Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

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kpeter
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Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by kpeter » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:50 pm

I've never been to Red Mountain Basin, Bench Valley, or Blackcap Basin. I don't plan to go to all 3 in one trip--but I would like to plan a trip to get to one at least. I have a friend who would like to come along. We would have August 4-11, or 7 full days plus travel. He is more fit than I am, but we mainly stick to trails with light cross country to get to nearby lakes.

What is your advice for entry point and destination given the length of time. Start at Wishon or Courtwright or somewhere else? Which of the three unseen basins should be our priority? And loop trips that you would recommend to take us through some of that country?

I'm pretty excited, after 30 years of Sierra backpacking, to head to a region that is utterly new to me. Any advice would be appreciated.








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bobby49
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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by bobby49 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:15 pm

A few years ago I went in there from the Wishon area and cut across Woodchuck Country. I found it to be warm and full of bugs. Plus, there were people with dogs and horses in places where they were not allowed.

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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by balzaccom » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:44 am

We loved our hike in from Courtwright. There is a campground near the dam, so you can stay there the night before, and get an early start. And the day's hike, which we took to Post Corral Meadow and then kept going all the way to the Kings River, was all relatively flat (one climb, but really nothing bad.) That gives you two nights at elevation before you climb up into the basin (we hit Devil's Punchbowl from the South) and the fun begins!
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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:55 am

With seven full days I would do the whole thing as a lollipop loop. The passes between the basins are straightforward and the cross country is fairly easy. Trudging up steep slopes is about all that's required. I would go out from Courtright to Blackcap and loop back through Bench and Red Mountain, descend from Red Mountain and camp at Post Corral, walk out to the car the following morning.

Fishing will be nice but the scenery is tops. You may see packers on some of the route. Probably also trail crew....

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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by balzaccom » Tue Mar 12, 2019 8:19 pm

Good point, although it all depends on how many side trips you want to make. I think we spent five days just doing the Red Mountain basin...and I still look back on Lower Indian Lake and wish we had spent more time there...
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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by wildhiker » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:07 pm

I did a 6.5 day trip in August 2018 from Wishon Reservoir area (Rancheria Creek trailhead) to Blackcap Basin. It took me two full days each direction between the trailhead and Pearl Lake, where I setup my base camp. Pearl Lake is truly a pearl - beautiful big mountains rising up from the large lake basin. Easy cross-country to the neighbor lakes. Definitely walk north past Division Lake and up the slope to point 11026 for an outstanding view of most of the basin. The trails between Rancheria Creek and the N. Fork Kings River were in very poor shape, with lots of blowdown and faint tread. I lost the trail a couple of times but found it fairly quickly. I saw no one on the trail between Rancheria Creek and the N. Fork Kings River in either direction. But the trail got much clearer and obviously more used once I joined up at the N. Fork Kings River with the trail from Courtright, and I saw several groups between there and Pearl Lake, all of whom had come from Courtright. So that is the easier and better trail.
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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by kpeter » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:29 pm

Fabulous! That is so helpful! Will keep me busy planning for a while!

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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by maverick » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:49 pm

Whichever trail you choose to Black Cap Basin, with your time out and wanting to stay on trail, setting up a basecamp and doing day hikes to the surrounding lakes, from Cathedral Lake to Rainbow Lake and in-between, is your best bet KP. :nod:
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Re: Planning August John Muir Wilderness Westside trip

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:57 pm

I did a trip July 8-15, 2013 and wrote a trip report. You may want to look at that.

I would not call the x-c from Pearl Lake to Red Basin "easy", rather I would say "moderate". I felt I saw most of each basin plus some fishing, but required rigorous long days to fit everything in 8 days.

It just depends on how much of each basin you want to see balanced with how leisurely you want the trip. Perhaps see Bench Valley on the way out and skip Red Mountain Basin. Or do Red Mountain Basin and Bench Valley and skip Blackcap. I think 7 days is a bit short to do all three unless you are OK with limited day-hikes and mostly just walk through each. Personally, I was unimpressed with lakes north of Hell for Sure Lake. McGuire and Guest Lake, in Bench Valley were swamps with mosquitoes- good to visit but would not camp there.

My first day was long, but it put me in a good spot logistically to get to Blackcap Basin (Pearl Lake) with enough time for a short day-hike up to Cathedral Lake. I drove from Sacramento and reached the trailhead at noon. Then camped first night on the North Fork of the Kings, across the river just short of BM 8028. It was a very nice campsite. Courtright Lake is beautiful and if you have a full day to spare when you drive down, there are nice campsites too.

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