Joe Walker
Greatest trailblazer in history, first to camp in Yosemite – 2004

Walker was the greatest trailblazer in California history. He was the first to discover a trans-Sierra route, in the process becoming the first trailblazer to see Yosemite. His gravesite marker reads, “Camped in Yosemite, Nov. 13, 1833.”

Though Jedediah Smith and John Fremont are better remembered because of more flamboyant styles, it was Walker who made the greatest discoveries of any trailblazer in California history, the first trans-Sierra routes. He is best known among the public for Walker Pass (on the Pacific Crest Trail) in Kern County, Walker River in Mono County, and Walker Lake in Nevada.

Unlike Smith, whose recklessness placed himself and those around him at peril (27 of 33 died on Smith’s California expeditions), Walker kept his men safe, fed, with water, and ready for physical challenge. Thousands of pioneers followed in his footsteps.