Every turn in the trail yielded a different breath taking vista. It expressed the hopes and dreams that we had for her. A lot of the trip you are camping around 10,000ft and night time temperatures can get below freezing even in the summer. It was an epic drive for us to get to California – a full 24 hours of driving which we spread over 3 days, stopping at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California, and then finally Three Rivers, California. 5 Tips for Choosing a Suitable Backpacking Trip for your Family, Tramping the Pouakai Circuit: Egmont National Park, DAY 3: BEARPAW MEADOW TO NINE LAKES BASIN, DAY 4: NINE LAKES BASIN TO BIG FIVE LAKES, Canoeing the North Fork of the Flathead River. Very few established routes in here. The trails on this Sequoia loop are generally very good, with the conspicuous exception of the “route” (not a maintained trail at all) from Columbine Lake over Sawtooth Pass down to the Monarch Lakes; at Monarch Lakes, you’ll pick up a good, maintained trail back to the trailhead. From the Kaweah we climbed 1.4 miles up to Bearpaw Meadow. The mosquitoes are really only bad first thing in the morning and in the evening. Treat all water. by joey_v on Flickr. We got up at 5am (in the dark), packed up camp, and were walking between 5:45am and 6:00am each day. Our celebrations were short though. This trip had been on our radar for a couple of years, after our oldest daughter asked if we could make it happen for her 13th birthday. The National Parks Service recommends taking a large tarp that you can drive onto, and then pulling it up and tying it over the vehicle; kind of like a diaper. If we were to do the trip again I would opt for some different places to camp. After a beautiful sunset, I found myself searching the shoreline for a spot protected from the wind. Late evening alpenglow at Columbine Lake, Sequoia National Park. But if you are in the habit of reasonably early starts hiking every day, I suggest you plan to hike as far each day as you have in other Western national parks, or even in the White Mountains, where the steepness and ruggedness impedes pace about as much as the elevation does in the Sierra. The air was filled with smoke, creating a hazy, eerie glow as we walked. Mostly clear. While researching for a summer backpacking trip with my wife, I came across your excellent website for the first time. For just $75, I’ll answer your questions via email or in a phone call to help ensure your trip is a success. Our trip was from August 30th to September 4th. I hope that’s helpful. As we were summiting, there was the first distant clap of thunder and we needed to high tail it to camp. Time on the trail (total travel time, breaks included): 4hrs 15mins. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Water was freezing, but it was well worth it! Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story, at the top of the left sidebar, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter. Photo Adventures in Fernie, East Kootenays, the Canadian Rockies or wherever your heart desires! The trail from Columbine Lake up to the pass was the least defined part of the circuit. Required fields are marked *. You can always bring a head net for camp, wear pants and long sleeves, and in the mornings, either start hiking very early, before the mosquitoes are out, or linger in your tent until they’ve dissipated. With the open terrain we could enjoy 360° views in a valley that was unique from everything we had hiked through so far. It was amazing and sentimental, and couldn’t have been done in a more perfect location. Though the going was easy and downhill, it was chilly. Thank you for setting such a high bar in quality images and narrative. Email it to me at michael@thebigoutside.com. Lots of the tent sites fit a 2 person tent perfectly but with the 4 person we were often on a bit of a slant. This paved trail will lead you to see the tallest tree in the world, General Sherman. The terrain here is open, and though the climb is steady, we didn’t find it difficult thanks to well placed switchbacks. We always carry bear spray; in California (or at least in Sequoia) it is considered a weapon and isn’t allowed. There’s a decent user trail from Columbine Lake to Sawtooth Pass, but the descent from Sawtooth Pass to the Monarch Lakes has no good footpath that we found, and it’s steep and quite loose. Barbecue? I was truly in my happy place. We are used to driving roads like this so it didn’t feel like that big of a deal but if freeways and two laned roads are your life, it would be intimidating for sure. PICS. I'll be honest and say I'm undecided on the presence of the moon, but not much I could do about that. It was hot