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Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

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Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

Postby stringbop » Thu May 18, 2017 11:25 am

Trip is in the middle of August.
Men in early thirties planning on 12+ miles a day.
We will have 2 cars to leave at starting/ending locations
Looking for best route with High Mountain Scenery. Not interested in fishing
Comfortable with Class 3 hiking

I am thinking we start from McGee and stay at Cotton Lake the 1st night while climbing Red Slate Mountain (may tackle this start of Day 2).

Then the major question is what to do once we hit the JMT (from McGee) on Day 2 with 3 days to get back to Lake George.

Take JMT south to Lake of the Lone Indian then take Minow Creek Back up and hit the JMT at Purple Lake?

Or take JMT south to Fish Creek over to Iva Bell Hot Springs then back track to Purple Lake.

Day 4 take Mammoth Crest and meet car at Lake George.

We are also playing with the idea of taking Lake George to Rock Creek.

Any other route options in this area would be appreciated. Thank you


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Re: Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

Postby maverick » Thu May 18, 2017 1:12 pm

Hi Alan,

Welcome to HST!
If Big Mountain scenery is the top of you wish list, then why not do the following route: Leave a car at McGee Creek Trailhead and Mosquito Flat Trailhead (Rock Creek). Mono Pass > Pioneer Basin > Grinnell Lake via Laurel Creek > Bighorn Pass (class 2) > Shout of Relief Pass (class 2) > McGee Pass
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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Re: Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat May 20, 2017 8:05 pm

Getting to Cotton Lake on Day 1 is pretty ambitious! Big McGee Lake is very pretty. Some of my best photos are from here. There us a use-trail that drops towards the inlet just before you start uphill above the north end of the lake. Very little camping at Little McGee Lake. I like Tully Lake for camping better than Cotton Lake. The other little lakes up on the bench that contains Cotton Lakes are also have great views. Tully has better fishing. A day-hike over to Rosy Finch and Bighorn Lakes is also very scenic. Once on the PCT, you can do a day-hike (or camp at) Ram Lakes, from Purple Lake. Purple Lake outlet is really crowded - if you want privacy, move to the inlet end. Also better camping at Pika Lake than Duck Lake. But both areas can get crowded. Personally, I would spend more time between Big McGee Lake and Tully/Cotton Lakes than on the PCT locations. By the way, Horse Heaven and Tully Hole are miserable swamps full of mosquitoes. Virginia Lake is nice and you can get off the trail along the north shores for more privacy. I have had good luck fishing at Big Mc Gee Lake,Tully Lake and Virginia Lake.

The Sierra High Route is another way to get to George Lake from Duck Lake. It is basically off-trail to Deer Lakes but a good trail continues on the ridge and drops north of Crystal Lake to George Lake. The "trail" shown on the map to Deer Lake is wrong. You do not have to go up that hill and back down- there is a use-trail through rocks that goes directly to Deer Lake. It probably would not work for a horse, but OK for a backpacker. This is a more scenic and less used route rather than the Duck Lake Trail.
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Re: Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

Postby SSSdave » Sun May 21, 2017 1:39 pm

From the McGee Creek trailhead at 7.8k it is 7.5 miles up 2800 feet to Big McGee Lake, the first day's destination for 90% of backpackers. From there it is another 1400 feet to McGee Pass or 4200 feet total. Anything over 2.5k to 3.0k a day carrying backpacking loads is considered strenuous by Wilderness Press guidebooks. To reach Tully Lake, west of the pass, the second day destination of many is 12 miles. Cotton Lake is another mile. If you are unusually fit as small numbers of active peak baggers and backpackers, I wonder why you didn't mention that?

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Re: Suggestions for 4 day trip from McGee/Lake George

Postby wildhiker » Mon May 22, 2017 12:41 pm

I concur with Maverick's suggestion (or some variation) that spends more time in and around the Silver Divide. Here are some photos from a Silver Divide trip my wife and I did in the third week of August, 1998 - another high snowpack year, but probably not as much as you will see this year. On our trip, all the passes had lots of snow and most of the lakes above 10,000 feet were partially frozen still. The basin around Tully Lake was relatively snow free and extremely beautiful, in my opinion.

These photos are scans from negatives, so some of the colors may be off.


98-18f36a-view south from Shout of Relief Pass.jpg

98-19f23a-Red Slate Mtn + McGee Pass over meadow above Tully Lake.jpg

98-20f01-view south from McGee Pass.jpg

98-20f09-Cotton Lake.jpg

98-21f08-Chief Lake just north of Silver Pass.jpg
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