Best 40ish mile backpacking loop in the Southern Sierra

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tradryan

Big Wall climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Original Post - May 23, 2019 - 02:50pm PT
One last request before this site gets mothballed:

My wife and I are looking for a backpacking trip to do this summer when the mother-in-law will watch the kids for us. We can probably accommodate 40 on-trail miles with the amount of time we have. Looks like it will probably be 3 full hiking days with 5 days total including car travel. Much less than 35 will be too little, much more than 40 might be pushing it, depending on trail conditions and vert and all that. We're located in Oceanside so I'm looking anywhere from Sequoia NP southward. Her request is some good water to jump in somewhere along the way, which should be easy to accommodate this year.

Where to go, what to do?? A loop would be best since a shuttle is probably not an option. Any recommendations appreciated!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
May 23, 2019 - 04:29pm PT
North Lake to South Lake thru the Evolution region....awesome hike that can be cut short by heading over the Glacier Divide at Lamark or Alpine Col's.

It's even better in winter!!! Looking down onto the Darwin Bench, Goddard in background.
shylock

Social climber
mb
May 23, 2019 - 05:00pm PT
Rae Lakes Loop fits the bill perfectly. Though it's just a tad north of Sequoia
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 23, 2019 - 07:06pm PT
Any number of roll yer own with some cross country thrown in to miss the conga lines.
jbaker

Trad climber
Missoula, MT
May 23, 2019 - 07:40pm PT
There are nice loops out of Mineral King of that length. Maybe Timber Gap to Little Five Lakes to Big Arroyo and back over Black Rock Pass. Easy to make longer or shorter.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 23, 2019 - 08:19pm PT
get a copy of Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada

it might be that Wishon/Courtright Reservoirs are too far north for you [7 to 8 hrs?], but there are these three hikes you can do as there-and-back, or as loops (but you'll need to get slightly creative, and maybe do some overland linkups):

Blackcap Basin (from Woodchuck Trailhead, 41 miles, there and back)

Bench Valley Lakes (from Maxson Trailhead, 40 miles, there and back)

Red Mountain Basin (from Maxson Trailhead, 34 miles, semiloop)

Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
May 23, 2019 - 09:14pm PT
^^^That hike in to Blackcap Basin from the West side is a long forested slog, but hey you're in the mountains it could be worse.
tradryan

Big Wall climber
San Diego
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2019 - 10:44am PT
Thanks for the replies! Some good material here to chew on - maybe I'll post a TR when we get back (har har).

In 1999 I was posting to Gunks.com as GymClimbingPoser. Maybe I'll see ya'll somewhere someday. Supertopo - OUT!
Paul W

Trad climber
Three Rivers, CA
May 24, 2019 - 11:10am PT
Deadman Canyon loop out of Lodgepole. I donít remember the exact mileage, but it may be closer to 50.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 24, 2019 - 11:38am PT
^^^
That has been on my list for a while.

Sounds like fun. If we could unload the kids for that long, a long backpack would probably be the last thing my wife (who used to climb) would want to do. Given the winter we've had, I think your question depends in part when you are going. You could do that lollypop hike to Valhalla, loop south (forget the name of the pass and head back up and out via Bearpaws Meadows. Hard to remember specifics while sitting here at the office with no map or guide in front of me.

I think that's about four days. There's also some nice stuff south of Mineral King heading toward the Golden Trout Wilderness (Windy Gap I think). More forested and fewer peaks, but lots of nice lakes and moderate altitude. Further south of that, also in the Golden Trout, is the Silver Knapsack Trail. About a 40 mile loop. Mostly meadows, trees and streams.

This isn't really south, but I did a nice loop hike in Southern Yosemite. Hike to Overstrander Lake, cross country east from there (it's tagged) and then head south toward Golden Arch Lake. You can hit some of the Chilnualna Lakes and then head back to your starting point. Again, very wooded, but pretty country.
jbaker

Trad climber
Missoula, MT
May 24, 2019 - 01:17pm PT
The Deadman Canyon loop is closer to 50 miles. You could do a shorter loop going down Deadman Canyon to Elizabeth Pass and then taking the use trail over to the parallel canyon, Cloud Canyon, which is pretty spectacular.
Levy

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
May 24, 2019 - 01:38pm PT
Rae Lakes ares is superb as Shylock noted above. Once you leave the JMT you are likely to have the place to yourselves. The 60 Lakes basin is lush and scenic.

The one Fatdad mentioned past Hamilton Lakes & Valhalla (Angel Wings) is spectacular but definitely over 40 miles.

JOEY.F

Gym climber
It's not rocket surgery
May 24, 2019 - 06:16pm PT
+1 for Charlie D.'s recommendation.
Absolutely fantastic scenery.
A dunk in a lake will be challenging, though I'm sure the Bishop locals can advise on warmer options.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
May 25, 2019 - 04:09pm PT
A loop through the upper Kern basin is not too arduous and fairly remote.

