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Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT)
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Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 15:06:32 MST Print View

Big SEKI Loop (aka BSL), 154 Miles


Jim and I have hiked most of the trails (both maintained and now-abandoned) from Yosemite south through Sequoia National Park, including most of the east and west side trailheads. We've been over many class-2/3 passes, explored many off-trail basins, climbed quite a few class-2/3 peaks. We think this range of mountains is a superb place to hike.

Over the years, we've seen the John Muir Trail (aka JMT) get more and more crowded, and nearly all of the other trails get less and less use. In this post, I am describing a trail hike for people to consider as an alternative to hiking the JMT. The BSL is not famous, but it has some advantages when compared to the JMT.

The entire BSL is on maintained trails, just like the JMT. There are innumerable fantastic itineraries for people with off-trail skills and a copy of R.J. Secor's The High Sierra Peaks, Passes and Trails (including but not limited to Steve Roper's Sierra High Route), but there are many reasons people plan hikes on maintained trails. Our design point for this loop is to provide an alternative to the JMT that is suitable to hikers who prefer to stay on maintained trails.

If there is sufficient interest in this loop from people who need a bit more help planning, please speak up and I'll be motivated to add more details.

BSL Route Summary


Download the kml file and open it in Google Earth. Note that the tracks in this file are adequate for planning purposes, but are NOT intended to show exact trail tread. The quality of the original track data varies, and the NPS reroutes trails occasionally. The entire route is on official NPS trails, and hikers should follow the trail rather than following this track.

View the route on a USGS map. Note: this is a simplified route line, drawn only to indicate which trails are followed. You can change the map type (Satellite, USGS, Google, NPS, etc) in the upper right corner.

The route is shown here in red/blue/pink lines, with possible minor alternates shown in yellow:
BSL Map image BIG on NPS background


The loop starts and ends at Road's End in Kings Canyon. This description runs counter-clockwise, but the hike is equally suited to either direction.

Part 1. From Roads End to Roaring River Ranger Station (15.3 miles). Via Bubbs Creek Trail -> Sphinx Creek Trail -> Avalanche Pass Trail.

Part 2. From Roaring River to the High Sierra Trail (14.7 miles), through Deadman Canyon and over Elizabeth Pass.

Part 3. On the High Sierra Trail (36 miles) all the way to the junction with the John Muir Trail at Wallace Creek.

Part 4. On the John Muir Trail (57.4 miles) all the way to the Middle Fork Kings River in LeConte canyon.

Part 5. From LeConte Canyon to Roads End (31 miles) via Simpson Meadow and Granite Pass.

BSL Distances V2


Elevation Chart. Total miles doesn't align (137 vs 154) because the tracks I used to create the elevation chart are not detailed enough to take in all the twists and turns. Even so, the chart gives a reasonable representation of the profile.
BSL Elevation

Advantages of Big SEKI Loop compared to JMT


The BSL starts and ends at the same place, so if you drive to the trailhead there is no need for a shuttle.

The BSL does not require any resupply. Many lightweight hikers travel somewhere in the 13-22 miles per day range, which is 7-12 days for this route. Assume a base pack weight of 12 pounds, plus 1.5 pounds of food per person per day, starting pack weight would vary from 22.5 pounds (7 days) to 30 pounds (12 days).

Getting a permit for the BSL is not likely to be a challenge. Although permits may not be available last moment, they should be easily available with a bit of advance planning, unlike the JMT permits. To hike clockwise, get a permit for Copper Creek. To hike counter-clockwise, get a permit for Bubbs Creek (or Woods Creek if Bubbs is not available).
Permit Information.
Permit Availablity.

The BSL is all good. Everybody's taste varies, but for us, the JMT includes a long stretch that is not the best the Sierra has to offer. The stretch of the JMT from Happy Isles to Garnet Lake is beautiful, but in our opinion is easily explored via day hikes or weekend hikes, using the ESTA and Yosemite buses for shuttling if necessary. The stretch from Garnet Lake to approximately Silver Pass (through the Mammoth region) is not as scenic as the areas further north or further south. And the JMT from Silver Pass to Evolution Valley runs far to the west (down-slope) of very fine High Sierra terrain, but unfortunately skirts the good stuff. On the other hand, the entire BLS is routed through the backcountry of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park (aka SEKI), and it's all first class.

