High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help | High Sierra Topix  

High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby Radgnar » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:57 am

Hello All!

I am planning on completing the HST this September and have a few questions. I have scoured the internet for resources and have read the numerous trip reports/advice given here (Thanks).

The tentative plan is to start the trail the Monday or Tuesday of Labor day. I figure the crowds will be fewer and the weather should be warm enough still.

Day One: Crescent Meadows to Buck Creek - 10 miles

Day Two: Buck Creek to Hamilton Lake - 5.5 miles

Day Three: Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake - 13.5 miles

Day Four: Moraine Lake to Kern Hot Springs - 7.6 miles

Day Five: Kern Hot Springs to Wallace Creek - 10.5 miles

Day Six: Wallace to Guitar Lake - 7 miles

Day 7: Guitar Lake to Outpost - 9.6 miles

Day 8: Outpost to Whitney Portal - 2.5 mile

How does this itinerary look? Do you think it is worth staying the extra night at Outpost/Trail camp or should we just push on to Whitney portal? It would be a tough day for a few girls on our trip. Any other first hand knowledge of where to stay?

I am up for any and all changes to this breakdown of camps. I just collected what information I found here and it sounded like these were some nice sites along the trail.

Thanks ahead of time for any and all suggestions!


User avatar
Topix Novice
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:35 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby tim » Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:08 pm

I wouldn't stop at Outpost Camp - its only an hour or so from there down to the Portal (~2.5 hours from Trail Camp down to the Portal). Camp at the 11600ft tarn above Guitar Lake (about 300ft higher) if you can, as its much less frequented and the views are great at sunset.

Above Guitar Lake

My kids got from there to the Portal in a day pretty easily (see our trip report here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8265) - we left camp at 7.15am and were down at 5pm (after spending nearly an hour on the summit plus decent breaks at Trail Crest and Trail Camp).

Can't say much about the other locations (we came from Onion Valley) but Wallace Creek looked to be a reasonable camping spot, though without many views. It would be a reasonably easy day to get from there to Guitar Lake compared to some of the other days you've listed (Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake looks particularly tough - I'd probably stop before that and try to make Day 4 the longer day because it has a lot less climbing).
User avatar
Topix Expert
Posts: 497
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:36 pm
Location: Bay Area
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby schmalz » Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:34 pm

I agree that you'll probably want to push past outpost and go for whitney portal. By then, the draw of real food will be overpowering. You might want to plan for the same amount of nights, and then you have the option to spend one more day getting to Whitney, spend a night at Outpost Camp, or just leave the wilderness with an extra day of food.
User avatar
Topix Expert
Posts: 460
Joined: Fri May 07, 2010 8:18 am
Location: Altadena, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby maverick » Tue Feb 05, 2013 5:39 pm

Would recommend you consider spending a night at 9 Lakes Basin or in the
Big Arroyo instead of the long day from Hamilton to Moraine Lake.
Do Whitney from Guitar with any early start you will have you mountain legs
by then so it should not be a problem, just drop you canister at Trail Crest
making you load lighter if you want, summit and hike out to the Portal. It is
a long hike down so just ask if everyone is up to it when you get to Outpost
Camp and then decide.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
Posts: 8142
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:57 pm

Climbing Whitney and going down all the way to the trailhead on one day is really tough on knees. You did not say anything about your age, but if on the older side, I would stop on the way down. If younger and fit, then no problem.

I agree that 9 Lakes Basin is worth some time just to walk around to the many upper lakes.

There is a use-trail up Wallace Creek to Wallace Lake - very scenic at Wallace Lake.

It is a short distance and 600 ft gain from Guitar Lake to Arctic Lakes. Well worth the effort for a side trip without the pack. Great view of Mt Russell.

Most people like to spend a little time in the hot springs. I personally am not that impressed with Kern Canyon but many people really like to spend some time here.

When you get your permit, they ask you where you are going to stay each night, but you do not have to exactly follow the plan. Overall I think you have enough time. I would play it by ear a bit and not get too obsessed on exactly where you are going to spend each night.

