Photo Gallery: An 86-Mile Walk Through Yosemite

Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.
Todd Arndt backpacking in Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

By Michael Lanza

For years, I had gazed longingly at my topographic maps of Yosemite, eyeballing the biggest and most remote swath of wilderness in this flagship national park: the vast realm of deep canyons and mountains rising to over 12,000 feet north of Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road, a region that includes the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and a chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail. I had to explore it. So I finally decided it was time, mapped out an 86-mile hike, talked a friend into a four-day blitz, and we ticked off one of the most glorious backpacking trips of my life.

The gallery of photos below contains highlights from that September trip, which began in Tuolumne Meadows and ended at Tenaya Lake, via some eye-popping and surprisingly lonely corners like Matterhorn Canyon, Burro, Mule, Rock Island, and Seavey passes, and Benson Lake. A longtime backcountry ranger had told me that Benson Lake has the best backcountry beach in the park, and he’s right.

It was actually the second leg of a 151-mile, seven-day, grand tour of the two biggest pieces of wilderness in Yosemite. I’d visited Yosemite several times before taking those magnificent hikes—backpacking in the park’s core, including highlights like Half Dome and the John Muir Trail, and dayhiking and rock climbing—and I thought I’d had already seen the park’s best scenery and wilderness. I was wrong, as I think you’ll see in my photos and stories about that 151-mile tour of Yosemite.

I’ve already posted my story about the 65-mile, first leg of that Yosemite odyssey; see “Best of Yosemite, Part 1: Backpacking South of Tuolumne Meadows.” Later this year, I’ll post a feature-length story about our 86-mile trek in northern Yosemite at The Big Outside, with lots more photos, a video, and trip-planning information.

Meanwhile, see all of my stories about Yosemite National Park, my Ask Me posts about Yosemite, and my stories about California adventures, California national parks, and national park adventures at The Big Outside.

See also my ultralight backpacking tips and my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit,” “10 Tips For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier,” and “7 Tips For Avoiding Blisters.”

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Wind4-016Did you enjoy this story? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, and I appreciate connecting with my readers. I invite you to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the box at the top of the left sidebar or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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5 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: An 86-Mile Walk Through Yosemite”

  1. Just wanted to drop a line that I’m either doing your big Yosemite loop (this + the one south of Tioga) or the Big SEKI loop early July! Probably going at a more sedate pace than you did though 🙂 I’m looking at 15 days or so for either trip, so this one is very appealing because I don’t need to hump 15 days of food up and down the Sierras, but still not sure which trip would be better.

    • Hey Eric, either is really fabulous, somewhat different character. I guess I’d go for the 150-mile Yosemite double loop, giving yourself a food resupply in Tuolumne partway through, because it’s so varied, hits some great highlights plus some really remote terrain… and it’s Yosemite!

  2. I’m going to Yosemite in July (we’re from Australia) and am so excited. I’ve banned myself from looking at too many photos so that I have the total freedom to create my own but am very glad I found this post. The photos are incredible!