Emigrant Wilderness : a backpacking trip for beginners

3 days in Joshua Tree for beginner Backpackers
23 August 2016
This article is part of our Backpacking trip for beginners series

Backpacking at Chewing Gum Lake, Emigrant Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness is an area located North of Yosemite. It’s part of the Stanislaus National Forest and spans about 15 miles in width and 25 miles in length. The area is dominated by glaciated landscape, granite and lava capped mountains, as well as many lakes and meadows.

Getting there:

Emigrant Wilderness is located 160 miles west of San Francisco. It takes about 3h to get there (via PineCrest)

Permits are required for any overnight trip in Emigrant wilderness. There is NO quota though, and permits are free! You can get your permit at the Ranger Station (Summit Ranger District Office), located along the CA108 at the cross road with Pinecrest Lake Road. You can’t miss it. We found the rangers there super friendly and were happy to offer advice about where to hike and camp if you need some extra guidance.


An easy weekend in the Wilderness from San Francisco

Our trip:
Date : Mid- August 2016

We spent our trip at Chewing Gum Lake over the course of a weekend. While it was short, we definitely had enough time to explore the land and spend lots of time relaxing and enjoying our camping spot. We both agree that it was the best backpacking trip we’ve taken so far.
We left San Francisco at about 8am and got to the the Ranger Station around noon to pick up our permit. After chatting with the ranger, we decided to head up towards Chewing Gum Lake. Bear Lake or Powell Lake are other famous spots that can be reached without too much hiking (within 2 to 4 hours), but the ranger told us that Chewing Lake would most likely be less crowded than the others.
About half an hour later we got to the Gianeli Trailhead to start the trek at 1pm. The Trailhead is located 12 miles from the Ranger Station. About half of the road is paved, so plan for about 30- 45 minutes to reach it. Before leaving, we made sure to fuel up with some sandwiches and packed up our backpacks to hit the trail.


The trail (20E14, cf map below) is pretty easy to follow and really well maintained. It climbs upwards (sometimes above 9000ft), so be careful if you are not used to hiking at such a high elevation. After about 1 mile of hiking, you will find the Emigrant Wilderness sign. The trail offers gorgeous panoramic views overlooking the Valley and the Sierras. The trail then passes Powell lake, which is also a nice place to camp or stop for lunch and a swim.
After another mile you’ll reach a fork. Chewing Gum lake veers towards the right, taking you through a beautiful meadow. If you visit during the spring, you might be lucky enough to wander through the incredible burst of yellow and purple flowers that cover the meadow. The trail carries you to the lake, about 1 mile further.
The lake is surrounded by awesome places to set up your camp. Whether you prefer to be surrounded by trees or along the edge of the lake, it just takes a little exploring to find the perfect spot. We found a small sandy spot at the very top of the rocks along the north side of the lake, overlooking the water and with the perfect jumping off spot for an early morning dip.


Additional links and Informations

✅ Map of Emigrant Wilderness to print and Download on your phone : Here
Pinecrest Ranger Station (Google Map)

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