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Golden Trout Wilderness, CA
mini location map2017-06-30
30 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Golden Trout Wilderness, CA 
Golden Trout Wilderness, CA
Backpack avatar Jun 30 2017
Backpack35.00 Miles 4,217 AEG
Backpack35.00 Miles5 Days         
4,217 ft AEG
1st trip
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It was time for another adventure to my beloved Sierras. Our original plan was the Rae Lakes Loop but we had to change things up due to the snowmelt and a collapsed bridge in Upper Paradise. We decided on the Golden Trout Wilderness roughly a week before the trip. Once that was decided we spent the week cramming for what felt like an exam by pouring over maps, triplogs and even calling the Inyo National Forest office for info. Everything came together quickly and we hit the road after work on Thursday night and spent the night in Barstow. We completed the drive to Lone Pine on Friday and picked up our permit and headed up to Horseshoe Meadow and were off!

Our hike started out fairly easy as we climbed 500 ft over Trail Pass and then dropped down and headed southwest for Ramshaw Meadow. We had loaded packs with five days worth of food so that was a chore. The nice thing is the hiking was fairly easy going and the miles cruised by. We selected a campsite in a flat area on the north side of the meadow with water nearby. We settled in for the evening with a nice views of the meadow and a campfire.

We packed up camp on day two and headed to the west for Tunnel Station. The going was easy again as we hiked across the meadow. At one point we had to cross the South Fork of the Kern River. We were concerned the river would be high with all the snowmelt but found an easy crossing in knee deep water. From there we continued a few more miles to Tunnel Station and found a nice campsite roughly a quarter mile north of the old ranger station. Later that day we explored the area. This is a perfect spot for fishing because you’re on a plateau above the South Fork to the east and Golden Trout Creek to the west. We spent another enjoyable evening around a campfire. The only downer was smoke drifted in from a fire to the south.

The next day started slowly for Chumley and me. Karl left at the crack of dawn to hike Kern Peak to the south. We chilled in camp and then made an easy day hike to Tunnel Meadow. There is an old corral and camp area that would be perfect for a large group. After exploring the area we headed back to camp and started packing up. Karl returned and the three of us put the heavy backpacks on and headed north for Big Whitney Meadow. Our route paralleled Golden Trout Creek and featured one easy crossing in knee deep water. We continued on along this magnificent section of trail and reached the meadow where Chumley found a prime campsite nestled fifty feet above a tributary. We thought we would have issues finding firewood but the three of us are very resourceful and quickly gathered wood for the two nights we planned on camping here.

Day four started out mellow. We planned on day hiking to Rocky Lakes Basin so we took our time and headed out around 8:30am. The going was very easy as all of us were carrying day packs. The miles flew by as climbed to the basin at roughly 10,800 ft elevation. Once up top we ate some snacks and admired this amazing area! Rocky Lakes Basin was by far the highlight of the trip and I’ll do a separate triplog with more details. We returned to camp around mid-afternoon and settled in for our final night in the wilderness.

We woke early on day five and quickly packed up camp. We wanted to be on trail by 7am and that’s exactly what we did. The first two miles are easy as we headed east in Big Whitney Meadow. The next two miles climb 1,300 ft as you head over Cottonwood Pass which tops out at roughly 11,100 ft. The trail is in excellent condition as it’s built for stock use so the grade is mild. Once up top we took a short break and admired the views. From there it was four fairly easy miles as you drop back down and head for Horseshoe Meadow. We arrived back to the car around 10:15am and packed up and headed back to Phoenix getting back to town around 7:30pm. Another trip in the books!

Final thoughts:
We wish we headed directly to Tunnel Station to start the hike. Ramshaw Meadow was just okay. There are several good day hiking options from Tunnel Station. This would have been better use of our time. The perfect itinerary would be two nights at Tunnel Station and two nights at Big Whitney Meadow.

Mosquitos were out and were annoying but we thought they would be worse.

Water was plentiful and we never went more than a few miles without it. There was snow on the peaks but only patches along our route.

We had a camp fire on all four nights and that was really nice, especially with most of Az under fire restrictions.

The Golden Trout Wilderness is a solid wilderness but don’t go there as a primary choice. Other areas in the Sierras are better. It’s a good backup option if needed. Trail Pass (GT62) is a non-quota zone so scoring a permit is simple. Dogs are allowed too so that’s bonus.

Thanks to Karl and Chumley for joining in on this trip! It was a lot of fun as always. And thanks Karl for driving! It’s a long way from Phoenix and I can’t thank you enough!
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