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What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

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What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby kpeter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 7:54 am

What are the top Sierra Hikes I should do while I’m still able?

OK, that is an impossible question I know, but let me be more specific about my reasons for asking and my ideas of what constitutes a great hike.

I am 54 and hope to backpack as long as possible but realistically I know the more rigorous trips will be out of reach in a decade or so. My Dad stopped completely at age 70. So I need some help setting priorities. Given that I can do one major week-long trip a year for now, which trips should I prioritize?

As you will see, most of the trips I’ve done before now are in-and-out trips with a small group of friends. I’ve seen a lot that way, but more recently I’ve been doing longer solo trips, and I think this may be a better way now to see areas that the short in-and-outs could not reach.
As an example, I did the North Lake/ South Lake loop in seven days a couple of years ago, or I did the Agnew to Tuolumne through hike.

To remind those of you who have not followed my posts, I mainly stick to trails. I don’t do cross country passes when alone, but will do limited cross country to get to a lake or a sight along the way (for example, Many Island and Boundary Lakes last year.) Never more than easy class 2. I don’t fish, don’t take a dog, don’t do much peak-bagging (unless it’s a simple walk-up) but love photography. I love streams, cascades, meadows, and subalpine flowers. I am not wild about unending desolate gray scree above treeline. My major trips are usually in the last week of July or the first two weeks of August due to my work schedule.

So, here is where I have been from North to South, and I ask my friends on High Sierra Topix to think about what is not on this list. Like a European traveler who has missed Florence, is there a destination that I must do before I am no longer able? Help me make my to-do list and I will set my sights on fulfilling it!



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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby kpeter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 7:54 am

(Numerous trips in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and the Trinity Alps that I won’t list.) As you can see, this is heavy on the in-and-out trips on the East Side from Tioga south, since that is what my group generally does. I put an asterisk by my favorites for scenic beauty, to further help you figure me out.

1. Emerald Bay in and out to Middle Velma Lake and surrounds.

2. Wrights Lake in and out to Maud and Doris Lakes and surrounds.

3. Carson Pass in and out to Roundtop Lake.

3. Shingle Springs in and out to Many Island/Boundary Lake area.

4. Shingle Springs in and out to Kibbie Lake.

5. Hetch Hetchy in and out to Lake Vernon and Jack Main Canyon.

*6. Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows, via Shadow, Ediza, Thousand Island, Donahue, Lyell Canyon.

*7. Agnew Meadows in and out to explore Ediza, Iceberg, Cecile.

8. Mammoth in and out to explore Duck/Pika Lake with dayhike to Purple Lake and Ram Lake

*9. South Lake to North Lake to South Lake (complete circle) via Piute Pass, Humphries Basin, Evolution Valley, Muir Pass, Le Conte Canyon, Dusy Basin, Bishop Pass.

10. North Lake in and out to explore Humphries Basin.

11. South Lake In and out to explore Dusy Basin.

*12. Sabrina in and out trips to explore Sabrina Basin (x4).

*13. Pine Creek in and out to explore Granite Park/Italy Pass/Royce Lakes/ French Canyon and associated lakes (x2)..

*14. Road’s End in and out to Lake Reflection via Bubbs Creek/East Lake.

*15. Onion Valley trailhead in and out to explore Kearsarge Lakes/ Charlotte Lake/Rae Lakes/ Vidette Meadows.

16. Cottonwood Lakes trailhead in and out to explore Cottonwood Lakes/New Army Pass.
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby kpeter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:01 am

To get things started, you will note that my SEKI hiking is very limited--one trip from Kearsarge and one to Reflection from Cedar Grove. I read with great interest the "circle of solitude" trail report and it certainly piqued my curiosity.

Also, as far as distances are concerned, when solo I seem to be able to handle about 8-10 miles a day on good trails. I did the 64 mile South Lake to North Lake to South Lake circle in 7 days.