You can hit Whitney, Tulainyo Lake, The Kings-Kern Divide, and Milestone on the Great Western Divide.

Wading across the Kern at Junction Meadow ain't too bad a low water.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
May 25, 2019 - 07:57pm PT
While the Evolution Region is for my tastes the heart of the Southern Sierra, the High Route that Steve Roper describes in his guide is also over the top (mostly off trail)....particularly that leg between the Key Hole across Humpreys Basin, on through the bear name lakes and finally up over Bear Creek Col and down into Rock Creek is awesome.....oh and again even better in winter.
looks easy from here

climber
Santa Cruzish
May 26, 2019 - 09:13am PT
^^^7 Gables?

tradryan, in your op you said "on trail miles". Is that a requirement, or would you look at slightly shorter, more rigorous off trail routes? Because it's a bit north, but Kings Canyon>Sphinx Lakes Basin>Lake Reflection>Kings Canyon sits a shade under 40 miles, with about a third cross country, and the last leg down Bubbs Creek Trail is a cruise.

Gary

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
May 26, 2019 - 01:36pm PT
I like SLR's suggestion. In 5 days we did more or less:
Shepherd Pass TH to Tyndall Creek. (a big day); Tyndall Creek down the JMT to Wallace Creek down to the Kern and crossed at Junction Meadow then up Kern Kaweah River and camped around Rockslide Lake. Climbed Kern Point and Picket Guard Peak, two nice class 2 climbs. (Picket Guard had a spicy move at the top.) Then worked our way back to Shepherd Pass TH.

I'm an old, fat, out of shape guy, so you'd have no problems. Except for the bit on the JMT you are pretty much out their on your own.

Beware: the upper Kern is bigfoot country.
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
May 26, 2019 - 06:13pm PT
I have three kids- three nights out is my max.

7 gables and bear lakes is awesome. Head up Pine Creek, go over Italy, head to bear lakes, come out Royce.

You'll see great terrain, and no people.

Alternatively, Kearsarge to Taboose pass, through Rae Lakes, can't go wrong.

Don't ever forget Emigrant wilderness, awesome terrain, and easy to get out of in a long day no matter where you are.

Trinity Alps is a small range, but an awesome range. Numerous three nighters there.
Gary

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
May 26, 2019 - 08:17pm PT
Head up Pine Creek, go over Italy, head to bear lakes, come out Royce.

Another great suggestion.

Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 27, 2019 - 11:24am PT
Never thought about going up Kearsarge and exiting Taboose. I'm usually solo but I'm trip planning this summer with a buddy driving in from a different part of the state, so maybe it should be point to point this year.

Gary, for an old fat guy, you're in shape. Even when I was younger humping up Shepherd Pass and all the way down to Tyndall Creek would have buried me. I started up Shepherd a few years back and totally bonked even before I got to the pass.
HeschMonster

Trad climber
Morro Bay
May 27, 2019 - 10:31pm PT
Rae Lakes is certainly bitchin, would always give that one a big thumbs up... but damn that Mineral King loop is sure nice.

Yes it's only about 25-28mi, but it can be done in 3 solid days. I'm talking you leave early from O'side, drive straight up, and do 5-6mi on your first day over Timber Gap. There's an AWESOME site on the SW side of the creek at 5.5mi (the other side has about 20 spots to throw your tent, and bear boxes), if you're really lucky you will get it, it's completely secluded and you're right next to the river/creek, just unbelievably gorgeous spot. I've scored it every time. Second day is a full 11-12mi, with some lake swimming, and the last day is 12 easy miles with more high alpine lake swimming, one of the most gorgeous I've ever swam in. Last 3-4mi are very nicely and lightly downhill, not too steep, and you might be able to drive back that day, or go somewhere else and spend one day in a hotel on the coast before facing the little terrors, err, lovely children, again.

food for thought, google the "Mineral King Backpacking Loop, plenty of good info. DON"T camp at Pinto Lake, stay at the awesome spot at Cliff Creek, and just do solid days on day 2 and 3. I promise you won't regret the trip and I'll double your money back if you don't like it :)

CH~
Bargainhunter

climber
May 28, 2019 - 09:01am PT
For a climber, picking a loop past Angel Wings is always worth it, though the slog out on the High Sierra Trail can be a bit tedious. You can make loop by going over Elizabeth Pass, over Triple Divide Peak and the come south to Nine Lakes Basin to the Big Arroyo and back out the High Sierra trail if you don't want a shuttle. ...or come in from Mineral King, go over Glacier Pass, pass Spring Lake wall, over Hands and Knees Pass, to the Kaweah's for something more remote, then exit out the Kaweah gap to the spectacular descent past Hamilton Lakes/Angels wings back to Crescent Meadow.
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