Shaver Lake, California (Fresno) Technical Rating: 8-10
Last Updated: 05-17-2017
Forest Service of Pacific Southwest Region
Dusy-Ershim Trail Highlights
If you haven't heard of the Dusy-Ershim trail yet, you will soon. Many believe this is the newest hardest multiday off-road trip you can do today. The trail is comprised of both overland and rock crawling. If you ask someone that has recently done the Rubicon, they will say this trail is about 3-6 times harder. The Dusy-Ershim offers some of the hardest wheeling around, from mile long rocky hill climbs, to very technical obstacles, to some of the most amazing camping & fishing you have ever done in your life. The views have something to be said about too. Just be warned, this isn't an easy trip, even the most built rigs will leave this trail with mechanical failure. Be prepared, because body damage is almost guaranteed, even for the best drivers. If you are up to the challenge, expect the trip to take you in the range of 3-5 days.
Technical rating: (8-10) Difficult-Extreme
Severe conditions. Extreme caution recommended. Impassable by stock vehicles. Winching required. Trail building necessary. May be impassable. Impassable under anything but ideal conditions. Vehicle damage probable. Personal injury possible. Extreme caution necessary.
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Directions to Trailhead
Take Dinkey Creek Rd. from Hwy 168. Then take Mckinley Grove Rd. to Courtright Rd. and turn left to Courtright Reservoir. Cross the dam on the east side of the lake and stay on the road to the Dusy-Ershim OHV Route sign. 37.082539, -118.962989
If you run North To South, From Shaver Lake CA, take highway 168 North for 20.5 miles. Turn Right onto Kaiser Pass Road just after the bridge. Continue on Kaiser Pass Road for 4.2 miles. The trail is off to the right when you crest the hill. Start at 37.291375, -119.102206
The trail begins around 8,400 feet in elevation. Along this route you will cross many open rocky areas and dense forest. Be aware that portions of the trail cross large granite slabs and are marked with road markers. The elevation quickly rises to 10,000 feet at Thompson Lake, remaining trail stays in the 9,000 to 10,000 foot range for the rest of the route.
Along the first mile of the route, the trail is shared with horse and pedestrian traffic. Understand that they have the right away.
Voyager Rock Campground next to Courtright Reservoir has the basic camping amenities which include fire grates and tables. Because of the size of the reservoir, this is a popular camping area for fishing due to the easier trail that it takes to get this far. As you leave the campground, keep to the large rocks and the hill climb on the north side. This is when the Dusy turns starts being hard, beginning with Chicken Rock. Once on top, the amazing view of the Le Conte Divide from the top is astonishing. The route continues on down to the Dusy Creek where 4WD / Off-road enthusiasts built the crossings over the creek.
Three to four hours ahead, and you will be at the bottom of Thompson Hill. This obstacle isn't for the stock vehicle and they should at a minimum have a lift, have at least one locker, have a winch, be mechanically sound, and running at 100%. Tires with aggressive tread such as mud terrains will benefit greatly in this section. Make sure you air down to a low PSI 10-12 is a good place for this climb. Be prepared to many stops to throw rocks for some additional traction and ground clearance. Four door vehicles will struggle more than two door vehicles. The land just before Thompson Lake is closed at the wilderness boundary, thus you have to hike down to the lake. A couple camping sites with room for a few vehicles and tents is available here. The walk to the lake is short and easy. There is also a camping spot just before Thompson lake on the other side of the road with a great view down Thompson Hill.
Next is East Lake. East Lake is not visible from the route making it easy to miss if it wasn't for the outhouse. It’s about a 5 minute hike to some of the best fishing on the Dusy-Ershim and is also excellent photo spot with picturesque Dogtooth Peak in the background reflecting off the lake.
The next lake along the route is Ershim Lake. Ershim Lake has lots of space for camping and parking with two different camping areas from which both are large enough to hold 20+ vehicles. Follow the signs to campsites.
The route along the top of the mountains (Thompson Hill to Ershim Lake) is easier then the ends of the trail allowing you to carry some speed through this area. The average drive will travel somewhere between 1-4mph. The scenery along this route becomes more interesting than the challenge of the route. This will soon change as the trail becomes insanely hard as you near Lake Camp.
