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Backpack to Green Lake and Virginia Pass

Bridgeport, California



17 miles

Elevation Gain

4452 ft

Route Type



Added by Jeff Driscoll

Explore the beauty of Yosemite without the hassle of waiting in line for permits. Virginia Pass provides easy access to Yosemite that is perfect for a weekend trip or as a starting point for longer trips into Yosemite National Park.

Day 1

Green Creek Trailhead to Green Lake

When we went on this hike, it was primarily to explore the area and see if it would be a feasible entrance to Northern Yosemite for extended backpacking trips.   However, it also is a great two night trip to a lovely area of the Hoover Wilderness.  Best of all, it's a pretty mellow hike.  In fact, it's easy enough you could do it on a long overnight trip if you wanted to push yourself.

To go on this hike, you'll need to obtain permits from the Ranger Station in Bridgeport. The great thing is that they are easy to get, especially if you arrive at the Ranger Station when they open. In fact, you can get permits for just about anywhere in the Hoover Wilderness if you get to the Ranger Station early.  For this hike, you'll want to obtain a permit for the Green Creek Trailhead.  I also highly recommend a Tom Harrison Hoover Wilderness Trail Map.  You can pick these up at the Ranger station.  

Once you've obtained your permit, head south on Highway 395 and keep an eye out for Green Creek Road.  It will be a dirt road on your right just before you get to the Virginia Creek Lodge.  If you get to the lodge, you've gone too far, so turn around.  If you picked up a trail map, it will be helpful when you get on Green Creek Road because there are a few unmarked intersections you'll have to navigate.  You can also just search for the Green Creek Trailhead on most GPS units to get an idea of the route.

From the trailhead, it's a short 3-4 mile hike depending on where you camp along Green Lake.  At first, the trail follows Green Creek and then heads through a beautiful Aspen Grove.   After a couple of miles, you'll reach the bulk of the first day's 1,000' climb as you hike through some exposed areas of granite to arrive at Green Lake.

We chose to camp on the Southeast side of the lake not too far from where Green Creek flows out of Green Lake.  

Day 2

Green Lake to Virginia Pass and the Yosemite Border

On Day 2 we decided to set off for Virginia Pass which is the low saddle off in the distance in the first picture above.  It also is the border to Northern Yosemite.  On the other side lies Virginia Canyon which will take you all the way to Tuolumne Meadows.  I had read online that the trail has been removed from most maps and as a result has started to become overgrown.  I was curious about this route into Northern Yosemite since it looked to be one of the fastest and easiest ways into Yosemite from the Hoover Wilderness.

To find the trail to Virginia Pass, you'll need to make your way back to the Green Creek Trail and find the junction with East and West Lake.  Start heading up the trail towards West Lake and pay attention for an unmarked trail to your left.  The trail follows the Northwest shore of the lake until you reach the back end of the lake where you'll begin following the creek up Glines Canyon.  Along the way, you'll pass some beautiful cascades.  Keep your eyes peeled for the old mining relics along the trail.   This area once used to have a stamp mill, and the remnants are scattered nearby.

As you continue your hike past the mining relics, you'll keep climbing further up the canyon and the forest will start thinning out.  The trail will fade in and out in various places so make sure you have your map or GPS or at least a good understanding of navigating by reading the lay of the land.  Eventually, you'll reach the upper cirque in Glines Canyon where the trail will become non-existent as you cross scree fields.  Your goal is Virginia Pass which is the lowest point on the ridgeline.

Proceed cautiously through the scree field so that you don't twist an ankle.  As you start the scramble to Virginia Pass also be careful to not step on any loose rocks that could cause you to slide down the hill.  You'll reach Virginia Pass approximately 3.5 miles after you started off from Green Lake.  Virginia Pass is marked by a typical Yosemite Trail marker that's left behind from when this was a more heavily used trail.

The view from Virginia Pass is an incredible glimpse into Yosemite.  In front of you lies Virginia Canyon which will take you all the way to Tuolumne Meadows.  Off in the distance, you can make out Cathedral Peak and the peaks of Yosemite National Park.  To the south stands the magnificent Shepherd Crest and to the west rises mighty Virginia Peak with Return Lake nestled on the shelf below it.

If you want to make this trip into a more extended trip, there are a variety of options from this point.  You could head down Virginia Canyon and meet up with the PCT and head any number of directions, or you could go down Virginia Canyon and loop back around past Summit Lake and East Lake to return to Green Lake and the Green Creek Trailhead.  Since my goal was to do some sightseeing and gather ideas for future trips, we turned around and headed back down Glines Canyon retracing our steps to our camp at Green Lake.

Day 3

Green Lake back to the trailhead

The last day is merely retracing your steps back to the trailhead at Green Creek.  On your way home stop by the Burger Barn in Bridgeport for a great burger.  They have other food as well, but after backpacking, I couldn't pass up the pastrami burger that was covered in a thick layer of pastrami along with their Chili-Cheese Tator Tots.  Yum!!! 

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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