Looking for a relatively easy 3-4 day hike in Sequioa/Kings Canyon

12:13 a.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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My girlfriend and I are looking to do a 3-4 day hike somewhere in Sequoia or Kings Canyon in very late July/early August.  We're both beginners, and we'll have one smaller trip under our belts by then (but we are long time hikers), so we are looking for a relatively easy to intermediate trail.  We've been looking at the Five Lakes loop and it looks great but potentially too challenging for beginner backpackers.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

11:16 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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The Five Lakes loop would probably be a bit on the hard side for beginners.  The question is just how much hiking experience you have, especially at elevation.  You could do the Five Lakes loop in four days as follows:

Day 1 - Mineral King, over Timber Gap, then up to Pinto Lake

Day 2 - Pinto Lake, over Black Rock Pass, to Little Five/Big Five Lakes

Day 3 - Little Five/Big Five Lakes to upper Lost Canyon/Columbine Lake

Day 4 - Columbine Lake over Sawtooth Pass to Mineral King

The days might be long for beginners, there is some vertical there, but no days over ten miles.  Highest elevation will be at Sawtooth Pass, 11,700'.

Another that would probably stretch you a bit but would also be very rewarding would be to start at Roads End and take two days to get to East Lake/Lake Reflection.  Beautiful area.  Then come back out over two days.  From Roads End to East Lake is 15 miles total with 4400' vertical.

There are a number of possibilities for light out and back trips.  You could head up Paradise Valley from Roads End and spend a couple down days there before returning.  Same for out and back to Franklin Lake or the upper Mosquito Lakes out of Mineral King.  On the two down days you could dayhike and explore.  From Franklin Lake you could summit Florence Peak, Tulare Peak and Peak 12,146 (between Florence and Tulare), or Rainbow Mountain.  Florence is Class 2 with a fantastic boulder approach to the summit if you like that sort of thing.  You could even go over to Panorama Bowl next to Franklin Lake to look for where the creek sumps in  and out of the cave system three times.

Upper Mosquito Lakes basin would make a great trip if you want solitude. From the end of the maintained trail at the first Mosquito Lake, there is a use trail from the west side that goes up to the higher lakes.  There are great campsites at the second lake, and you could spend two lazy days swimming and exploring the upper part of that drainage, and have it to yourselves.  If you are comfortable with off trail travel, this is a good one.

The Lakes trail is also popular, and would be an easy out and back.  I prefer to camp at Emerald Lake over Pear Lake.  You can't reserve permits, though.  Permits are first come first served.

11:47 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Remember that the drive to Mineral King is an adventure in itself.

You might look at Marvin Pass/Rowell Meadows.  We took a hike there last year.  Day one was about six miles to Jennie Lake.  Day two was up over Siliman Pass (fabulous view!) and then down to Ranger lake (same view...right from the back of the campsite!).  Day three was Seville Lake, and Day Four was out.  No day was more than about six miles.  L ovely lakes, lovely area.   And none of these days was a knee-buster. 


We've got photos and log posted in our website under destinations... 

12:22 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks so much for both of the replies! We do not have much experience hiking in very high elevation, so I guess we will get some more experience before doing the five lakes. I'll look into the other options you two posted.

12:47 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Where do you live?  NorCal area  or SoCal?

Five Lakes Loop is a beautiful hike.  But ranks up there with strenuous if a 3/4 day hike. Black Rock Pass is beautiful.

By end of July, because of the low snow pack this year, most water crossings will be relatively low water and less 'fun'.

Rae Lakes loop is an very popular destination from roads end in Kings Canyon.  Getting a permit for that trail is like wining the lottery.  It is a beautiful 4 day hike.

A some what more ambitious adventure in Sequoia is from Crescent Meadows to Bearpaw Meadows.  A long day but relatively low altitude and not much elevation gain except the last mile or so.  You can make overnight stops along the way if you run out of steam and then take a day hike up beyond BP the next day.

Once at Bearpaw you can take a day trip up toward Hamilton Lake, Elizabeth Pass or Tamarack Lakes, WOW! scenery and start of the High Sierra Trail that ends up atop Mt Whitney.  Bearpaw Meadow has some 'amenities' including a fully stocked bar (it is an expensive B&B alternative including getting there by hor$eback).  The scenery is spectacular from just outside of BP walking toward Hamilton Lakes.  Returning from BP is about a 6 hour walk, mostly generally down hill with many 'undulations'.

Behind Alta Peak on the flat country is easily accessible cross country.  It is rougher than a trail, but you have open views of where you are and where you came from.

Pear and Mosquito Lakes are popular destinations.

The western side of the Sierra's National parks have a slope that is relatively gentle.  This means that the approach trails into the high country are relatively long.  Sequoia only has a small portion of the western edge accessible by car and Kings only one in-out road -- as does Mineral King.  This means that Kings, Sequoia, MK are mostly back packer accessible parks if you want to see remaining 90+% of the parks.

If you live in SoCal the entire eastern Sierra becomes faster to get to, with spectacular views, lakes,water falls within 6 miles.  It gets you to Kings and Sequoia high country much faster with many more options than the western side. The trail heads generally start much higher and get you to a high pass within the first of second day (as a day hike).  You do pay with a little bit more exertion (the trails are not steeper - they are still well 'engineered' ) because of the altitude and a bit warmer.  Most of the trails for the first day would be 'moderate' with a goforit dayhike the next day.

If you can get to the east side (4-6 hours from LA), we can give you several very nice 'entry' level hikes up to lakes just under timberline by lunch and a high pass or even a 14,000' peak for the more ambitious.  One (Cottonwood Lakes near Lone Pine on US-395) was a traditional Fathers Day hike for family with 7/9 yo kids.

