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The Best Hikes in Sequoia NP National Park

54 Triplog Reviews in the Sequoia NP National Park
Most recent of 26 deeper Triplog Reviews
30.5 mi • 10,759 ft aeg
Mount Williamson had been on my radar for some time. Driving down Highway 395, it's impossible to miss. Sure, Whitney is taller, but this one always just looked more fun - and stately! I also knew that there was a popular sense of dread around this one, largely because of its approach on the Shepherds Pass Trail. It's rare to find a 14er to climb that asks you to cover 10,000'+ of gain by its standard route - and that includes some scrambling (albeit brief). Suffice it to say, the allure became stronger the more I read about it.

I also realized how much more fun one of these efforts is when you get the right crew together. And we really did have a great group for this one. In the end, I convinced (suckered) Chumley, Taylor, Sam, and also my friend and trusty big mountain partner Shawn from Colorado to join. He invited his fellow Denver(-ite?) Joe, who'd climbed Orizaba with us this past January. I never thought 5 others would be down for this 3 day adventure, but there we were, permits in hand and packs up on Friday morning ready to go.

The first mile of the trail stays in the canyon, and is a bit overgrown. It got me worried about the switchbacks above I knew were to come, and the condition of the trail there. Those worries evaporated, though, the moment we left the 4th creek crossing and started up the hill. The Shepherds Pass Trail is in great shape, and it felt like we were cruising up to the Symmes Creak saddle. Everyone felt great after that first 2700' push, and there was even excited chatter there among the group about maybe pushing above our planned Anvil Camp. The drop to water near Mahogany Flat and the abrupt restart quelled that chatter, and we were all happy and ready to see camp, especially since minutes after everything was set up, the sky opened up. A gentle but annoying rain full most of the afternoon. Anvil really is about the only shady, tree-covered spot on the route, so it makes sense to take advantage of it.

Up for an alpine start and on the trail at 4 a.m. under nice conditions, we strung out a bit as everyone settled into their pace. The nice trail helped progress up to Shepherds Pass, where we enjoyed sunrise. Regrouping after some scree-slogging, we enjoyed some relative flat as we all eyed the route up Tyndall en route to the Williamson Bowl. I'm always struck by the contrast of the slope on the Sierra Crest: rugged and sharp to the east, gentler to the west, at least from what I've seen so far. Williamson Bowl was great from a scenery standpoint, but you have to carefully pick your way through the boulders. Again, I'd heard a lot of belly-aching about this stretch prior to the trip, but honestly, it's not bad. The boulders are mostly solid, and it's generally clear where to go. At the base of the gully, Chums and Joe couldn't contain their excitement and busted up, while the other four of us settled into a nice pace and steadily made our way up. We nervously watched the clouds start to build near 8 am (what is this - Colorado???), but knew we'd be able to get up and down before the light show started.

Sam and Shawn pulled ahead of Tay and I a bit as we neared the much-talked-about chimney. We watched them - well, Shawn - start up the wrong way, but eventually get into the crack system and make his way up. Tay and I followed behind, and we popped out to an amazing view of the summit plateau and the Owens Valley, greeted by the already-summited Chumley, who had eschewed his summit beer for a photo op and was hauling it back to camp. We passed Joe coming down as we headed up, and had sweet summit success with cloud views. Last of the top 10 US 14ers done for Shawn and I! The weather made it so we couldn't stay long, and down the chute we went. Shawn and Sam moved ahead again, but waited for Tay and I at a prime lakeside lunch/nap spot. The rains chased away our laziness and made us leave Williamson Bowl with some urgency as we watched Mt. Williamson get enveloped in dark clouds. Good timing on our part. The trip back to our temporary Anvil home was smooth and everyone was all smiles around camp. Jack and Captain were passed around and it was great to see everyone laughing and smiling after the big day. Sure, there were some expletives hurled my way throughout the day, but what's a good trip without that?

