Best hiking recommendations for Sierra newbies

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Best hiking recommendations for Sierra newbies

Post by Hikerchick » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:07 pm

My husband and I are looking forward to our first-ever foray into the Sierras - Sept 1-15. We are from Vancouver BC and have enjoyed alot of hiking in the Southern Coast Mountains, Cascades, and the Canadian/Montana/Colorado Rockies.
We prefer to do boomer day hikes (16-20 miles would be max) over backpacking. And we really like peaky mountains and ridgelines. We're fine with light scrambling as well.
I'd love to hear your recommendations for hikes in the various areas of the Sierras. We're happy to do a few in each area (north, central, south) to get a feel, or if we fall in love with one spot we might stay there longer.
We would be camping in local campgrounds.

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

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Post by cgundersen » Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:07 pm

Hi hikerchick,
You should get lots of feedback, but in my book, working your way down on the eastside will give you more high and spiky than on the westside. My wife & I just came back from a trip in the Hoover wilderness starting at Twin Lakes (west of Bridgeport) and you get a great backside view of the "Sawtooth" ridge by climbing (~3200 feet) up to Mule Pass. If you follow the ridge to the south of the pass (a very easy scramble), you'll get great panoramas to the south. Round trip is ~20 miles.
Several great day hikes can be taken from the Mammoth area. The high trail from Agnew Meadows will lead you to Thousand Island Lake (and you can come back on the River trail); if you're energetic, you can continue on and make it up to Lake Catherine and back out in a day, but it'll demand steady trucking. An even more-ambitious loop would be to go up the Minaret Lake trail and then cross country via Cecile, Iceberg and Ediza Lakes and back to your origin via the Muir trail (the middle part is off trail scrambling). For these first two options keep in mind that you either need to take a shuttle (for $7), or get past the entry gate before 7am (and you still pay on the way out).Regardless, stunning countryside awaits up high! Easier is to go over Duck Pass and then as far as time permits (a series of large lakes decorate the trail beyond Duck Pass and you don't have to pay).
Further South there are many day hiking options in Bishop Basin, but for your preferences, maybe the north fork of Big Pine Creek would be even better as it's lorded over by the Palisades and a cluster of some of the taller peaks in the Sierras. The jaunt up that basin would fall well within the 15-20 mile range if you went as far as the trail goes.
Continuing South, there are several really lengthy climbs (leading to Taboose, Sawmill, Baxter and Shepherd passes). My favorite among these (because of the view at the top) is Taboose, with Shepherd's a close second. In each case, you're looking at about a 6000 ft elevation gain over 8-10 miles, so they are challenging! Instead, the ridge at Kearsarge Pass is only about 2600 ft above the trailhead with views that are possibly better than any of the 6K climbs.
Finally, for a decent (and decently long) loop, you can go in over Cottonwood Pass and out via New Army (or vice versa) in the area just south of Whitney.
Unless monsoonal moisture from Baja is blowing north, that time of year can be magical; good luck!

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Post by maverick » Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:38 pm

Hello Hikerchic

First I would recommend getting some books and reading up on the
Sierra, just to get an ideal of what your interested in seeing.
Then google trip reports to the areas of interest and check out
the trip reports and photos.
First I would recommend doing Half Dome from Yosemite
Valley(17 miles via Mist Trail round trip), another Yosemite hike I'd
recommend is Clouds Rest(12.4 miles round trip) from Tenaya Lake.
Then continue east on hwy 180 to hwy 395 and head south to the
Mammoth area.
From Agnew Meadows take the Lakes Trail to Minaret Lake(15.6 rt).
Then south on 395 to Tom's place and turn right onto Rock Creek
Road and go to the Morgan Pass/Little Lakes Valley Trail. Go visit
Little Lakes Valley all the way back to Morgan Pass(8 miles rt) add
on Ruby Lake making it 10.6 miles.
Back to 395 and south to Bishop, take hwy 168 east to South Lake
and hike the Bishop Pass Trail(12 miles rt or 16 miles if you go
explore Dusy Basin a little further in).
Back to Bishop and head south to Big Pine and take the Glacier Lodge
Road to the trailhead and hike up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek to
First, Second, Third, Forth, and Black Lake loop(14 miles).
Back to 395 south to Independence and take road to Onion Valley
taking the Kearsarge Pass Trail(10miles rt).
And lastly take 395 south to Lone Pine and take Whitney Portal Road
to the Mt Whitney Trailhead and hike the highest peak in the lower
48 states(22miles rt).
All these hikes are within you milage except the last.
They are the hikes to some of the highlights of the Sierra.
Some areas like the Mammoth, Big Pine, Bishop Pass have alot of other
areas worth visiting if you have the time.
In the Mammoth area Thousand Is and Garnet Lakes are some that
come to mind, in the Big Pine area you can check out the Palisade
Glacier or the South Fork of Big Pine Creek.
In Bishop you can visit the North Lake or the Lake Sabrina area which
has great scenery and lakes for days.

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Post by Snow Nymph » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:31 pm


First of all, welcome to the forum!

