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This is such a wonderful hike. It is difficult, with the first mile and a half being the hardest and most exposed. It's also the worst part when returning - steep, hot, and your feet are dying to rest. We clocked in 11.3 miles on this hike, not 8.4, but we also went to the upper monarch lake as well (worth it). This was a surprisingly shady hike for the most part and the water at Monarch is very cold but refreshing. We had the first lake to ourselves for close to 30 minutes and it was wonderful. Love that the Mineral King area has relatively few visitors compared to the main part of the park. Just a note, the trail splits at one point and the other trail leads to Crystal lake. That is an unmaintained trail. So if you don't feel like dealing with some scrambling, I recommend doing Monarch instead.

What a great trail, well marked and maintained. The hike is closer to 7.1 miles and takes over 4 hours. Be sure to stop often and look up and around..... the giant Sequoia’s are so beautiful and the views breathtaking.
We went on Labor Day, the parking lot was full but didn’t run into too many groups.
Started at the Sugar Bowl trail head, to the right, and made the loop. It was at least 20 degrees cooler up in Kings Canyon than in the valley. Since it’s summer, the small creeks were dry. However, there is a nice stream that runs along the last couple miles and I recommend sitting, cooling off your feet before the last mile, all uphill.
Looking forward to coming back in the Spring!

backpacking
22 days ago

Absolutely stunning! This was one of the best backpacking trips of my life. Hiked in day 1 and spent two nights at the lake. On day 2 we hiked to the top of the pass and it was definitely worth it. We didn’t want to leave! We found a great secret place to camp in the area that’s was used as a quarry for the dam. Will be back!

Great Labor day hike from 3pm-7pm. Felt longer than 6.5 miles though. Just couple of locations with mosquitoes but not bothersome. We started from teh redwood creek to sugar bush to complete the loop. The views were astounding. Sequoia trees were mesmerizing specially the first half of the trail starting from sugar bush. Take plenty of water and wear long sleeeves & pants as there are areas with very narrow trail surrounded by short bushes.

The trail is steep, but paved the whole way. Not difficult at all. The 4 year old made it no problem. Totally worth the time to go to both gorgeous viewpoints! Remember the bug spray (end of July).

the sign said 4.4 mi. round trip for this one I thought. i enjoyed it but the air quality was really poor today when I went, to the point where the view of the mountains was obstructed when you get to the lookout. would be 5 stars on a clear day for sure though. Only 5 or 6 groups were on the trail

backpacking
29 days ago

My hiking buddy and I did this loop in the clockwise direction over 4 days in late August, camping at Pinto Lake, Upper Big Five Lakes, and Columbine Lakes. Overall a challenging but rewarding experience!

Pros
- Scenery: the views from Black Rock Pass and Columbine Lake were 5 stars. The alpine territory of Big Five Lakes and Lost Canyon were also incredible. The rest of the hike was pretty, but not quite as memorable.
- Logistics and solitude: this hike has become a lot more popular (permit demand has doubled in the last year alone). Nevertheless, obtaining permits is relatively easy and trail congestion remains low. We passed by only ~12 hikers per day on the trails and felt like we had our campsites all to ourselves.
- Charm: one thing I liked about this loop is you revisit a lot of the same locations from different points of view. For example, you get to see Columbine Lake from far away, then up close and personal. Or walk up Black Rock Pass, then admire how much altitude you climbed from far away 2 days later!
- Easy to customize: there are many variations of this loop if you have extra time, such as a detour to Nine Lake Basin or going over different passes.

Cons
- Difficulty: this hike kicked my butt! Although it's only ~7-8 miles per day, in the clockwise direction the first two days involve a LOT of uphill. The last day involves scrambling up and sliding down Sawtooth Pass. The packs and altitude only add to the exhaustion. On the flip side, the hike generally gets easier with each day.
- Getting there: Mineral King is less accessible than some other parts of the Sierras, so you might need to add 1-2 days to your itinerary to account for travel time.

