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High Sierra Trail: Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal

hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(122)
Sequoia National Park

High Sierra Trail: Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal is a 72 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Stony Creek Village, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

Length 72.0 mi Elevation gain 15,475 ft Route type Point to Point

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Nature trips

Forest

Lake

Hot springs

River

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Rocky

Scramble

Snow

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (47)
Contact
Tips
Getting There

Each paragraph below roughly corresponds to a day on the trail, although there are many ways to break up the hike, and day hikes are also possible. 1. The HST begins at Crescent Meadow, or start from the trailhead at Wolverton. The trail climbs along a steep ridge. To the right, the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. To your left, the summit of Alta Peak at 11,000 feet. The 1st camp is at 9-Mile Creek - this creek is not labeled as such, but is referred to as 9-Mile because it is 9 miles in. Or, move on to the next creek crossing (Buck) or to the backpacker camp at Bearpaw Meadow. All three have bear boxes. 2. The second stretch is exposed alpine terrain. From Buck, the trail climbs 600 ft to Bearpaw Meadow. Here is a backpacker's camp. For the next two miles, the trail descends from Bearpaw to Lone Pine Creek. You will find a bridge over a gorge but it's another mile until easy water. There are some campsites throughout. Here you find granite formations like Valhalla and Angel Wings. Eventually you reach Hamilton Lake. Stay here or continue up to Precipice and through Hamilton Gorge. This stretch ends at Precipice Lake. 3. Hike along through a boulder field and past some shallow ponds in an alpine zone. A mile in you'll be standing atop Kaweah Gap, the pass which marks the trail's crossing of the Great Western Divide. 9-Lakes basin is to your left, but to stay on the trail descend to your right into Big Arroyo. The trail descends through Big Arroyo for several miles, eventually meeting a trail junction near an old patrol cabin. There are many campsites scattered. This junction is the beginning of a gradual, hot climb out of Big Arroyo. It is the driest stretch of the trail so fill up on water in the Arroyo. As you climb you'll get views of the southern peaks of the Great Western Divide before entering the forest atop Chagoopa Plateau. Eventually, if you choose the right fork at the trail junction, you'll arrive at Moraine Lake, a great place for a swim and camp. 4. For the first few miles of this stretch you'll get to enjoy easy hiking as the trail winds gradually through the woods with no steep ascents or descents. If you have a sharp eye, keep a lookout for Mount Whitney in the distance. It's not a clear view, but it's the first peek you'll get of the highest point in the lower 48 states, one you'll hopefully be standing on in a few short days. You'll pass the remains of an old sheep herder's cabin and through a forest of burnt tree trunks. Eventually you'll hike along the southeastern edge of Sky Parlor Meadow with an unobstructed view of Mt Kaweah. After joining back together with the other fork of the High Sierra Trail, the long, ~2500 foot descent into the Kern Canyon begins. It starts off moderate but turns into tight, rocky, steep switchbacks. Before the switchbacks, the trail passes through a dense field of ferns - this is where you need to go on rattlesnake alert. They are common here and on the upcoming stretch of trail. 5. Next is a simple and easy stretch at the midpoint of the High Sierra Trail. The trail parallels the Kern River, climbing gradually through the Canyon. You'll have plenty of water access. Approximately eight miles from the Hot Spring you'll reach Junction Meadow, the not-so-cleverly named open space where other the High Sierra Trail meets the trail to Colby Pass and other destinations to the west. There are many campsites at Junction Meadow. From here, the trail follows the right fork of the Kern River and starts to climb. Before too long you'll reach the junction to Wallace Creek. The High Sierra Trail continues to the right with a sign informing you of the short 14.8 miles left until Mount Whitney. There are a few campsites if you continue straight towards Upper Kern Basin. 6. This segment goes a western-approach climb of Mount Whitney: Guitar Lake. This is a stretch that climbs about 3500 feet in ten miles. Upon meeting Wallace Creek (which is far below you), the trail turns to the east until you eventually meet it at the junction with the JMT. About 3.5 miles in the High Sierra Trail meets the John Muir Trail where it crosses Wallace Creek. At the junction there are many campsites. Finally, you'll reach Crabtree Meadow where there is a backcountry ranger station, places to camp, and water access. From here, the trail climbs another ~800 feet in 2.5 miles to Guitar Lake at 11,400 feet. 7. The summit of Whitney is about a 3000 foot climb from Guitar Lake. The first 2.5 miles and 2000 feet switchback up the western side of the ridge until reaching Trail Junction. Here, drop your pack (keep your food protected from marmots!), grab your camera and water, and head to the summit. The summit is another 1000 feet up in about two miles. After summiting, it's about 11 miles and 6000 feet of descent to the trailhead. Back at the Junction, pick up your pack and climb the final small stretch to Trail Crest, then descend the famous 97 switchbacks.

