Red Peak Pass Loop


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Matt Cairns
Matt Cairns

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Explore the heart of Yosemite Wilderness
Hike Red Peak Pass (11,078'), the highest point on trail in Yosemite Wilderness
Enjoy Ottoway Lakes and the Headwaters of the Merced River


The Red Peak Pass Loop is a 52-mile route through the heart of Yosemite. It spends equal time the most remote and also most iconic regions of the park. Highlights include the rugged Red Peak Pass, hiking alongside the cascading “Wild and Scenic” Merced River, and a lakeside camp beneath the ice fields of the stunning Ottoway Lakes Basin. Expect challenging days, incredible scenery, and memories that will last a lifetime.


July 29 - August 4, 2024Book now


2024: $2295 per person
Price based on shared hotel occupancy
Single Room Supplement:
Requested $165, Forced $80

Need specific dates or your own itinerary?
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Trip Itinerary

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 1 - Meet your guide in Yosemite National Park Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 1 - Meet your guide in Yosemite National Park

Check in to Curry Village within spectacular Yosemite Valley anytime after 5pm. Meet your guide and group at 6pm on the porch of the Mountain Shop in Curry Village for a short meet-and-greet and trip orientation. Dinner tonight is on your own at one several local restaurants.

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 2 - Hike along Illilouette Drainage Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 2 - Hike along Illilouette Drainage

After an early breakfast on your own, you’ll meet your guide at 9:00 am on the porch of the Half Dome Village Mountain Shop. There, we’ll do a final gear check and pack our backpacks. Afterwards we’ll hop on a private shuttle for the 1-hour transfer to the trailhead. Then it’s time to lace up our boots and hit the trail. Today sees us traveling into the Illilouette Creek drainage, where we’ll camp along the banks of the Clark Fork below the towering Mt Clark (11,522’).

6 miles, Elevation: +1171’/ -1306′

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 3 - Camp at Ottoway Lakes Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 3 - Camp at Ottoway Lakes

From the Clark Fork, we’ll climb gradually all day under the shadow of the imposing peaks of the Clark Range. Below Red Peak, we’ll turn toward the main ridge, eventually arriving at the spectacular Ottoway Lakes. We’ll have time to swim and clean up beneath the ice fields of the upper mountain basin. This is where, in the late 1800’s, John Muir himself discovered the first “living glacier” of the High Sierra.

8.5 miles, Elevation: +2900’/ -433′

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 4 - Climb Red Peak Pass Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 4 - Climb Red Peak Pass

Today we’ll hit the trail to tackle what is surely the most challenging part of our route: Red Peak Pass. At 11,200’ the pass grants us access back to the northern part of the Clark Range and into the Red Devil Lakes Basin and it is also renowned as the highest point on-trail in Yosemite. We’ll travel through alpine meadows of the upper lakes basin, eventually joining the Merced River below Triple Divide Peak (11,611’). We’ll make camp there, among the flowering meadows and Lodgepole Pines.

8.5 miles, Elevation: +2080′ / -2703′

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 5 - Travel along the Merced River Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 5 - Travel along the Merced River

Leaving our alpine meadow, we’ll spend today descending along the designated “Wild and Scenic” Merced River. Along the way we’ll encounter plenty of wildflower meadows, waterfalls and swimming holes to distract us. In the afternoon, we’ll arrive to the Merced Lake area where we will make camp.

10 miles, Elevation: +430’/ -2274′

Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 6 - Camp at Little Yosemite Valley Red Peak Pass Loop - Day 6 - Camp at Little Yosemite Valley

After another hearty breakfast, we’ll pack up and continue following the trail downstream. You’ll notice how the river is much more substantial here after absorbing the flows of the many side creeks and drainages of the upper basin. Roaring whitewater and rushing cascades dominate our day as we head toward Little Yosemite Valley. We’ll pitch our tents there for the final evening, and we can enjoy a late afternoon swim at the beach along the Merced River.

8 miles, Elevation: +682’/ -1818′

We’ll be up and out of camp early today and, donning our packs one final time, we’ll follow the trail to Yosemite Valley. The final stretches of our route are as exceptional as the rest, past the rushing Vernal and Nevada Waterfalls along the famous Mist Trail. Expect to exit the trailhead by about lunchtime, where hot showers and cold drinks await.

