Mineral King: Black Rock Pass Loop

HARD 4 reviews
#54 of 86 trails in

Mineral King: Black Rock Pass Loop is a 29.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mineral King, 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.

DISTANCE
29.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
9,681 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

no dogs

backpacking
2 months ago

Edit/correction from previous entry: We traveled the route "clockwise" (not counter....). Be advised that this trail is difficult for the beginner or person who is not familiar with such high altitudes and elevation gains. Though a lot of the trail was easy, both Black Rock Pass and Sawtooth Pass will kick your butt. Allow lots of extra time to get up them so you don't get caught in the dark trying to get back down the other side like we did. This place is no joke.

2 months ago

Beautiful. Be ready to feel out of breathe lol

backpacking
2 months ago

I give this trail 5 stars purely for the spectacular views. We hiked it counterclockwise starting on the Timber Gap trail and finishing on the Sawtooth Pass trail.

The stretch from the actual Timber Gap area of the trail (which does in fact pass through a nicely wooded pass to the next valley) all the way to Cliff Creek was ablaze with a beautiful and varied pallet of wildflowers in every color imaginable. Our noses were constantly treated to new and different scents almost with each passing few feet. Dozens of smells; earthy, sweet, flowery, spicy, musky you name it. If I ever catch these scents again it will take me back to this beautiful place instantly. It was surreal, like something out of an air freshener commercial. Birds chirping, cascading waterfalls, and intermittent groves of a variety of evergreen trees made for an unforgettable experience.
Upon reaching the Cliff Creek, and because we had experienced rain on and off throughout the afternoon the water was rushing pretty fast and was a bit threatening. We found that taking the high road trail upstream a bit provided for the safest traverse of the stream without too much difficulty.

Our destination was Pinto lake. About halfway between the stream crossing and Pinto Lake, the trail starts to follow the dry river bed that is next to Cliff Creek. I understand that one year ago this dry bed was part of the raging torrent of record snowfall from that previous winter. Anyway, this dry stream bed became difficult to follow at first due to insufficient cairns and it took us a few tries to finally pick it up and get back on track. The park ranger informed us that they are aware of this situation and planned to send out a crew to do some trail maintenance in this area. Along the way is a beautiful cascading waterfall coming down a mountainside that is purely the stuff of post cards. Make sure to get a pic of that. We caught it with a rainbow in the background due to the rains that day. This is the stuff you take with you for a lifetime and never forget.
After a night at Pinto Lake was the long 4000 foot climb up Black Rock Pass. It kicked all our butts and took us 6 hours to get up there. Us flat-landers from Ohio are not used to the altitude and frequent stops and rehydration were necessary. It turned out to be a beautiful spot for a lunch. Hiking down the back side to Little Five lakes was easy and quick, but when we got to those lakes the mosquitoes were very bad. We felt that camping at this location would be an exercise in cowering in the tent all evening and night as they were biting right through our clothing. I highly recommend a head net in this area. We continued on to Big Five Lakes and stayed at the lower of the five where the bugs were not nearly as bad. Big Five lakes are truly beautiful and serene.
The hike out of Big Five area was pretty easy as was the hike up Lost Canyon trail. Again, super beautiful with a cascading stream along the way almost all the way to base of Sawtooth. Lots of picture opportunities and plenty of water to filter and drink. There is something about drinking water I filtered right out of a waterfall that puts all those bottling companies and their "bottled at the source" claims to shame. I had the real deal and it was the sweetest, best tasting water I ever had.
On to Sawtooth. The hike up to the plateau at Columbine Lake was not too terrible. The view spectacular. Behind us the Lost Canyon we just hiked trough with the meandering stream disappearing in the distance. Ahead, a glaciated lake of pure snow-melt and above tree line. Much cooler up there too.
The real challenge was getting up and over Sawtooth. We got lost finding our way up and followed the wrong cairns. DO NOT follow the small 3 rock cairns. These will lead yo astray up a slot canyon and to a dead end for the average hiker. At that point you are into advanced technical rock scrambles that may surely kill you with one wrong step, or at least result in an untimely ride in a helicopter you weren't planning on. Stay out of there. Baaaaaad ju-ju. That was about 1/3 to half way up from Columbine lake to the top of the pass. Keep your eyes peeled for only the huge multi-rock cairns that were created by the park service on your way up.
Coming down the backside of Sawtooth is a whole different ballgame. Multiple trails made by other people who got lost is surely destined to get you lost on the wrong path coming down. If you choose the wrong route you could find yourself in an impassable situation or facing potential danger. That darn Monarch Lake is in your view the whole time too. You can see it but you can't always get to it. The park ranger informed me that there should be cairns clearly marking the way, but unfortunately other hikers have created their own routes and cairns which prove to be misleading. We got lost coming down and lost daylight. We were forced to camp on the mountainside about half way until we could see better the next m

hiking
4 months ago