I've also done surprisingly little in Yosemite, other than the far N and NW, and a trip from Donahue to Tuolumne.

And there are a small number of trailheads on the East side I have not used yet.
Last edited by kpeter on Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby SoCalCPA » Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:09 am

I'm 51 and just starting backpacking again - so I'm more interested in the responses you get than contributing - But I will say I just did the Lower Ottoway Lake loop (recommended by Balzacomm) and thoroughly enjoyed it - Start at mono meadows to Lower Ottoway then over Red Peak Pass accross to the Merced and back to Glacier Point - Just 5.5 days at 10 miles a day or so - not strenuous at all really.
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby SweetSierra » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:26 am

There are so many places I haven't been in the Sierra that I'd like to go. I would recommend taking the Copper Creek Trail in Kings Canyon to the Volcanic Lakes and wander around the vicinity. Beautiful views into Tehipite Canyon. It's all trail and the off-trail to the Volcanic Lakes is straight-forward and not difficult. I would also recommend doing a loop in the Golden Trout Wilderness by going over Trail Pass or Cottonwood Pass. The Golden Trout is a special place. Beautiful meadows and meandering streams. Almost guaranteed solitude. There are all-trail routes you can take through there. (We didn't see anyone at the Volcanic Lakes either.)
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby SSSdave » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:28 am

Too many to list.

When one discusses the best Sierra hikes on trails on a board like this, one is unlikely to find anything particularly more enlightening than what Wilderness Press published in the 70s decades ago in Sierra North and South. In other words simply reviewing those books and any of a now tall stack of regurgitated recent guide books is certain to be more productive.

By limiting oneself to trails and minor crosscountry that spur off short ways from main trails as many visitors only do, the Sierra Nevada backcountry becomes much smaller and one eliminates a considerable amount of the finest destinations. The examples are many. One does not need to sign up for more than easier class 2 crosscountry difficulties at most to reach many such places though to do so may require wandering off further than short spur distances from trails.

Not a few members particularly on this board seem to have a fascination with areas that require more difficult navigation and skill as though that somehow leads to more valued destinations. But such enthusiasm is more the result of the same interest as peak baggers have for difficult to ascend summits that of course bears no intrinsic value to what a destination offers but rather the route is a challenge. Nor do many of the best locations require long hikes to reach nor several days from trailheads.

The first thing someone may blurt out is that worthy exceptional destinations near trailheads are certain to also be swarming with other dayhikers and backpackers. In many cases that is true particularly if one's primary interests are either peak bagging or fishing where icon peaks and alpine lakes near roads have no chance of remaining unnoticed. But as you note, your interest is in nature and photography and there are many ways different people with those interests may approach such. In fact there are significant numbers of backpackers that beyond a first or last day from trailheads, 98% of the time ONLY camp at Lake This or Lake That. Actually rather humorous as though if one doesn't plunk down at some lake the rest is boring.

Many on this board have visited the same zones I have, but while most have quickly passed through, because my orientation is base camping, I may spend a few days in the same basin and really get to know areas well sometimes finding exceptional secrets. That is where the wise photographer or those seeking natural secrets can find gold. I have no interest in broadcasting to the public a long list of such places I know about as they would be certain to become overrun by the only decade old generation of new DSLR photographers. Instead they ought to pay their dues by exploring where for every nugget of gold one finds there are 9 chunks of pyrite but one always gains wisdom.

I will offer one example of an utterly empty ignored destination that I won't explain why, that I've already made public on this board in past years, that I doubt anyone paid notice, is an easy one day from trailhead class 1 to reach, very much worthy, and which one will likely find no footprints even in late summer. The northwest end of Table Mountain:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.19779,-118.59934&z=15&t=T

Image
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby freestone » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:01 pm

I doubt anyone paid notice...


