Northern Yosemite 50

An “instant classic” adventure run of a 50+ mile loop in the remote Northern Yosemite region beginning at Twin Lakes, and including five passes, the Benson Lake riviera and a summit of Volunteer Peak. Total elevation gain was over 11,000 feet and the trip time was 15:28 starting at 5:10 am and finishing up at 8:38 pm as light was fading. Many photos here.

This is a fantastic loop with excellent variety of scenery throughout including Peeler Lake, Kerrick Meadows, the tarns of Seavey Pass, Benson Lake’s sandy beach, granite-lined Smedberg Lake, Matterhorn Canyon, and the rugged Sawtooth Ridge. I also climbed Volunteer Peak which rises above Smedberg Lake. Volunteer Peak is one of the more remote summits in Yosemite, but the climb itself is straightforward. The panoramic views from the top include much of Northern Yosemite and its many granite ridges. Specifically, the summit afforded views of Mount Conness, Smedberg Lake, Benson Lake, Tower Peak, Sawtooth Ridge, Matterhon Peak, among other notable points (summit view pictures above).

We encountered generally good trail conditions except a substantial amount of snow remains on the north side of Burro Pass and on both sides of Mule Pass. The snow approaching Mule Pass was becoming hard in the evening and took some time to negotiate with the trail running footwear and no axe/crampons. We saw very few people the entire day and there is a real feeling of solitude and wilderness in this region of the park, which sharply contrasts to the more accessible parts of Yosemite like the Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. I will surely be returning to run this amazing loop again. Many more photos here.

Elevations (high and low points):

  • Start (Twin lakes): 7,092 ft
  • Peeler Lake/Pass: 9,489 ft
  • Depart Kerrick Canyon: ~8,900 ft
  • Seavey Pass: ~9,150 ft
  • Benson Lake: 7,581 ft
  • Smedberg Lake: 9,219 ft
  • Volunteer Peak: 10,481 ft
  • Benson Pass: ~10,100
  • Matterhorn Canyon: ~8,400 ft
  • Burro Pass: 10,650 ft
  • Piute Canyon Lowpoint: ~9,400 ft
  • Mule Pass: 10,460 ft
  • Finish: 7,092 ft

Total Elevation Gain (including Volunteer Peak): ~11,000+ ft

Note: The above map does not include the route to the summit of Volunteer Peak.

Many more photos here.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Jphi says:

    whooa… your pictures are always excellent !!

  2. lstefurak says:

    Very cool! There is a nice looking rock face in photo “benson180” on What peak/area is it?

    1. pantilat says:

      Thanks! That is the “Incredible Hulk” located in Little Slide Canyon a few miles from Twin lakes. It’s famous for its sustained difficult rock climbing routes.

  3. says:

    Leor.. wow.. I need to read your blog more. This stuff down low pales in comparison to what you are doing up high.
    Nice running yesterday at Headlands 50k. Congrats on your win and “almost but not quite” course record 🙂 My email is dave.j.mackey at gmail to follow up on our chat.. Cheers, Dave

  4. Scott Tate says:

    Leor… Love your stuff. Photography and writing is excellent. Running is AMAZING! I am going to do this exact route in two weeks. I plan to fastpack it in two days. Can you recommend a nice spot to camp? I think that Wilson Creek is about half way, is that a good location to spend the night? Thanks again for your awesome blog, your is a favorite of mine. Take care, Scott

    1. pantilat says:

      Thanks Scott! A nice spot to camp would be Smedberg Lake. Wilson Creek area is not as scenic. The detour up to the summit of Volunteer Peak from the lake is well worth the effort. Expect clouds of mosquitoes so come prepared! Enjoy!

      1. Scott Tate says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. Just one more quick question. Do you have any insight on the current snow conditions in the high country? I notice that you ran into some troublesome snow around Burro Pass and on both sides of Mule Pass in August. Do you think I’ll have similar issues this year in late July? One month earlier but on a very snow year? Thanks again for your help and the inspiration to do this loop!

      2. pantilat says:

        Scott, from what I’ve seen there is remarkably little snow left. In fact, I’d guess the only patches remaining right now are hold-overs from last summer that didn’t melt. I would expect Burro and Mule Pass to have little, if any, snow by late July.

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