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Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

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Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby DDinNTK » Sun Jan 15, 2017 12:00 pm

Hi everyone,
I'm planning a trip to Kings Canyon/Sequoia this September. A group of 4-5 guys in their late-40s, all with significant backpacking experience. We'd like to get back to some backcountry lakes, cross some high altitude passes, and enjoy the scenery. Due to time constraints, we are flying in and out of Fresno, so need to start on the west side. We will have 4 days/3 nights in the backcountry. Initially, we were looking at the Rae Lakes loop, but I feel like that might be tough to pull off in only 4 days. I've also researched some loops out of Mineral King trailhead (Little 5 Lakes, Sawtooth Pass, etc.) which sound pretty nice.

My question to you is, should I do a "out and back" in the Rae Lakes area (to Paradise Valley, or Reflection Lake), attempt the whole Rae Lakes loop in 4 days, or head south to the Mineral King area for a loop? Having never been to the area, I'm interested in opinions - or other possible options.

Thanks so much for any guidance.



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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby maverick » Sun Jan 15, 2017 12:42 pm

Hi D,

Welcome to HST!
Is your group up to doing some cross-country? How many miles a day are looking at doing?
Besides the areas you have mentioned (Rae Lakes and MK), for a 4 day hike, you should also consider Wolverton/Pear Lake/Tablelands, HST/Hamilton Lakes/Precipice Lake, Horse Corral Meadow/Seville Lake/Lost Lake/Ranger Lake, Roads End/East Lake/Reflection Lake, and Lewis Creek/Granite Lake.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Jan 15, 2017 12:53 pm

Mineral King will give you more high alpine scenery vs Rae Lakes loop and even Lake Reflection that gives you hotspots but in general is more low forest travel.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:55 pm

If you think Rae Lakes loop is too much, don't do a loop over Sawtooth. Just don't. A pass with a real trail vs. getting lost in a maze of use trails in the scree, no comparison, Glen Pass will be several orders of magnitude easier.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby sparky » Sun Jan 15, 2017 2:24 pm

With that time frame I would probably be looking at out and backs to sphinx lakes, lake reflection, tablelands, or just go to Tuolumne meadows and explore the cathedral range.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby Flamingo » Mon Jan 16, 2017 6:33 pm

+1 to what Rogue said about Mineral King. You'll get fantastic scenery from the moment you start hiking. A classic loop is: Mineral King -> Lost Valley -> Soda Canyon -> Franklin Pass -> Mineral King. It's about half the length of the Rae Lakes Loop, and it includes all the things you're looking for: high passes, alpine lakes, and big views. Along the way, there's epic campsites at Monarch Lakes (west side of Sawtooth) and Little Claire Lakes (head of Soda Canyon), to name but a few.

[edit: I realized that my route advice conflicts with AlmostThere's advice about Sawtooth Pass. Take my suggestion with a grain of salt, I suppose.]
Last edited by Flamingo on Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby wildhiker » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:03 pm

Hi DDinNTK,

When you say 4 days in the backcountry, are you allotting an additional day to drive up and camp near the trailhead to acclimate the night before, or is the four days the whole trip from Fresno to mountains and back?

Are you wedded to the national parks? I would also consider a trip into the Silver Divide in the John Muir Wilderness to the north of the parks, out of the Edison Lake area. A bit further drive from Fresno, but also big mountains, plenty of lakes, and more trails that lend themselves to a shorter loop. For example, you can do the John Muir Trail segment from Lake Edison (take the ferry) north over Silver Pass, check out all the big lakes there, then come back over Goodale Pass with a side trip up to Graveyard Lakes before finishing up back at Lake Edison.

-Phil
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby DDinNTK » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:45 pm

Great information everyone! I appreciate it. From what I'm reading, Mineral King seems like a better scenario for us.

I wanted to answer some questions that have been asked. (sorry I'm delayed in checking my own post)

We are willing to do cross-country travel. Our trip last year to Denali got us used to using map/compass & gps.

I appreciate the warning on Sawtooth Pass, I had no idea and will take that in to consideration.

We will have a day to acclimate the day prior to our hike, and won't leave Fresno until the day after we come out.

vhsvhs: that hike sounds amazing, and will have to go to the top of our list for now.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:47 am

Glacier Pass is not Sawtooth Pass, it's farther to the left of it than you think it should be. It's actually the better way to do Sawtooth but nearly everyone cuts straight up the ridge instead of going far enough to the left. Talk to the ranger at the station about how to do Glacier instead of Sawtooth. The difference is coming over the ridge and descending to the bottom lake in the chain of paternoster (love that term) lakes instead of descending to Columbine, at the top. Doing Sawtooth the least arduous way would be going up almost to Glacier, then hanging a right on the top of the ridge back over toward Sawtooth Peak, until you get to the big cairn that marks the top of the pass.

Both of these are cross country passes, no maintained trail at all, and that means since they are popular that there are multiple use trails that wander around -- not for everyone, definitely not easy if you get off route and up to your thighs in scree.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby slopapou » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:21 pm

Last September I did a loop out of Mineral King that I would highly recommend: Mineral King, Franklin Lakes, Franklin Pass (11,760), Little Claire Lake, Big and Little Five Lakes, Black Rock Pass (11,600), Pinto Lake and back to MK through Timber Gap. 42 Miles in 5 days with an easy day in the middle between Big and Little Five Lakes. I'm 66, so if you are in your 40's, experienced and in great shape, you should be able to do it in 4. I had mild altitude sickness for the first two days so I second the notion of a day or so of acclimatization pre-hike unless you know you are not subject to AS.The people at Silver City Mountain Resort are great if you decide to hang out pre-hike. Check out hike # 34 in the Wilderness Press Sierra South book for more information on this loop.
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Re: Backpacking logistics in Kings Canyon/Sequoia

Postby alpinemike » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:28 am

I highly second a loop out of Mineral King via Franklin Pass and out through Black Rock Pass & Timber Gap. The scenery will not be rivaled. Another option is to go out via Lost Canyon and Sawtooth Pass. Scree skiing down that pass is sure as hell easier than crawling your way up it( which regrettably I have done). Another idea is to go over Timber Gap the first day and out Franklin. I.e... the loop in reverse so as to stay at a lower elevation on the first day at Pinto Lake. All the climbs out of Mineral King are long and have considerable elevation gain so be prepared for that.
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