Advice
- I recommend doing this in the clockwise direction from Timber Gap if possible. The first day is a slog and while pretty, it doesn't live up to the next 3 days. In the clockwise direction, the views improve with every day!
- Trail is well marked with a few exceptions. 1) If you're planning on camping at Pinto Lake, know that the lake is not signposted nor visible from the trail if you're coming from Timber Gap (i.e. from downhill). We initially missed and passed by it. Keep track of your location on the map and be on the lookout for a marshy area with trees in an otherwise completely sun-exposed area. 2) The detour to Upper Big Five Lakes fizzles out at one point, but you can keep on going deep into the canyon off the trail. 3) When going from Upper Big Five Lakes to Lost Canyon, when you reach the last lake, you will need to cross the creek to the other side. The trail not clearly marked, stay close to the edge of the lake on the opposite and look out for cairns. 4) The trail between Columbine and Monarch Lakes is not well established. At the top near Sawtooth Pass, there are use trails in the decomposed granite, but the trail lower down near the lakes requires scrambling over rocks and some pathfinding.
- The NPS rangers will recommend against camping at Columbine Lake as there are few campsites and the area has been "abused" by hikers (e.g. leaving trash, illegally camping next to the lake, etc). The will instead advise hikers to camp in Upper Lost Canyon, where there are some sun-exposed sites near the switchbacks leading to Columbine Lake, or covered sites in the forested area before the switchbacks. We ended up camping at Columbine Lake unintentionally and it was incredible. If you do too, please respect the space!

All round great hike. Long enough, with the elevation, to push you. But not brutal enough to upgrade it from a “moderate” to a “hard” class hike. Two sets of mule deer does with fawns, marmots, pikas and the lake itself make this well worth the time and effort.

backpacking
1 month ago

Beautiful lake, and definitely hike up to the pass and see the view!
The altitude was a bit tough for our group, had to stop and catch our breath a few times on the way up, but well worth the effort. The lake was pristine and we had a great swim after setting up camp.

This is a beautiful loop! We went clockwise and I would certainly recommend that direction; first day camping spots are better and scree skiing down Sawtooth is much better than trying to scramble up it from Monarch Lakes. I agree with others that noted the All Trails distances are off. Red numbers on map are more accurate than the All Trails lines and better match the trail signs. Rangers were still recommending marmot precautions as of 8/1/18. Trail crews did a good job of addressing the washout west of Pinto Lake and were actively fixing the one east of Pinto. Water was available pretty much throughout the loop. The only real tough patch was from Pinto to Little 5 Lakes. There's a stream at about 10,200 feet right before some switchbacks. Next water is 3+ miles away, over Big Rock Pass and down at Little 5 (the last lake is the cleanest). Mosquitoes were out around both Little and Big 5 Lakes but weren't really a problem. Caught trout all around the loop, but they were small and only good for the story. Nymphs seemed to be key. Hope this helps! Have a great trip!

Awesome hike! a full 360 view at the far end, nice mix of easy and harder trails and an unstoppable urge to shout from the top of your lungs! We went midday and only met a couple of other hikers on the trail. However we saw Marmots!

What a spectacular hike! Not only is the scenery beautiful but the animals along the trail are as well! We saw deer, marmots, quail, squirrels, and grouse! The short trip to the top is well worth it! My daughter and I did it on 8/8/18. I’d recommend hitting the trail early. We started around 0730. By doing this you avoid the crowds, the heat, and the haze hasn’t really had an opportunity to build up. We had Little Baldy all to ourselves! The view is breathtaking. I can only imagine what the view looks like on a clear day!

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike and fairly cool on an early August day when it was broiling at lower elevations. No bugs on the mountain and not too bad along the creek - but enough that repellent would have made it more enjoyable. Mostly we had the trail to ourselves. The number of old-growth trees is astounding.

1 month ago

Hiked it 8-4-18. It is a pretty hard hike, but the views are incredible! A steady climb all the way there but worth it. Took Us 4 hrs up an 3 down with taking alot of pics along the way. Flowers almost all the way up with plenty of deer to spot. Trail path is good, but watch ankles towards the top the rocks get rough. Next time we're spending the night to explore the lake more.

1 month ago

Completed trail right at sunset. Unbelievable! Boole is worth the hike. Road to trailhead can be rough and a standard vehicle may bottom out in some of the dips. Hike is a contact incline until you see the tree then all down hill. Great hike! Will do it again.