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

Campsites You must camp a minimum of 2 miles from the nearest trailhead. Bears There are bears throughout this trail. Keep a close eye on all of your food and keep it packed away in the bear box or your bear canister when not in use. Photography This is a great route for wildflower and wildlife photography. Precipice Lake was made famous by Ansel Adams and presents amazing photography opportunities - the lake has a different look and color every hour of the day. Fishing There are many fishing opportunities in the lakes and creeks throughout this trek. Check for specific regulations before heading out and enjoy some great fishing where you can. Pooping Once you pass Crabtree you will be entering the Whitney Zone. You are required to carry EVERYTHING off the trail with you when in the Whitney Zone, and that includes human you-know-what. The Forest Service provides a 'Wag Bag' kit for this free of charge, and there is a bin of them stored at the trail junction by Crabtree Meadow. Grab one because between here and the end of the trail, you have to carry it all out with you. Other This is a very long trek at elevation with a lot of climbing. It is a good idea to take it easy and pay attention to your body. As the days go on you will grow stronger and acclimate to the altitude, but day 1 can be tough. Don't over do it, and make sure to factor in the extra time it can take to shuttle, pick up the permit, and get organized at the trailhead.

Directions from Ash Mountain Entrance: Drive north along Generals Highway 17 miles to the Crescent Meadow Road. Turn right and travel to the roads end and the High Sierra Trailhead.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (122)
Photos (349)
Recordings (99)
Completed (244)
Kevin B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 5, 2020
HikingGreat!
Andrew Segina
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 27, 2020
BackpackingGreat!
Maksym Revutskyi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 26, 2020
Backpacking

Trail was in a perfect condition (maybe a bit muddy in a few places). Plenty of streams to refill water. Some mosquitoes at Junction Meadow, but not too crazy. The trail itself is beautiful, stunning views, plenty of flowers and wildlife

View Maksym's Recording
Katryna Kviatkevich
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 26, 2020
Hiking

Alert: AllTrails miles are not correct, add 2-3 miles extra per 10 shown on this map. Not a pleasant surprise. This trail is truly special and I loved every minute of it! Details and comments on the map are still accurate.

View Katryna's Recording
Eli Richardson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 17, 2020
HikingBugsFloodedMuddyRockySnow

This trail was breathtaking in beauty and elevation. It was incredible. The hike was difficult in many places along the route, but far from impossible. I would highly recommend this trip for experienced hikers. It certainly gave me a BAD case of mountain craving sickness. I would do it again for sure.

Angel Nuñéz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 13, 2020
Hiking

Worst recording ever! Bad solar charger phone kept dying. But the absolute best time ever. Pure beauty. My Whitney was everything. Valhalla was my favorite area. Saw a bear with her cub in Bearpaw Meadow. Backpedal real quick.

View Angel 's Recording
Reilly Embrey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 26, 2020
Hiking

Hiked this with my sister in 4 days 7 hours! Beautiful trail and because of the closure at Whitney portal, we had the trail all to ourselves. We were the only ones at the hot springs and when we summited Whitney we were all alone! Very cool experience. The trail is very clear right now, no snow, not a lot of down trees. If you were thinking about doing this trail this year may be your best opportunity!

View Reilly's Recording
Kyle R.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 19, 2020
Hiking

First time hiking in the Sierras, absolutely breathtaking! Hiked the High Sierra trail with 3 other guys from Jun 12 - 19. Trail conditions were good for early season. There were many downed trees, numerous small water crossings (some big ones too), and many snowfields at Kaweah Gap and Trail Crest. The trail to Whitney and East of Trail Crest was the sketchiest due to many steep snowfields. Poles and micro-spikes are highly recommended, and roping up would probably be wise. It took us 2.5 hours to hike from the Crest to Trail Camp! (due to having to share one pair of poles and 2 pairs of spikes) Weather was great, highs in the 60s to 70s (much colder on Whitney), and lows around freezing most nights. (There was Ice on the inside of our tent at Guitar Lk.) I was just warm enough in my 30 degree mummy bag. There were almost no people past Precipice Lake with a few more on Whitney, although now that the Portal has opened that may change. We found many "designated" places to camp along the way with few or no people. We did not see any rangers. P.S. highly recommend staying at Kern Hot Springs! Best night of the whole trip!