53 miles of the BSL is concurrent with the JMT and associated crowds. I believe this concurrent section covers most of the best of the JMT (excepting Muir Pass and adjacent valleys). But the other half of the BSL is on lesser used trails where it's possible to hike for many hours without seeing anybody.

The BSL avoids the Mount Whitney scene. There are several fairly easy Class-2 peaks (albeit without trail) that are accessible from the BSL, peaks that are climbed by just a few people, or a few dozen people, each year. Mount Whitney is 1) the tallest and 2) has a trail; but it also has a level of congestion and commotion that doesn't suit everybody.

As of 2012, bear canisters are required only for the middle section of the BSL (28 miles from Forrester Pass to Pinchot Pass).

When to go


All of the info describing when to hike the JMT applies to this route as well. There is one river crossing without a bridge (across Palisade Creek where it meets the Middle Fork Kings). That crossing could be difficult in high water early in the season, although with adequate scouting people in prior years have been able to find a log.

Which direction?


Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise both work, and there is no natural direction. In either direction, you start at 5,000' and immediately climb to about 10,000 feet, so there is no option that eases you into altitude or effort. This initial climb is likely to be exhausting for the TMS'ers (Too Much Stuff'ers).

Hiking clockwise puts you on the JMT in a south-bound direction, which is the way most of the JMT crowds are travelling, so it will seem less crowded than if you are walking north-bound against the flow of traffic.

Hiking clockwise also puts the Colby Pass shortcut at the end of the trip, so if you fall behind your intended schedule you will have a way to make up time.

Maps


Navigation via a simple map is sufficient. GPS is overkill. Compass and/or altimeter would also be useful in case you find yourself in a significant snow storm, or if you are navigationally challenged. The Trails Illustrated Map #205 of Sequoia King Canyon National Parks covers the entire route and all variations, including all emergency exit routes should they become necessary. This map is 1:80,000 which is marginal for significant off-trail travel, but is perfectly adequate for this route and minor side-trips off route. It weighs 3.3 oz.

The Tom Harrison 1:125,000 Sequoia & Kings National Parks Recreation Map also covers the entire route.

Some off-trail alternatives that might look tempting


There are some variations that, on the map, look like they might be good options. The following are variations that could be used, but all of these require off-trail navigation and are not appropriate for those wishing to stay on well-defined trails.

Crossing the Great Western Divide via Shepherd Pass ->Junction Pass ->Cener Basin. Secor describes Junction Pass: "Class 2. This is the original route of the John Muir Trail. It has not been maintained since 1932, but traces of the old trail are still visible..." Old maps show a trail over Junction Pass; indication of a trail has been removed from modern maps.

Crossing the Great Western Divide via Harrison Pass -> East Creek. Secor describes Harrison Pass: "Class 2. Some maps show a trail over Harrison Pass. Be forewarned: This trail has not been maintained for many years, and the especially critical section of it leading up the north side of the pass has all but disappeared...." Indication of a trail has been removed from modern maps.

Sixty Lakes Basin instead of Rae Lakes -> Arrowhead Lake ->Dollar Lake. There is a trail into and through part of the basin, but the off-trail route from the northern Sixty Lakes down to the JMT north of Baxter Creek requires picking a good line in order to avoid steep drainages and some cliffs.

Cartridge Pass -> Lake Basin -> abandoned Cartridge Creek Trail down to the Middle Fork Kings River. This trail is shown on old maps, but has been removed from modern maps.. Secor says "This trail has not been maintained for more than fifty years - if it was ever maintained at all. This is an old sheep route which was once the route for the JMT, until the trail was constructed up Palisade Creek and oer Mather Pass in 1938. The Cartridge Pass "Trail" is for all intents and purposes a difficult cross-country route." The route from the South Fork Kings River into Lake Basin is not difficult for somebody with basic cross-country skills. However, the descent from Lake Basin to the Kings River requires careful choice of routes and is choked with vegetation in the lower reaches -- not fun.

From Simpson Meadow to Roads End via Kennedy Pass instead of via Granite Pass. This is still an official trail and is shown on current maps. The stretch from Pine Ridge to upper Kennedy Canyon has not been maintained recently (as of 2012 when we last hiked it) and the tread is often obscure or obliterated. It is not a thrash, but it does require care and a good off-trail navigation sense in order to relocate a lost trail.

