Opinion: The hidden gem that neighbors Yosemite

From streams and rivers to huge mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see, the Emigrant Wilderness has some of the best terrain for backpackers around. 

The Emigrant Wilderness is 113,000 acres of designated wilderness area that became designated as a wilderness area in 1975. It is also inside the Stanislaus National Forest, which borders Yosemite and ranges from 5,000 feet of elevation to 11,570 feet of elevation.

I backpacked here for five days starting from the Crabtree Trailhead, staying three nights at Lily Lake and one night at Deer Lake. When I went, it rained on the first and second day so we stayed an extra day and explored the beautiful hills around Lily Lake.

The first reason you should go backpacking here is that there are fewer people backpacking there than neighboring areas like Yosemite so finding a campsite is usually not a problem. The Emigrant Wilderness is smaller than Yosemite; it receives over 15,000 visitors on average per year while at Yosemite an average 3.6 million people visit per year. On the trails that I went on, there was plenty of room to set up tents at the campsites. As a bonus, much of the terrain and scenery look like that of Yosemite because the Emigrant Wilderness borders Yosemite.

One of the biggest reasons you should hike here is the beautiful scenery and areas all across this hike. Throughout the Crabtree Trailhead to Deer Lake Hike, there are a lot of ridges that overlook amazing valleys. The wildlife and trees are also plentiful; there were many animals including multiple marmots that came through our campsite at Lily Lake.

To add to the convenience of Stanislaus National Forest, there are plenty of streams and lakes scattered throughout the area, making it very easy to restock on water. A lack of water is a serious issue a backpacker can face, because they need a lake or stream to filter water from, which there are plenty of in the Emigrant Wilderness. Another thing that helps backpackers is that at most lakes in the Emigrant Wilderness there are at least a couple of campsites, so you can stay the night on the shore.

The Crabtree Trailhead to Deer Lake Hike is an incredible hike as it has some of the best campsites for water accessibility and scenery. Both Deer Lake and Lily Lake have campsites near the water that have great views of the lakes. There is a mountain next to Lily Lake that has multiple paths for bouldering and a beautiful view at the top. I recommend that you bring enough supplies to stay for one more day than you plan on, because there are issues with rain and flooding at the Emigrant Wilderness. Plus, you might feel inclined to spend an extra day hiking up a mountain, following a river, or relaxing at a campsite.