Emigrant Wilderness - Highway 108 Access

Area Status: Open
[Photograph]:  Powell Lake

The 113,000 acre Emigrant Wilderness; bordered by Yosemite National Park on the south,the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on the east, and State Highway 108 on the north; 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.

Congress designated the Emigrant Wilderness in 1975, but most of the area was protected as a Forest Service Primitive Area since the 1920’s. 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. 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. The mosquitoes are thick near wet areas during June and July. Some of the Emigrant still includes cattle grazing allotments, and you may encounter cows or their signs from July to September.

Please take a moment to learn our wilderness regulations and review Leave No Trace methods before visiting this outstanding national resource.

There are many trailheads that provide access to the Emigrant Wilderness. You can access the Emigrant from Bell Meadow, Bourland Meadow, Box Springs, Crabtree, Coyote Meadow, Eagle Meadow, Gianelli, Kennedy Meadows, Waterhouse and Sonora Pass. 

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Summit Ranger District (HWY 108) Spring 2024: Kennedy Meadows Trailhead is open. Other trailheads along the Highway 108 cooridor are not yet accessible by wheeled vehicles due to snow. Call the Summit Ranger Station at 209-965-3434 for additional information.
Operational Hours: Always check conditions and weather before you start your trip. 
Reservations: There are currently no quota's for the Emigrant Wilderness. There is a QUOTA to go to Kibbie Lake and Eleanor Lake from the Shingle Springs or Kibbie Lake Trailhead. You must call the Groveland Ranger Station to get a permit for this route.  Group size is limited to 15 people. Pack stock numbers are limited to no more than 25 head of pack and saddle stock.  You can get your Wilderness permit in person at one of the Ranger Stations or the Supervisor's office in Sonora. Self issue permits can be issued after hours at the Summit and Calaveras Ranger Station only.  Obtain a Campfire Permit prior to your trip. 
Rentals & Guides: For guide services contact Kennedy Meadows or Aspen Meadows Pack Station (under permit from the US Forest Service). If you are leading a guide service such as for a summer camp or tour group you will need to obtain a Special Use Permit. Call the Summit Ranger Station for additional information.
Fees: Wilderness Permits and Campfire Permits are free issue. There are no fees. 
Permit Info: A Wilderness permit is required for overnight visits to the Emigrant Wilderness. You can obtain a Wilderness Permit in person from one of the Ranger Stations or the Supervisor's office in Sonora. Self issue permits will be available at the Calaveras and Summit Ranger Stations this summer. Wilderness permits may be issued for entry on the Stanislaus National Forest, south to Tuolumne Meadows, and north to Echo Summit only. 
Usage: Light-Medium
Restrictions: Rules and Regulations The following regulations are necessary to ensure that future generations will find the Wilderness at least as wild and free as it is for your visit. Violating any of these regulations could result in a substantial penalty. Official orders authorizing enforcement are available for review in the supervisor’s office and all ranger district offices.

· Wilderness visitors must possess a valid permit for overnight trips.

· Do not camp, travel or gather in groups of more than 15 persons.

· We encourage groups to restrict their numbers when visiting wilderness areas, which helps keep wilderness resources from  being damaged.

· Dispose of human and canine waste, and wash water more than 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. Use ‘cat holes’ six to eight inches deep for human and canine waste.

· Campsites must be at least 100 feet from lakes, streams, and trails.

· Do not use any soap in lakes or streams. Even biodegradable soaps are a shock to fragile and pristine aquatic ecosystems. Wash using a bucket at least 200 feet from from surface water.

· Pack out all trash. Leave No Trace. Do NOT burn your trash.

· Do not cut standing trees or deface them in any way.

· Do not take shortcuts at trail switchbacks.

· Mechanized and motorized vehicles and equipment, including chainsaws, bicycles and carts, are prohibited. Non-motorized wheelchairs may be utilized.

· Constructing items such as rock walls, structures, tables or permanent improvements of any kind is prohibited. Please do not build new fire rings - use the existing ones. If a fire ring is too close to water or other natural resources,  please do not use it.

· Do not leave any property, including camping gear, food or other provisions, unattended for longer than 24 hours.

· Discharging firearms is permitted only for taking game during appropriate hunting seasons.

· Dogs not under direct control are not permitted. Tuolumne County maintains a leash ordinance. The Emigrant and portions of the Carson-Iceberg are within the Tuolumne County jurisdictions.

· One night per trip camping limits are in effect in the Emigrant Wilderness at Grouse, Camp, Bear, Powell and Waterhouse lakes.

· You must store your food to make it in accessible to wildlife. A bear canister is the most effective methods; another alternative is to properly hang your food but this is the least effective alternative. Bear Canisters are required in Yosemite National Park and the Hoover Wilderness.

· Campfires are prohibited above 9,000 feet in elevation and within a half mile of Emigrant Lake.

Closest Towns: Pinecrest, Cold Springs, Twain Harte, Sonora.
Operated By: Stanislaus National Forest
Information Center: Please read the information about Traveling in Bear Country.

General Information

General Notes:

For more information please visit the Stanislaus National Forest Recreational Opportunity Guides listed below:

 [Symbol]: horseback 

For guide services contact: 

Kennedy Meadows Resort

Aspen Meadow Pack Station   

Operated under special use permit within the Stanislaus National Forest.



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