and hard work, but because of our early start, we arrived at Bearpaw for a late lunch. If you’ve seen the height of mosquito season in the Boundary Waters, that may be comparable to, or even worse than the worst few weeks of mosquitoes in the High Sierra, in July. We had completed two days hiking and had seen very few people. Sequoia National park had a 180% snowpack this year so even in September the snow hadn’t completed melted off Precipice Lake. We had our early morning snack by the creek, and then followed the meandering trail for 4km. From Bearpaw meadow it was a 1.8 mile walk, sidling around the mountain to the bridge crossing over a deep rift in the granite, with the creek flowing fierce, far below. Loading... Autoplay When autoplay is enabled, a suggested video will automatically play next. A-MAZING.We pressed on to Big Five Lakes, through undulating terrain. This year, due to its popularity, the NPS has implemented a one-night-only stay. Current conditions, warnings and historical records ... Mon 20 Jul Sequoia Kings. Seeing Arches National Park. If you would like more info please feel free to contact me! Instead of camping at the large Columbine lake, Louis ventured off to find our secret cove we stumbled upon three years ago. There was a shop there. But guess what? Hume Lake is another place to find camping near Sequoia National Park, and you can also find gas and shops in the area. But we didn’t want to see them for the first time with crowds of other tourists. First at camp meant we got first dibbs on a campsite and had plenty of time to explore. Simply stunning. We carried full thermal underwear, fleece and down jackets, beanie, gloves, raincoat and we used it all. We would have a snack after 1½ hours of walking, and then take a longer break after 3 hours to have breakfast. On we travelled, and we enjoyed lounging and doing very little for the whole afternoon and evening at Lower Big Five Lake. We bought two large ones because I am sure we will use them again. We recently read in the paper that many people have died, and we can personally verify that it has been well over 100 degrees. Two questions about your article on the 6-day, 38-mile Sequoia National Park loop: If you were hiking that loop without your children, would you have still been content with the daily mileage, or would you have done something different? But the bonus?! Naively, we had thought we were camping under Sequoia’s at Cliff Creek, but when we saw these majestic beauties we knew we had been mistaken. Sawtooth Peak and Columbine Lake to Timber Gap is a 18.5 mile loop trail located near Three Rivers, California that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The underlying thing that fueled this motivation was a desire to honour our oldest daughter. Sequoia National Park conjours up images of majestic, awe-inspiring trees, famed as the largest in the world. Timber Gap (9,511ft) is everything its name suggests. We didn’t want to be stuck in an electrical storm.This stretch of the trail was through fine, broken-down granite. The hike up to Lower Monarch Lake is a great day hike option that climbs steadily up one of the valley's west facing slopes. columbine lake in sequoia np. We learned that back in the depression in the 1930’s, young men that were out of work, were put on these government ’employment’ schemes and these crews were responsible for building this amazing trail. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, planning a family adventure, or any trip I’ve written about at The Big Outside? As you might have surmised from my photos from that backpacking trip in Sequoia, it was one of the most photogenic trips I’ve taken. The trail over the pass eventually leads down to the lower Kern River. Allowed. NOAA weather radar, satellite and synoptic charts. So grateful to be in this place.We made it to Kaweah Gap at 10,700ft (3220m)And then new views down into Nine Lake Basin and the Big Arroyo ValleyWe camped on a cool little knoll where the trail first meets the creek and the rain that had been brewing for the afternoon hit us. After hiking a further 2km we came to the first part of the Redwood Meadow grove of Sequoia trees. Beware of afternoon thunderstorms and educate yourself for your own protection. They are also available to rent from the Mineral King Ranger Station. For them, hot showers were included, as were meals. 829. Sequoia National Park may be known for its giant sequoia groves, but the best backpacking is actually in the lesser-known Mineral King Valley. 