Explore the most popular walking trails in John Muir Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Just completed it today May 18.
Amazing view throughout the trail and not just the pass itself. Beautiful lakes and some at higher elevation were still frozen. Most snow has melted and it was very easy to see the trail. Less than a mile of the trail was still under the snow.
We also met some PCT thru hikers on the way to resupply at Independence. The trail just keeps going west and I would love to camp here one day and just keep going. But we still made a beautiful day hike out of it.
Saw a marmot , my first encounter.
It is not an easy trail, but if you are cardio prepared, the reward are the views and entire experience of being out there and going thru snow in May.

The highest of the five lakes is a jewel.

Did this monster hike in one day (July, 2013’) instead of backpacking it in.
This is definitely for experienced hikers...if you are prepared and if you are an avid hiker this trail is for you!

Gorgeous hike! Stunning vistas. When we started the gate wasn’t open, but it is now. Lucky hikers can park and start right at the trailhead!
We had hiking shoes and were fine, but micro spikes would have worked well today, -still large spots with snow, though melting quickly. Snowshoes as you get deeper would surely come in handy. We turned back 3 miles in (we started late) but I imagine our shoes would have taken us all the way. Just be careful as the snow is melting and it’s easier to fall through.

Attempt made on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, start time at approximately 11 a.m., (late start)! I'm giving it a 3 only because I completed about 1/4 of it. I lost the trail in the snow and no clear tracks to lead me anywhere. Without hiking experience or reliable GPS in the spotty vicinity, I turned around to a defeat. I would like to state that the little I was able to trek, absolutely stunning views and waterfalls. I will most certainly return to finish this, as it deserves! The only intimidating portion of this area, is the 20 minute drive back down in a sedan. My brakes felt every bit of that descent.

Beautiful!! the first and second lakes were frozen and the third was halfway melted. Not very hard but amazing views.

Went this past week...very beautiful!! A lot of snow and very deep but totally awesome!

It’s an incredible hike! Like some other recent posts, we only went to 2nd lake but the entire way had such beauty there was no boring aspect. The weather was perfect. The hike isn’t strenuous and can be taken quite leisurely. I had a knee issue recently and managed to complete this hike without much issue. And my Maltese/Pomeranian did too! According to my Suunto Traverse we did just under 10 miles round trip. Can’t wait to come back when the lakes have thawed. We hiked on 05/05/18

Hiked this trail with a group of 13 people in 5th grade in 2015. Took 8 days and was the most amazing experience of my life. I do not like the views from the day trip as it is way more difficult and not as beautiful. It is a brutal way to take in the elevation. I strongly suggest doing the full long trail. I will be going back this summer. It is a mind blowing experience and if a 5th grader can do it, you can too.

No, dogs are certainly NOT able to use this trail. Past Kearsarge Pass you are hiking in Kings Canyon National Park. National parks do NOT allow dogs on wilderness trails.

Mt Whitney in spring. Enough said.

on Big Pine Lakes Trail

hiking
20 days ago

Wow. Just wow. Spent all yesterday morning, from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. hiking up to the second lake (group felt that going up to the third would’ve been a little more dangerous considering we didn’t anticipate so much ice) and the views were absolutely breathtaking! It started to snow as we were making our way back down (which made the hike all the more better) and ran into many anticipated fishermen. Sadly for them the lakes were frozen over leaving only a small little area for them to fish. However, all in all, this was probably the best hike I’ve done so far this year and I would LOVE to go back when the weather gets warmer!

