Explore the most popular trails near Mineral King with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.



nature trips



no dogs




Mineral King, California Map
1 month 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.

Beautiful. Be ready to feel out of breathe lol

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

3 months ago

Nice one, did it along with part of the bigger loop, very nice, not too steep (vs. sawtooth)

10 months ago

This was a very beautiful trail with lots of views, water, waterfalls and wild flowers everywhere!! It was difficult and took us about 6 hrs to complete. We did not see another human after the trail split off from the monarch trail. I would do this again maybe ad a backpacking trip.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hike up a very steep incline from Sawtooth Pass through a meadow with gorgeous views of mountains. Initial one mile is steep, with large stone steps to climb. Then cross Monarch Creek, entering a conifer forest punctuated by occasional meadows with views of Empire Mountain. Continue noticeable ascent, but less steep than before, along the well-maintained and fairly trafficked Monarch Lakes trail. One mile before Monarch Lakes, take the Crystal Lake right fork onto an ascending unmaintained use trail, with a lot of loose stone. The trail passes through diminishing forest, past Chihuahua Mine, over a pass above 10,000 feet. It descends somewhat to cross a difficult area of loose rock, and then re-ascends up the loose rock, on a sometimes difficult to discern trail. The trail is apparent, though, and ascends steadily to Lower Crystal Lake, with a concrete dam. Upper Crystal Lake can be accessed by a northwest- headed spur just before the Lower Crystal Lake dam. Trekking poles recommended for difficult footings in many places. Route followed mid-Septembers. Low temperatures overnight in the 20's.

Monday, September 18, 2017

We did Timber Gap to Frankiln Pass,Black rock pass is pretty tough from this way but very rewarding. Over all just a beautiful trek and loved every minute of it! We took 6 days to do this route.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Upper Crystal Lake made a great camp spot--we didn't see a soul once we turned on to the Crystal Lake fork in the trail. Spectacular afternoon hike up to the ridge overlooking Monarch Lakes and Amphitheater Lake. Just you and the marmots.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dogs are not allowed on any trails within the Mineral King Area.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The trail start is actually Franklin Trailhead. If you are reserving a permit, indicate Franklin at the start.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Insanely beautiful hike!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This was a beautiful 5-mile hike (one way) up to 10,800 ft in Mineral King. Went with my husband and 13 and 11 y/o kids. Going here in August was pretty amazing with great camping spots, stellar sunset views, a calming waterfall, and brisk Sierra swimming! Take note, this is NOT a moderate hike as indicated in this app. The ranger station lists it as a strenuous hike which I would agree with. As I've discovered this inconsistency, I would double-check this app's content before planning a trip. Hope to see improvements in the future as it has great potential!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

hike was long and uphill but once getting to the lake it was amazing. lots of mosquitos though but worth it.

Gorgeous hike. Definitely felt very accomplish by the end of it. Had to go a little of trail due to the snow pack but nothing too crazy, don't need poles or clamp ons like they recommended for the Monarch Lakes same day

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Davit Stepanyan said it perfectly. This is a great hike with beautiful lakes at the end and awesome camp spots. Having said that I would not recommend this hike to someone who does not know how to navigate using a map and compass, I didn't, as you will likely lose the trial. But if you make it it'll be worth it. We did see lots of interesting, and harmless, wildlife on the way up and down such as mountain chickens, or wtv, a NICE buck, and a heard of Elk at the base of the valley below the lakes. It was slightly busy for the first half of the hike but the second part was completely deserted and it was just my friend and I up at the lakes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

this is a great trail, but not for everyone . Its about a five hour hike up to the top and another three to come back. Great views and like the name says a Crystal clear lake up top. and if you have made it to the top, you must go for a swim lol.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

There were 4 of us. We (us older ones) chose this trail because the Mineral King map describes this hike as 2 miles one way and moderate. My girlfriend and I are in OK shape, but I living at sea level definitely noticed the altitude. But we kept on and stopped along the way to take pictures (rest break). Thanks to my son and nephew who put up with us slower pokes. This is indeed a must do. (There is only 1 trail marker; at the fork showing left for Timber Gap and right for Monarch Lakes (4.5 miles one way). Keep going past the actually "peak" and continue until you come to where the creeks is running over the trail. A little beyond this point are some trees, and a view that is breath taking. I'm so glad we kept on. I did it!! I'm glad I didn't know it was 6 miles (round trip), I probably wouldn't have done it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

on Timber Gap Trail

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Friday, October 02, 2015