Our trip begins today in Fresno, California. Meet your guides and fellow backpackers at 7:45am at our host hotel. After introductions, we load into our van and set out for to Kings Canyon National Park. After entering the park, we make a quick stop to check out a grove of majestic Giant Sequoia trees, then continue on to Kings Canyon itself. The dramatic relief of the canyon and change in biomes keeps us riveted as we descend toward the canyon floor. At canyon bottom, we drive to the Road?s End Trailhead where the real adventure begins. After a gear check and group gear distribution, we hit the trail, starting out flat and sandy as we amble along through conifer forests. Soon, the angle kicks up and we strike out north, following the Kings River under soaring granite walls and peaks. Reaching Paradise Valley, we set up camp under a canopy of trees and dig in to a hearty dinner, prepared by our guides. Lunch and dinner included.
Backpacking: 7 miles with 1,700? of elevation gain/loss. Transfer: 2 hours.
After a night under the Sierra stars, listening to the rush of the Kings River, we continue deeper into the mountains. Our trail wanders through Paradise Valley, a mix of thick stands of trees and wildflower meadows. After crossing the river, we begin climbing up Woods Creek Canyon. The trees eventually thin out, revealing the increasingly dramatic granite peaks of the Pacific Crest. We continue on our way, identifying wildflowers and watching for bears, frequent visitors to the lower-elevation sections of this trail. After a good climb, we drop into a beautiful meadow, a landmark indicating we?re getting close to tonight?s campsite. Just before reaching camp, we join the famous John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails and cross Woods Creek on a suspended swinging bridge. Our camp lies just on the other side, and we can take a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the creek before dinner. All meals included.
Backpacking: 8.5 miles with 2,300' of elevation gain.
After a hot breakfast, we break camp and head uphill, into the alpine. The trail begins climbing immediately and we quickly leave the trees behind. Our route is breathtaking, getting steeper and revealing more and more amazing views of the "Range of Light." Midway through the day, we arrive at Dollar Lake, a perfect spot for lunch and a swim. This is the beginning of a chain of high alpine lakes that are strung across this section of the Sierra like jewels across the neck of the mountain peaks towering above us. After our lunchtime recess, we follow the trail through a meadow and lake-filled landscape out of dream, all the way to our campsite on the shores of Middle Rae Lake. We have time to explore the beauty of the Rae Lakes Basin after setting up camp, and experience a lakeside sunset that will remain etched in our memories forever. All meals included.
Backpacking: 7 miles, Elevation gain: 2,400'.
We begin the day by watching the tops of the peaks ringing the Rae Lakes turn from grey to pink to red as they greet the sunrise. Our objective today is to cross over the highest point of our route, Glen Pass, at 11,926 ft. above sea level! From this lofty perch, we look down on blue snow-fed lakes and miles of craggy peaks all around us. After absorbing the views, it?s almost all downhill the rest of the way to tonight?s camp. We descend back into the trees and take a spur trail to Bullfrog Lake. This postcard-perfect lake is closed to camping to allow for restoration and we reap the scenic benefits of this pristine backcountry gem. We return to the main trail and continue to Junction Meadow and Bubbs Creek. Camping along the creek, we pitch our tents and enjoy a final dinner and crackling campfire in this legendary wilderness. All meals included.
Backpacking: 10 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,800'/-4,000'.
Important note: Should there still be snow at the higher elevations, we may begin today with an alpine start (as early as 3am) to take advantage of hiking before the sun hits the snow. Although waking at such an early hour can be challenging, it will quickly become apparent that sunrise on the trail is a more than ample reward! Our guides will keep you fully informed of each day?s schedule once your trip begins.
This morning, we break camp for the last time but the show isn?t over just yet. Descending along Bubbs Creek, we pass many beautiful waterfalls and take in expansive views of Kings Canyon. As we descend, the flora and fauna changes and we keep our eyes out for bears foraging for berries and rattlesnakes basking in the hot midday sun. As our trail bottoms out, we stop for a swim in the mighty Kings River, just below its confluence with Bubbs Creek. We reflect on all that we?ve seen during the past five days as we sit alongside the blue river, rimmed with white granite boulders and towering trees. The final few miles are familiar as we return to the Road?s End trailhead, marking the end of our adventure. We plan to arrive back at our host hotel in Fresno at approximately 6:30pm this evening. Please do not schedule any departing flights from Fresno prior to 8:30pm. Breakfast and lunch included.
Backpacking: 10 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +400'/3,500'. Transfer: 2 hours.