Sierra North Lake / South Lake "loop" questions

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
426
Hey all. I haven't been on here much, but remember this being a great resource for intel. So here's what I was able to get. What do you think and would you make any changes? Is Day 3 too long? Is there better places to camp? Is this enough time without killing 3 old guys, lol?


We are entering at South Lake and have a permit to camp at:
Bishop Lake
Dusty Basin SEKI 42
Evolution Lake SEKI 34
McClure Meadow SEKI 33
Lamark Lake (Upper or Lower

Then exiting out of North Lake on day 6.

What say you Sierra experts? I've done the Rae Lakes loop twice via Onion Valley, so I'm familiar with the elevation and terrain.

Thanks,
CTM
 

futurafree

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Messages
39
I did the reverse of this in 2019 before there were specific permitted sites. I think we averaged 8-9 miles per day over 6 days, so your day 3 being 17 miles is going to make for very uneven mileage. On the other hand, Dusy and Evolution are highlights. If you have lots of alpine lake experience, then Evolution Lake will be gorgeous but not unique (plus we woke up to rockfalls thinking the end was nigh so maybe I'm biased against it). However, Dusy Basin is surreally magical and looks like a painting of a make-believe fairy land. So if you can alter the plan for more even mileage, I'd keep Dusy. I'd actually just go straight to Dusy on day 1 with an early start after sleeping at South Lake to get used to the altitude. Then don't kill yourself trying to get to Evolution Lake on day 2 and instead add a night in between.
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
589
Bishop Lake and Dusy are close together. Is there some reason you are planning to camp at Bishop Lake also? The latter has better views. While Evolution Lake is lovely, it has also become quite busy. There was a group of ~20 backpackers when I was there a month ago, playing music and acting like they were at a SoCal beach. If it were me, I would camp in a quieter (equally scenic) spot before that. There are many options.
 
Last edited:

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
426
How about we push to Dusy Basin day 1 to camp, then day 2 just past Evolution Lake, or would you suggest pulling up short of there? What would you suggest beyond Evolution Valley? Is there anyplace to camp either just before or after the trail junction at Muir Trail Ranch?
 

futurafree

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Messages
39
I still think Dusy to Evolution Lake is too much distance/elevation for one day. I'd actually stop short of Muir Pass on night 2.
Now, fossana could do the entire loop in 1.5 days, but you were talking about "3 old guys" taking 6 days, and you'd be more than half-way finished on night 2 if you go to Evolution Lake or beyond.
 

futurafree

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Messages
39
re: camping near the junction to Muir Trail Ranch -- from your direction, there will be a bridge crossing the San Joaquin about 1-2 miles before a bridge crossing Piute Creek. Instead of crossing the San Joaquin, stay on the south side of the river and there is immediately a huge camp SW of the bridge that will likely be empty if the PCT-ers have already passed.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
426
Thank you both for the replies. I've had a chance to dig in a little deeper here (not my permit) and this is what makes sense to me.
I've talked with the group about the route, and they don't like the idea off off-trail travel (damn it). So this is what I've come up with.

Start at South Lake and hike over Bishop Pass and camp towards the south end of Dusy Basin.
Day 2 over Muir Pass and head down to Wanda Lake to camp night 2.
Day 3 Down Evolution Valley and camp near Evolution Meadow night 3.
Day 4 Continue north on the JMT/PCT to the junction just past Muir Trail Ranch and turn off to the Piute Trail. Camp near Hutchinson Meadow and Pine Creek Pass for night 4.
Day 5 Through Piute Canyon, through Humphreys Basin, over Piute Pass and camp at either Piute Lake or Loch Leven.
Day 6 head out North Lake.

Mileage wise, this evens things out a bit. What are your initial thoughts?

Yes we're all 50somthing, but I can still put in a 20 mile day when I have to....and enjoy it, lol.

A couple of logistic questions. Where specifically do you park/stage the vehicles? At North Lake is it Cardinal Village Resort, Sabrina CG or is there a trail head that's not showing up on my map, lol? Looks like there is only a footpath to North Lake off 168.
At South Lake looks pretty straight forward.

Here's a Caltopo map I'm working on.
caltopo.com/m/B3LC
 

futurafree

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Messages
39
There's a steep almost one-lane dirt road from 168 up to North Lake, and if you look on Google Maps a "North Lake hiker parking" is actually listed and you can see two parking lots and a horse area on satellite view. I remember dropping my partner and our packs at the trailhead next to the campground, then I went and parked to save just that extra 1/2 mile road walk with a pack.

Wanda Lake had some of the only mosquitoes of the trip around the last week of August, and they were among the worst I've ever experienced--just all of a sudden out of nowhere. Also, that lake is 11,500 so depending on where your crew is from that could be a very uncomfortable night's sleep. Of the places you listed, Evolution Meadows and Dusy will probably be the most crowded camping areas, but they're also both large and stunning.

