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7 Days in Mineral King Sequoia National Park

I spent the anniversary of the week of our nation's birth last week with 7 days in Mineral King.  Hands down, this was the most amazing backpacking trip I have ever experienced in my entire life.  Countless alpine lakes, beautiful meadows, cross country scrambling, the spectacular Lost Canyon, and we capped it off with a summit to Sawtooth Peak at 12,300 feet.  This trip truly had it all.  

Here was our itinerary:

Day 1: Trailhead to Pinto Lake via Timber Gap

Day 2: Timber Gap to Little Five Lakes via Black Rock Pass at 11,600 ft.

Day 3: Layover day at Little Five Lakes with a cross country scramble over to Big Five Lakes.

Day 4: Little Five Lakes to the split off of Lost Canyon/Soda Springs.

Day 5: Lost Canyon to Columbine Lake

Day 6: Columbine Lake to Monarch Lake via Sawtooth Pass with a summit to Sawtooth Peak

Day 7: Monarch Lake back to the trailhead and sadly back to our car =(.

I just got back yesterday and I am still reeling from this trip.  Thank you to @lambertiana @Bill S and @Bill H for the info to Mineral King.  Big thanks to @lambertiana and @Patman because your trip reports last summer provided excellent information to the area.  Lastly, the NPS ranger at Mineral King provided some great tips on camping areas and cross country routes.

Day 1:

As per the suggestions of our fellow Trailspace members, as well as the rangers at the Mineral King station, we went all out and fully enveloped my buddy Ryan's Jeep for marmot protection:


After about 8 miles and 3000 ft of climbing (and one bear sighting during the descent into Cliff Creek) we reached Pinto Lake just in time for the sunset:



Day 2:

Our big climb of the day was Black Rock Pass, which included about 3000 ft of climbing in a short amount of mileage.  We were treated with views of Sawtooth Peak, as well as Columbine, Cyclamen, and Spring Lakes:


From the top of Black Rock Pass, we were able to see the route we would cross country the next day to Big Five Lakes (the ridge/route we took, as suggested by the NPS ranger, is towards the right hand side of the frame):


Once we got to Little Five Lakes and the winds started to die down, the views started getting outrageous:



Day 3:

From Little Five Lakes, we used the suggested cross country route from the NPS Ranger at Mineral King to get to Big Five Lakes.  Here's a pic of my buddy, Ryan, on top of the ridge, as we prepared our descent towards Big Five Lakes:


After reaching Big Five Lakes, the views were once again breathtaking:


After enjoying ourselves at Big Five Lakes, we returned to our camp at Little Five Lakes and watched the reflections as the day turned into night:


Day 4:

Our fourth day was relatively easy compared to the first two days as we made camp near the trail split between Lost Canyon and Soda Creek.  We found an amazing campsite with firepits and bear boxes located near the water.  Although the views weren't nearly as amazing as other parts of the trip, we felt truly spoiled by all the amenities this campsite had to offer.  Also it was the only place during the entire trip where we weren't constantly hounded by mosquitos:


Day 5:

From our camp, we made our way through Lost Canyon to Columbine Lake.  This was also a relatively easy hike compared to our first two days.  We couldn't help but stare at the mighty Sawtooth Peak as we made our way through Lost Canyon:


Views of Lost Canyon from the top:


Once we arrived at Columbine Lake, we found some great campsites.  We were very fortunate with campsites throughout the trip.  We both thought that our mid-week travel dates helped with the solitude, as we didn't see many people on the loop:


Once again, the sunset brought some spectacular light:


We climbed atop a rock and enjoyed our dinner watching the sunset:


Day 6:

Our last full day included the climb up to Sawtooth Pass as we attempted to summit Sawtooth Peak.  We dropped our packs and switched over to summit packs as we made our way atop the peak.  Once we reached the peak, we were treated to some amazing views of the Sierra:



After summiting Sawtooth, we made our way down the scree to Monarch Lakes, where we camped for one last night on our 7-day adventure:


Day 7:

One last glimpse of Sawtooth Peak before we headed back to the car:


My only regret on this trip was going during the World Cup.  I had 4 years to plan for the World Cup, but the call of the mountains (and I must go!) were just too much.  Of course, once we got back into cell service, I scrambled to look up all the highlights/news/results of the matches I had missed.  I'm pretty bummed that Neymar will be missing the rest of Brazil's World Cup run.  But in the end.. it was all worth it!!!  I'll make sure I won't miss any of the NEXT World Cup 4 years from now!

Good grief, man - those're some views you got yourself, there. Thanks for sharing with everyone, especially those of us here back in the woodlands! Looks like a heck of a trip, and doubtful you did anything but enjoy yourself!

Thanks Eric!  Come out west and we'll tackle some mountains!

Sounds like a great trip!  I'll be spending eight days out of Mineral King in three weeks, can't wait!

Thanks @lambertiana!  Your trip reports were truly helpful.  I probably wouldn't of gone to Mineral King if it weren't for your trip reports.  Your pictures started making me jealous so I figured I should just go up there and see it for myself!

Thanks Danny, that stirred some great memorires of one of my greatest trips ever with lambertiana! wow, what a place...

That looks like a spectacular trip!

Thanks for sharing it and your great photos, macchiolives.

Nice report and photos.  I've been to the park, but never to Mineral King (it's on my list).  What's the deal with the tarps?  I know marmots like to chew, but...what the heck?

Nice job.

I like Sequoia/Kings Canyon a lot because of the big trees and the fact that it has not been loved to death like Yosemite.

Ya know, one of these days, I may take ya up on that offer, Danny!

Note to self, though: carpool with whomever drives the smallest, most compact, does it look like it took some serious coverage to marmot-proof that vehicle!

Really spectacular pictures.  If I hadn't seen it myself I wouldn't have believed that Marmots will chew through hoses and wiring but not through the tarp.  I've seen pictures of people using chicken wire, yikes!

Once again, thanks to everyone for the nice comments.  They were very much appreciated!

In regards to the marmots and "burrito wrapping" our car, the ranger told us that there was a chance that the marmots could potentially eat through the tarp.  I've also read on other forums where the tarping method had failed, in which marmots did eat through the tarp.  During this past trip, last week, we saw different methods to tackle the marmot issue.  A couple we met coming down the trail, while we were still wrapping our car, simply left the hood open on their car and did the Franklin Lake loop for 5 days and drove away safely.  Others would only partially wrap their cars, whether it would be just the front hood, the bottom half of their cars, or partially wrapping their car with tarp coupled with chicken wire surrounding the car.  Part of our reservations of Mineral King was to have our car damaged during the week out, so we decided to just wrap the entire car.  Luckily, there was no damage to our car when we returned.



I was looking at @lambertiana's and @patman's trip report from last year just for fun and its amazing to compare the photos.  I still can't believe @patman that you climbed up to the fin on Sawtooth Peak!  Too rich for my blood!  Also, have fun @lambertiana in 3 weeks!  I'd love to go back one of these days!  Thanks once again guys!

What a great trip - that's an awesome area!


Ah, lovely . . . but I love the car wrap job more than anything. the few times I have been up there, just seen people wrap a good length of chicken wire around the base of the car. 

Very nice. Going to be in this area in a couple of weeks, though we're approaching via the High Sierra Trail, and then looping back out that direction. 

Thanks for sharing, Danny! This is a beautiful report. It makes me miss SNP! I never made it to the Mineral King area, but I am really glad you did and that you shared your report so I could see the pictures. You are SO lucky to live so close to YNP and SEKI. Seriously, ANY and all reports that you do from that area are greatly appreciated!

July 6, 2022
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