After seeing that picture Dave posted, I am all ears now! I even see a basin of lakes that has no trail or name in the same vicinity that could become a worthy destination of solitude as the masses head over the crest on a 4th of July weekend.
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby kpeter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:38 pm

SSSdave wrote:Too many to list.
...
I will offer one example of an utterly empty ignored destination that I won't explain why, that I've already made public on this board in past years, that I doubt anyone paid notice, is an easy one day from trailhead class 1 to reach, very much worthy, and which one will likely find no footprints even in late summer. The northwest end of Table Mountain:


Ah, you don't know your influence. It was after reading your description of Table Mountain that I decided to include it in my North Lake/South lake circle. I did not reach the exact area you described, but in did wander a bit while en route from Tyee Lakes to George Lake and I think I discovered some of the magic you had suggested.

Table Mountain-1.jpg
On Table Mountain


Table Mountain-2.jpg
On Table Mountain


Table Mountain-3.jpg
On Table Mountain


All that said, I take your point. In fact, I had an old edition of Sierra North and Sierra South sitting next to my computer while I posted. Serendipity and self-discovery can be part of the fun of finding a new place, and sometimes I have wondered if Google Earth and online photograph sharing sites don't diminish the whole experience a bit.

I guess what I am after is a general sense of areas I would most enjoy that I have not yet visited. For some time I've been feeling as if I need to see more of Yosemite and SEKI, but beyond that I'm not sure what I'm missing!
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby tim » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:47 pm

For an unmissable on trail weeklong trip I'd suggest Cottonwood Pass to Shepherd Pass, if you can manage to sort out the shuttle arrangements. That combines our two great trips in 2012 (Onion Valley to Whitney viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8265) and 2011 (Cottonwood Pass to Miter Basin viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6526) and just leaves out the area from Kearsage Pass to Forester Pass, some of which you've already visited (and adds Wales/Wallace Lakes to our trips).

With 7 days you could do something like:
Day 1: Horseshoe Meadows over Cottonwood Pass to Lower Soldier Lake
Day 2: Miter Basin day trip (easy off trail)
Day 3: Lower Soldier Lake to Crabtree Meadow (off trail alternative would be camp at Sky Blue Lake on night 2 and go over Crabtree Pass on Day 3)
Day 4: Day hike to Whitney (or just explore up to the Guitar/Arctic/Hitchcock Lake area)
Day 5: Crabtree Meadow to Wallace Creek, then day hike up to Wales/Wallace Lakes (easy off trail)
Day 6: Wallace Creek over Bighorn Plateau to Tyndall Creek and up Shepherd Pass trail
Day 7: Descend from Shepherd Pass to Symmes Creek trailhead
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby sparky » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:57 pm

a trip into miter basin via new army pass, and then down to the siberian outpost is in order. You could scope out crab tree pass and see if you might be comfortable on it. I really liked crab tree lakes.

oh haha tim beat me to it! im a slow typer i guess :evil:
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby kpeter » Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:52 pm

Thank you Socal, Tim, Sparky.

The Lower Ottoway loops seems like it would help me see a part of Yosemite that I have never encountered. And the Cottonwood to Shepherd Pass exit does seem like it would tap into classic terrain that I have missed--and since I've never been up Whitney, perhaps that is something to do before my lungs give out!

So two classic trips that I have missed. Definitely time to put them, or close relatives, on the list to consider over the next few years. Combine that with "Circle of Solitude" and Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and that makes four classics to ponder.

I appreciate the help!
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Re: What are the best Sierra hikes I have missed?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:43 pm

I agree that you need to look at the old Sierra North and Sierra South Guidebooks (or the new ones). From your posts (hope I have not misinterpreted) you seem to like things planned in detail. The routes they present are well thought out and give you some detail.

I also have Arnot's book - Sierra Range of Light- every one of his trips lived up to the hype. He waxes poetic more than giving route details. His trips are destination hikes -- how to get into several highlight of the Sierra - by many different routes.

By the way, just stop thinking that 55 is old. You make us really old folks feel ancient!
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