Where ever you go over night in the National Parks there is a trail head quota that you will have to negotiate as early as you have plans.  You need a permit to stay overnight. Best to get them as early in the season as you can.

For a long weekend and if you rather not stay overnight but just hike, there are series of a half dozen day hikes that you can do and return to either a road camp (some are very nice) or a motel for a bath and a good dinner and breakfast before you take on the next day's adventure.  All of these day hikes could be over night destinations as well.

8:54 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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If you go into the kings canyons five lakes area...make sure to bring a fishing rod. 40+ years ago I spent a week climbing in the back valleys, and evenings were rewarded with a brace of trout for each of us.....my advise is to wish the streams and outlets instead of the lakes where fish can be seen, but aren't interested in being baited.

spectacular area where ever you go! Mike

12:19 p.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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We're from Southern California, but we'll be coming down from a week in Lake Tahoe.  Mosquito Lakes sounds like a good introduction trip so we're going to look into that, I think.  Thanks for the replies!

4:28 p.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Tahoe coming down US-395 puts you near several trail heads that although starting relatively high will get you to spectacular scenery in one day.  Anywhere you go in the Sierra over night requires a permit.  Choose your trail head and date and get it in soonest.

All of following are a day in, make a camp and explore around without having to lug big packs.

Mammoth and connection to John Muir Trail, Thousand Lakes area, Reds Meadow lots of possibilities but relatively crowded.


    North Lake up into some magnificent views in the Humphrey Basin. Piute Pass is worth just the trip. Would be over the pass for early dinner.

    Sabrina Lake and up to George, Blue or Midnight Lakes

    South Lake up to Bishop Pass (you can camp short at Saddlerock) and into Dusy Basin.  More WOW.  A short cross country to Knapsack Pass to see back side of Big Pines scenery.

Big Pine - Big Pine Lakes from Glacier Lodge (check on accommodations if interested).  You can roll out of bed and be on the trail in minutes.  A series of lakes snuggled up below a ridge of some of the highest summits in California.  Day hike around to the higher lakes and scramble up to the largest glacier in CA.  WOW scenery for not a lot of effort.

Independence Onion Valley over Kearsarge to Kearsarge Lakes.  Day hike down into Vidette Meadows or up toward Glenn Pass.  Early start gets you over the pass and to the lakes for lunch.

Lone Pine (entry to Mt Whitney area) Horseshoe Meadows is the highest trailhead in the Sierra at 10,500 or so.  But the lakes 6 miles in are just at 11,000'.  Early start gets you Cottonwood Lakes by lunch. Dayhike up to Army Pass (and if you have the energy Mt Langley).  You are in cirques that have almost a dozen lakes you can explore or just hang out at Muir Lake and look at the 3,000' wall that is the head wall to Mt Langley at 14,000'.  Saw a heard of 10 deer there a few years ago.

On the west side in Sequoia

Lodgepole up to Heather and Pear Lakes

10:48 a.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Coming from Tahoe to So Cal?

All of the venues described below would be considered base camp trips; you pack in to a destination, then use it as a base for day hikes and other activities in the general vicinity.

About the easiest hikes originate out of the east side, above Tom's Place.  Tom's Place is a turn off of Hwy 395, between Mammoth and Bishop.  Hilton Creek Lakes are easy and offer excellent fishing.  Most prefer to go to Gem Lakes and the lakes passed along the way.  I prefer Hilton because the lower basin containing Gem and the other lakes can have a mosquito problem at times.

There are also some short hikes that are somewhat more physical above Bishop.  Treasure Lakes and Green Lake are both accessed from the South Lake trailhead.  Both destinations have surprisingly low visitation, regardless their proximity to the trailhead.  Blue Lake, Donkey Lake, and Dingleberry Lake can be gained from the Lake Sibrina Trailhead.  These and other nearby lakes along the same trail system are fairly assessable.  The destinies described here originating out of the Sabrina trailhead will have fewer mosquitoes than Green and Treasure Lakes.

Slightly more arduous are the Cottonwood Lakes, accessed via Horse Shoe Meadows, just south of Lone Pine.  I have never had mosquito issues around these lakes.

I have taken non-camping girl friends to all of the above mentioned venues with no problems.  I would not recommend hiking to Big Pines lakes, one of the trips SPeacock describes, however, as the trail is steep and long enough to rule out as an easy hike.

There are other options, too, for example short hikes to lakeside camp sites originating out of the Twin Lakes trailhead, near Mammoth. or several lakes a few miles up the trailhead out of Onion Valley, below Kearsarge Pass, among others.  I find these destinations, however, to be more congested than those described above.  But I have mentioned only a few options; there are dozens of hikes under six miles and less than 1000' elevation gain to choose from along the eastern Sierra.  There are several good guide books describing the region; I recommend Sierra North and Sierra South, both are probably in their zillionth edition by now.



11:02 a.m. on May 16, 2013 (EDT)
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WhoMe  It is amazing how time selectively erases memories.  I just asked wife if, as a pre-newly-wed,  she'd do Big Pines Lakes on a nice early morning day hike.  Polite answer was very much like, "Are you out of your mind?"  Then she dragged out a map and described every foot of the trip to me.

It is life-lifting to have a hiking partner who never gripes or whines along the way, but waits 30 years for the opportunity.

But wouldn't write the trip off for those who don't mind a bit of effort for some grand scenery and a lake exploring loop.

When we were there, before the older Glacier Lodge burned, the managers/cook asked if we liked trout and about what time could they plan on us being back for dinner.  We had freshly caught trout (almondine)  from a pay-by-inch lodge owned concession when we got back early evening the next day (or so).  I DO remember sitting by the lodge's fire with my feet up, sipping on a sniffer of something.  I also remember (wife differs) it being excitingly cheap.

The apre-hike ambiance probably helped to replace other memories.

April 6, 2020
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