Sierras, CA: Sierra High Route

On this burly, 200-plus-mile traverse, which crosses 33 passes and barely touches established trails, you can find Alaska-size scenery, complete solitude, and just enough risk to keep things interesting.
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On this burly, 200-plus-mile traverse, which crosses 33 passes and barely touches established trails, you can find Alaska-size scenery, complete solitude, and just enough risk to keep things interesting.

This 210- to 220-mile, 20- to 30-day cross-country journey could be the premier mountain trek in the Lower 48. But it is an expert route—not for novices, youth groups, bad knees, or even experienced trail hikers new to loaded scrambling and off-trail navigation.You’ll hop boulders for 40 miles, and cross a sawtoothed succession of steep passes and deep gorges. You’ll traverse two national parks, three wilderness areas, one national monument, 33 named passes, and 11 major divides. If you’re unsure of your abilities, gain experience on less committing trips or section-hike the route. Since this trek crosses much fragile alpine tundra, smallgroups and Leave No Trace practices are mandatory.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 344.2

Waypoints

SHR001

Location: 36.7962608337402, -118.583724975586

Trailhead Kings Canyon - Mile 00

SHR002

Location: 36.8572883605957, -118.590606689453

Grouse Lake and campsite mile 7.11

SHR003

Location: 36.8662948608398, -118.591972351074

Grouse Lake Pass - Mile 8.10

SHR004

Location: 36.8875350952148, -118.586311340332

Goat Crest Saddle - Mile 10.28

SHR005

Location: 36.8925895690918, -118.580505371094

Glacier Lakes - Mile 10.78

SHR006

Location: 36.919807434082, -118.583885192871

State Lakes Trail, turn right heading east - Mile 13.19

SHR007

Location: 36.924243927002, -118.573959350586

State Lakes - Mile 13.99

SHR008

Location: 36.9248199462891, -118.574142456055

Trail Junction - Mile 14.01

SHR009

Location: 36.9290390014648, -118.568946838379

Upper State Lake - Mile 14.49

SHR010

Location: 36.9334144592285, -118.57787322998

Horseshoe Lakes Trail, turn right heading north - Mile 15.11

SHR011

Location: 36.9442329406738, -118.57625579834

Horseshoe Lakes, follow old 1935 Sierra Club trail traversing northward. - Mile 16.11

SHR012

Location: 36.9563102722168, -118.577087402344

Gray Pass, descend long grassy gully. - Mile 17.06

SHR013

Location: 36.9608268737793, -118.56861114502

Windy Ridge Crossing - Mile 17.74

SHR014

Location: 36.9650421142578, -118.562545776367

White Pass - Mile 18.41

SHR015

Location: 36.9617919921875, -118.55428314209

South Fork of Cartridge Creek - Mile 19.08

SHR016

Location: 36.9538421630859, -118.544563293457

Unnamed Lake - Mile 20.17

SHR017

Location: 36.9620628356934, -118.534164428711

Cross Valley Here, campites if needed - Mile 21.15

SHR018

Location: 36.96533203125, -118.527633666992

Red Pass - Mile 21.74

SHR019

Location: 36.9755439758301, -118.518898010254

Steep descent gully to Marion Lake - Mile 22.80

SHR020

Location: 36.9769248962402, -118.518569946289

Strike trail along shore, look left for memorial plaque on boulder - Mile 23.00

SHR021

Location: 36.9756965637207, -118.48713684082

Cartridge Pass, grand views northeast - Mile 29.35

SHR022

Location: 36.9575424194336, -118.472290039062

Old JMT down South Fork of Kings Canyon - Mile 31.60

SHR023

Location: 36.9711494445801, -118.444976806641

Junction with modern JMT - Mile 33.74

SHR024

Location: 37.031192779541, -118.460166931152

Mather Pass - Mile 38.31

SHR025

Location: 37.0606727600098, -118.48991394043

Leave trail for C II-III scramble to Cirque Pass, watch routefinding carefully - Mile 42.39

SHR026

Location: 37.0711631774902, -118.5

Cirque Pass - Mile 43.89

SHR027

Location: 37.081111907959, -118.507019042969

Potluck Pass - Mile 45.48

SHR028

Location: 37.0872611999512, -118.524299621582

Barrett Lakes - Mile 47.09

SHR029

Location: 37.0956039428711, -118.524688720703

Thunderbolt Pass, big boulder descent on N. Side - Mile 47.85

SHR030

Location: 37.1149597167969, -118.545356750488

Bishop Pass - Mile 50.12

SHR031

Location: 37.1693344116211, -118.565872192383

South Lake Trailhead - Mile 55.18

Directions to Trailhead: From Bishop, take CA 168 west, turning left at S Lake Rd. Continue 7.1 miles to trail junction.