5.5 miles, Elevation: +673′ / -2802′

*Half Dome Variation: permit pending
Beginning early in the morning, we’ll eat breakfast and start our hike to the summit of Half Dome (8,845′). Half Dome is a side trip from the trail and well stash our backpacks and hike up with just the necessities. After a few miles of gaining elevation with the fir forests, we break above tree line for our first look at the famous Cables Route. After a bit more hiking we’ll make the straightforward climb up the final stretch to Half Dome’s summit. Spectacular views await of the Sierra high country and down into Yosemite Valley far below. Not to be missed is a peak over the edge from The Visor, perched 4,700ft above Tenaya Canyon. After taking in the beauty of Half Dome’s summit, we’ll come back down to our packs, grab a quick lunch and hike all the way to Yosemite Valley (4,035′). We will have breathtaking views of Nevada and Vernal Falls and the Merced River along the way. We will end our trip back to Curry Village by 3-5pm (lunch on the trail is included).

Mileage: 12 mi, Elevation Gain and Loss: +3239’/-5387′ 

What's Included


  • 1st night’s lodging at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park
  • 5 nights of wilderness tent camping (permits included)

  • All group gear including stoves, cookware, water filters, group first aid kit, etc.  Each person carries a small portion of this gear.
  • Personal backpacking gear provided by request: backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, trekking poles, and tents

  • Day 2 shuttle to starting trailhead from Yosemite Valley

  • Starting with lunch on Day 2 and ending with breakfast and hearty snacks on Day 7
  • Backcountry gourmet meals including trail snacks. Each person carries a full bear can of food shared among the group.
  • Hot tea or coffee served each morning

A Few More Notes

Travel & Logistics

Your trip begins and ends at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, CA. Plan to arrive before 6pm so you can meet your guides and group for your trip orientation. We recommend driving to Curry Village, although public transportation is also an option (see notes about public transportation below). We’ll return to Yosemite Valley by 1pm on the last day of your trip.

Training & Preparation

To ensure the most enjoyable and successful experience out on the trail, we recommend a rigorous training plan leading up to your trip, focusing on:

  • Endurance, cardio, and aerobic activities
  • Core and leg strength (don’t forget those abs and quads)!
  • Day hikes or short overnight trips with a weighted pack (30-35lbs) to train for both the physical and mental aspects of backpacking
  • Cycling, running, step-master or stairs are great cross-training
  • Include hilly terrain and steep climbs whenever possible

Looking for more tips? Check out our blog!

Prior Experience

We strongly encourage having recent backpacking experience or practice before embarking on this trip. The most successful people on these trips have completed a previous backpacking trip carrying a fully weighted pack (30-35 lbs) for 3-5 days. If you do not have this experience, we recommend having a comparable level of fitness and committing to a detailed training plan. You could also consider joining us on a “shake-out” trip prior to the Red Peak Pass Loop.


This trip (and all trips departing from Yosemite trailheads) are not guaranteed until 24 weeks in advance when the permits become available to reserve. We strongly recommend waiting to book flights and other reservations until it is confirmed. Our office will notify you immediately of any updates.

Public Transportation to Yosemite

If you prefer not to drive to Yosemite Valley, public transportation is available for this trip. Yosemite Area Regional Transportation (YARTS) is the sole provider for the surrounding Yosemite area. We recommend reserving a ticket online ahead of time. Please make sure that you choose a time from your location that will have you arriving in Curry Village, Yosemite Valley by the latest 6 pm for your trip orientation (we recommend arriving around 4 pm to check in to your tent cabin first). Note that at the end of your trip, you will be back to Curry Village and done with lunch around 1 pm, so plan departure times accordingly.

What's not included
  • Personal clothing & footwear
  • Dinner on the first night in Yosemite Valley
  • Recommended 10%-20% gratuity for guides
  • Trip Insurance (strongly recommended)
  • Airfare
  • Voluntary or involuntary evacuations

Trip Reviews

Ghillie B, 2015

Mission accomplished and many, many thanks for making it possible. Zeki had an amazing experience with diverse weather, plenty of wildlife, and campfires with freshly caught trout. Chris and he covered more miles than the original plan and seemed to get along well. I'm sure we will be back to explore more of Yosemite. With thanks and best wishes, GB.

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Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides
Southern Yosemite
Mountain Guides
(800) 231-4575 (800) 231-4575 Local/International
+1 (559) 642-2817
Yosemite National Park, CA

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