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Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

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Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby avachay » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:37 am

Hi all!

My wife and I are planning a short, mid-week backpacking trip in early September and were hoping to ask for some suggestions on where to go. I backpacked the JMT a few years back and really enjoyed passing through Kings Canyon, so I'd love to explore that area some more. We both have a handful of backpacking trips under our belts and have already done Cathedral lakes, clouds rest, and half dome in Yosemite. Ideally we're looking for a more relaxing trip and camping near a secluded, scenic lake. We'll have only one day to acclimatize before we start.

So far we've been considering Jennie Lake, Bubbs Creek, and Pear Lake. Would love to hear more suggestions! Thanks!!

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Forests
- Big Mountain scenery
- Photography

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
3 days / 2 nights

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?
~ 8 miles/day average

Do you have a route logistics preference: Would prefer a loop or lollipop, but not necessary.

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in
SEKI, Yosemite. West side start, we'll be coming from the bay area.

Will you be hiking with a dog?
Last edited by avachay on Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon / Sequo

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:54 am

More relaxing and secluded... hard to dish that one up.

Jennie has no permits needed so it's crowded as heck in summer. I've been there when 60 people were camping around the lake roasting marshmallows and/or drinking.

Bubbs Creek is nice, but a steep haul at first and a more gradual but significant uphill climb into Junction Meadow and then more uphill into Vidette. Or Lake Reflection. Even steeper and much more climbing heading up Avalanche (Sphinx Creek). Anything out of Roads End will involve climbing, most of the trails are quite drastically going uphill.

Pear Lake won't let you reserve a permit because of its popularity and it's designated camping sites only, with a solar pit toilet - which tells you how many people you can expect to see daily - several dozen day hikers easily with groups of campers.

Sequoia NP has become one of my favorite backpacking go-tos - because it has challenging trails that lead to more secluded places. In two days I can have a meadow or lake to myself. The first day out, there will be at least a few people coming along on a day hike. You have a better chance in September because everyone's back in school, tho.

For relaxing, I suggest Paradise out of Road's End, and Alta Meadow. There is a spring near the meadow that's reliable. No lake, but beautiful places to be with plenty of wildlife.

For secluded (but more work), Lake Reflection, Moose Lake (very strenuous to get there and cross country to boot - lots of hauling uphill and over the ridge between Pear Lake and the Tablelands), the unnamed lake at the end of the cross country up the Kaweah from Pear Lake, or the lakes on the other side of Silliman Pass (out of Lodgepole). The work to get there is a fence between you and the hordes. Moose has become more popular and is a poor choice for fishing as it's on the list to go fishless - but it's one of the most scenic in the park. These are also possibly more mileage than you like - but gorgeous.
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby avachay » Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:51 am

Thanks for the quick response! I know I'm asking a lot with secluded and relaxing, but I figured it's worth a shot to ask! There are tons of great spots out there I haven't heard of. But if I had to pick one, I'd prefer secluded over relaxing. I was a bit afraid Jennie would be crowded, so I'll probably stay away from there.

Lake reflection looks beautiful but I wonder if it might be a bit too long for a 3 day trip. Any thoughts? I know the initial climb on the Bubbs Creek trail is steep, but not so sure about the rest of the way to Lake Reflection. Moose looks great as well but that hike from Pear to Moose sounds intense...might be a bit too much for our relaxing trip :)

Paradise looks really nice. No lake, but I might be able to deal with that! I'm definitely going to look more into this one.

Thanks a lot for your help!!
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby oleander » Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:46 am


I too got hooked on Kings Canyon NP during a (long-ago) JMT hike. It is an extraordinary place. That said, if I only have 3 days I tend not to bother with Kings Canyon. Most of the really stunning (or "secluded") locations require a minimum of 5 days to enjoy. That's because the roads don't penetrate very far into Kings. So the initial walk in requires lots of miles, lots of vertical, or both - usually 1.5 days, from either the west or the east. It seems pointless to drive all that way from the Bay Area, walk in for 1.5 days and then turn right back around.

So I'm tempted to tell you to save Kings for a time when you do have 5+ days.

If you are in great shape, you can hike into East Lake (~12-13 miles, +3000 feet or so), camp there, do a dayhike to Reflection Lake on your layover day, and come back out. Frankly, don't do this unless you can arrive *the day prior* to your backpacking trip, before 3:45 pm, to pick up your next-day permit at Roads End. (There is no "night box" permit pickup in the SEKI.) Otherwise, you have to wait for the permit office to open in the morning, and you'll be hiking in the intense heat that a trailhead down at 5000 feet will serve up.

