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California: The Grand Yosemite Traverse

National Geographic Adventure picks the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui

Alaska  |  California  |  Canada  |  Hawaii

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Go Active
On this eight-day, 57-mile (92-kilometer) trans-Sierra backpacking tour, which crosses the whole of Yosemite National Park from south to north, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides has done all the logistical work for you. "You start at one point, end at another, and never see the same terrain on any given day," says owner and guide Ian Elman. "Plus, it has the most bang for your buck." The trip, however, is not for beginners: You'll cover about nine miles (14 kilometers) a day at elevations nearing 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). The hike starts at a remote trailhead in the Ansel Adams Wilderness at Yosemite's south end and includes a second-day traverse of Post Peak Pass into the park. You'll camp at glassy alpine lakes, ascend Half Dome—the park's crown jewel—and climb uphill along the John Muir Trail to Cathedral Lakes, a region lined with dramatic glaciated granite peaks. The trek finishes at Tuolumne Meadows, an undulating, flower-filled subalpine system surrounded by domes. A Saturday-to-Sunday trip that Elman calls "logistically tidy," the grand traverse includes all gear and food (Elman makes a mean bananas flambé). And on the ride home, you'll tour Yosemite Valley's famous front-country sites like El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.


Outfitter: Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (


Eight days


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