6 days with a short final day felt perfect when I did this. As you're coming down the switchbacks after Dusy, be sure to stop a few meters off-trail at one of the best water slides I've ever seen:
IMG_4269.jpeg
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
589
A couple of logistic questions. Where specifically do you park/stage the vehicles? At North Lake is it Cardinal Village Resort, Sabrina CG or is there a trail head that's not showing up on my map, lol? Looks like there is only a footpath to North Lake off 168.
At South Lake looks pretty straight forward.
The N Lake hiker parking (primary lot) is here: 37.23063, -118.61870.

Recommend trying to get to S Lake either the evening before, or early in the morning to save you from having to park down near Parchers. That lot can fill up during the day.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
426
The N Lake hiker parking (primary lot) is here: 37.23063, -118.61870.

Recommend trying to get to S Lake either the evening before, or early in the morning to save you from having to park down near Parchers. That lot can fill up during the day.
We'll probably camp near south lake the first night before starting the trip. Do you have any recommendations? What do you think of the route I've laid out?
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
589
I usually sleep in my car in the S Lake lot, but I've seen people do low-key bivies numerous times. On the road in there are campgrounds if you prefer, plus a handful of side roads where you can legally dispersed camp on Forest Service land. There is also a lot of dispersed camping on and just past Buttermilk Road, but the elevation is lower.

It seems like the route adjustment is more reasonable.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
KevinBoyer South Lake to North Lake Sierra Nevada Trip Planning 4
westy Sierra North Backpacking 3
balzaccom Gibbs Lake, High Sierra Backpacking 2
fossana Palisades Roundabout (High Sierra) Backpacking 12
fossana Evolution Loop (High Sierra) Hiking & Camping 10
balzaccom Mystery set in the High Sierra General Discussion 4
norwegianxplorer Summiting Mount Whitney from Guitar Lake, 6 Days backpacking the Sierra before the Creek Fire closed everything down. Backpacking 5
Tarp Boy High Sierra Camp Loop, Yosemite, CA Trip Reports 5
balzaccom Sierra (Nevada) Stories General Discussion 0
Perry Anyone Have any Experience with Sierra Designs Nitro 800 0-degree Sleeping Bag Gear 11
Tim Valentine Big Pine Creek Eastern Sierra Backpacking 10
fossana Bear Lakes > Royce Lakes overnighter (High Sierra) Backpacking 12
J Cali: Cinder Cones, High Sierra Rambles, Famous Domes Oct 26-31, 2018 Hiking & Camping 3
fossana Pine Creek/Granite Park fall excursion (High Sierra) Hiking & Camping 14
wsp_scott A week in the Sierra Nevada Backpacking 23
Boognish Four days in the High Sierra Backpacking 10
mikejones3 Northfork to Second Lake Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains Backpacking 5
scatman High Sierra Trail Backpacking 23
K In Search of Snow in the Eastern Sierra Backpacking 3
balzaccom Trail work in the Sierra Backpacking 0
Tim Valentine Sierra 2017 Ansel Adams Wilderness Backpacking 11
scatman The Theodore Solomon's Trail (southern portion), Sierra Nevada - July 6, 2017 Backpacking 14
balzaccom Buckeye Creek, Eastern Sierra on the 4th of July Backpacking 0
Tim Valentine High Sierra Lakes Tour Backpacking 11
isleroyaleguy 170 Miles in the Sierra Nevada Backpacking 22
Perry Sierra Designs High Route 1FL Tent - Looks interesting Gear 6
balzaccom Blue skies and green trees in the Sierra Nevada General Discussion 0
SKLund Sierra Negra Hiking & Camping 0
westy Sierra South - SEKI, Rock Creek aka Miter Basin Backpacking 5
BryanG Sequoia National Forest - Sierra Nevada, CA Backpacking 5
Mike Jones High Sierra Trail to Mt Whitney through hike Backpacking 11
balzaccom Carson Iceberg Wilderness, Sierra Backpacking 1
Mike Jones High Sierra Trail to Mt Whitney Trip Planning 11
balzaccom Protecting the Sierra Resource Discussions 1
Aldaron Bear Spray in the Sierra Nevadas General Discussion 7
balzaccom Sierra Snowpack report Trip Planning 3
Shaverkid Trans-Sierra Backpack Backpacking 13
mak1277 Sierra weather - mid-September Trip Planning 1
Laura Eastern Sierra Getaway Backpacking 11
uintahiker Sierra Trading Post coupon codes Gear 15
Laura Rock Creek Cabins-Eastern Sierra Romantic Getaway! Everything Else 4
Nick Sierra Trading Post Coupon Codes Gear 30
Deadeye008 Sierra Designs DriDown Gear 5
scatman North Pitchstone Trail, Headwaters of Ouzel Creek, Bechler River and Mr. Bubbles(?) - Yellowstone National Park - September 13, 2021 Backpacking 36
K North To Alaska - The Aleutians and More Everything Else 0
OwenM Anyone here familiar with North Cascades NP? Trip Planning 9
Bob Morris North Inlet Trail Trip Planning 3
scatman North Summit, Mount Olympus - July 3, 2021 Hiking & Camping 12
BJett Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area. North Carolina. Backpacking 0
RyanP North Fork Bull Lake Creek Trip Planning 35

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top