SEKI maintains an description of the condition of official park trails. Some of the routes listed above are not included, since they are no longer official trails.

You know, from the CalTopo view of the route, you can switch to different map layers (control in upper right) and view historic USGS maps, dating back to the early 20th century! It's fun. Gaia GPS on the iPhone offers access to these same cool historic USGS maps, as well as some historic UK OS maps!

Edited by drongobird on 02/07/2014 16:03:45 MST.

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 15:20:35 MST Print View

Amy,

This looks like a great route to see a good portion SEKI that is logistically manageable for those of us coming from the west side. I have tabbed this page for future reference. Thank you for sharing the detailed trail description.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 17:19:22 MST Print View

"In this post, I am describing a trail hike for people to consider as an alternative to hiking the JMT. The BSL is not famous, but it has some advantages when compared to the JMT."

A truly excellent route! I hope this attracts the interest and appreciation it deserves. For those who want to experience the best the Sierra has to offer on trail, you need look no further. I also hope it never becomes as famous as the JMT,
for purely selfish reasons.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your years of experience.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Very timely on 02/18/2013 17:31:34 MST Print View

As I was walking to work this morning I was thinking about if it would be possible to string together a Sierra route between Tahoe and Kennedy Meadow that would be on par with a thru hike. It would be incredibly cool to spend a summer in the Sierra. One alternative that I would add to this route would be to replace the JMT over Forester section with Junction and Sheperds passes to the east.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 18:25:19 MST Print View

"One alternative that I would add to this route would be to replace the JMT over Forester section with Junction and Sheperds passes to the east."

That is one good way to vary the Big SEKI Loop for people who are prepared to deal with cross-country travel and/or abandoned trails. It has been many years since we crossed Junction Pass, but IIRC there are a few stretches that are no longer recognizable as trail. I don't recall it being difficult, but somebody expecting a trail might be surprised. Same holds for Harrison Pass.

Secor describes Junction Pass: Class 2. This is the original route of the John Muir Trail. It has not been maintained since 1932, but traces of the old trail are still visible...

Secor describes Harrison Pass: Class 2. Some maps show a trail over Harrison Pass. Be forewarned: This trail has not been maintained for many years, and the especially critical section of it leading up the north side of the pass has all but disappeared..."

For folks unfamiliar with the history, both Harrison and Junction Passes were at one point crossed by well constructed trails, but they were abandoned in favor of Forrester Pass. Rock slides have obliterated pieces of those trails, and neither trail has been maintained for decades.

My goal for the BSL is to provide an alternative to the JMT for people who want to hike on maintained trails. Folks with off-trail skills and interests can grab a copy of Secor's book and do all sorts of creative things :)

Thanks for mentioning this - I updated the original post with info about some of the abandoned-trail variations.

Edited by drongobird on 02/19/2013 09:55:53 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 18:36:11 MST Print View

"For folks unfamiliar with the history, both Harrison and Junction Passes were at one point crossed by well constructed trails, but they were abandoned in favor of Forrester Pass. Rock slides have obliterated pieces of those trails, and neither trail has been maintained for decades."

I can attest to Harrison Pass, since I was there last August. Going up from the Kings side (the north side), there was zero trail visible or even imaginable. Once on top, I could see a few tiny pieces of trail, but they were constantly being messed up by the rock slides. Let's just say that it was 'interesting' for a solo traveler, and it was sure the place to put those ultralightweight priciples into use.

--B.G.--

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Junction Pass on 02/18/2013 19:17:15 MST Print View

I can't speak for the quality of the trail. I went over on snowshoes. :) Trail looked good from what I could see (under ten ft of snow). My avatar is taken from junction pass looking north.

James Castleberry
(Winterland76)
Big SEKI Loop on 02/18/2013 19:25:35 MST Print View

Great route Amy! Thanks for putting it together and sharing. Soon to be classic and on my to-do list for this year. Love the many possible alternatives.

David Lutz
(davidlutz)

Locale: Bay Area
BSL on 02/18/2013 21:51:05 MST Print View

Looks like a very cool loop. I was trying to decide what to do this summer and this might just do the trick.

Thanks for putting that together.

One small suggestion to top it off - a map list or recommendation would be great.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 22:19:36 MST Print View

One small suggestion to top it off - a map list or recommendation would be great.