SHR032

Location: 37.0941123962402, -118.594337463379

Junction with PCT, turn right heading northward toward Muir Pass - Mile 66.84

SHR033

Location: 37.112060546875, -118.670944213867

Muir Pass - Mile 73.56

SHR034

Location: 37.1718101501465, -118.700691223145

Follow trail past lake to first large switchback, then turn crisscrossing uphill from first major switchback above Evolution Canyon

SHR035

Location: 37.2149276733398, -118.695068359375

Alpine Col. Long boulderhop descent down north side - Mile 85.76

SHR036

Location: 37.2290382385254, -118.701240539551

First possible campsite beyond Alpine Col - Mile 87.54

SHR037

Location: 37.2455825805664, -118.704566955566

Cross Piute Pass Trail - Mile 88.95

SHR038

Location: 37.247859954834, -118.705596923828

Cross Piute Pass Trail Again - Mile 89.12

SHR039

Location: 37.2777328491211, -118.724769592285

Puppet Pass - Mile 91.88

SHR040

Location: 37.298469543457, -118.750129699707

French Creek Trail, turn left heading west after stream ford - Mile 94.70

SHR041

Location: 37.2884864807129, -118.766342163086

Find faint user trail at old cairn. Difficult to locate, Follow up steep streamside hill. - Mile 96.10

SHR042

Location: 37.3213005065918, -118.781913757324

Feather Pass, descend toward traverse around right side of Bear Lakes Basin - Mile 99.97

SHR043

Location: 37.3395309448242, -118.80152130127

White Bear Pass - Mile 102.81

SHR044

Location: 37.348503112793, -118.816993713379

Lake Italy Trail, hidden in gullies between slabs. Turn right heading northward - Mile 104.00

SHR045

Location: 37.3599281311035, -118.809913635254

Follow ramp up left, but not too high. Easy to climb too far and be forced to descend later. - Mile 105.16

SHR046

Location: 37.3797187805176, -118.791603088379

Gabbott Pass. Good camping near col. - Mile 107.77

SHR047

Location: 37.3995590209961, -118.811920166016

Fine leave no trace camping on slabs below lake. - Mile 110.25

SHR048

Location: 37.4241752624512, -118.856620788574

Huge logs across stream. NOTE: Fish Camp dusty, hammered. Not a good campsite to make for. - Mile 113.36

SHR049

Location: 37.4285087585449, -118.851852416992

Laurel Lake Trail, turn North. Climb very steep, hot trail. - Mile 113.84

SHR050

Location: 37.4659271240234, -118.86572265625

Bighorn Pass - Mile 117.15

SHR051

Location: 37.4730567932129, -118.873733520508

Shout of Relief Pass - Mile 118.08

SHR052

Location: 37.4832420349121, -118.899322509766

Izaak Walton Lake

SHR053

Location: 37.4961814880371, -118.911209106445

McGee PassTrail fords creek from east side of Horse Heaven. Stay left above/around Horse Heaven to avoid swamps. Let visible trail come to you, rather than crossing to it. - Mile 122.63

SHR054

Location: 37.501522064209, -118.924652099609

Junction with John Muir Trail, turn right heading east and begin climb through sage switchbacks out of Tully Hole. - Mile 123.48

SHR055

Location: 37.5156707763672, -118.937271118164

Good, used campsites beneath gnarled trees. - Mile 125.85

SHR056

Location: 37.5274887084961, -118.949447631836

Trail Junction, continue straight on JMT. Mile 127.51

SHR057

Location: 37.5289764404297, -118.950218200684

Second trail junction. Continue on JMT. Mile 127.63

SHR058

Location: 37.5383338928223, -118.969131469727

Trail Junction. Leave PCT/JMT and turn right heading north toward Duck Lake. - Mile 129.72

SHR059

Location: 37.555347442627, -118.96501159668

Turn northwest and find user trail toward ridgeline and sandy flats.