The way home on the final day was fast, and the weekend was over before we knew it. The climb back up the Symmes Saddle wasn't too bad, but good thing we started early as hiding from the sun isn't easy there. We even had a well-timed 9L cameo at the saddle! It was great to see him and hike the last few miles back together. Joe went back up to get Tyndall that morning, so didn't join our hike out or parking lot celebration. The AZ group took off to start their long drive home after a good amount of hanging out, and Joe was only about 45 minutes behind from when they left. For the three of us, it was back to Reno, cold beers, and thoughts of what to do next, although we had to dodge some pretty impressive thunderstorms on the way home. Thanks to all of you guys for making it happen - great trip!
7.36 mi • 1,861 ft aeg
we decided to make the drive up to Mineral King, a place i have dreamed of visiting for years. man it was worth the wait. pretty fun and wild drive up there, where we learned at the ranger station we should marmot proof our car. apparently it's a problem unique to mineral king. they had a zillion tarps so we grabbed a couple and wrapped my car like a big christmas present :lol:

mineral king valley is utterly spectacular. as soon as we got on trail, there were deer, marmots and grouse everywhere. pretty sharp little climb up to the lake. we got drizzled on a bit. we hit the lake just before the sky really opened up for a while. the lake is gorgeous. couple cracks of thunder, so unfortunately we cut our time there short and bolted. heavy rain for the first few miles back. it cleared very quickly when we got back into the valley and afforded some incredible views, so we lollygagged it.

despite the crazy weather, this was probably our favorite day in the park. really amazing place. i'd love to come back again and blow out some big stuff up there. LOT of options.
3.43 mi • 763 ft aeg
decided to end our day up in the park with this excellent summit, in lieu of moro rock and its crowds. definitely the right choice. this is a little gem of a hike to great summit with quite spectacular 360 views and minimal traffic.

great flowers and shade on the way up. we saw a couple grouse too. marmot on the way down.

super cool short hike.
4.19 mi • 554 ft aeg
took a day to do some easy hikes and sightseeing in the park.

nice mellow trail with cool waterfall at the end. definitely way more people than the previous two days but not overbearing at all. chilled for a bit at the waterfall. on the way back we found a primo swimming hole in the creek and spent some time there. sierra is always up for a good swimming hole! chatted with, then hiked out with, a couple of very nice dudes from toronto
13.15 mi • 2,674 ft aeg
roughly 14 years ago this hike changed my life. Michelle and I did this on a whim the first time we visited Sequoia, and while i was already definitely into hiking, what i saw back then for the first time (not long after moving from indiana) inspired me in ways i never imagined possible. fast forward some 16 thousand miles later and here we are. ready to share it with my daughter.

i was somewhat surprised and thrilled beyond words everyone wanted to do the whole thing. i was originally planning on us hiking out to the first lake, Heather Lake. it was a perfectly gorgeous day and they wanted to hike them all. Everything was as great as i remembered.

michelle doesn't usually like to go much over 10 miles at a pop, but she totally will for a classic like this. sierra was fired up and wanted to do something "very wildernessy"... :)

wonderful day. very proud of Sierra for crushing her first big mountain hike. i told her 99% of adults in the park wouldn't even try this hike. we only saw a few people all day. goofy marmot at pear lake provided entertainment for a very scenic lunch
9.23 mi • 1,208 ft aeg
first day in the park and it wasn't crowded yet, so we decided to make a long loop in the giant forest. started at the sherman tree, and had it nearly to ourselves. sierra was definitely mind blown.

did a nice loop on congress, trail of the sequoias and log meadow/crescent meadow loops. with tons of wildflowers (lupine) and fern with magnificent forest smells all day. warm but not unbearable. hard to find a more pleasant walk in the woods. huge sequoias everywhere. also checked out round meadow. we saw a couple goofy marmots. aside from the areas near sherman and the crescent/log trailheads, we saw almost nobody at all. amazing
15.27 mi • 3,767 ft aeg
I've been wanting to backpack to Pear Lake for a long time and I finally decided to just do it. My parents used to bring my up to Sequoia every Summer, and we once did a day hike to Heather Lake. Ever since then I've wanted to come back and camp at Pear Lake.

The trailhead is at the Wolverton parking lot. It's a large parking lot because this is a popular trailhead for many different trails. The parking lot has several bear boxes, heavy duty metal lockers for storing food because you can't leave food in your car or the bears will break in to get it. Wolverton is a couple of miles South of Lodgepole which has a large campground, a market and a ranger station where you can get backcountry camping permits if you plan to spend the night. The Lakes Trail to Pear Lake is a popular hiking and backpacking trail and they don't take online reservations. I was planning on camping at Pear Lake and was a little concerned about this, but going mid-week after Labor Day it turned out not to be a problem.