Good idea. I added a paragraph at the end of the original post.

Next steps when I get some time -- I'll add locations for the back-country ranger stations, and maybe for bear boxes, into the kml file.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/18/2013 22:29:14 MST Print View

Awesome. You and Jim are awesome. Looks like a fantastic trip.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 07:56:10 MST Print View

Thanks - maybe some day I'll do that but it's a couple days just to drive down there

I noticed that there are several river canyons in between that could shorten it, even more than your cut-off. 154 miles is a bit much for me, especially with bear canister and the high altitude - I get splitting headache above 10,000 feet but maybe after a few days I'de get over that.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Updated Info in Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 10:00:07 MST Print View

I made changes to the original post:
I replaced the map in the original post with a map that's much easier to read/interpret.
I added info about abandoned-trail alternates (that I don't recommend for people seeking a trail hike).
I added links to SEKI permit info.
I added an elevation profile image.
I also updated the kml file, so if you download it via the original post you'll get a couple additional minor trail alternates.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 10:40:55 MST Print View

Nice looking route and quite the climb that first day! I was hoping to do something similar this summer, but other things already came up and I'll likely do shorter version -- likely parts 2 and 3 plus the Colby Pass shortcut of your route, but starting/ending at Crescent Meadow instead of Roads End.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 10:55:15 MST Print View

Excellent information.
Thank you for taking the time and effort to share !

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Big SEKI Loop on 02/19/2013 12:44:16 MST Print View

Looks like a fun walk that could be used in a pinch for a week+ long trip when there isn't time (or motivation) to cook up an elaborate route of my own.

Will definitely keep this in mind.

Thank you for coming up with this and sharing it with the community here.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 17:20:51 MST Print View

" I get splitting headache above 10,000 feet but maybe after a few days I'de get over that."

You might consider having a chat with your doctor about Diamox. It is widely used and quite effective for preventing altitude sickness, and might be just the ticket for you. It's a shame to miss all the Sierra beauty above 10,000' due to something that can probably be dealt with.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 17:59:38 MST Print View

But, I've always gone above 10,000 feet with a day at most of aclimatization climbing Cascade volcanoes

Maybe I'd be okay after a few days

Can you take Diamox if you get altitude sickness, or do you have to take it before as a preventative?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 18:08:07 MST Print View

"Can you take Diamox if you get altitude sickness, or do you have to take it before as a preventative?"

Previously, the thinking was that Diamox needed to be working in system for a day or two before you ever go up to high elevation. Now the thinking is that it still works best that way, but that if you wait until onset of symptoms and start Diamox, it is better than nothing.

One problem is that you tend to be thirsty for the first day or two on Diamox, and if you don't have sufficient water to keep up with that, then you will feel even worse. I've seen people take Diamox when they were dehydrated, and they feel like crap.

I've carried Diamox on three peaks, but I actually consumed it on only one. On two, I had been monitoring my vital signs very closely, and I never got into any stress, so I never bothered to take any pills.

--B.G.--

Randall Spratt
(genreviam)

Locale: Minnesota
Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 18:34:56 MST Print View

Thanks Amy!
I did the JMT in 2011 and the HST in 2012. I loved the trails, but agree, it was not a solitary experience!!! I have been looking for "less traveled" options, and your route is perfect for adding to my "must do" list. Looks like a winner. I'll track this thread for updates!!!
Randy

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/19/2013 20:03:33 MST Print View

"Can you take Diamox if you get altitude sickness, or do you have to take it before as a preventative?"

You can take it either way, but for those prone to AMS, prophylaxis saves some initial discomfort.

Edited: I just read Bob's post. His advice about staying hydrated is on the mark, but that is good mountain policy in general. Diamox has a diuretic effect, and what goes out needs to be replaced.

Edited by ouzel on 02/19/2013 20:06:58 MST.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
resupply on 02/21/2013 11:29:53 MST Print View

This is fantastic. You have put a lot of hard work into describing it for people.

While many people could do this without resupply, there are others who can't or won't want to walk 15+ mile days, and WILL want a resupply. It might be helpful to list Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley as the easiest resupply exit.

- Elizabeth

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 17:07:06 MST Print View

Question about permits

If I go clockwise, I'de get a permit for Copper Creek. I bet that's lower use. That would entitle me to do the entire loop?