Michael White
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 17, 2020
Hiking

Recommended

View Michael's Recording
Chris "Soggy" Vores
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 18, 2019
Hiking

August 2015. Great hike starting at Crescent Meadows hiked to the ranger station then to just above Precipice Lake then to just past the Hot Springs then up past the JMT to the Meadows about 18 miles from Whitney. Hiked all day from 7:30 till 3:00 and summited Whitney then hiked till dark about 1 mile above the parking lot and camped. Make sure to take a day in Sequoia to see everything. There is a shuttle from Visalia from the Holiday Inn to take you up and bring you back. Be aware you switch shuttles to the trailhead gets you up there about 10 am. Just in case you wanted to start early the first day. Getting off trail is easy. Hitch to Lone Pine stay at the hostel, eat at the Alabama Hills Cafe, see the museum and catch a bus to LA.

Sarah Agnew
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2019
Hiking

Absolutely breathtaking. Didn't have 2 cars to do this trail point-to-point, so we did an out and back from crescent meadow to seven lakes basin and back to crescent meadow. Did it in 5 nights (but only got in 3 miles the first day due to a very late start so 4 nights would have been doable). The views are absolutely amazing, especially at Precipice lake. If I went again, I'd do the trail as a point to point and just hitchhike back to my car.

Eddie Alvarez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 29, 2019

Awesome

Noah Solis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 18, 2019
Hiking

Did this as a 6 day hike in August 2019. Great memories, stunning sights and I’d do it again!

Jessica Menard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 9, 2019
Hiking

Beautiful hike! Perfect for a weekend hiking trip.

Maureen Welsh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 26, 2019
Backpacking

What an epic trip! This was a high snow/water year, so with that, it was also a high mosquito year! One sketchy thing was the trail blowout above Hamilton Lakes! Yikes, we made it but whew!! The trail is well marked and the views are just breathtaking. Lots of elevation gain/loss so take your time and just enjoy the beauty. I would highly suggest recording your trip..used my cellphone but would have taken my time more to do more video with description/narrative. **There are many trip reports on the web to get info but we mostly found these to be helpful planning our trek. (just highlight the url, copy & paste into new browser)..Have fun!! Permits & Bus to TH info - https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness_permits.htm Trip Itinerary (8 days) - https://www.jmpeltier.com/high-sierra-trail-itinerary/ Trip Itinerary (8 days) - https://socalhiker.net/overview-of-the-high-sierra-trail/ Trip Itinerary (6 days) - https://www.backcountrycow.com/blog/backpacking-the-high-sierra-trail-in-6-days Trip Itinerary (7 days) http://www.highsierratrails.com/high_sierra_trail/trail.html#here Campsites w/Bear Boxes - https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_box.htm

Gershom S.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 15, 2019
BackpackingBugs

Amazing seven day adventure. To see the Milky Way over Mt Whitney from Guitar Lake, complete with shooting stars was awe inspiring. And Precipice Lake was otherworldly and breathtaking. The trail is offering so many different aspects, from deciduous forest to gnarly juniper groves and alpine meadows to the barren world above the tree line. Incredible views. I hiked with three friends. We had not a drop of rain/hail, but is was hot and lower elevation campsites had plenty of mosquitos. Apparently the work on the missing trail section will start this week. If you are considering this trail prepare well, this is a very demanding hike in distance and elevation.

Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2019
Hiking

The hike up from where we stayed last night was absolutely gorgeous. The views in this area are phenomenal and I cannot believe that I’m almost done. My pack has never felt lighter and I’m pretty tired, but I am loving every minute of this. I am so, so glad to be here. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. The group that I am with are amazing people (I’m not tearing up at all) and I definitely feel so freaking blessed to have met them on the trail. Team morale is high and we are ready for the summit!!!!!

