|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
So you crave iconic Sierra Nevada scenery? Enjoy Sequoia National Park's often-empty backcountry on the rugged 71-mile High Sierra Trail (not to be confused with the equally desolate 195-mile Sierra High Route from Kings Canyon to Twin Lakes).
Starting at 6,700 ft. on the southern fringe of the Giant Forest, you'll hike through heaven-kissing groves of giant sequoias. A week of climbing through scoured domes.
The Route Head out from Crescent Meadow (near the park's Lodgepole Visitor Center) through dense stands of sequoia and sugar pine, whose football-size cones litter the path. Savor this stretch, since it's the only one on the HST where these massive conifers flourish. Later, you'll reach Eagle View, a lookout over a 1,000-foot gorge cradling the Middle Fork Kaweah River. After traversing seven major creeks coursing down the granite ledges of Alta Bluffs, make camp among the pines at Bearpaw Meadow.
Over the next few days, you'll whack through chest-high bracken ferns, grind up the Precipice Bench to the snow-ringed rock gardens of Kaweah Gap (10,700 feet), cross the Great Western Divide, climb the Chagoopa Plateau, and drop into the deep, U-shaped trough of Kern Canyon.
Season Late summer, from the last week in July to early September, is idyllic. Afternoon thunderstorms aren't as likely, and temperatures stay between 40 and 70-degree F. Want to see flaming red Indian paintbrush or bright pink shooting star wildflowers? Go in early July, when blooms carpet the entire meadow in the Big Arroyo.
Logistics Slot a long weekend for the round trip. The closest airport with car rentals is in Fresno. Wilder House Shuttle (wilderhouse.com) will you up at Whitney Portal and drive you anywhere for @1 per mile. Book at least a month in advance.
Gear Bearproof canisters are a must. Get the bomber BearVault (it won our 2004 Editors' Choice award), or rent others at the Lodgepole or Foothills Visitors Centers. For creek crossings, pack water shoes and trekking poles. No matter what, don't forget bug dope: Skeeters can be heinous in the dank confines of Kern Canyon.
Permits Reserve $15 permits through the park's wilderness office (nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness.htm) no later than 2 weeks before your trip.
Signs of Life California mule deer and yellow-bellied marmots abound. Around Whitney, spot rosy finches and purple sky pilots.
Homework Don't hit the trail without Tom Harrison's Mt. Whitney High County or Sequoia & Kings Canyon map or without consulting the interactive trip planner at backpacker.com/hikes.
-Andrew Matranga (modified/abreviated by Brent Anhorn)