Lower Jack Main Canyon backpacking to Hetch Hetchy

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 18 October 2016

Jack Main Canyon
Backpacking to Hetch Hetchy from Wilmer Lake

Important Information

I've hiked this trail from Wilmer Lake down Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy a couple of time over the years, and was glad I did. The uppermost section below the PCT-TYT is typically very quiet until we get down towards Lake Vernon, and even there it is quiet, when compared to Central Yosemite, and even the PCT during its rush. Lake Vernon (and Tiltill Valley) seems to be the upper limit of most local hikers starting out of Hetch Hetchy. Except Steve.

Steve's Loop is the Classic Hetch Hetchy Backpacking Loop.

I've always started trips to Hetch Hetchy from the Highway 108 corridor hiking in from the North. I've hiked down and described both the trails down Jack Main Canyon and Tilden Canyon.
Tilden Canyon is the next canyon to the East of Jack Main Canyon that offers loop hikers interesting options. The four trails connecting Tilden and Jack Main Canyons along their climb from Hetch Hetchy to PCT-TYT along the Sierra Crest provides us with a selection of four increasing length backpacking loops out of Hetch Hetchy.
Trails connect these two canyons through Vernon Lake, by the trail past Avonelle Lake, along the route of the PCT from Wilmer Lake to Tilden Canyon, and finally, the route of the TYT from Jack Main into Tilden Canyon via Tilden Lake.

Each of these four trails linking the Jack Main and Tilden Canyons offers backpackers loops of increasing distance and difficulty as we push closer to the Sierra Crest out of Hetch Hetchy.

In our case we are dropping down Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy, but that route gives a good look at the other nearby ways in and out of Hetch Hetchy.


Lower Jack Main Canyon
-Moraine Ridge-
-Hetch Hetchy-

 The Trail Guide Pages

Lower Jack Main Canyon:
Wilmer Lake to Tilden Canyon Junction Trail Guide Page


Lower Jack Main Canyon:
Tilden Canyon Junction to Hetch Hetchy Trailhead(s)


Another Option
-Tilden Canyon-
-Tiltill Valley-
-Rancheria Falls-
-Hetch Hetchy-

 The Trail Guide Page

(Tilden Lake)
PCT in Tilden Canyon to Hetch Hetchy Guide Page


Tilden Lake TYT Trail Guide Page


Jack Main Canyon

 The lower portion of Jack Main Canyon from Wilmer Lake down to where we climb up onto Moraine Ridge is splendid. After climbing to the high point of Moraine Ridge we enjoy descending through increasing heat because crossing the changing zones of life, along with unique islands of biology wedged into the nooks and crannies of this changing menu of harsh environments, is always stimulating travel. 

This page is the trail guide's supplemental information page for you to post up information about this segment of backpacking trail from Wilmer Lake down to Hetch Hetchy.
Post up your notes, thoughts, and experiences about hiking this section of trail by posting an article here in this forum or through the comments link below. Fill in any of the huge gaps in my coverage.

You can also send me information through the email links on the upper-left corner of each forum page and on the bottom of each trail guide page. I'm happy to hear from you.

In fact, note the options for exploration here. I doubt I will get out there to explore the cut between Brannigan and Vernon Lakes at this point in time, but the terrain around the Brannigan Lakes down to Vernon Lake was on my short list of things to explore, and should be on yours too.
Well, to explore after doing some preliminary scouting using a nice hike through, or a loop around this fine section of Lower Jack Main Canyon and its associated trails.

Another goal of this page is to show and make it easy to access the trail guide resources we have for and around Hetch Hetchy.


Wilmer Lake to Hetch Hetchy

17.9 miles
Trail Sign on the PCT: Jack Main Canyon PCT TRAIL GUIDE PAGE 

I've worked out a bunch of miles to various points from the Hetch Hetchy Trailhead to our various other potential starting/ending points, as well as from our potential turnaround points for folks hiking to, or loops out of Hetch Hetchy Trailhead.

Below are the distances up Morain Ridge to Wilmer Lake in Jack Main Canyon from the Hetch Hetchy Trailhead, and you can scroll down below those links  to see the miles figures for the hike from the Hetch Hetchy Trailhead up to Tilden Canyon via the route past Rancheria Falls and through Tiltill Canyon.

I measure the distances from Hetch Hetchy to the main Kennedy Meadows, Sonora Pass, and Leavitt Meadow trailheads on Highway 108 as well as down to Tuolumne Meadows, if we turn South on the PCT.

Happy Trails !


Hetch Hetchy Trailhead Mileages:
Up Jack Main Canyon

Hetch Hetchy Trailhead Mileages
Up Tilden Canyon via Rancheria Falls and Tiltill Valley


Trail Guide Pages
Lower Jack Main Canyon from the combined PCT-TYT junction at
Wilmer Lake in Jack Main Canyon to Tilden Canyon Trailhead


Lower Jack Main Canyon
Tilden Canyon Junction  to Hetch Hetchy Trailhead


Lower Jack Main Canyon to Hetch Hetchy Map

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River Map


More Options
Kerrick and Rodgers Canyon Trails Map


More Supplemental Information
Steve's Best Trip Report-Hetch Hetchy Loop

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