I have made it into Hamilton Lake in a day with a heavy pack, twice when I was younger (do not think I could do it now!). It is a long day but quite feasible if you get an early start and are fit. Then you can hang out there next morning and it is a short hike up to Nine Lakes Basin to camp.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
Posts: 2614
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby lambertiana » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:02 pm

That is a nice relaxing pace that should work for younger or inexperienced hikers. The first and second days have more vertical than the map shows, there is a lot of up and down between Crescent Meadow and Hamilton Lake. You'll get to Hamilton Lake with time to relax and enjoy things that afternoon.

Hamilton to Moraine will be a long day. And from Moraine, if you can push on past Kern Hot Springs you will make the next day shorter.

Whether you spend a final night at Outpost depends on whether you want one last night on the mountain. I have stopped at Outpost a couple times, and once at Lone Pine Lake, just because I wanted to stay out for as long as possible. If you spend the night at Outpost you can hurry down the trail to enjoy an IMMENSE pancake breakfast. Challenge everyone to finish theirs. One year I took some scouts there, and told them that anyone who finished breakfast would get a T-shirt at the Portal Store. Only one made it; five hours later, when we stopped for lunch in Bakersfield on the way home, he only wanted a glass of water. It takes a lot to do that to a fourteen year old growing boy.

I second the recommendation of going to the tarn above Guitar Lake. It is far less crowded, you will get a better start on summit day, and the views are great.

Whitney 2007 302.jpg

Whitney 2007 369.jpg
User avatar
Topix Regular
Posts: 160
Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:13 pm
Location: Visalia, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby DavePloessel » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:22 pm

Hi Cody!

I did the HST a couple years back and would offer a couple bits of advice:

First: In my opinion, Moraine lake wasn't that awesome. Instead of doing the long day from hamilton to moraine, maybe hit 9 lakes from hamilton on day 3, or camp down in Big Arroyo (the area near the junction with the 5 lakes trail is quite pretty). There are some really amazing spots there.

Second, instead of hiking from kern hot springs to Wallace creek, camp at junction meadow and make the hike up out of the kern river valley EARLY in the morning. It's a pretty brital uphill, and if you start your day at the hot springs, by the time you hit the climb, it will be in full sun/heat and pretty much just suck.

If I were to do it again and looking to do short miles, I'd go

1) Crescent meadow to Buck creek.
2) Buck to Hamilton
3) hamilton to 9 lakes/big arroyo
4) big arroyo to Upper funston
5) Upper funston to junction meadow with a break to soak in the hot springs
6) Junction meadow to crabtree meadow
7) crabtree to guitar
8) guitar to whitney and the portal

One other thing.. Shuttle services are pretty expensive. I had some fun with it and turned it into a semi loop. After hitting Whitney, I hiked back, but took colby pass - cloud canyon - roaring river - deadman canyon - elizabeth pass back. Well worth it!
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 81
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:53 am
Location: sandy eggo
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:27 pm

I have hiked the HST many times and I think your plan is fine. Hamilton to Moraine is a descent push but it mostly involves two primary climbs. First crossing the Kaweah Gap which you will do early in the morning and then the push up out of the Big Arroyo.
User avatar
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1676
Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:52 am
Location: Bakersfield CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby mshields » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:07 pm

Radgnar wrote:
How does this itinerary look? Do you think it is worth staying the extra night at Outpost/Trail camp or should we just push on to Whitney portal? It would be a tough day for a few girls on our trip. Any other first hand knowledge of where to stay?


In terms of mileage and campsites; that is the exact combo I went with when I did the HST this past August. I am sure you have read some of my other posts, but here are a few quick comments.

- Hamilton to Moraine Lake was definitely the most exhausting leg. If you are going to do it, I suggest a early start out of Hamilton. You can always use Big Arroyo as a backup site.

- I can't stress how much of a treat The Kern Hot Springs was; just my opinion, but I would not bypass it as a campsite. I have fond memories of soaking it up at midnight while watching a meteorite shower. It does wonders for the body and spirit! DO NOT SKIP THIS SITE!!!!

- For me camping @ Outpost was a good way to wind down after a fairly demanding day; the hike up to Whitney is no slouch. If you have the available time, spend one more day in the wilderness and go for the pancakes @ the portal.