The trail starts going uphill immediately heading to the North towards the ridge line through pine forest. After a hundred yards it gets near the ridge. Turning left the trail goes to Lodgepole, and turning right is the Lakes Trail. The Lakes Trail follows the ridge line giving occasional views to the North through the trees. After about a mile or so the trail turns away from the ridge line towards Southeast through the forest. After another 3/4 mile of steady climbing through the forest there is a signed junction. Left is the Lakes Trail and right heads towards Alta Peak and the High Sierra Trail.

After a short rest at the trail junction I continued on the Lakes Trail. A quarter of a mile past the junction the trail crossed a stream which had just a little water. Then after another quarter mile is the split between The Watchtower and The Hump trails. The Watchtower trail runs along the top of a more than 1500 foot cliff over the Tokopah Valley and has absolutely spectacular views if you don't mind heights. For what should be obvious reasons The Watchtower Trail is closed in Winter and Spring when the trail is icy. The Hump Trail heads up and over the hill through the forest and avoids the cliff at the expense of a little more elevation gain.

I chose The Watchtower Trail which climbs in a generally Northeast direction through lush forest. Another stream crosses the trail, and this one had enough water that you had to step from stone to stone to get across. A bear hanging out at this stream until another hiker scared him away by yelling before I could get a picture of him. Oh well. A mile and a half past The Hump junction there are a couple of switchbacks and you find yourself at the top of the Watchtower. Up to this point the trail has been a nice soft dirt trail that is pleasant and comfortable to walk on. From here on out it is mostly hard granite. But forget that, look at that view! Carefully walk towards the edge of the trail facing The Watchtower and you can see the smooth granite face all the way down to the bottom of the Tokopah Valley and the end of the Tokopah Valley Trail [ description ]. The trail continues along the edge of the cliff with views of the stark granite landscape all around.

Eventually the slope to the left of the trail gets less vertical as it starts to head down to Heather Lake. Heather Lake is really pretty. Like all of the lakes on the trail it sits in a granite bowl carved by glaciers in the last ice age, but it has a lot of trees around it and reeds growing in the shallows. Everything is green and lush at the lake with a backdrop of craggy granite ridges. I found a nice smooth rock to sit on to rest and have a snack at the edge of the lake.

After a short rest I put the pack back on and continued on the trail which headed up over the ridge towards the next valley. I don't know if it was the altitude or what, but the pack seemed a lot heavier all of a sudden. The trail climbed for about a half mile and then Aster Lake came into view well below the trail. Aster Lake and Emerald Lakes are in the same valley and the trail goes between the two. Emerald Lake is higher up the valley and it has sites for camping. You don't get any clear views of Emerald Lake from the trail because it's mostly hidden by trees. Aster Lake is well below the trail and you get good views looking down on it. The valley these lakes are in is surrounded on three sides by very stark, steep and jagged granite ridges.

I found the last mile and a bit from Emerald Lake to Pear Lake to be the toughest part of the trail even though it's only about a 300 foot elevation gain. The trail is hard and rocky the whole way. Along the way there is a sign at a junction to the Pear Lake Ranger Station and Pear Lake. The Pear Lake Ranger Station is a hut that is used in winter by cross country skiers. From that junction it's still about three quarters of a mile uphill on hard granite to the lake. But finally the lake appears. Whew!

Pear Lake, as the name implies, is pear shaped. The narrow part of the pear is to the North and there are trees at that end of the lake and along the slope below that end of the lake where water runs off into the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. Most of the sides of the lake are smooth granite with no trees and limited vegetation. The lake sits in a granite bowl-shaped valley rimmed by sharp craggy peaks 1500 feet higher in elevation. Alta Peak, accessible by trail from the other side of the ridge, still had a visible patch of snow even this late in the year.

Camping at Pear Lake is allowed at numbered campsites only. I took #10 because it was the closest to the water and it also gave me a limited view of the trail leading to the lake so I could see who was coming and going. It was also conveniently close to the pit toilets. When I got to the lake there were only a couple guys fishing, and by the time my tent was set up they had left. I had the lake to myself, or I thought I did until three noisy young people came and went for a swim. But it was late afternoon and they only stayed for a short while, and then I really did have Pear Lake all to myself! The sun went below the ridge to the West putting the lake in shadow long before dusk, and it became very quiet and peaceful.