Would I be able to get a permit a few days after Labor Day or should I make a reservation?

Is there any place near Roads End where I could camp out over night?

Then I could just get up the next morning and pick up my permit? They open at 7 AM.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 17:36:49 MST Print View

I'm pretty familiar with Sequoia and Kings Canyon. They are administered as a single park.

"If I go clockwise, I'de get a permit for Copper Creek. I bet that's lower use. That would entitle me to do the entire loop?"

Lots of backpackers want to go up Copper Creek simply because it is right there at Roads End. Unfortunately, it is quite an uphill march, so I would not recommend it to the faint of heart. Of course, if you try to start out over Avalanche Pass, it is even worse.

"Would I be able to get a permit a few days after Labor Day or should I make a reservation?"

It's hard to say. Reservations are almost always more reliable.

"Is there any place near Roads End where I could camp out over night?"

Yes, Cedar Grove is about six miles back down the road, and there are some big car campgrounds there.

"Then I could just get up the next morning and pick up my permit? They open at 7 AM."

Yes and no. Lots of backpackers try to do it that way. They roll into one of the Cedar Grove campgrounds, spend the night, then drive up to Roads End at the crack of dawn. Then they discover a waiting line that has been forming at the permit station. Often the people waiting are striving to get into the walkup permit quota for the most popular trails, like the Rae Lakes Loop one way or the other.

I have gotten excellent results by reserving my permit, and then picking it up in the afternoon the day before I actually start out. That also allows me to hit the trail at 6:00 a.m. while it is cool and not wait until 7:30 or 8:00 like the waiting line people do.

Yes, one permit will allow you to travel the entire loop. Technically, if you leave the loop and go to town for resupply, you will need a new permit to re-start there. Some people have devised good methods for legally working around that.

--B.G.--

Edited by --B.G.-- on 02/22/2013 17:39:04 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 17:56:21 MST Print View

Thanks Bob (and Amy and...)

They close at like 2:45PM so I'de almost have to leave a day earlier because it takes two days to drive there (14 hours) oh well, maybe I could go further the first day and get up early the second day to get to the permit station well before 2:45PM.

Are there vacancies in Cedar Grove campgrounds?

Another thing, do you really have to carry out your toilet paper? Not that big a deal - two zip bags - I've become acustomed to draining the poop tank in my RV which has to be way worse - but sort of weird.

Maybe I should wait a week after Labor Day and start on the next Sunday or something.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 18:16:06 MST Print View

"Are there vacancies in Cedar Grove campgrounds?"

Yes and no, as you would expect. I generally make a point of arriving on some weekday away from the holidays. I try to arrive there early, about the time that others are leaving, 9-11 a.m., so I always score a site. If you are picky or have an RV, then there might not be so many perfect spots. There are black bears that prowl around those campgrounds, and they will steal your dinner in the blink of an eye. Then they run across the river to make your pursuit unlikely.

I generally try to arrive early like that and spend the rest of that day doing some short easy hiking. That may help with altitude adjustment.

I believe that the permit station ranger makes the same statements about toilet paper. I won't tell you what to do. Let's just say that some backpackers have gotten used to burning up their used toilet paper and then burying the remaining ashes in the hole. Besides, backpacker's toilet paper is very thin and produces very little ash when it is burned.

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 18:20:40 MST Print View

What??? You make a fire in the Sierras??? I would think that wouldn't be such a good idea.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT) on 02/22/2013 18:31:18 MST Print View

"What??? You make a fire in the Sierras???"

Surely you jest. I never said that I made a fire.

There are some places where wood fires are forbidden. There are some places where all open fires are forbidden. There are places where there are legal fire rings, and you are forbidden from constructing any new fire rings. There are some times of the year when lots of stuff is forbidden. You just have to be aware of the rules in effect for the time and place you planned.

--B.G.--

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
eastern access on 02/23/2013 10:14:34 MST Print View

Cool info on some great hiking ideas. Coming in from the east, I really like the ability to basically find an access trail, and then make that my start/finish point on the loop. That could save a ton of time with regards to driving time. Thanks for the ideas!