hiking
22 days ago

I completed this trail on 27April18. Up to lake 3 is a safe hike and is where the best views are, beyond that, there is nothing moderate about it, at least in the winter time. I decided to push myself and continued (I only had crampons, no snow shoes) but there is still so much snow that is actually dangerous. Is so deep in some areas that my whole leg would get buried on it, and I am a 6’1” tall guy. There are so many creeks that you can hear them under the snow so you wanna be careful. The other lakes are smaller and not so impressive like the first three. Since the snow was so deep I didn’t go around lake four and intercepted the trail in the other end, which btw is nowhere to be seen, I just followed my GPS. The snow was so unstable that I had to crawl, slide on my rear, etc. I lost part of my hiking pole, stuck somewhere in the deep of it, even I almost lose one of my boots in a similar scenario. I had to dig it out. About the course, is continuous uphill up to lake four. Lake 1 is at 10000 ft., highest point 10800 or so. The loop which is somewhere around 5 miles long starts after 4.5 from the parking lot. The uphill is moderate in general, strenuous at times. Weather was chilli but comfortable.

backpacking
1 month ago

Not sure if I need to add to the big review pile for this trail, but why not. It lives up to the hype and the access is easy. I would say this is an excellent trail for beginning backpackers who want to experience the Sierra Nevada at its best.

It is popular for a reason, but the presence of people dwindle the further up you go, and there are options to expand beyond this trail (such as Agassiz Col which I attempted but failed, a successful failure I must say).

Why does the summary on this trail's description say it "features a lake"? As a matter of fact, it features so many lakes the namers half-assedly named them numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...!

I hiked this trail 5 times as part of John Muir Trail and few other times just for Mount Whitney. I like it in winter or early spring. I always hike it in one day. I like the views from the Trail Crest, the Marmors and the summit. I don’t like the switchbacks when there are crowds.

First attempt may 5th 2017. Left at 3am for a one day climb but 3 miles in the trail disappeared. Continued climbing up another 3 miles weather started getting bad, extreme high winds and 2 ft of snow dropped that day. Decided to go back to base camp disappointed we couldn't continue. 1 guy was found dead that previous week and a couple went missing that same weekend. It can be dangerous during snow season but easy during summer. You always have to make the right calls to stay alive. I plan on going back and finish the hike.

Unfortunately we were there without snow shoes end of march. We had to turn around. What we saw.... 5 stars although we didn’t make it to the lakes.

9-29-18

Favorite trail to date! Was well cleared and easy to follow, a lot of switchbacks along a steady incline but very doable. Go on a clear day and the views are unrivaled!

Left the portal at 4am with a flashlight,as the batteries were dying the sun was rising! Don’t know if this is some kind of close to record time but I was back down at the Portal by a quarter to 2.
I was in my forties and super fit(USCF rider)
In any case it was a spectacular hike...recommend it to anyone who loves majestic views.Just get yourself in some kind of shape....it will be much more enjoyable.

we did this in ice and snow in 2k17. it was an awesome challenge and we completed it in one day from the Whitney trailhead. The switchbacks were closed due to snow so we had to climb the chute, that was the best part other than the summit. I'm doing it twice this year! This place is amazing, truly.

backpacking
3 months ago

Camped overnight at Barney.

camping
3 months ago

Camped at Box Lake and it was the bomb.

This was the most beautiful hike I’ve been on! The lakes were like turquoise gems against the snow patched craggy mountains. The switchbacks take you up into the John Muir Wilderness where a surge of water runs along your path. You can rest by Lon Chaney’s old cabin and continue on to find more gorgeous lakes as you walk. True story: I inhaled a mountain fly and within a few minutes it came out my nose. I swear...disgusting but true. The nice thing is that you can choose to go out six miles or complete the whole trail and you will feel accomplished either way.

Like Mr Dave I did this hike when I was 19 or 20! We went up in 1 day stayed in lone pine as well what a wonderful place! You defiantly should bring a water purifier and I would suggest stopping at the first camp to acclimate. I may have to try the lottery to see where I stand at 44 years old- cheers to all!

hiking
3 months ago

We just hiked to Second Lake (mid January ‘18) and are amazed at how gradual the trail is - probably because it’s graded for stock. It was a fast hike of only 10 miles round trip, but the views are staggering, especially in winter. If you hit this trail before the next major snow you only need micro spikes after the Ranger Station.

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