SHR060

Location: 37.559139251709, -118.979331970215

Pass at west end of Sandy Flats. Follow user trail. - Mile 132.45

SHR061

Location: 37.5632171630859, -118.990852355957

Good trail climbs from Deer Lakes, stays along west flank of Mammoth Crest.

SHR062

Location: 37.5794563293457, -119.011932373047

Unmapped but easily visible switchbacks descend south southwest toward PCT

SHR063

Location: 37.5953178405762, -119.026817321777

Junction with trails descending east to Lake George trailheads & campgrounds. Alternate route into Mammoth. - Mile 137.00

SHR064

Location: 37.6021575927734, -119.03759765625

Top of critical sandy gully. Descend, then traverse north toward Mammoth Pass. - Mile 138.02

SHR065

Location: 37.6084976196289, -119.039001464844

Intersect heavily used trail across Mammoth Pass. Cross and continue North. - Mile 138.51

SHR066

Location: 37.6153831481934, -119.039756774902

Correct trail to Red's Meadow and Devils Postpile. Turn left/west and follow down through wildfire burn.- Mile 139.07

SHR067

Location: 37.6114616394043, -119.059585571289

Trail Junction. Turn right heading northwest - Mile 140.27

SHR068

Location: 37.6146965026856, -119.07495880127

Red's Meadow bus stop to Mammoth Ski Resort. Also available: Restaurant, small general store, lodging, BEER. Shuttle bus $7. Then hitch or take free shuttle from ski resort to Mammoth Lakes town. - Mile 141.97

SHR069

Location: 37.62939453125, -119.084655761719

Devils Postpile Visitor Center and Trailhead. Reached via mandatory $7 shuttle bush from Mammoth Ski Resort parking lot. - Mile 141.98

SHR070

Location: 37.6329307556152, -119.088973999023

Trail Junction with JMT. Turn right toward Minaret Falls and Shadow Lake. - Mile 142.75

SHR071

Location: 37.6403923034668, -119.093803405762

Second Junction. Leave JMT and turn left onto Beck Lakes Trail. - Mile 144.48

SHR072

Location: 37.6248512268066, -119.135139465332

Third trail junction. Turn right toward Superior and Beck Lakes. Mile 148.53

SHR073

Location: 37.6363868713379, -119.143836975098

Leave trail and strike north northwest toward Nancy Pass. - Mile 148.68

SHR074

Location: 37.6415634155273, -119.14722442627

Nancy Pass. Note memorial plaque and tin can register. - Mile 149.30

SHR075

Location: 37.6575393676758, -119.15128326416

Intersect Minaret Lake Trail. Turn left heading northwest - Mile 150.87

SHR076

Location: 37.6622314453125, -119.164291381836

Scramble short, Class III slot up lava dam to hidden Cecile Lake. Climb is easier than it looks from a distance. - Mile 152.33

SHR077

Location: 37.6966972351074, -119.177001953125

Whitebark Pass. To descend north, climb ridge to the east 200 feet and find ramp down crack in cliff. Possible steep snowfields in early- mid-summer. - Mile 156.23

SHR078

Location: 37.7066192626953, -119.184219360352

Easy saddle to Thousand Island Lake. - Mile 157.21

SHR079

Location: 37.7120513916016, -119.189376831055

Thousand Island Lake - Mile 157.79

SHR080

Location: 37.7013816833496, -119.206413269043

Glacier Lake Pass. - Mile 160.03

SHR081

Location: 37.6962699890137, -119.216262817383

Class II-III downclimb. Look close to find esay route. Not scary at all if you find the right line. - Mile 160.97

SHR082

Location: 37.6938896179199, -119.223724365234

Steep intimidating gully turns out to have old mule trail switchbacking down it. Much easier than it looks from top. - Mile 162.18

SHR083

Location: 37.6914443969727, -119.232444763184

Possible rib-deep stream crossing between lake and waterfall just downstream. Ford is floored by smooth slab. Can be done barefoot. - Mile 163.02