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Another 150 mile alternative to the JMT -- A Lasso HST Hike on 02/23/2013 22:33:00 MST Print View

This is a great thread. A resupply near the midpoint is possible using Sequoia Kings Pack Train on the JMT at the Kearsarge Pass junction. They only require a 1/2 day to get to that point so the billing is only a one day use of packer and mule. I've used their service 4 years now. (I do the JMT annually, will be doing my 6th this summer. I've done the High Sierra Trail for 7 years prior to that.)

Another option is you can do the High Sierra Trail as a lasso-loop round trip that is around 150 miles long, nearly the same length as what you show. It enables a resupply at Lone Pine, via HorseShoe Meadow Trailhead (less costly than use of the Packers at the Kearsarge Pass junction). I've done it. Great hike.

Start in Crescent Meadows in SEKI.

At Kern River meetup on the High Sierra Trail (HST), go downriver, not upriver (as the HST states), go downriver 9 miles to Kern Canyon Ranger Station where there is a suspension bridge over the river.

Cross river, go east about 18 miles to Horseshoe Meadows TH, resupply via Lone Pine (Whitney SHuttle Service or hitchhike from TH to Lone Pine), stay overnight in Dow Villa, enjoy hot spa, and get back to Horseshoe Meadows TH before 24 hours has elapsed to avoid losing your permit. Get back onto trail but head north on the PCT up to Crabtree Meadows. From there go up to Whitney Summit and Back, then head back to Crescent Meadows via the normal HST route, and you'll get back to the Kern River junction where you originally went downriver, but now you'll stay on the HST to get back to Crescent Meadows. Great hike. You'd need two maps Tom Harrison SEKI/Whitney high country map and the Golden Trout Wilderness map from Tom Harrison.

Advantage of this hike is that you end up where you started, easier to deal with logistics. There is a shuttle bus from Crescent Meadows to Lodgepole, and from there to Visalia, CA where there is a small airport or buses to major airports.

Dirk R
(Dirk)
Re: Another 150 mile alternative to the JMT -- A Lasso HST Hike on 02/23/2013 23:03:55 MST Print View

To echo the sentiments of others, this is a fantastic thread and one of the reasons I rejoined BPL as a forum member. I would chime in here that during last year's early season hike of the JMT (when we ran into a ton of PCT thru-hikers headed north), I couldn't help but think that there had to be other spectacular routes that would provide far more solitude in the Sierra. I started researching routes this winter with the idea of returning again in a few years. Lo and behold Amy did a lot of this work for us!

I agree with Roleigh on the importance of logistics. The loop aspect of this hike is very appealing (as are the cross country opportunities) primarily because you can save a lot of time and effort at the end of the trip. Leaving via the east side of the Sierra presents logistical challenges that can extend the time it takes to return home. The ETA, for example, doesn't run buses on weekends.

Thank you for this thread, Amy. Great work!

Dirk

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
FYI: Viewing KML in Google Maps on 11/15/2013 20:07:46 MST Print View

You don't need Google Earth to view KML (or KMZ) files, if the file is posted on a public web site like Amy's.

Just paste the address of the KML into the Google Maps Search box and press Return.

You'll get something like this:
Google Maps screen shot showing KML file

Some KML files are too complex to view this way, but most work fine.

Great loop, you've got me thinking, thanks!

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 11/15/2013 20:09:27 MST.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads on 02/07/2014 13:41:20 MST Print View

Daniel sent a PM asking about access from the east side instead of from the west side.

The loop could be done by coming in from any east side trailhead. The disadvantage is that you end up crossing the road at Cedar Grove in the middle of the hike, so it breaks up an otherwise fantastic backcountry hike. But, if it's easier to get to the east side from your home, and you don't mind a road crossing in the middle of the trip, then you could access the loop from the east side.

Any of these passes would give direct access: Bishop Pass, Taboose Pass, Sawmill Pass, Baxter Pass, Kearsarge Pass, Shepherd Pass, Whitney Portal, New Army Pass, or Cottonwood/Siberian Pass. Some are longer or harder hikes to get to the loop (Shepherd has lots of elevation gain and New Army is further distance). Some are easier to get permits. Some see less trail maintenance and might be a bit thrashy (Baxter, Sawmill, and as of a 2013 storm Shepherd).

If you go to the CalTopo view (http://caltopo.com/map?id=027E) and change the map layer (upper right) to NPS Visitor Maps all of these access points are clear, except Baxter Pass which is not labeled on the NPS map.