Paradise Valley is the most over-used place you are considering (besides Jennie Lakes). It is justifiably famous for its fall colors in early October. Consider going at that time if it's not storming. It's a nice 2-3 day trip at that time. Bears are very, very active there.

The Bubbs Creek (to East Lake) and the Woods Creek (to Paradise) trails are going to be just as crowded on weekdays as on weekends. That's because both are part of the highway to the Rae Lakes loop as well as many other long loops that people do. So I guess if you can go midweek, try for a trail that is more of a dead-end street, and it'll be a lot less crowded on a weekday. Here are some recommendations that are off the "main highways":

I actually think Pear Lake is a good choice even though it's not "secluded." It's an exception to my rule that it takes 1.5 days to hike to the "good stuff" in the SEKI. It's quite scenic. And the drive to the Lodgepole/Wolverton area is not bad from the Bay Area (4.5 hours). The Watchtower and hump trails allow you to do it as a lollipop. On your layover, you can explore x-country into the easier parts of Tablelands; you don't have to try for Moose Lake or Alta Peak. If you are going to do that, BRING A GOOD MAP, the 7.5-minute if possible.

Also out of the Lodgepole area are the Twin Lakes and Ranger Lake. All these lakes are quite beautiful, although personally I find the trail there (from Lodgepole) to be dull with the exception of Silliman Pass itself. I've only been there once; the crowds weren't bad.

I think the perfect 3-day from the Bay Area is to Franklin Lakes in Mineral King. Yes, it will take you 6 hours to drive there. Yes, it is worth the long drive, especially if you have never seen Mineral King. The (lower/larger) lake is only 6 miles in. If you don't need access to a bear box, you can camp anywhere and might find more solitude on the lake's northeast side, or even better, at the upper lake. On your layover day you can hike to Franklin Pass and beyond. I think you will find more seclusion here than at any of the above. Google-image "Franklin Lakes Sequoia" for just a little taste of the photogenic reds, blacks and greens that the landscape serves up at Mineral King.

If you can drive up the night before, usually car-camping is pretty easy to secure on the westside SEKI, particularly mid-week.

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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby avachay » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:46 am

Thanks, Elizabeth!

I'll most likely take your suggestion and save Kings Canyon for when I have more time. Hopefully next year!

Franklin Lakes looks perfect! I don't mind a long, windy drive as long as what comes after is worth it. I'll be renting a bear canister so I can camp anywhere. How is the hike from the lower to upper lake? Any thoughts on camping near the upper lake?

What kind of high/low temperatures should I expect in early September? I was able to find a forecast for Mineral King, but nothing on the lakes.

Thanks again for all your help!
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 14, 2014 1:03 pm

Hi Avachay,

Welcome to HST!

Agree with Elizabeth on keeping SEKI for longer trips, 2 nights is just to short,
especially if you want to have a leisurely trip with low mileage.
Franklin Lakes is very pretty, but quite a long drive from the Bay Area, especially
adding on the long and windy road to Mineral King, plus the lakes area above
10300 ft, which could be to high for you so quickly.

Would recommend beautiful Lost Lake at 9127 ft, which has bear boxes, and is 8.7
miles from the trailhead (Sunset Meadow), approx 1,127 ft total elevation gain.
Sunrise is just magical, with Twin Peaks reflecting in the mirror reflection on the lake.
You can do a day hike to Seville Lake, Ranger, or Sheep Camp Lakes (good fishing)
on the next day.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby MountainMinstrel » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:49 pm

I think that Pear Lake is the most magical spot one can reach in a day in SEKI. By September and midweek the crowds should not be so bad. For more seclusion you can take the trail to Panther Gap and Alta Peak and then X-country down to Pear (though I am not sure about water at Mehrten Meadows or Alta Meadows this year). Last time I went that way I got a late start and dry camped at Panther Gap then hiked to Pear the next day, it worked but I was glad there was water in a few places on the trail.

Also, if you can't get a permit for Pear, Emerald is nice if you can catch a spot off the trail.
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:19 pm

West flank approaches in Kings Canyon/Sequoia are difficult to get to the relaxing/secluded sort goal because the best locations require quite a bit of effort going out of Road's End, as mentioned by several above.

I would recommend going out of the Highway 49 or 168 trailheads (in the west-side entry gap between Yosemite to the north and Kings Canyon/Sequoia NP in the soutgh) for west side entry because these kickoff points are much less crowded on average, and you can get to some nice secluded places with good scenery without huge amounts of mileage per day and elevation gain.