1. And well, that brownie made it all OK. ‘Digging deep’ was necessary, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly hard. Looking back down on Columbine Lake, its granite bowl, and the mountains beyond... and the marmot (lower right, on a big rock). But we kept going, up past the sequoia groves. Campsites were a lot more numerous than we expected. So we decided to start hiking. I’ve had many trips with voracious mosquitoes and I’m sure I’ll have more, but I try to avoid them, especially when backpacking with my kids. No-one! This section of the park provides an excellent mix of solitude and beauty. 11,630ft (3550m). We enjoyed an extended hang out time while we cooked and ate breakfast and did a little exploring.Up, up, up we go. Fires are only allowed in area’s below 10,000ft. Miles worth of hiking from anywhere. Granite Creek (bridged & with camping opportunities here for one or two tents), Eagle Scout Creek, and the Kaweah River (camping here too). Sun protection, and travelling earlier or later in the day would be necessary. What is perhaps lesser known about the park, but equally impressive, is backpacking in the High Sierra’s amongst pristine alpine lakes and towering fins of granite. There would be no way to enjoy this beautiful terrain if it wasn’t for them. The Grant Grove Market rents and sells snow gear if you didn’t bring your own. My New Zealand homeland’s highest mountain is only a couple hundred metres taller, so it was a pretty proud moment. Permit applications open on March 1st at 12:01am. As a team (but mostly lead by the kids) we decided to push on over Sawtooth Pass and down to Monarch Lake so that our final day we could sleep in and not have very far to walk to complete our trip. See my Ask Me page. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking. Hume Lake. Our 7 year old, who is an excellent little hiker, would have been fine coming with us. This post is primarily an information resource and jam packed with pictures. The trail passes through a diverse mix of Sierra terrain and ecology, from creekside cascades to old-growth forest to alpine lakes, and it Most of the more established campgrounds also had bear cache’s for food. That is all I have to say. The walk down the valley in the pre-dawn was peaceful and still. Posted by 2 months ago. You’ll walk down a … I turned east and walked down Lost Canyon. Great work! Fair bit of potential. But oh so AMAZING. I would definitely not advise hiking the loop in the opposite direction, climbing from Monarch Lakes to Sawtooth Pass, especially with heavy backpacks. I always tell people that late summer, mid-August to mid- or late September, is the best time to hike anywhere in the High Sierra—or in most mid-latitude mountains in the Northern Hemisphere, for that matter. “10 Tips For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier”. Bear-proof food storage containers are a mandatory requirement to travel in the backcountry in Sequoia. Breakfast today was at Hamilton Lake. Thankfully, Mineral King at 7,800ft yielded much cooler temperatures. At 10,400 feet, with the nearest tree at least a couple of trail miles below us, the lake’s glassy, green and blue waters sit in a granite bowl, reflecting a white and golden cliff with black water streaks on the opposite shore. The trail then switchbacks up towards Hamilton Lake. Getting There Drive to Mineral King, hike to Columbine, go up over the divide. We got down to the trailhead for breakfast! You’ll have a wonderful time. And the views!! The trail to Columbine Lake was not visible from the pass and the route down from the top was blocked by a cornice. We took a 4 person tent and the 5 of us crammed in it. My daughter is a writer and would appreciate your style. The clouds had moved in and it had threatened rain since we had left Columbine Lake. The small tarn above Columbine Lake was still mostly covered in ice and snow. Preparations have been going on for the last 12 months; this was to be our 9th family backpacking trip in that time, and the jewel in our crown. Category Travel & Events; Show more Show less. Mind blowing. Just up the hill, we discovered was the junction for the very popular High Sierra Trail. This place is the epitome of just that. Because you have to take bear canisters you don’t need to camp some place with lockup boxes. Lessons we learned on the trail? Make noise. The circuit that we planned was 40 miles, taking in 3 high passes over 6 days. The plan for Day 4 was to hike past Columbine Lake, climb up and over Sawtooth Pass, and camp at Monarch Lakes. Our trip would have to be in that mid-to-late July timeframe. It was a pull up to Columbine but the lake is a classic high alpine water bowl, surrounded only by rock and scattered grass and flower patches eking out an existence in improbable places. The views from the front of the cafe were amazing too. 70 to 80 at 8000 feet. Day 