A few of us just did Mt Baldwin, just south of Mammoth Lakes. 16.5 miles/5000’ gain. We hiked thru aspens, brush, thru some of the oldest rock in the Sierra, along a meadow, thru sand, 35-40 deg rock slabs, then a 500’ scramble to the top. The views in Convict Canyon are pretty awesome with red, grey, black, white, striped rock, and even fossils. There are two cool calcite mines and even the remains of a cabin on the way.

There are a lot of peaks on my website. Or go to the peakbaging section of this forum and you’ll find a lot of trip reports. E-mail for beta if interested in any of these.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison" onclick=";return false;

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Post by Hikerchick » Tue Aug 07, 2007 1:53 pm

Thanks to all of you that replied with your really great suggestions!
I have been doing alot of reading/research, but find that guides tend to present all the hikes equally and it helps to get an 'opinionated' take on the options.
Snow Nymph, your photos and website were a great help - you really get out there!

Thanks again!

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Post by SSSdave » Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:25 pm

The western Sierra slopes will be quite baked and dry by September, especially this droughty year. Keep in mind, the sun rises on the Eastern Sierra in the morning so many of its fabulous destinations look best in early to mid morning while being overly bright by late morning and then flat and backlit in the afternoon. Thus the wise Eastern Sierra day hiker interested in better light gets up really early to start their hikes. You may search for the named peaks and lakes I mention on to find out where these places are. My website below also has images of a number. Among some few of many trails I'd recommend are:

trailhead: Cathedral Lakes at Tuolumne Meadows:
Hike the very popular trail up to Lower Cathedral Lake, enjoy the granite boardwalk then on up to Upper Cathedral Lake and return. Highlight is spectacularly unique form of Cathedral Peak. Some nice arctic willow areas of early fall color change.

trailhead: Saddlebag Lake reservoir
Hike the easy 1.5 miles rocky trail from a high trailhead around the west side of the reservoir into 20 Lakes Basin to Green Lake and continue on the trail to the interesting metadimentary geology and scenic views about Wasco Tarns past Steelhead Lake, Shamrock Lake and loop back to Saddlebag reservoir via Odell Lake and even opt to ride the ferry back across the lake. Very nice choice in early September because inches high arctic willow densely carpet turfy areas in fall changed red leaves and North Peak and Mount Conness are quite scenic. Lots of secret small ponds all over beyond the trails.

trailhead: Agnew Meadows
PCT/High Trail to Summit Lake at 6 miles and then loop back via the River Trail where one has more pleasant shaded forest during midday and a chance to dabble in the river water. Fine open morning views all along the trail west across the canyon towards the Ritter Range. One could also follow around to famous Thousand Island Lake but unless one expects to reach that 7 miles and 2000 feet uphill destination before about 10am, the light becomes rather harsh.

trailhead: Convict Lake
Take the Convict Creek trail to Mildred Lake at 5.5 miles with about 2200 feet of uphill. The very rocky canyon with large amounts of colorful metamorphic talus and scree at the bottom, has some of the most ancient and bizarre and colorful geoloy in the range. A reason the movie Star Trek Insurrection was filmed there. Because it is north south trending deep and narrow, one can enjoy early or late day hiking in cooler shadows. The lower section can be rather warm unless one leaves early in the morning. After returning drive out to Hot Creek for a dip in the hot springs.

trailhead: Mosquito Flat in Rock Creek Canyon
Take the well pounded trail south up past all the small lakes and Long Lake to Gem Lakes at 5 miles then return. Superb High Sierra alpine scenery without much effort starting at a high trailhead.

trailhead: South Lake
Hike the Bishop Pass trail about 4 miles and 1200 feet of uphill to Bishop Lake. Another high trailhead. No need to continue on to the pass itself another 800 feet of sweat. Lots of lakes and fine craggy peaks. On the return opt to take the Ruwau Lake spur loop around the Chocolate Lakes.

Best of luck on your Sierra adventures

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Post by TwoFortyJeff » Tue Aug 07, 2007 10:51 pm

I'm a big fan of the Lodgepole area. There are a lot of people, but the trails aren't crowded.

Alta Peak is a nice peak to hike up. It's unique in that it isn't a long hike and it has a trail up it. The views are AMAZING. One of my favorite in the Sierra.

You can also day hike up to Pear Lake and maybe ven venture into the Tablelands for a bit.

Not too far away in Redwood Canyon which offers large groves of Sequoias and relative solitude.

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Post by TonyC » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:06 am

Well I will echo the thanks for all the recommendations. The info will help me as well. I'll be in the Eastern Sierra area all next week and weekend. I wish I had a few months intstead of just a week, but at least I have many amazing hikes to choose from,

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Post by Timberline » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:42 pm

Hikerchick and Tony C:

I won't try to add other suggestions here, 'cause there are so many fine ones from great folks already. Just wanted to suggest that you let us all know what/where you chose to visit on your journey and exploration here in the Sierra. The well experienced opinions you've seen call for another few remarks in response - - yours!
Tell us what you thought and felt about these lovely mountains!
Happy trails :)
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!

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Post by TonyC » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:55 pm

Well when I return and get settled, I'll definitely post a little trip report with a link to some photos. I'm having to plan my entire trip in just two days, which is proving to be an adrenaline rush but hopefully it will all work out.

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