Notes for Potential Hikers
- This route starts in Sequoia National Park at the High Sierra Trail (HST, not to be confused with Roper’s Sierra High Route) trailhead in Crescent Meadow.
- Follow the HST for 10.7 miles to the Bearpaw Ranger Station and High Sierra Camp.
- Leave the HST and follow unnamed trails 4.2 miles to Tamarack Lake.
- At Tamarack Lake leave the trail and travel cross-country 6.3 miles, over Lion Lake Pass (class 2) and down Cloud Canyon until reaching the Colby Pass Trail. Lion Rock is an optional SPS Peak along the way. The cross-country hiking is very straightforward and suitable for fit backpackers with moderate off-trail experience.
- Follow the Colby Pass Trail for 2.7 miles southeast to Colby Lake.
- At Colby Lake leave the trail for a 5.6 miles cross-country traverse over the top of Midway Mountain and down to the Kern River. Midway is a Class 2 climb and is not difficult. The views are fabulous. On the descent along Milestone Creek, there is an old unmapped use trail down to the Kern River.
- After reaching the Kern River, the rest of the trip is on established trails. Follow the cross-Kern Connector Trail 3.0 miles east to the JMT. Then south on the JMT for 4.6 miles to the junction with the HST.
- Follow the HST 36.5 miles back to Crescent Meadow trailhead. Mount Kaweah, another SPS Peak, is an optional class 1 ascent.
Disclaimer: Do not rely on our exact tracks for your route; use skill and common sense. Use the stated distances as guidance; various sources of trail distances rarely agree. We strongly recommend that anybody engaged in cross-country travel in the Sierra use RJ Secor’s book for more detailed route descriptions and difficulty levels.
The HST and its JMT extension from Wallace Creek to Whitney is a surprisingly fine piece of trail engineering and a very fine walk. It is a good alternative to the JMT for those wishing to do a shorter thru-hike in the high Sierra. It was designed in the 1920s as a hiking route to cross from the west side of the Sierra to Mount Whitney with as little altitude change as possible.
Hamilton Lake is a beautiful, but extremely popular campsite. We recommend stopping somewhere else. There is fine camping on the east side of Kaweah Gap.
Annoying insects were completely gone in this section of the Sierra, as expected in late August, especially a summer following a low snowpack spring. Unfortunately, so were most of the flowers. Some of the willows were just starting to turn yellow.
The HST travels through the 2013 Chagoopa Fire zone, which was still smoldering when we were there. It was interesting to see the fire zone; birds were actively foraging on the burned and smoking vegetation like nothing had happened.