SHR084

Location: 37.6830139160156, -119.252319335938

Small notch in ridge allows easy gully descent. - Mile 165.58

SHR085

Location: 37.6851387023926, -119.290733337402

Blue Lake Pass. Descend 50 feet, then contour right heading northwest above rollover cliff bands below. Make straight for obvious snow-white rock mound - next waypoint. Do not descend into gullies below. - Mile 168.95

SHR086

Location: 37.6875801086426, -119.29467010498

Obvious white quartz mound. Traverse northwest until you can touch it, then descend broad ridge west. - Mile 169.33

SHR087

Location: 37.6880569458008, -119.308334350586

Find top of gully. Follow it down until definite user trail appears. Descend to valley floor and turn West. - Mile 170.29

SHR088

Location: 37.6875114440918, -119.32674407959

Cartridge Pass Trail. Turn right/north and follow toward Lyell Fork of the Merced. - Mile 171.87

SHR089

Location: 37.7064208984375, -119.325263977051

River crossing on logs. Possibly tough in early summer.

SHR090

Location: 37.745792388916, -119.374603271484

Junction with Lewis Creek Trail. Turn right heading northeast and climb valley. Mile 179.01

SHR091

Location: 37.769344329834, -119.342422485352

Junction with Bernice Lake Trail. Stay left, continue northeast. - Mile 181.59

SHR092

Location: 37.7801055908203, -119.341018676758

Vogelsang Pass- Mile 183.05

SHR093

Location: 37.795524597168, -119.345832824707

Major trail junction at large cairn. Continue straight heading north. - Mile 184.47

SHR094

Location: 37.804313659668, -119.340850830078

Tuolomne Pass - Mile 185.25

SHR095

Location: 37.824146270752, -119.33309173584

Last legal campsites before perimeter no-camping limit above Tioga Pass Road. - Mile 186.88

SHR096

Location: 37.8667945861816, -119.32299041748

Junction with PCT/JMT. Turn left heading west. -Mile 190.26

SHR097

Location: 37.8687515258789, -119.333595275879

Trail junction. Leave PCT/JMT and turn right heading north. - Mile 190.94

SHR098

Location: 37.8757209777832, -119.333992004395

Junction with Dana Fork Trail. Turn right heading east and follow to crossing of Tioga Pass Highway, or left heading west and cross bridge to parking lot and dumpster. - Mile 191.49

SHR099

Location: 37.8794898986816, -119.302787780762

Tioga Pass Highway crossing. - Mile 193.68

SHR100

Location: 37.9293365478516, -119.267631530762

Great Sierra Mine. This is only legal campsite in area. Most surrounding terrain is off-limits. - Mile 198.42

SHR101

Location: 37.9348487854004, -119.270797729492

Mine Shaft Pass. Note contact zone between granite and gneiss/schist metamorphic rocks. - Mile 198.91

SHR102

Location: 37.9975128173828, -119.309364318848

Secret Lake. Limited campsites available. Better camping below at Cascade Lake. - Mile 205.92

SHR103

Location: 38.0042419433594, -119.309959411621

Sky Pilot Col. Beware of steep, skittery descent on north. side. Proceed cautiously. - Mile 206.59

SHR104

Location: 38.0378112792969, -119.340400695801

Virginia Creek Trail. Step across and continue northwest toward Soldier Lake. Stay on left side of old avalanche path for easiest route to granite slabs above. - Mile 209.86

SHR105

Location: 38.0470542907715, -119.354331970215

Soldier Lake. Limited camping available. Better sites exist on north side of saddle enroute to Stanton Pass. - Mile 211.11

SHR106

Location: 38.0605926513672, -119.359909057617

Stanton Pass. northwest side is steep, exposed Class III-IV descent. Consider using rope for safety. - Mile 212.48

SHR107

Location: 38.088695526123, -119.371704101562

Horse Canyon Pass. Begin steep descent down Horse Canyon. Look closely for user trails, and possible steep snowfields in early to mid summer. - Mile 214.57

SHR108

Location: 38.1226005554199, -119.376640319824

Wilderness Boundary Sign - Mile 217.93

SHR109

Location: 38.1465301513672, -119.377822875977

Trails end. Backpacker parking at Mono Village. Rates=$10 first week. $1/day thereafter. Secure parking. Also available: Rooms, restaurant, bar, campground. - Mile 220.74