Beautiful hike! Elevation climb is tough, so make sure to take it slow, but the views are unbelievable. Though this hike can be done in one day, we stayed over night and it was so peaceful, definitely recommend this hike as a backpacking trip. Make sure to watch out for marmots, they were all over the place during this time of year, so keep an eye on your stuff.

backpacking
2 months ago

The trail was very strenuous but easy to follow and well worth it. The views going up the trail and at the lake were amazing, and the Brook trout fishing in the main lake was excellent.

LOVE this trail. From the burned forest to the sunny stretches to the riverside—lots of diversity in terrain.

Views were amazing! We went early and only ran into a few other hikers, as we finished it started to get busier and the small pull off for parking was full.

Awesome hike with beautiful views. Hike was strenuous at times- especially not being used to the altitude. The marmots were very used to humans- one took a few bites out of my shoe! Bring mosquito repellent. I stayed the night and was able to enjoy peace and wake up to beautiful views of the lake.

Spectacular. Went late June. Saw 12 people in four days (including a kind ranger). Did the loop counterclockwise, which is recommended unless you are otherwise itching to crawl/scramble/struggle up the skree of Sawtooth Pass. Camped Cliff Creek, Middle Lower Five Lakes, and Upper-Middle Lost Canyon. Mosquitos were out and about, but with the year’s lighter snowpack, we may have faced the worst of it. To be safe, bring ample Deet and invest in mosquito resistant clothing (including face netting). With some long stretches out of tree-cover, also bring ample sunscreen (though 3oz was more than enough for two of us).

If you’re young and/or in tip-top shape (and, more importantly, very prepared and carrying a light pack), you could do this in two days, though take caution with altitude sickness over some of these passes. Otherwise, take your time and enjoy this underappreciated escape.

Hard, but not overly painfully so. I have asthma and had to stop many times for air, but there was no need for a fast pace. Even with my slowness, we planned for four days but did it in there. Aside from normal backcountry gear, bring A LOT of sunscreen and zinc and GOOD mosquito repellant. Our GPS recorder logged significantly more miles than as posted on this and other trail sites. This map has the trail going in straight lines that do not exist. Expect closer to 35 miles maybe.

Day 1: Timber Gap Trail to Timber Gap. The trail is moderately steep out of the parking lot and continues so for some time. Reaching the top of Timber Gap has nice views with plenty of shade. Descend fast to the junction with Cliff Creek. This is the most psychologically challenging parts of the trip—to descend to below where you started and then have to climb for miles with a tall pass at the end of it. At the junction with Cliff Creek there is the most beautiful creek passing with several little pools. I wish it wouldn’t have been a waste to camp there, otherwise we would have. Have lunch. Walk along the creek and through the dry bed (which can be confusing—some cairns arranged; alternatively look for mule poop) as you pass epic waterfalls as you approach the switchbacks to climb to the Pinto Lake Area. At Pinto Lake, full water in stream that is clearly audible. Several campsites in front of and across the path from the bear box area. Choose a site on the rocks above the bear box—the breeze up there keeps the mosquitos away and the sunset is incredible.

Day 2: Fill your water. Then have fun figuring out how to get across the marsh and connect with the trail. Once you find it, begin the 3000 vertical feet in 3 miles to the top of Blackrock Pass. You’ll pass a steam going down the side of the mountain near the beginning of the climb up the switchbacks. Fill water here as it is the last water on this side and there won’t be mosquito free water for a bit on the other side. Then get ready—if you look straight up the mountain, slightly behind the stream, you can see the pass. It looks forever away. It sucked. I had to stop often (every 20-30 steps) to catch my breath. The grade is steep most of the way. But the views are the best views of the trip, as you see Columbine Lake and Spring Lake and the other lake across the valley. Take your time getting to the top and then enjoy the pass. The views are also quite good, as you look down on Little 5 lakes below. As you descend, turn around and look at the pass and you’ll understand why it’s called Blackrock—all of the rock to the right off the pass is sand colored. Get down, enjoy the view of the first couple of Little 5 lakes from above, but then put on your turbo boosters and get past them as fast as possible—horrible mosquitos. There is a creek draining from one of the lakes at the trail junction that takes you to the ranger station. Bugs were slightly less horrible there if you need water. Continue onto Big 5. You’ll hit a junction for Lower or Upper Big 5. Just know that if you choose Lower Big 5, you likely won’t come back to see Upper Big 5–there are quite a few switchbacks on the one mile trail to lower Big 5 and elevation to get back up to Upper Big 5 would suck. Lower Big 5 has some nice camping spots near the bear box and other spots across the lake on a small shoulder above where we were told there was a nice pond. AND YOU CAN HAVE FIRES HERE! Remember—no wood larger than you’re forearm.