It will take about two to four hours to cover the four miles to Lakecamp Lake and Campground. One of the unique features of Lake Camp, outside of the giant meadow around the lake is that it has Rainbow Trout where all the other lakes do not. Another popular fishing area, Mallard Lake, is an easy 20-40 minute walk east of Lakecamp.
If you were thinking the trail was getting to easy, your in luck. The next four miles to Whitebark Vista will make you think twice of why you did this trail. Not only will you be tested, but your vehicle will be too. Along this route, you are running the ridge near the top of the tree line and have some amazing views. The route ends at White-bark Vista with a short drive down to Kaiser Pass. Many prefer using Whitebark Vista as a starting point because doing the trail North to South increases the difficulty drastically.
The trail changes year vs. year on which way is harder. The trail has been trending to be harder going from North to South, but this can be different according to how much rocks move around and the difficulty of Thompson Hill.
When planning your trip, please note the average speed on this trail is less than 1 MPH and if you are wondering, a fast group will travel at 1.5MPH on average.
Recommend: ----- Nothing smaller then 33" inch tires (More then once, these tires will be too small and will require rock stacking just to make it by even the easiest obstacles) ----- 2 Lockers
Required; ----- 1 Locker (Rear) Highly Recommended ----- Rock Sliders ----- Quarter panel protection ----- upgraded skid plates ----- 5 Gallons of extra fuel
Common Failure items; ----- Gas Tank Skid Plates ----- Frames & Suspension (Bring Welding Gear) ----- Axles ----- Steering Components ----- Weak Slider Panels
1: Starting Point (0.0mi)
This is the gateway to the Dusy-Ershim Trail, it is also the beginning of Voyager Rock Trail. For more information on this short segment of trail prior to the beginning of the Dusy-Ershim Trail, please visit the information on Voyager Rock.
2: Staging Area (0.0mi)
There is a staging area for people to get ready to do the trail. People do leave their vehicles over night here. But be warned, no one is watching your stuff.
3: Voyager Rock Camp Ground (1.9mi)
Voyager Rock Camp Ground is the last campground prior to starting the Dusy-Ershim Trail. Many people use this campground as their meet up point prior to starting the trail. Voyager Rock Campground is a popular destination for both Dusy adventures and campers. This campground offers stunning views of the granite mountains, a very large lake to fish from, and some of the best hiking you have ever seen In your life. Please follow camp rules.
4: Start of the Trail (2.1mi)
This is the official starting point for the Dusy-Ershim Trail on the South end. Note this trail is only open for a couple months a year, August to the end of October. For those who are thinking of waiting to after the rush, it does start snowing up there in September, thus it is best to plan your trip as early in the year as you can. For more information on the status of this gate, please reach out to the forestry service.
5: Chicken Rock (2.3mi)
Most people think twice about trying Chicken Rock. The 45-60 degree incline will get your heart pumping as you feel like you are climbing into the heavens. Just follow the reflectors while on the granite. While on top, you are going to be introduced to some of the best 360 degree views on the trail. This is also one of the largest areas on the trail which makes for a good picture opportunity if you are traveling with a large group. Be ready for your first taste of what the Dusy is going to offer when heading down the North side of Chicken Rock. There is several rough descents and even a 4 foot waterfall. (This is good indicator of the trail, if you can't make this hill decent, you might want to turn around and come back when your vehicle is ready. This piece of advice will save you a lot of money on body damage and vehicle repairs.)
6: Dusy Meadows (4.5mi)
Dusy Meadows is the calm before the storm of Thompson Hill. The trail leading up to this point has been rather mild, once you pass Dusy Meadows, you will have to face the insane hill climb of Thompson hill. Past Thompson Hill there are many very technical obsitlces and tree squeezes that will likely do body damage to most of the group. As for Dusy Meadows, this area is very scenic and has some beautiful views. Another great part of the meadows is the log bridges that criss-cross along the Dusy Creek. These bridges provide lots of fun to drive across and create great photos.
There are several grassy areas in the meadows and it is recommend stopping here if you and your group are going to break for lunch.
7: Thompson Hill Bottom (9.5mi)
Thompson hill is the single longest obstacle on the trail. At almost a mile long, the hill climb seems to never end. Be ready for this, there are plenty of large rocks in the middle of the path that make it hard to traverse this hill. Many people say this is the hardest obstacle when heading south to north, but not the most technical.
