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Rock Island Pass Yosemite Miles Sign

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By tmorton23 - Posted on 02 November 2018

Rock Island Pass

Into the North Yosemite Backcountry

Yosemite Miles Sign at Boundary between Hoover and Yosemite Wilderness


Rock Island Pass at 10160 feet at the Top of the Hoover Wilderness sports a trail mileage sign at our entry into the North Yosemite Backcountry.


Ted Morton's

Trip Report
July 14 – 21, 2018
Bensen Lake Loop
Day Three


10,160 feet 



Rock Island Pass

Rock Island Pass Boundary, Hoover and Yosemite Wilderness



South Into Yosemite

Looking Down into Upper Kerrick Canyon from Rock Island Pass



Trail Guide

Bensen Lake Loop Detailed Map

more maps


Editor's Note

Entering the North Yosemite Backcountry

AKA, "Yosemite's Washboard," & "The Five Canyons"

Trail Information
The next trail mileage sign we will encounter is where our route down Upper Kerrick Canyon on our Twin Lakes Loop route joins the combined Southbound routes of the PCT & TYT, at the junction where the PCT & TYT cut South out of Kerrick Canyon to cross Seavy Pass.

OMG Beauty
Seavy Pass is atypical for a High Sierra mountain pass. The pass is nestled in a bowl lodged atop a massive Sierra ridge. Once we make our final climb up into this unique bowl, the pass itself is nondescript, while the bowl itself is stunningly beautiful.

What we notice is that we've come into and encountered a mini-wonderland of verdant green meadows, radiant blue lakes (ponds, really, with no discernable intakes or outflows) all wedged tightly-in, in-between undulations and outcroppings of wonderous granite, which our trail meanders through along its maze-like route without too much climbing or descending. All of these natural wonders are all wrapped-up in a close circle of jagged mountaintops, with a couple of notably alluring peaks thrown in for good measure, before our too short 1.2 miles across this unique bowl comes to an end, as trail cuts through a narrow channel in the granite, and we begin our very serious plunge down to Bensen Lake.

This one pounds the knees...

The Bensen Hole
Our plunge down to Bensen Lake will be followed by the equally radical climb up to Bensen Pass, which is why I call this segment of trail, "The Bensen Hole." We'll be climbing up to Smedberg Lake first, then climbing on to Bensen Pass. Check out the miles and elevations page for the PCT-TYT through here, Starting with our entrance into the Seavy Pass Bowl.

Deep In-Steep Out
Note that after we arrive at the 7581 feet of Bensen Lake, the low point of, "The Bensen Hole," we are going to climb 1800 feet over the next 3.1 miles, up to the first of two trail junctions into Pleasant and Pate Valleys plunging into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, before we make a shorter climb up to Smedberg Lake at 9219 feet.
(Also note the old trail crew shortcut wrapping around the base of Volunteer Peak from the second, the Rodgers Lake trail junction, as being much more direct a route, while avoiding the descent before the climb to Smedberg...but then, this shortcut misses the unique slope and shape of the great granite, "wedge," to the West of Smedberg Lake, that the standard route climbs. This is a cool and unique terrain feature, so both routes must be explored. That means you've got to hike this route at least twice...)

Exploration Rotation
For that reason, and the beauty of Bensen Lake and its custom campsites, is why I rotate my hiking plans each time through, so during one trip I will camp at Bensen Lake, the next at Smedberg Lake, and finally, at one of my fine sites in the high meadow tucked-in just below the North Flank of Bensen Pass.

Bensen Pass 10160 feet

I've even used a half-day's food, so I could make camp at both Bensen and Smedberg Lakes along one backpacking trip, despite the fact that they are only separated by 4.9 miles. Steep miles, but only 4.9 of them.

Two Beautiful to Rush Past...
I would never stay at camps so close, along so long a trip, unless both were so beautiful as to justify using one-half of my, "extra" day's food...

Figuring that the roughly 75 miles between the Highway 108 corridor and Tuolumne Meadows takes five days hiking 15 miles per day,  we've got to budget food carefully, and bring an extra day's food, so we can, "afford," to take the time and energy to string together the finest campsites, and explore their surrounding terrain...


Trail Guide Maps
Bensen Lake Loop Detailed Map

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.


Trail Guide
Kerrick Canyon-Seavy Pass Trail Junction

Along the PCT-TYT
From there at the junction leading South up to Seavy Pass out of Kerrick Canyon, we are now hiking South on the Bensen Lake Loop along with the combined routes of the PCT-TYT, entering what I consider to be the hardest section of trail between Tahoe and Whitney (being the 72 mile-long section of trail stretching out between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows), and now we're following their classic route across the North Yosemite Backcountry (map), until we hike North in Matterhorn Canyon, splitting off the routes of the TYT-PCT, up towards our pass crossing a spur off the Sierra Crest through Burro Pass, the crossing of which still keeps us on the West flank of the Sierra Crest, but switching from the top of Matterhorn Creek and its Canyon to the top of Slide Canyon and Piute Creek, under the watchful peaks of the Sawtooth Range of the Sierra Crest. Stunning terrain...

Our other option is to continue South along the PCT-TYT, at the point where they turn South out of Matterhorn Canyon, just above the ford, for the climb up to the stunning Miller Lake, to finish the last twenty miles along the shared route of the PCT-TYT down to Tuolumne Meadows.

Opening a Treasure Chest
Or, we could drop into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Once we hike this unique loop out of Twin Lakes, we are going to see lots of options for expanding our knowledge and experience in the North Yosemite Backcountry...


Miles & Elevations
TYT & PCT Routes
These miles, from the TYT-PCT junction in Kerrick Canyon to the Matterhorn Canyon trail junction where the TYT & PCT continue South, are registered on the Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide.

PCT Route South from Sonora Pass

Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows Miles and Elevations

Starting the TYT South out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, instead of the PCT South from Sonora Pass:

Kennedy Meadows to Bond Pass & into Yosemite's NW corner, & into Jack Main Canyon



Hoover Wilderness
Twin Lakes into North Yosemite Backcountry

Bensen Lake Loop Detailed Map

Emigrant Wilderness & Toiyabe NF

Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadow to Bensen Lake


Emigrant Wilderness
Another way into the North Yosemite Backcountry

Highway 108 Corridor Hiking Map

Detailed Map

TYT & PCT South from Highway 108 to Bensen and Twin Lakes




Originally Published
2018-08-06 10:12:08

Rock Island Pass Yosemite Miles Sign

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