Trip map. The distance hiked was about 32 miles, with total elevation gain and loss about 10,600 feet. The route we hiked is shown in blue. Routes we considered taking but didn't are shown in red.
This Trip Report covers a loop trip that Ron Karliner and I completed in the Mineral King region of Sequoia National Park, from September 15-19, 2002. It was a great trip! The weather was very dry, and there were no mosquitos to be found. Bears did not pay us any visits.
Our route began at the Mineral King trailhead, climbing steeply toward Sawtooth Pass. We gravitated into Monarch Creek Canyon, where we camped the first night. We tried to minimize our impact on the canyon, knowing that NPS prefers that hikers stay out of there. We definitely minimized our impact on the overcrowded Monarch Lake Campground!
The next morning, we continued the steep, messy climb to Sawtooth Pass, and proceeded east and down to Columbine Lake. It was remarkable to encounter the huge cairns on the trail to the lake, after stumbing up the confusing Sawtooth Pass "Trail."
Our second night's camp was in Lost Canyon. The next day, we stopped to look at a NPS helicopter take off near the Soda Creek Trail junction, before climbing north and west around a big ridge to Big Five Lakes, and on to the third night camp at Little Five Lakes.
The next morning, we climbed steeply over Black Rock Pass, pausing to take pictures and reflect on the view. We met an interesting solo hiker, and traded information about water availability and trail conditions. We hiked down to our fourth camp, near Pinto Lake. It was very confusing to find Pinto Lake, once we were close to it. We used Ron's digital camera to check an image and locate the lake exactly. (Note to self in 2002: I gotta get a GPS!).
We continued down Cliff Creek Canyon on our fifth and last day, to the junction with the Timber Gap Trail. We began the long climb to that Timber Gap, stopping to take in a hazy view of Tableland in the distance. After pausing at Timber Gap, we tightened our boots one last time, and proceeded down steeply to the trailhead and the end of another great trip.