8: Thompson Hill Top (10.5mi)
According to which way you are going, you are either happy to be at the top of Thompson Hill or you are looking down this hill wondering how long it is going to take. The average group takes over an hour to conquer this one obstacle. Some say it is harder going down because of all the sliding and less control resulting the vehicle to work its self into bad positions. While others say it is harder going up. Let us know what you think... Either way you go, this part of the trail will likely end with paint being scratched and metal breaking.
9: Thompson Lake Campground 1 (11.0mi)
One of the two Thompson Lake Campgrounds. This location offers an outhouse but does not offer a bench or fire pit. This lake has Brook Trout. Thompson Lake (Just to the north).
10: Thompson Lake Campground 2 (11.0mi)
One of the two Thompson Lake Campgrounds. They offer a picnic bench, fire ring (no wood fires), and even an outhouse. Thompson Lake Campground is just steps away from Thompson Lake which provides some good fishing and relaxation.
This lake has Brook Trout.
Thompson Lake (Just to the east).
11: Lost Lake (11.0mi)
Lost Lake (Off Trail) - 20 minute hike from the trail
13: East Lake and Campground (17.0mi)
East lake is the next stop that has a outhouse, fire ring (no wood fires), and picnic table. Many people make this there second or third camping spot when taking the 4-5 approach to the trail. Even though East Lake requires a hike down to it, many people enjoy stopping here because of the good fishing. This lake has Brook Trout.
East Lake is not visible from route
14: Ershim Lake (22.0mi)
The next lake along the trail is Ershim Lake. Ershim Lake isn't know for its good fishing as East Lake, but it does have a view that is breath taking. This lake has Brook Trout.
15: Ershim Lake Campground 1 (22.0mi)
Ershim Lake is the next popular stop for camping. Typically the 2nd to 3rd night. This site has a picnic table, fire ring (no wood fires), and an outhouse. Ershim Lake fishing isn't as good as the other lakes but has a view that is untouchable.
16: Ershim Lake Campground 2 (22.0mi)
Ershim Lake is the next popular stop for camping. Typically the 2nd to 3rd night. This site has a picnic table, fire ring (no wood fires), and an outhouse.
17: Mallard Lake (26.0mi)
Mallard Lake (20 minute hike) - Mallard lake turn off is the last outhouse of the trip. Plan accordingly. This lake has Brook Trout.
19: Lakecamp Lake (27.0mi)
Lakecamp Lake is unique on the Dusy Ershim Trail, this is the only lake that has Rainbow Trout. This lake also has a large meadow that provide lots of great animal/bird watching.
20: Lakecamp Campground (27.0mi)
Lakecamp Campground is the last campsite along the way. Please note, this is the only lake campsite that doesn't have an outhouse. There is an outhouse about 1/2 mile back up the trail where the Millard Lake cut off is. The campsite does have a picnic table. This campsite is also slightly unique because of how tight the forest is in this location, making sleeping in a hammock possible.
21: Look out (28.5mi)
The view says it all. The trail run along the ridge of the mountains then along the edge of an cliff. While in this small section, the trail opens up to provide one of the most stunning views of the Dusy-Ershim Trail.
22: Givens Hill (29.0mi)
This insanely hard hill was created in the 2016 year. Prior to this year this was just a dirt hill. This one section will likely get people stuck and require a winch or two. The holes in this small section are over 3 feet deep while the rocks are over 3 feet tall. The combination of the holes and rocks with the very narrow path makes this a one of the hardest obstacles on the trail. If traveling North to South, expect lots of rock stacking to get even the most equipped vehicles through this section. South to North isn't a joke either, expect possible body damage and getting hung up on your driveline.
23: Whitebark Vista / Hard corner (30.0mi)
This is one of the hardest rock crawling obstacles on the trail. If you are wondering, there is a bypass for the people going from South to North. But for those going from North to South you will have your driving skills challenged to make it up it. For those that can't you will get your first real dose of how much rock stacking you will do during this trip.
24: Rock garden (30.5mi)
This is the first or last rock garden of the trail. This area of rock crawling will get the heart pumping. One of the great things about heading North to South is every day when you first get on the trail you will faced with a hard obstacle first thing.