View Carlos's Recording
Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 7, 2019

Stayed with the 2 families today and boy oh boy am I glad! It started coming down around 2:40 when we’re just above the JMT junction (around 1.5-ish miles; see the recording for more accuracy). Set up camp right by a small creek and it was the fastest I’ve ever set up camp!! Literally within 5 minutes. Then it hailed for a good hour!!! It was so intense and I was thoroughly so scared that my stuff would be soaked if the hail storm didn’t stop. Luckily, it did and the sun came out for the rest of the evening. I am very glad to have stayed with these folks because had I gone ahead, then I would’ve been miserable and probably be hiking in that storm trying to get to Guitar Lake. Today was another day full of uphill and 2 last creek crossings that were about calve’s deep. My blisters are wickedly painful and I definitely wouldn’t be okay to walk uphill today if it hadn’t been for Dr. Kristin who helped treat them yesterday. I believe that it was fate that I met these folks on the trail yesterday and even feeling more blessed that they allowed me to stick with them/be a part of their group. We will get to Guitar Lake tomorrow and have an easy day before summiting Whitney on Friday. Super stoked to be 75% done with the HST. I can’t believe it’s almost over and I’m almost back to the car/civilization once again.

View Carlos's Recording
Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 6, 2019
BugsMuddyNo shadeRocky

The NPS website is a complete lie... it is NOT 13.7 miles from Moraine Lake. From Moraine Lake to Junction Meadow... it is around 16.3 miles. Add another mile (1.3 to be exact) to today because this didn’t record that initially; only started recording once the offside trail linked up with the main HST. So technically it’s 17.6 miles or so? After the fern area after I past the gate that said ‘keep closed to keep wildlife safe’, it was such a rocky ascend. My feet are banged up like crazy from today. From ML to Kern’s Hot Spring was a descend into hell. Such a gnarly descend just to be greeted with more ascend to JM. Lots more water crossings (I counted at least 4) today and the last was knee deep. Feet are filled with blisters and I met a group of 8 (all family). A lady who happened to be an ER doctor that’s a part of the group of 8 helped me tend to the blisters. There’s still hope for me to be able to summit Whitney!!! Ps- I got slightly lost for like 2 min after a small river crossing but managed to find the trail again and descended into Kern Canyon. Pps- I got chased by 2 bees today!! I’m not sure if they were bees or something along those lines but that’s good enough to get me hiking faster! Ppps- I miss real food. Got so tired of eating mtnhouse after the third day. I want anything and everything but dehydrated food.

View Carlos's Recording
Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 5, 2019

Hamilton blowout was manageable thanks to a group of 7 guys who helped me. Today was ROUGH. Lots of ascending from Hamilton Lakes up to Precipice Lake and over Kaweah Gap just to descend into Big Arroyo Meadow and then ascend up and out of BAM to descend yet again into Moraine Lake. The meadow in between Precipice Lake and Kaweah Gap has TONS of mosquitoes. Then then descend into BAM was just as bad for mosquitoes. I practically ran down from the KG just to avoid the skeeters. The ascend out of BAM was rough because it was mostly exposed (all sun) and going up to the second highest part of the day as well. I lost count of the water crossings after number 6? 7? My feet definitely felt the climb today. Switched out to Teva at the main river crossing and kept it on until Moraine Lake. Kind of a bad idea because the sandal scraped my skin. Camped at ML which wasn’t bad at all when it came to mosquitoes. Very surprised there! I was mentally zoinked out after today. Physically drained too. Ate dinner inside my tent and had very little energy left to filter water.

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Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 4, 2019

Holy crap the uphill climb today was never ending. Got a taste of what tomorrow’s big 2k climb over to Big Arroyo will be like. So happy to have made it here to Hamilton Lake!!! Not very many mosquitoes and bear boxes available here. The deers here are extremely friendly as they’ll definitely approach you within ~5-10 feet. Even friendlier if you have food out. Also- I don’t think this is accurate in terms of elevation gain. It’s supposed to be at least 2k of elevation gain but this app says otherwise.

View Carlos's Recording
Carlos Padilla
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 3, 2019

First day. Got to mehren creek and camped at designated campsite above the trail and close to the creek It was an easy and very doable 6~ish miles for the first day. It’s the ONLY easy day out of this whole entire trip.

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Younes Jellal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2019
HikingBugsScrambleSnowWashed out

Very challenging this year due to heavy snow pack, damaged trail section, raging water creeks, but very rewarding. love every minute of it.

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