History | Protection
| Permits | Recreation
| Travel | Trip Planning
| Grazing | Mining
The 113,000 acre Emigrant Wilderness is bordered by Yosemite
National Park on the south, the Toiyabe National Forest on the
east, and State Highway 108 on the north. It is an elongated
area that trends northeast about 25 miles in length and up to 15
miles in width. Watersheds drain to the Stanislaus and Tuolumne
Rivers. This area is entirely within Tuolumne County and is
approximately 140 air miles east of San Francisco and 50 air
miles south of Lake Tahoe. See the Wilderness
Regulations and check with the nearest Stanislaus National Forest Office for
The Emigrant Wilderness is a
glaciated landscape of great scenic beauty. The
northeastern third of the Wilderness is dominated by
volcanic ridges and peaks; the remaining areas consist of
many sparsely vegetated, granitic ridges interspersed
with numerous lakes and meadows. Elevations range from
below 5000 feet near Cherry Reservoir to 11,570 feet at
Leavitt Peak, but the elevation range of most of the
popular high use areas is 7500 to 9000 feet.
Precipitation averages 50 inches annually, 80 percent of
it in the form of snow. Snowpacks typically linger into
June, sometimes later following very wet winters. Summers
are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers
occur periodically and nighttime temperatures could dip
below freezing anytime.
peoples occupied this area for 10,000 years, spending the
summer and early autumn hunting in the high country and
trading with groups from the eastern side of the Sierra.
The most recent groups were the Me-Wuk of the western
slope and Piute of the Great Basin. Following the
discovery of gold in 1848, large numbers of miners and
settlers came to the Sierra and the native cultures
quickly declines. In September-October 1852, the Clark-Skidmore
party became the first emigrant group to travel the West
Walker route over Emigrant Pass, continuing through a
portion of the present-day Emigrant Wilderness. Several
more emigrant parties were enticed by officials from
Sonora to use this route in 1853, but it was a very
difficult passage with many hardships and was soon
abandoned. Relief Valley was so named because of the
assistance some emigrants received there from residents
of the Sonora area.
In 1931, the U.S. Forest Service
designated this area for primitive management as the
Emigrant Basin Primitive Area. The Wilderness Act of 1964
established the National Wilderness Preservation System
"to secure for the American people of present and
future generations the benefits of an enduring resource
of wilderness." On January 4, 1975, the Emigrant
Basin Primitive Area was designated as the Emigrant
Wilderness and became part of the system. Various human
uses, such as recreation, grazing, and mining, are
allowed by the Wilderness Act, but all activities will be
managed or carried out subordinate to the higher purpose
of maintaining wilderness values. These overriding values
are 1) outstanding opportunities for solitude and 2) the
ability of natural processes to operate free of human
is required for overnight visits to the Emigrant Wilderness. Only one permit is
required for trips which are continuous and pass through
more than one Wilderness. Group sizes are limited to 15
people and 25 pack and saddle stock. One permit is
required per trip per group. If you have a larger group
than is permitted, reduce the number of people, split the
group to visit different areas, or visit an area which
permits larger numbers. You are not permitted to camp or
travel within one mile of a related group.
For trips entering Yosemite National
Park Wilderness from Cherry Lake, Kibbie Ridge or Lake Eleanor, contact the
Groveland Ranger District no more than 24 hours in advance of your trip.
Management of visitors and their impacts is especially
important for preserving the naturalness and solitude
that distinguish wilderness from other settings.
Approximately 15,000 people use the Emigrant Wilderness
every year, primarily from June through September. Many
people are attracted to the numerous lakes, which are
periodically stocked with trout by the California
Department of Fish and Game. By applying no trace camping
skills visitors can minimize the impact of recreational
use on the wilderness environment. Information about
"Leave No Trace" techniques can be found on
Wilderness permit attachments and posted at trailheads.
approximately 185 miles of trails in the Emigrant
Wilderness. Travel is restricted to foot or horseback.
Mechanized transportation of any kind, including bicycles,
is prohibited. Poplar trailheads are Bell Meadow,
Crabtree Camp, Gianelli Cabin, and Kennedy Meadows.
Wilderness Trail Distances Map
guide services and saddle and pack stock contact:
Always be prepared for
cold and wet weather!
are required for overnight camping. Forest and Wilderness
maps can be purchased at any Stanislaus
National Forest office or, you can fill out and mail a Map
Order Form. You
may also find the following useful:
Wilderness; Jeffrey P. Schaffer; Wilderness Press.
- Sierra North;
Thomas Winnett; Wilderness Press.
- The Tahoe-Yosemite
Trail; Winnett and Denison; Wilderness Press.
first came to the high country in the 1860's. The
Wilderness Act allows grazing to continue where it was an
established practice before the area was designated as a
Wilderness. About 400 cows with calves graze three
allotments in the Emigrant Wilderness. Grazing management
plans specify cattle numbers and length of time in each
feed area. Gates and drift fences control livestock
movement to prevent overgrazing and to reduce conflicts
with wilderness visitors. Please help by keeping gates
Under the Wilderness
Act mineral rights established prior to December 31, 1983,
will remain subject to constraints on exploration and
mining to protect surface resources. The Snow Lake area
and the East Fork of Cherry Creek above Huckleberry Lake
are highly mineralized with scheelite, a source of
tungsten. There are 66 claims. One 20 acre claim is
patented and privately owned. Mining activity has been
sporadic and largely unsuccessful. A road from Leavitt
Lake is used to provide access by mining permittees to
these claims. The road is closed to vehicular use.