Dusy-Ershim Trail

4.9/5 (18 reviews)
Shaver Lake, California (Fresno County)
Last Updated: 10/14/2022
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Trail Information

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.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

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. Vehicle requirements: 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 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, http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5344059.pdf
Campfires are rarely legal on while this trail is open. Please do not start a wood fire. Please plan around this.

Trail Reviews

4.9/5 (18 reviews)
AL
900
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/13/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Recently completed the Dusy Ershim Trail. Started on Tuesday, 9/13/22, from the south entrance at Courtright Reservoir and finished at the north entrance near Kaiser Pass on Friday, 9/16/22. My backstory is that I have attempted do this trip since 2019 but have had unfortunate luck due to the trail closing early (during the times I planned to go) because of early snowfall, wildfires, last minute cancellations or the c19. This year I had three rigs committed in my group to go. Everything was good up until the trip start day when there was an unfortunate circumstance that could have cancelled the trip, again. Luckily it didn’t and our trip went on, with one less rig. In summary, anything you research about this trail is true…plus more. The Trails Offroad (TO) guide does an exceptional job of preparing you for the trip and is mostly accurate. Even more helpful was the offline mode of the TO app to guide us as we were out on the trail. The TO guide does list all the major obstacles on the trail, but there were many, many (and did I say many) more rock gardens, waterfalls, tight areas, and obstacles not marked that it would be insane just to mark every one of them. The Dusy is a series of rock gardens and narrow tree lines with minimal bypasses and little relief in-between. In terms of technicality, the rock crawling isn’t anything that an experienced rock crawler hasn’t encountered before. There are much more difficult trails in Johnson Valley and Moab IMO. What makes it difficult is the length, roughness and narrowness of the trail. A majority of the trail is very rocky and will shake you around like a bobblehead. When you drive through trees you must make sure that you can fit and not put your top into a tree. Combine that with all the rock crawling and fatigue will settle in, which I think is the biggest battle on the trail (the fatigue). Crazy and stupid things happen when you’re fatigued. In terms of rig readiness, in my group we had a JKUR on 37s w/ 4.5” lift (me) and a JLUR on 35s w/ 3.5” lift, both with full belly armor on overland setups mostly (not full rock crawler builds). Of all the rigs on the Dusy we encountered we were the shortest, smallest tire size and longest wheelbase of any. We were also one of the few that had roof tops. There were some who questioned whether we were capable to make it through pre-trip, and when at the Ershim Lake campground others questioned how me made it up Thompson Hill (I just told them with a winch, lol). With that though, my buddy and I made it through the Dusy with no catastrophic breaks, welders or any spare parts on hand (contrary to popular belief), in addition to the 300+ mile trip back home in our same rigs non-trailered (the most amazing part of the trip by far). Whether you are going in from the south or north, you’ll be tested early on to see if you and your rig can make it through the trail, and assess if you still want to continue the trail. Thompson Hill is everything that it’s hyped up to be, but is passable. There were two sections of Thompson Hill that I had to winch out of (one because of muddy traction and the other because I high centered). Besides those two sections my group made it through with the right lines. It was also the only two sections throughout the trail that required me to use my winch. Overall the Dusy has become my favorite Jeep experience of all time, and is worthy of multiple return trips if life allows. You are not guaranteed tomorrow so just get out there and do it, regardless of what critics and doubters may say to spook you. Updated items of note: Waypoint 13 (East Lake and Campground (17 mi)) – Best swimmable lake w/ beach like area IMO. Waypoint 15/16 (Ershim Lake Campground 1 &2 (22 mi)) – Very popular campground. When we arrived, we were lucky enough to get one of the last remaining camp sites. A lot of rigs come in from the north entrance just to stay here. Waypoint 20 (Lakecamp Campground (27 mi)) – Just one campground that you can’t park in because it’s blocked off. A lot of the area is blocked off by wooden bollards. If you have a big group, then parking could be an issue if you camp here. Waypoint 22 (Givens Hill (29 mi)) – Not sure exactly where it was but felt like it was another ¼ to ½ mile past the waypoint marked in the TO gpx file. Waypoint 23 (Whitebark Vista / Hard corner (30 mi)) – Bypass does not exist. It has been blocked off.
Trail Review: Dusy-Ershim  Trail - AL
Trail Review: Dusy-Ershim  Trail - AL
