John Muir Wilderness Youth Trek


5 Nights | 40 Miles | John Muir Wilderneess

Starts in Clovis or Lafayette, CA

Students age 13 – 17 are invited to embark on a transformative journey through the lake-studded high basins of the John Muir Wilderness on a one-week experiential learning adventure designed to support the development of outdoor leadership, environmental stewardship, and life skills.

SKU: TSX-Y-1 Categories: , Tag:


There is no better setting than the lake-studded high basins of John Muir Wilderness for a week of hands-on experiential learning focused on outdoor leadership and life skills. Motivated students age 13 – 17 are invited to join us on a 5-night, 6-day 40 mile backpacking journey over rugged High Sierra terrain, on what may be the most exhilarating week-long backpacking experience in the west. We’ll scale 12,000′ peaks, enjoy more than a dozen high Sierra lakes, and spend time at our favorite “waterpark” nestled on the beautiful North Fork of the Kings River. On this experience we have a golden opportunity to connect with ourselves, our team of up to 10 participants and 2 instructors, and two gems of the High Sierra: Red Mountain Basin and Bench Valley.

No experience is needed, but excellent physical condition and motivation are required! Need-based scholarship opportunities are available with the support of our partner, Big Tree Youth Foundation. We aim to get all students with serious interest in this experience on the trail.

What’s included

  • Roundtrip transportation between our meetup locations of Acalances High School in Lafayette, Ca (Bay Area) or Clovis East High School in Clovis, CA (Central Valley) and our trailheads
  • Dedicated guide instructors
  • Wilderness First Responder and Safe Sport certified guides
  • Guided 5 night, 40 mile trek through John Muir Wilderness
  • Personalized pack-check prior to departure
  • All meals and snacks while in the back-country
  • Group gear, equipment
  • Backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad if needed
  • Optional post-hike shower
  • Flexible cancellation policy

What’s not included

  • Meals in the front-country
  • Lodging in the front-country

How it works

A $500 deposit per person is required with balance due 60 days prior to the event. Upon registration, each participant will be asked to complete our Reservation Confirmation Form with a personal questionnaire, medical questionnaire and acknowledgment of risk form. Your trip is not confirmed until this is received. This information will be reviewed for each student prior to final approval. Typical group size of 12, including two guide instructors. An additional 5% charge will be applied when your reservation is made to offset new fees mandated by the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.

Meeting Point

We will coordinate transportation to and from our trailhead from two locations on the day of departure. We will depart from Acalanes High School in Lafayette, CA at 7am, and then drive to Clovis East High School in Clovis, CA for a 10am meet-up. At 11am we will depart Clovis for our trailhead in near Courtright Reservoir. Our 5-night, 6-day trek will take us through elevations ranging from 8,000′ – 12,000′. Total distance traveled to will be up to 40 miles. Upon exiting the Sierra, return transportation will be provided back to our original meeting points. Expected time of arrival in Clovis is between 2pm-4pm, and between 5pm and 8pm in the Lafayette.


An outline of our itinerary can be found below. Student participation in day to day camp activities will be an instrumental part of this experience. Participants will be paired and given trail and camp responsibilities that rotate each day.

At the end of the trip, each student should know:

  • how to start and manage a campfire;
  • how to pitch a tent for a variety of weather conditions;
  • how to create a balanced and nutritious meal plan;
  • how to catch a fish;
  • identify major constellations;
  • how to implement leave-no-trace best practices in a wilderness setting;
  • how to read a map;
  • how to light a stove;
  • how to cook a meal;
  • and how to lead a hike.

Day 1 – Afternoon arrival, pack-check, overnight on trail

Trail: Moderate with short stiff uphill gain and gradual downhill loss of 850′

After the morning pickup, our goal is to make it to the trailhead just after lunch where we’ll do a final pack-check, get to know our team and talk safety before beginning an afternoon hike to camp on the trail.

Day 2 – High Meadow to Disappointment Lake

Trail: Long moderate-to-intense uphill, with 2,000′ climb and multiple stream crossings

Our pace will be brisk as we cover miles on good trail with a long and gradual climb toward Red Mountain Basin to camp near Fleming and Disappointment Lakes, which never disappoint.

Day 3 – Disappointment Lake to LeConte Divide

Trail: Gradual uphill to camp near Hell For Sure Lake; up and back day hike to 12,000′ peak

A moderate morning hike will take us to Hell For Sure Lake by lunch, where we’ll enjoy our afternoon. An optional up and back, off-trail scramble to the summit of Red Mountain (~12,000′) will be on the schedule. 

Day 4 – Off-trail traverse of Mt. Hutton and Bench Valley

Trail: Breathtaking and intense uphill, then down, majority of day off-trail

We’ll continue off-trail toward lake-studded Bench Valley, with time to explore Schoolmarm, Holster, Bullet, Wahoo, Crabtree, and the many other lakes surrounding our Bench Valley camp.

Day 5 – Continue traverse of Bench Valley, then drop to Kings River

Trail: Long gradual descent to all-natural waterpark, majority of day on-trail

We begin our descent on and off trail past Colt, Horsehead, Guest and McGuire Lakes, before a meeting up with the North Fork of the Kings River, and our camp near the “waterpark” with natural pools, waterfalls and slides.

Day 6 – Kings River to Courtright Reservoir

Trail: Reconnect with loop trail, and exit, moderate up and downhill

An early start will get us back to Courtright Reservoir around lunch where we will reload cars, and return to the town of Shaver Lake to share a hearty group meal. A final stop for showers at our cabin in Shaver Lake is optional, then it’s home to reconnect and share the experience with friends and family.

Partnership with Big Tree Youth Foundation

Empowering Youth Through Outdoor Leadership

Our John Muir Wilderness Outdoor Leadership trek is proudly supported by the Big Tree Youth Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to nurturing the growth of young people into confident, character-strong, and community-focused individuals. Like the majestic trees that give their name to the foundation, BTYF believes in providing the canopy of support necessary for young minds to thrive and become the towering figures of tomorrow’s forests.

Our Shared Mission

Our expedition is more than just a backpacking trip; it’s a commitment to BTYF’s mission of making youth programs accessible, sustainable, and impactful. By promoting outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship, we aim to instill the same values that BTYF upholds: developing confidence, character, and community among the youth.

Making a Difference

BTYF provides “Camperships,” making it possible for kids to attend camps and programs at reduced or no cost, supporting youth with the funding, supplies, and services they need to succeed. This trip is an extension of that philosophy, ensuring that the transformative experience of wilderness leadership is within reach for all students.

Join Us

In collaboration with the Big Tree Youth Foundation, we invite you to be part of an adventure that will change your life. When you join us on the trail, you’re not just stepping into the wilderness; you’re stepping up to gain confidence and skills to help your future and help you make a difference in your communities – whether it is your school, sports, clubs, or other groups. Together, we can help shape you into the leader of tomorrow.

For more information on our partner, BTYF, or to get involved, visit Big Tree Youth Foundation.


Don’t own a backpack, tent or sleeping bag? We provide all major gear for those who request it at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like stoves, food, water filters, first aid and more. Your guides will do the cooking and dishes. Just show up with your personal items ready to hike!

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