Edited by drongobird on 02/07/2014 16:09:59 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads on 02/07/2014 15:11:47 MST Print View

"Some are longer or harder hikes to get to the loop (Shepherd has lots of elevation gain and New Army is further distance)."

Anyone contemplating using Shepherd Pass would do well to contact the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center (760) 876-6222 to check on the progress, if any, toward repairing the massive damage the trail sustained after heavy July, 2013, rainfall. All 4 crossings of Symmes Creek were washed out, and there are numerous washouts of the trail below Anvil Camp, including a 20-30' deep washout just below Anvil Camp. There are also several washouts on the headwall. If this damage is not repaired before your trip, it will turn an already difficult approach/resupply into a real ordeal.

dscn9714

The Sawmill Pass trail also sustained damage, but was still hikeable when we came down it last September.

Edited for content after refreshing my memory. The sign, above, is posted at the TH.

Edited by ouzel on 02/07/2014 15:50:06 MST.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads on 02/07/2014 16:08:51 MST Print View

Thanks Tom for the heads-up. The 2013 damage to Shepherd Pass Trail, and also problems with Baxter Pass and Sawmill Pass trails are described on the SEKI Trail Conditions page. I added a link to the page to the original post, making it easier for people to find it.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads on 02/07/2014 17:49:20 MST Print View

"The 2013 damage to Shepherd Pass Trail, and also problems with Baxter Pass and Sawmill Pass trails are described on the SEKI Trail Conditions page."

Thanks for the link, Amy. The damage to the Shepherd Pass trail is even worse than the TH sign indicated. That is very bad news for me, as I use it a lot. Sawmill was pretty chewed up last fall, and I suspect it will be even worse after spring runoff, even if it is low. The Forest Service/NPS are way too short of funds to make much progress in repairing damage of that magnitude. When I talked to them last September, they were not even aware of the damage to Sawmill, 3 months after the July flash floods. They simply didn't have the personnel to regularly patrol the trails. I doubt much has changed since then. Hard times all up and down the East side. :(

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads on 02/07/2014 18:18:00 MST Print View

Tom, do you know of any source of updated information on these trail problems at Shepherd, Baxter, Sawmill, Taboose?

I generally find the national park service web site to be inadequate or late for these trail conditions outside the parks. Since it is all national forest, it would be neat if we could find our way to some planning or progress reports. This assumes that they will jump on it early in the season. I ask, because I had plans there for mid-season.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads @ B.G. on 02/07/2014 20:02:47 MST Print View

"Tom, do you know of any source of updated information on these trail problems at Shepherd, Baxter, Sawmill, Taboose?"

I'd give the East Sierra Interagency Visitors Center a call, Bob. The guy I talked with was a serious type who actually gets out in the field, and had been up Sawmill a couple of weeks before the July storms that caused the washouts. I can't remember his name now, but if you could ask around there for someone like him, you'd likely get as much information as is available. When I reported the washout(s) on Sawmill, he took it all down and immediately sent a report in while I was there, along with a request to send someone out to evaluate the damage. Apparently they did, because it's now on the website Amy linked us to. Another possibility would be to post inquiries on highsierratopix.com later this year and see if anyone who has been up there recently responds.

I share your concerns about timely information, as my plans for this year are also potentially impacted. IIRC, you are planning something to do with Baxter. As you probably know, it is not well maintained under normal circumstances and, if it has sustained any damage, will likely not be very high on the USFS priority list. My guess would be that Shepherd Pass will be first in line, as it has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Sawmill, like Baxter, doesn't see a lot of use but, if it doesn't sustain further damage this spring, will probably be hikeable, and would put you on the JMT not too far north of Dollar Lake. Sawmill Pass is a really pretty route, BTW, especially the Woods Creek drainage on the west side.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: access to Big SEKI Loop from east side trailheads @ B.G. on 02/07/2014 20:45:13 MST Print View

"I'd give the East Sierra Interagency Visitors Center a call"

I don't normally deal with them there except when it is time to pick up a Whitney permit, and I wasn't aware that they had much staffing except during the summer. However, it may be the only game in town.

Unfortunately, the whole permit reservation system has everything wide open for summer. That would be a bummer to be sitting on a reservation for months and then to go to pick up the permit and find out that the trail is closed.

--B.G.--