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Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/23/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Trip Report for Ershim-Dusy August 22-29, 2022. Preface: The last message to the group stated, “Again, the idea of this trip is to enjoy the scenery, Wheel without breakage, FUN! with short runs each day. Hit the trail by 9:30ish, lunch/snacks at some point/ travel to next stop. This will prevent fatigue and allow us to enjoy the environment! “ This was based on the fact that in 2008 Four Jeeps traveled the trail, with one full day at Ershim Lake, in Five Days, with the last day from Ershim Lake to pavement, including the drive back to the Tow Vehicles (60ish miles away) and home to Bakersfield. Having said this: August 22 the group met at Badger Flat campground: Jessie and Jami Higgins (Bakersfield Trailblazers-BT), TJ; Rick Antolovich (Western Slope Four Wheelers-WS), Four-Runner; Marcel Aebi, JT-D (BT); Jess and Gigi Deegan, JT(BT & WS). The former and latter had both run the trail in 2008. Dinner was Steak and all the fixings. The order the first day on the trail, was the reversed of that listed here. August 23 the group broke camp, having aired down the night before, proceeded a few miles to the White Bark Vista and the beginning of the trail. Immediately, the trail climbed to a 5, then floated between 7 and 8.5 for the next 12 hours. The trail was rocky, curvy, and at each turn either a tree, rock, or drop off required your attention. Twelve hours was driving time, which includes the time winching, towing, or simply spotting. Note that within about 200 yards of our campsite destination (Ershim Lake), the Four-Runner became a Three-Runner, severing a front CV drive axle. The group set camp, ate a quick snack and settled for the night. August 24 the group broke camp as planned, with renewed belief that the trail would be easier. The order also changed, with the Three-runner following Jess/Gigi, so that the former could assist quickly as needed. Though not of the intensity of the 23rd, the trail remained challenging drifting between 5 and 6 for the 6.5 hours of driving, including spotting for the various obstacles (which were constant) and remounting a front tire on the crippled 3-Runner . Rejuvenated by the fact that campsite 2 (East Lake) was indeed within the hoped-for driving time, camp was set, and everyone enjoyed Pulled Pork, the fixings, and Tasting of Scotch. This was also the day of Gigi and Jess’ 35th Wedding Anniversary, with toasting as to such. August 25, with the day before as predicted (more or less) and the group rested, we set off with Enthusiasm. This despite the fact that Four-Runner was a three-Runner, requiring lines that were not the norm. The early part of the day proved to be, again, challenging constantly, but the group reached Thompson Hill with reasonable time in the day left and proceeded down. As we proceeded down Thompson, we were confident we would be at camp before dark. After all, we were going downhill and it was a short 3-mile hill. Little did we know the challenges, given a (very nasty, RA edit) 9 plus rating and a vehicle that needed babying. At the 12.5-hour mark with three of the four vehicles having driven off trail in the dark (not RA), and exhausted, we set tents and slept. August 26, with 30 hours of driving time having occurred in three days, we woke, had coffee and headed down the remainder of Thompson Hill. Four hours later, we found a spot close to the water (which was incredibly low) and set camp (Courtright Reservoir) . Early Dinner included, Bison Chili (with fixing) and Eskimo Pies/Cheesecake (or both). The crew of Marcel and Rick, then jumped into the Gladiator Diesel and proceeded on a Mission from God. With two of the four vehicles having not topped off in Shaver, and neither carrying extra gas, and both already having used another person’s 5 gallons of gas, the need was apparent that if the group was to SURVIVE, MORE GAS was needed. They also picked up another 10 gallons of water. The mission ended, about 8:30 p.m., having transversed Little Thompson and Chicken Rock in both directions and traveling 84 miles total. We also had Port! August 27……we relaxed, finally ending the day, after canoeing/Kayaking/Fishing/Chilling, with Brats, fixings, and left-over whatever (cheesecake). Then God sent a sign - a stock Tacoma miraculously appeared, cruising the dried-up lakebed. Rick chased it down on foot to learn of a Lakeshore Drive, bypassing Little Thompson and Chicken Rock. August 28, the group broke camp and having learned of the God Given exit, allowing the poor three runner to travel along the shore of Courtright, avoiding Little Thompson and Chicken Rock, to pavement after a short section of maybe 3-4. At pavement it was noted that everyone had suffered some amount of damage, though Rick won the trophy. (Marcel noted upon editing that ”the damage to the undercarriage on my JT is extensive. Will definitely be needing a lift and full armor”, thus putting the trophy in contention; MAYBE, Rick has some good body damage and needs an external cage, not counting the CV/AXLE). Total Travel time was about 40 hours. After some minor repairs and airing up, (1) Marcel quickly drove to Bakersfield, where serviced was required due to a diesel engine; (2) Jesse/Jami drove back to their tow vehicle, and Bakersfield, with work to be done later; (3) Rick followed Jess/Gigi back to Bakersfield, where everyone passed out. August 29, Jess and Rick, with eternal thanks to Jesse, disassembled the front passenger CV/Axle and replaced the same. That afternoon, Rick was able to head for Northern California via the Owens Valley. The fact that everyone who started the trip were returned to their normal abnormality, Jess and Gigi had some more wine.
Josh Noesser
Official Crew
96050
Status: Seasonal Closure
Rated 5/5
Visited: 11/01/2021
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Closed for the winter. Till next Aug
Josh Noesser
Official Crew
96050
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/12/2021

Possible fire on the trail on the southside near Courtright. Call the rangers if you are going to do the trail
Josh Noesser
Official Crew
96050
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/02/2021

The trail is open

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