Just to be clear. Our group did not have the fireworks. We did not know the people who had the them and we reported the incident to the Ranger when we got back. Thanks for the comment.

  3. It’s pretty stupid and irresponsible to bring firworks into the backcountry. Next time think about the wildlife and fires! Even if you did not start one while your were there, brush can smolder for weeks then ignite when the conditions are right. Also think about the trash. I would have reported you in a second if I spotted your camp. Next time bring your thinking cap

    Former Trail Crew Worker/Wilderness Ranger Emigrant Wilderness

  4. Our 2008 hike was from Gianelli’s Cabin to Whiteside Meadow to Emigrant Lake to Snow and Bigelow Lakes to Lertora Lake to Gem Lake. Very straightforward and enjoyable. Every camp is in a beautiful setting. Remember that the mosquitoes are bad in July and just about any place called a “Meadow” is full of them. Lertora Lake is a great place to swim and camp. There are always lots of day hikers near Crabtree and Gem Lake is a popular destination for them. If you bushwack from Snow Lake to Bigelow Lake (some maps show a trail be we couldn’t follow it all the way over the saddle) remember to stay high. Do not descend into the valley or you will miss Bigelow altogether. Hint: study the map and notice where all the high places are before heading out in the morning.

  5. From C. Knaus – Troop 236
    Our Troop has done two 50 milers in the Emigrant Wilderness (2004 & 6). We’ve done loops originating at Crabtree Camp. 2004 route was Crabtree to Grouse Lake, Cherry Creek, Wood Lake, Buck Lake, Emigrant Lake, Middle Emigrant Lake, Emigrant Meadow Lake, Bond Pass, Snow Lake, Huckleberry Lake, Letora Lake, Gem Lake, and back to Crabtree. Highlights include fishing at Buck Lake, Emigrant Lake being partially frozen over on 4th of July (’06), the view at the pass between Snow Lake and Bigelow Lake (Some maps don’t show the trail here. It is sparse and requires some bushwacking!), rock formations and swimming at Letora Lake (several shallow inlets mean relatively warm water!), and excellent fishing at Bigelow Lake. Crabtree is a good trail head with a forest service campground, picnic tables and vault/pit toilets that don’t stink! Great place to organize yourselves and your gear, spend the night, acclimate for a bit and be ready for your first day on the trail.

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