3 was our longest and hardest. Some spots were slippery with the gravel over solid rock, and other parts were the most divine scree running. It was upward bound, but gentle in its approach, travelling through the open forest and  coming and going from the creek. Beyond the waterfalls, in the high country backpacking or day hikes – Moose Lake; Big Bird Lake; Pear Lake; Heather Lake; Aster Lake; Emerald Lake; Kings Canyon Lakes, Kings Cyn NP at … This works great for kids learning to navigate. From what I read, I was expecting there to be quite a few people camped here. This lake is similar to Columbine with another healthy population of Brookies. Some short sledding hills are found among the trees. When she was born I had written her a letter that paralleled metaphorically the life of a Sequoia tree. The trail from Columbine Lake up to the pass was the least defined part of the circuit. A beautiful canyon most easily reached from Mineral King in Sequoia NP. All our prior backpacking trips we have done as a family, but because of the distances and potential difficulty of the trip, we made the decision to hike with our three older kids (aged 13, 11 and 9) and leave our younger two (aged 4 & 7) with their grandparents in their RV at lower elevations. You might also be interested in my Ask Me post, “What Clothing Do You Recommend For August in the High Sierra?” And you may find some good, general tips about hiking and backpacking anywhere in the High Sierra by seeing my stories about the John Muir Trail and Yosemite National Park. The trip you took is enticing. There are plenty of warnings about how windy the road is from Three Rivers to Mineral King. The trail between Cliff Creek Camp and Redwood Meadow was mostly a gentle descent. DAY 3: BEARPAW MEADOW TO NINE LAKES BASIN, Elevation gain: 3300ft (1000m) Elevation loss: 400ft (120m), Time on the trail (total travel time, breaks included): 9 hrs. Let me know how it goes for you. It is something that I will never forget and hope that the same is true for her too.Hiking on from Redwood Meadow, we crossed 3 more streams. We loved that we saw less people the way we went. I would add another day to the trip simply so we would take advantage of camping in some different places than we did. After ascending some 1500 ft., still smiling : First camp, Monarch lake : Columbine lake view from Sawtooth pass : Sawtooth peak, 12343 ft. Spring lake, our home for two nights : There was a fixed camp that tourists could hike to, carrying in only a day pack while all their overnight stuff was transported. We put our application in right on the dot; we didn’t want to miss out. The combination of snow and the streaky cliffs reflecting in the background made for a surreal environment. I was not one of them!After a much needed rest, and a belly full of food we continued up to Kaweah Gap. So much variety. They were tired and cold. Every 2 or 3 km it seemed there was somewhere to pitch a tent. Drowning while crossing creeks is the number one cause of death in Sequoia National Park and I can see why. Just under 2km of walking bought us back to a spot by the river that would have made a nice alternative place to camp. Like usual, I made 3 or 4 copies of the section of map that we needed and put each in a ziplock. Sequoia National Park Itinerary. UNBELIEVABLE. PAL-1216 LTC Sequoia National Park Lake Tent Camper $12.95 Choose Options Compare PAL-1217 LPC Sequoia National Park Lone Peak Climber $12.95 Choose Options The trail was challenging (I don’t want to downplay it) but it was also so well graded and maintained that even broken-kneed hubby didn’t have any knee issues. Do you like The Big Outside? June to September is the main backpacking season. In summer Columbine is a picnic area; while in winter, parking and a restroom are open for those who want to enjoy snow play. Thanks for the nice words about my blog, I’m glad you found it. Thanks for writing. It would have been nice to add an extra day, making it a 7 day trip. I was hoping for clear skies for photography purposes, but unfortunately the previous evening, a lightning strike had ignited a forest fire about 30 miles to the south. From the pass you also have view to Columbine Lake. Yep, a shop. Thank you for your support. We used the National Geographic trail map for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. My kids did fine, but we took it slowly. Franklin Creek in the Mineral King valley. It was smokey and overcast, and threatening rain. It was so great to be hiking when the sun came up! Mosquitoes are out during the several weeks when lakes are free of ice and nighttime temperatures consistently remain at least a few degrees above freezing. Columbine