Trail is only open from Aug 1 to Oct 30. The likelihood of being allowed to burn a wood fire is extremely low.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: You can click here for the trail closures / conditions for the area. High Sierra Ranger District, P.O. Box 559, Prather, CA 93651, 559-855-5355, (TDD) 559-855-5367,
Camping and Lodging
Camping is one of the most popular recreation activities in the Sierra National Forest. Situated in the Central Sierra Nevada, the Forest has several campgrounds located in a variety of settings. Pick your own spot, (dispersed area camping) is an option available throughout most of the Forest. All fees quoted are per site, per night and are subject to change.
The ideal camping time in most Forest areas is May to October, prior to winter storm activity. Reservation campgrounds are available, however some Forest campgrounds are operated on a first-come, first-served system. The maximum stay in most campgrounds is 14 days with a 21 day maximum stay per Ranger District, per calendar year. Most campgrounds fill quickly during holiday weekends, therefore visitors should come prepared to camp in undeveloped areas.
No camping within 100 feet from lakes, streams, trails and meadows. Campfire permits are free and available at your local Forest Service office. A campfire permit is required for wood fires, charcoal fires, or portable gas stoves.
Questions & AnswersNo questions have been submitted.
Offroaded on 05-17-2017
Status: Seasonal Closure
I received notification that the trial has a chance it could be snowed over this summer and be unpassable due to the deep snow pack. They are hoping they will open the trail, possibly in the range of 2-3 weeks late this year. Please make sure you have alternate plans available as you prepare for a trip this year (2017) and do ample research prior to leaving. The areas for concern are the parts of the trail over 8500 feet (most of it).
I will update this post as I receive updates. Please feel free to post trip reports in your live in the area with current snow conditions.
Offroaded on 08-14-2016
Low Temperature: 37° F
High Temperature: 70° F
Just got off the trail and boy has it changed a lot in the last year. If it wasn't ranked it a 10 I would knock it up even a few more points. For comparison, We just finished running the Rubicon and this trail was easily 2-4 times harder and people are saying that east half is the hardest its been in a long time.
We ran the trail South to North this year. Overall the trip was great, we did have some problems that required us to stay on the trail a day longer but you plan for that kind of stuff on this kind of trail. Our plan was Day 1 - Start at Shaver Lake Hotel and end at Thompson Lake, Day 2 - East Lake, Day 3 - Ershim Lake, Day 4 - Lake Camp, and Day 5 - Home. I think if I could change anything, I think I would have the group meet at Courtright Campground and leave around 9 - 10 am. Coming from Shaver was just too far to make it to Thompson in any reasonable time. We left Shaver around 10am arriving at Courtright Campground around 1pm. After a short lunch we headed up Chicken Rock at roughly 2pm. We stopped for more pictures there and headed down the trail around 2:30pm getting us to Thompson Lake around 7:30pm.
Be warned, The gate for Chicken Rock is become a bit of a gate keeper. We had a vehicle take body damage right there due to the narrowness of the area and the large rocks you have to get over.
Thompson Hill was a bit easier in some spots and the same in others, a couple spots were dug up that required some rock stacking not to get high centered on. I forgot that the hill is so steep that if you take your seatbelt off it will lock and you can't get it back on. It took 5 hours to get from Chicken Rock to Thompson Lake which included stopping and taking lot of photos and just enjoying the scenery. Thompson Hill took up about an hour to two of that time which was mostly throwing rock to help the ground clearance problems.
Most of the Southern 3/4 of the trail was easier this year. We were able to carry much higher speeds which meant we were getting between the lakes in about 2 hours. But the Northern 1/4 was just destroyed. We had people in JK's with 6 inch lifts and 40+ inch tires getting stuck. It took a bit longer going through this area then the others. We were also going down hill most of the time which really helped us from getting stuck. But this didn't stop it. We had many vehicles get stuck in a couple sections of the trail due to ground clearance issues. Going up, a lot of rock stacking might be required for the average four-wheeler to make it up.
Our group faired not bad compared to the other groups we saw. Our group incurred a steering box failure, several tire failures, broken shock, broken mirror, broken tail light, Lots of bent undercarriage items, and plenty of body damage. As for the other groups we saw, they had a good amount of body damage and driveline failure.
All in all, it was a great trip and can't wait to do it again.