Day 3: We had a leisurely morning of breakfast, a couple of swims, cards, and snacks. We slowly packed up, departed at 1230, and began the moderate climb to start, then mostly easy going hike to the end of Upper Lost Canyon. The creek and valley are absolutely stunning with Sawtooth and a couple other peaks in the background. We camped at a small, cleared area just a few switchbacks up the trail at the start of the climb to Columbine. We were directly next to one stream with another up the side of the mountain. Take your time along here—you’re in no rush and the valley is picturesque.

Day 4: after sleep, the hike up to Columbine from the base of the switchbacks wasn’t too bad—took maybe 45 minutes. The views are incredible; you can see the switchbacks up Blackrock Pass Trail. Contrary to what the rangers say, there are plenty of camping spots up there. When you reach the lake, follow the trail to the right, over the stream and you’ll find over a dozen great spots. The hike up to the pass is steep and challenging in sections, but the views are top notch and scree skiing down the mountain is so, so fun. Gaters and poles are a must for the descent. There isn’t really a trail for a while, so just choose a good skiing spot and keep your eyes open for the use trail toward the bottom on the way to monarch lake.

Dope trail not to hard but challenging

Really pretty lake with great fishing. The marmots were relentless at taking whatever they could when our backs were turned.

Beautiful trail, especially in the redwood groves. Started at 0730, even then it was pretty warm at the finish. Lots of pretty creeks, saw 3 deer, and of course, the magnificent redwoods. Many flying bugs, but we didn't get bit by mosquitos. We have hike both directions, from the Hart Trail and the Sugarbowl trail. I think I prefer to go counterclockwise, beginning on the Sugarbowl trail, gets more of the elevation done early in the hike.

Breathtaking view from the peak of Big Baldy. Trail is in decent condition, but the last stretch has loose rocks and a couple of sharp turns with steep dropoffs. Best to watch your step. Definitely would go again

hiking
3 months ago

NPS website is not lying when they said "start early because it's a west-facing slope". The first mile was incredibly hot and sunny in the afternoon. After the first mile, it gets much easier. it took me 3pm-10pm including lots of picture-taking and slow progress on the way up.

Saw many marmots and grouse. If you hear a deep "whoop whoop whoop whoop", that's the male grouse's mating call.

This year, going earlier in the season would've meant fewer mosquitoes, less heat, and less crowds if you're also visiting Lodgepole. Late May-early june would be ideal this year. June in years when there's heavier snowfall.

The views were pretty good but I wish I had hiked Eagle Lake instead, considering I started late.

Love this trail. Mountain perfection! Creek crossing is safe right now. There is small patches of snow at the lake but you won't see any on the trail. If you got sweet blood like I do, bug spray is a must! Mosquitos are out and hungry!! Great elevation gain hike & views to kill for!

This loop was more difficult than I anticipated and more beautiful than I could have imagined. The pictures don't do it justice. The altitude and the grade of the slopes make it difficult and the distances were longer than what is stated on the trail guides. I tracked my progress with my Garmin GPS watch and racked up considerably more distance than indicated on the maps. Maybe the maps don't account for the switchbacks or when the trail goes up and down in elevation? The snow also added to the difficulty and made it a bit more dangerous. I think I could do the loop more easily now that I know what lays ahead of me and I also think it would be easier when the snow melts off the slopes. I highly recommend this trail. Its one of those adventures that will make you ask "What was I thinking" during the hike and a week after you get home and recover you'll be trying to figure out how you can return and do it again.

Nice hike not to strenuous. Nice looking lake water still very cold every time I’m at a alpine lake I have to take a dip in. Plenty of brown Trout caught a few in just a hour very good day.

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