High Sierra Hikes

The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is my happy place. I mean, what's not to love?! Yosemite, Sequioa, Kings Canyon National Parks, all call this range home. It's generally accessible in the summer. Backcountry trails are well maintained and permitted to limit overuse. You have to prepare for weather, but blue skies are a trademark of summer in the Sierra. It bursts with color and light all set to the stunning granite backdrop unique to this range. It's wild without being miserable. It's remote without being harsh. No wonder John Muir enjoyed spending most of him time here. Over the past decade, I've enjoyed frequent visits to play in these mountains, trips to Yosemite Valley in the off season, music festivals near Hetch Hetchy, soaking in hotsprings near Mammoth. My favorite thing, by far, involves setting up my pack and heading out with a friend or two to the regions vast network of backcountry trails. I've shared a few of my favorites here with some details to help you get set-up.

Happy Adventuring! 

Favorite Backpacking Trips of the Sierra:

1) Rae Lakes Loop

The Rae Lakes Loop was my first backpacking trip in the Sierras and the first ever time I went backpacking with my now husband, Patrick McLaughlin. The loop is probably the most popular backcountry trail in all of the Sierra, and for good reason. It is stunning. 

The trail runs approximately 42 miles throughout the Sequioa & Kings Canyon National Parks with its highest point at Glen Pass (11,978'). The lakes along the way are the highlight. Don't miss a chance to strip down and dive in at every body of water you see. The namesake, the Rae Lakes are incredible. 

I highly recommend this trail. As it is so popular, I'd defintely recommend getting a backcountry permit in advance. For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness_permits.htm

2) Mt. Agassiz 

While not techinically a backpacking trip, the mountain lies off the Bishops Pass Trail, a trail that connects to California's regal Palisades range and eventually to the John Muir Trail. Summiting Mt. Agassiz can be done in a STRENUOUS day trip, and day-use of Bishops Pass Trail does not require a permit. The peak sits at 13,891ft. next to many other 13,000 ft. peaks and a view of a few 14ers as well. I am not a techinical climber, so Mt. Agassiz Class 2-3 approach appealed to me. It's a tough scramble up, but required no gear. The view of the Palisades from the summit is unbeatable. Absolutely breathtaking and well worth the effort. For information on the South Lake-Bishops Pass Trail visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo//recarea/?recid=20358&actid=50

3) Reds Meadow to Tuolumne

This short portion of the John Muir Trail takes you through Yosemite's High Country into Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. The 34 mile trail can be completed in 2-4 days, depending on your ambition. I recommend this trail for those with some experience but not quite ready to head into the backcountry for a week. The scenery of Donahue Pass and the Thousand Island Lake are highlights. 

Permits required and obtained through Yosemite National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

4) Sonora Pass to Tuolumne 

Roughly 70 miles, the trail gives a glimpse of the PCT through the Sierras. Enjoy daily dips in the many alpine lakes that dot the trail. Watch out for boyscout groups if you're skinny dipping, especially as you begin to approach Yosemite....just sayin'...

Permits requires and obtained through Yosemite National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

5) Sawtooth Range: Bridgeport to Matterhorn Peak loop

I did this trail in late July and it was SOOOO hot. Go earlier in the season if it's dry enough to pass, which let's face it, it is...we're in severe drought. The trail stays mostly in the Hoover Wilderness. Highlights: Virginia Lakes Basin looks like Mars with water and the Sawtooth Ridge is epic beauty! Bonus: you get to follow in the steps of Jack Kerouac should you choose to go off trail to summit Matterhorn Peak. Trail momentarliy bisects Yosemite National Park: Permits required (see links for Yosemite above).

6) High Sierra Trail to Little Five Lakes Loop

The stop to camp at Hamiliton Lakes is reason enough to do this trip. In fact, I might even skip the rest of the trail and stay at Hamiliton Lakes the whole time. It's incredible!!! We followed a segment of the High Sierra trail and looped toward little Five Lakes to shorten. All I can say, go to Hamilton Lakes!

Backcountry Permit obtained through Kings Canyon, Sequioa National Park: http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness_permits.htm

I realize after finsihing this post, that each of these trails deserves their own entry. If you have any questions about any of these trails or how to prepare. Shoot me an email! Happy Hiking!