The next morning it was dead calm and the lake was like a mirror. Originally I had planned to do some cross-country hiking, but I was feeling the altitude and my age and decided that a rest day at a private lake wasn't such a bad thing. A few other hikers showed up during the day and a couple groups stayed overnight.

The hike back was much easier than the hike out, although the first couple of miles to The Watchtower weren't that easy hiking on hard granite. But after that the rest of the trail going downhill walking on soft dirt trail was a piece of cake.
4.22 mi • 701 ft aeg
Quick warm up hike after setting up base camp at Lodgepole Campground before heading to Pear Lake. Very pretty walk through the forest following the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River upstream to the end of the Tokopah Valley. Lots of squirrels running around. The trail goes to the end of the valley where the river drops down from the high country as Tokopah Falls. The falls were nearly completely dry with just a small trickle coming down the granite wall. The On the opposite side of the river near the end of the trail is The Watchtower, an impressive granite formation with sheer vertical walls that stands over 1500' above the valley.
76 mi • 17,490 ft aeg
High Sierra Trail
The High Sierra Trail leads from Crescent Meadow up the canyon of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, crossing the Great Western Divide by the 10,700' pass known as Kaweah Gap. It descends into Big Arroyo, then climbs up to the Chagoopa Plateau, and drops down again into the Kern River Canyon. After running up the bottom of the Kern Canyon, it turns east, climbing parallel to Wallace Creek up to the junction with the John Muir Trail, 49 miles from the starting point. You can then follow the John Muir Trail about 13 more miles to the summit of Mount Whitney.

Day 1 - to Bearpaw Meadow (12 miles)
Day 2 - to Big Arroyo Junction (13 miles)
Day 3 - to Junction Meadow (18 miles)
Day 4 - to Crabtree Meadow and Guitar Lake(15 miles)
Day 5 - to the summit of Mt. Whitney and Whitney Portal (18 miles)

Day 1 - to Bearpaw Meadow (12 miles) - The trail starts from Crescent Meadow on the southeast edge of the Giant Forest. You can see back to Moro Rock to the west, down to the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, and ahead to the glaciated peaks of the Great Western Divide from the trail. You will pass junction that connects the High Sierra and Alta Trails (hiked in June).
The final destination for today is Bearpaw Meadow area 11.4 miles from the trailhead. In addition to camp sites, this is the location of the Bearpaw Meadow Camp, a simple tent hotel run by the park concessionaire (reservations required).

Day 2 - to Big Arroyo Junction (13 miles) - East of Bearpaw, you begin your ascent into the Great Western Divide. Hamilton Lake is a popular site for camping and fishing. After Hamilton Lake you go up and up and soon reach the alpine zone of the Sierras. Precipice Lake is your next goal and after that Kaweah Gap! From the pass you descent to Big Arroyo Junction.

Day 3 - to Junction Meadow (18 miles) - the trail follows the Kern river trail all the way to Kern Hot Springs and further to Junction Meadow.

Day 4 - to Crabtree Meadow and Guitar Lake(15 miles) - the trail rejoins with JMT and you will pass several campsites near Crabtree Meadow and the ranger station. We decided to camp by Guitar lake again as we really liked it last time. Guitar Lake is the last campsite before Whitney.

Day 5 - to the summit of Mt. Whitney and Whitney Portal (18 miles) - we already know the drill!! Getting up really early and hiking up to the Whitney junction, leave our packs and day hike to the summit. We enjoyed summit meal and then made our way back. Picked up the bags and followed the switchbacks down to Whitney Portal.
15.5 mi • 4,500 ft aeg
Hike starts from the Mineral King parking lot. First 4 miles are switchbacks up and over a hump towards lower Monarch Lake. Patchy snow from the creek crossing until the Crystal Lake junction. From there, once reaching the North side of the trail above 10,000', the trail was completely snow-covered until Monarch Lakes, but there were good steps kicked out. Upper Monarch lake is still frozen. We couldn't find the trail up to the peak so we just went straight up in snow and sand which was the worst slog of my life, but we eventually found a trail to the pass. From the pass we traversed to the peak. The approach was Class II scramble, little sketchy at spots. Going down was super fast, sliding down in sand. We returned the way we came.
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