Sequoia Backpacking Route... Questions...

8:36 p.m. on August 12, 2010 (EDT)
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I am planning a backpacking trip for next year. I originally was going to do the 'Crescent meadow' to Mt. Whitney trip, but getting rides back to car (starting point) is proving to be a hassle. So I want to do a loop but have not seen to much on this route..

Any insight would be appreciated.

10:19 p.m. on August 12, 2010 (EDT)
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There are a couple of shuttle services that can take you from Whitney Portal back to Sequoia. If your timing is right, you can share the ride with others to cut costs. Check the JMT websites.

Otherwise, there are a number of trails that go from Crescent Meadows (or a couple other places in Sequoia Kings Canyon) across to Whitney Portal. The Sierra "Haute Route" which is a winter ski route goes between Kearsarge (Onion Valley, above Independence) and Sequoia (Giant Grove), but I gather you have your heart set on joining the mob scene on Whitney.

It appears you have chosen the High Sierra Trail to Bearpaw Ranger Station, then the higher trail (still the High Sierra Trail) to Lone Pine Creek, cutting up toward Elizabeth Pass, dropping down into Deadman Canyon until you can turn back southerly in Cloud Canyon (you have to circle Triple Divide Peak, a nice scramble for a side trip), past Colby Lake to Colby Pass, then down the Kern Kaweah River to the bottom of Kern River Canyon, up Wallace Creek (this descent into Kern River Canyon and back up is lots of altitude loss and gain) to join the PCT/JMT, then south to Crabtree Meadow and up to Trailcrest and Whitney. The distance to here is something like 50-55 miles, and cumulative altitude gain of 22,000 ft and cumulative loss of 14,000 ft (net gain 7800 ft from 6700 at the start to 14,500 at the top of Whitney).

For the return loop, you seem to be saying you will return back down the JMT to the PCT/JMT, then drop down the High Sierra Trail back to the bottom of Kern River Canyon, then follow the Canyon downstream (and downhill) some 1400 ft lower in elevation, to Big Arroyo (the trail actually climbs back up the wall of Kern River Canyon a bit south of the mouth of Big Arroyo, though you could climb up the trail along Funston Creek to the Chagoopa Plateau), up to 9 Lake Basin, past Valhalla, and rejoin the High Sierra Trail at Bearpaw Meadow. I hope you like climbing steep trails!

You could add some more miles by turning out of Big Arroyo up Lost Canyon over Sawtooth Pass to Mineral King (where Disney was going to put a ski resort back in the 1960s, before a bunch of us staged a protest "hike-in" there). The route back to Crescent Meadow goes through Timber Gap and Redwood Meadow to get back.

2:45 a.m. on August 13, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't know if they service the west side.

High Sierra Shuttle

12:18 p.m. on August 13, 2010 (EDT)
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I dont think I was clear. I was originally thinking crescent meadow to mt whitney but now I am thinking I will split right at the arroyo junction up to five lakes then dow black rock and down in the valley. Then hike back to bear meadow (or crescent meadow) If its possible. That is my question. I have researched a bit and find the trails all the way to whitney are used often but I am trying to figure out the best way to loop back around to our starting position. On the map, look at the red.

9:38 p.m. on August 13, 2010 (EDT)
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To a large extent, your route will be dictated by the ridge formed by the Kaweahs and Triple Divide Peak, and by Kern River Canyon. If you look at a trail map, you will see the available trails, many of which I outlined. Google Earth is really pretty poor for spotting the trails that are maintained (much of the trail system is under the trees), besides which the named trails are not outlined with their names on Google Earth.

The traces you drew on Google Earth are pretty straight lines that do not follow the actual trails. You could follow more or less those lines, but you would be going cross country through rugged terrain and would have to cross the Kaweahs ridge line among other ridges and divides.

From Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw is much more winding than your straight line, whether you stay high on the High Sierra Trail or drop down into the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. At Bearpaw, your choice either swings you north around Triple Divide Peak in a big loop, or you drop down one of the routes I suggested for the return through Valhalla to Big Arroyo. The two ways rejoin at Junction Meadow. There is no direct trail between 9 Lakes Basin across the Kaweah Peaks Ridge - you either loop north around Triple Divide Peak or south around the Kaweahs.

Your mention of 5 Lakes (Big 5 Lakes and Little 5 Lakes) would be better done by parking at Buckeye Flat and following the trail up the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River to where Eagle Scout Creek comes in, and taking the junction there toward Redwood Meadow and up Cliff Creek over Black Rock Pass, which puts you at Little 5 Lakes, circle around the spur to Big 5 Lakes, and over the plateau into Lost Canyon and thence down into Kern River Canyon, close to the bottom end of Big Arroyo. Or at Big 5 Lakes, you can head back north to drop into Big Arroyo near the old Big Arroyo cabin. Remember that there is no trail in the lower part of Big Arroyo down to Kern River Canyon - it's really steep there (actually a big cliff with interesting cascades). The trail in Lost Canyon goes toward Black Rock Pass in the upstream direction.

You might also want to consider parking at Mineral King and doing a loop out of there. The Kaweahs offer some fun scrambling and great views. As I mentioned, that's a fantastically gorgeous area that was once planned for a ski resort by Disney, and a bunch of us went there to demonstrate against it. That, and the Sierra Club's strong opposition lead to that area being incorporated into the National Park. The private cabins in Mineral King were taken over by the Park Service.

8:28 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Crescent Meadow; to BearPaw; to Big Arroyo; to Little 5 Lakes; to Black Rock Pass

down to Pinto Lake-Cliff Creek and Redwood Meadow up river to bridge (check with rangers on condition)

and up to Bearpaw (via Little Bearpaw) and then return to Crescent Meadow (or a long slog down to Buckeye Flat via East Fork of Kaweah River for a hitch back up the hill).

It is a very nice trip, well signed, with 10 mile days on a good trail with plenty of water and tremendous scenery. It is a bit of a lollypop but the loop from Bearpaw around above the Kern River 'ditch' is worth the effort. Post card view from Black Rock looking south at Spring and Columbine too :). Best end of July/start of August for better flowers and most of the spring runoff behind you. You will have mosquitoes near water - plan on DEET.

Bring LOTS of batteries and memory chips!

You have options to continue on south behind Mineral King as well and come up any of the other passes (Soda or Rattlesnake Creeks to Franklin Pass or Farewell. You might get a couple of hitches down from Mineral King and up to Sequoia -- or tough it out over Timber Gap to Bearpaw. There is a shuttle to Crescent Meadow/Giant Forrest in Sequoia. Check the schedule or when service is discontinued. Hitches within the park are reliable.

June 17, 2018
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