Lake, Sequoia National Park - California, USA. OTHER BITS AND BOBS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW TO PLAN YOUR OWN TRIP, A backcountry permit is required year round to overnight in Sequoia National Park. The combination of snow and the streaky cliffs reflecting in the background made for a surreal environment.We had lunch here, and three of our party went for a swim with the icebergs. Out-of-this-world amazing. It was my favourite campsite of the trip.DAY 4: NINE LAKES BASIN TO BIG FIVE LAKES, Elevation gain: 1500ft (460m)  Elevation loss: 1600ft (490m), Time on the trail (total travel time, breaks included): 7 hrs 15 mins, Clear, star-filled skies greeted us when we got out of the tent. The near-by creek was cascading with numerous waterfalls and pools. The trail along Lost Creek began as a gradual climb through the trees, and continued above the treeline in a beautiful wildflower-filled meadow. But it’s not something we would look forward to (I re-read the word “thick” several times…). I found this little alcove that held a reflection long enough for me to snap off a few shots. Bear in mind that this loop includes a handful of passes in the 9,000-foot to over 11,000-foot range, so that tends to affect your pace, as does the typically very hot afternoon sun at higher elevations in the High Sierra. The other way to protect yourself is to park at the Ranger Station/Visitor Centre and walk the mile up the road to the trailhead. John Muir said it right in his quote “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”. There is a small (1 tent) campsite upsteam that would be possible to snag if you were arriving earlier in the afternoon. Your email is never published or shared. Good mood, great weather and 45 pound packs, we are ready to go. Many seem to start on the High Sierra Trail at the Crescent Meadows trailhead in the ‘main’ part of Sequoia National Park. Fishing? My wife has dealt with that in the past while canoeing/portaging the Boundary Waters in MN. It took us quite a bit longer to make it to where we wanted to stop for breakfast. The measures that were taken to construct this trail in completely inhospitable terrain were staggering to us. Amphitheater Lake; Columbine Lake; Big Five Lakes; Lodgepole Lakes in Sequoia National Park. That’s generally true in almost any mid-latitude mountain range that has plenty of standing water (i.e., lakes). The ranger who issues your permit will check you have them. Sequoia - Pear Lake - Alpenglow - Solo backpacking 7.8.20. It howled a gale all night long and I spend a good chunk of it holding the tent up so the poles didn’t bend. This is a 20 person type 1 hand crew. The only part that the route was more fuzzy was from Columbine Lake up to Sawtooth Pass, and then down the other side to Monarch Lake. Close. I didn’t manage to get down there, but you can research camping options (paid) here. Hume Lake is on my list to check out on my next visit. I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Columbine Lake (National Park Services) WHAT TO DO: ON THE WATER. I would skip Bearpaw Meadow for sure (just make sure you buy a brownie before moving on   It was really dusty at that campsite with no undergrowth. There were no views either. We had to cross the creek twice and spent quite a bit of time trying to find somewhere we could rock hop so we didn’t have to take off our footwear. Columbine Lake weather forecast updated daily. I wouldn’t say it was sand, but more like very small scree-gravel. Early morning at Columbine Lake. The scenery is second to none. Gorgeous. Two of our campsites made my list of 25 all-time favorite backcountry campsites, and one lake where we stopped for lunch made my list of the best backcountry campsites I’ve hiked past. Within Sequoia, the Kaweah’s Middle Fork offers Class V rapids. ... Finishing off the day's hike with an uphill section, you will switchback your way out of the Valley until Columbine Lake (10,500ft) comes into view. Mon 20 Jul Sequoia … I’ve logged many miles in the White Mountains (and I authored, for many years, a hiking guidebook to New England). The smoke had cleared and it was a gorgeous bluebird day. The area is very rugged and remote and the drive in gives a sense of isolation and vulnerability. Spring Lake is the lowest and Columbine Lake is the upper. A quota system is in effect from approximately May 25 – Sept 22. Located in the southern Sierra Nevada, about 35 miles east of Visalia, this Californian gem is famous for its majestic giant sequoia trees. After 2 or 3 km we crossed over Hamilton Creek. How many more adjectives can I use? As mentioned previously there was 180% snowpack. 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