Enjoy the trip and feel free to fire away with any additional questions
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 61
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:40 pm
Location: Ojai, Ca
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby orbitor » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:05 pm


I don't have any particular insights beside what was already mentioned by more experienced folks, but I would like to share a few impressions, having done the HST in September of last year. Read my trip report posted on this forum if you haven't already.

1) Itinerary
Yours is fine for the most part. We started very late on Day 1 and made it to Mehrten Creek for the night. The camping area is really small and crowded, I don't recommend it. Better to push to Buck Creek. Hamilton to Moraine is a very long leg; we stayed at Big Arroyo Junction after coming down from Kaweah Gap, but this was because we were planning to climb Mt. Kaweah on Day 4 (which we did en route to Moraine Lake). Like mshields said, do not skip a camp at Kern Hot Springs. Soaking in the springs is simply bliss after many days on the trail. I took his advice and that was one of the best parts of the trip. Last day was Guitar to Portal including summit - very long indeed, but as others mentioned, at that point your supplies are low and you will be ready to finish the trip, so one last push won't matter.

2) Logistics
The great thing about the HST is that most camps have bear boxes installed. I took advantage of this fact and left my canister at home, thus managing to fit everything into my pack. I highly recommend this strategy for cutting weight and freeing up space in the pack. At night I would put all my food and scented items in a critter bag, then just throw that in the bear box. Zero problems all trip. The only location that has no boxes is Guitar Lake, however at that point most supplies will be gone and you're high enough that bears don't bother coming there.

3) Shuttle
This is a huge pain in the you-know-what. I'd do the HST again in a minute, if it weren't for the shuttle. Best scenario is to get a few friends to help, otherwise be prepared to fork over some $$$.

If you have questions about any particular sites or portions of the trail, I'll be happy to answer them. Just PM or post a comment here.
Connect, Learn and Climb: Sierra Mountaineering Club
User avatar
Topix Regular
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:36 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby Saltydog » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:21 am

I second Mav in recommending a high camp before the descent to Kern Canyon: Nine Lakes or upper Big Arroyo (side trips to Eagle Scout or Black Kaweah worth considering: you may find you have an extra day in your itinerary: you do have a few really short ones)

Also, I would plan on hitting the hot springs mid day (which is pretty easy from Moraine Lake) , digging a soak and then moving on to Junction Meadow or beyond. KHS can be grand central for camp

If you want to stop after Whitney, Trail Crest will definitely be Grand Central, but Consultation Lake nearby is surprisingly under used. IF you are using the bear-box strategy (which you actually can in the SEKI portion of the trail) the problem will be overnight in the Whitney Zone, where bear canisters are required
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:47 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: High Sierra Trail Sept 2013 Trip Planning/Help

Postby Fishon » Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:14 pm

Did this last summer.
Day 1: Crescent Meadow to Lone Pine Creek(LPC)
-Not a bad day, If I do it again I'm pushing to Hamilton Lake.
ImageHamilton Lake

Day 2: LPC to Big Arroyo
-Would like to come back and climb Black Kaweah...
ImageView looking South-East from Kaweah Gap

Day 3: Big Arroyo to Moraine Lake
-Moraine Lake was a disappointment - no fish, just not my type of place
ImageMoraine Lake

Day 4: Moraine Lake to Kern Hot Springs
-Big drop in elevation, lot's of rattle snakes in Kern Hot Springs.

Day 5: Kern Hot Springs to Wallace Creek
-Gain back that elevation, this was a hard day

Day 6: Wallace Creek to tarn above Guitar Lake
-Should have pushed to a spot just below Trail Crest
Tarn above Guitar Lake

Spot just below Trail Crest - No water

Day 7: Tarn to Outpost Camp
-Was fun people watching as the day hikers dragged their hurting bodies back to Whitney Portal

Day 8: Outpost Camp to Whitney Portal
-Easy day, you can smell the food in Whitney Portal for the last few miles

Have fun.
It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming. -John Steinbeck
User avatar
Topix Novice
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:18 pm
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 15 guests