Late Summer 2017 Trip Report: TYT from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows

tmorton23's picture

By tmorton23 - Posted on 17 September 2017

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows


This is a trip report for the TYT from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows on 8/12 to 8/19. This was the first time I have backpacked on the TYT, and the longest trip I have taken. I went with my brother-in-law and my 13 year old nephew.

Our stops were Saucer Meadow, the first lake west of Grizzly Peak, Wilmer Lake, midway up Kerrick Canyon, just west of Volunteer Peak near the western junction to Pate Valley, Matterhorn Canyon at the Matterhorn ford, and just shy of Glen Aulin at Conness Creek/Cold Canyon junction.

Weather was nice. Only notable weather was a thundershower on the climb up from Bensen Lake, and a brief shower when we made camp at Conness Creek. Other than that, temps were quite pleasant for backpacking. Skies were pretty clear for watching the meteor shower, and the moon rose later and later on our trip until eventually, it didn't rise at all. The dark skies were great.


Mid-August 2017 Weather

Star Chart & Sky Wheel


We did have some short snow fields to cross, mainly in the Emigrant Meadow basin. There was a 20 yard snow patch just shy of the summit of Brown Bear Pass, a few shorter patches on the way down and a couple across Grizzly Meadow. Mosquitos were constant. On a scale of 1-5, we experienced mostly 2 and some 3 during the day, mainly 3 in the afternoon/evening. We did run into a level 5 event crossing Emigrant Meadow, probably in the same place that Alex recorded his attack.


Mosquito Defence

Mosquito News


Water was fantastic! Creeks were not dangerous, but they were definitely cold. Water was everywhere, though. We saw waterfalls coming off the mountainsides and it was so neat to see what a heavy winter brings to the Sierra.


High Sierra Weather Resources

Real time High Sierra reporting stations

Watershed Monitoring


I hope to backpack this trail again and take a different itinerary. I would like to camp at Tilden Lake and Smedberg Lake next time, as well as some of the many great looking campsites we saw along the way. Thank you, Alex for the detailed travel guide. It was a tremendous help!



Trail Guide Information

Trail Guide Index
Highways 108 to 120



Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir

Glen Aulin to Tuolumne Meadows


Trip Distance

Miles Pages

Kennedy Meadows to PCT via Bond Pass = 16.91 miles

PCT-TYT Junction to Tuolumne Meadows = 54.48 miles 

73.39 miles

Trip Days




Emigrant and North Yosemite
Backpacking Maps

Kennedy Meadows to Saucer Meadow

High Emigrant Basin to Yosemite Boundary: Relief Reservoir into Jack Main Canyon

Jack Main Canyon to Kerrick Canyon

Stubblefield and Kerrick Canyons (& routes into Grand Canyon the Tuolumne)

"Whole" N Yos Backcountry: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River

Glen Aulin to Tuolumne Meadows



Resupply Bookends

Kennedy Meadows Resupply on the North End

Tuolumne Meadows Resupply on the South


Seasonal Closure of TM Facilities

Tuolumne Store/Grill Now Closed 9/28,
High Sierra Topix, October 1, 2017.

High Sierra Highway
Closure Dates


Facilities, Roads, & Trails



Seasonal Cautions

The Fall Gear Change is Upon Us

Fall Considerations



Al's Notes

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows

An Excellent Accomplishment for Ted, but especially his 13 y/o nephew!

My compliments to both. Why?

This is a Classic High Sierra Route
This is a fantastic trip, a classic for both its stunning terrain beauty and the sustained difficulty of that same terrain. Why? This backpacking trip crosses the "Five Canyons" of the N Yos Backcountry, also known as the "North Yosemite Washboard." I consider this roughly 25 mile long "washboard" segment of our route, located in the middle of our 75 mile route from KM to Tuolumne, as the most difficult length of trail along the whole length of the JMT, PCT, & TYT trail routes between Tahoe and Whitney.


Most Difficult Section
Overcoming this difficulty offers great rewards. Each of the classic ascents and descents of the washboard are bookended by stunning campsites overlooking classics of Yosemite's more remote beauties: canyons and creeks merging in Stubblefield Canyon, the quiet mysterious beauties in the Seavy Pass Bowl, and the classic beauties of Bensen, Smedberg, and Miller Lakes. This route has it all.


Backcountry Wonderland
Honestly, I cannot hike this section enough. There is so much beauty and experience packed into the extended length of this section through this terrain always leaves me wanting more, and more is never enough. But we do have more, if this beautiful section of trail is not enough: The section of the JMT from Muir Ranch to the Whitney Portal.


The Next Steps
Once you've hiked this KM to Tuolumne section, the Muir Ranch to Whitney Portal section of the JMT-PCT is the only longer section of trail between Tahoe and Whitney, at a bit under double the length. The difference in difficulty is not in the length, but frequency.
The massive Sierra ridges and the deep granite canyons dividing them in the North Yosemite Backcountry are right next to each other. We climb and descend in rapid succession. This is very different than the long runs between passes along the longer section between Muir and the Portal. Between Muir and the Portal we find we have long multi-mile runs descending after each pass and long approaches to the next pass. This is not the case in the North Yosemite Washboard. We can throw a rock from the bottom of one steep climb to the beginning of the next steep climb in the North Yosemite Backcountry.

Artist's Rendition of the Five Canyons:


The hike from Highways 108 to 120 is kind of like you took all the difficulties we encounter along the longer Muir to Portal section, and "squeezed them down," with all that section's difficulties, into the smaller, tighter, and harder 75 mile length between 108 and 120, like turning up the "intensity" dial from "intense" to "very intense."


Again, A Classic High Sierra Hike
So yeah, this fantastic section does not just blow your mind with the depth and extent of its fantastic terrain beauties, but it also tests your body and maybe even your resolve, as it works us hard, better to impress its stunning beauties more deeply into our experience.

Mission Accomplished!


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