You have a number of options going out of the Beasore Road/Clover Meadow area off of Hwy 41. Whereas the closest lake in, Vandeburg may see moderate use, its use will be much less than Pear Lake or anywhere within reasonable range going out of Bubbs Creek. A bit further in Lillian Lake you get moderate use, too, but there are so many little lakes you can go off and hide near, and Lillian itself is so big that you can get seclusion there with some good planning of your campsite location. There is a whole constellation of places to hike to with so many options to size up the length of hiking day to your needs. It is even feasible to choose a camp that will be common to both nights 1 and 2 and spend your 2nd day as a layover dayhiking to the explore the area.

Out of the Highway 168 spurs the central part of Kaiser Wilderness tends to get a lot of use (say Upper Twin) as does the more accessible lakes of the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness from the Dinkey Lakes trailhead, but there are many less frequented options. A hike to the Chain Lakes gives you a lot of options and not many people, to boot (from Rancheria trailhead near Wishon Res.). Similarly some of the little spur trails off of the road to Florence Lake or Edison L also have some destinations that offer good views mellow hiking but not much in the way of crowds. The three lakes out of Florence: Dutch, Hidden, and Crater, are an example (Hidden and Crater are best for camp spots). Some of the Dinkey Lake Wilderness spots accessed from the Courtright Reservoir side aren't bad for solitude, too, such as the Nelson Lakes and the views are really nice, too.
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby lambertiana » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:15 pm

There are some very good locations out of Mineral King.

For three days/two nights, you could do:

Go to Franklin Lake, and for the middle day dayhike over Franklin Pass to Forester Lake and Little Claire Lake. The outlet of Little Claire Lake (walk a very short distance east of the crossing of the outlet creek) has outstanding views looking down Soda Creek toward the Whitney Group, and up Soda Creek toward Sawtooth and Needham, and if you go to the small rise on the opposite side of Forester Lake from the trail, you can look down Rattlesnake Creek. There are many campsites on shelves on the eastern side of the lake. The upper lake has a few small campsites, it's pretty rocky there with no trees. To access the upper lake, you could cross the dam on the lower lake and then just head south on the talus. Or take the trail toward Franklin Pass and when you get level with the upper lake just head across. This route has larger talus/boulders. I've done it both ways, and prefer the route cutting across from the Franklin Pass trail, but if you head over before getting high enough you get in some nasty brush. A month ago I just tried to go up the east side from where I was camping at the lower lake and went through a lot of that brush, and that is something I'm not going to repeat any time soon.

Go to Monarch Lake one night, then swing over to Crystal Lake the next night. Monarch Lake sees a lot of traffic, but Crystal Lake is largely ignored.

Go to the first Mosquito Lake, then take the use trail (fades in and out) on the western side of the lake to go to great campsites at the second lake in Mosquito Lakes basin. The middle day of your trip can be used to explore the upper part of the basin, with two more beautiful lakes. Very few people go there. It is easy class 1 cross country after you leave the first Mosquito Lake.
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Re: Advice on a 2 night backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby balance » Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:06 am

Greetings avachay

Maverick suggested Lost Lake, from the Sunset Meadow trailhead, which is past Big Meadow and the horse corral. I just got back from a 7 day trip in that area. Lost Lake is a great place for a two night trip with relatively easy (8.7 mile) access, although there's not much water on the way in. You probably won't need a cannister, since there's a bear box. I also suggest you might hike up to Silliman Pass on day two.

Now here's a secret campsite you'll really like. When you get to Lost Lake, the trail splits to both sides of the lake. Keep to the right. When you get to the bear box and established campsites, keep going along a lightly used trail. Stay on the high side, to the right, of the large rock face that extends into the lake, and also go up and around a large deadfall tree. It's easy. You'll come to a secluded spot that very few people get to. There's a ledge on granite soil that is just enough for a two person tent and catches the morning sun. You'll most likely have this beautiful little area to yourselves.

But here's the deal. Please, no fires. If you're one of those who needs a fire, then camp near the established fire pits. This place is too nice to mess up with cinders and soot. Technically, fires are permitted. Just. Don't. See the stars. Smell the air. Listen to the night. Fires deteriorate the wilderness worse than anything. Trails will grow over. Even trash decomposes. Charred soot on the side of a rock will remain for over a thousand years.

I hope you make it to this place. And if I return, I hope I don't know you were there. Though you could post a TR to let us know how it went.

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