Trans-Sierra day hikes: Hiking across the Sierra Nevada in one day

Notes by piero scaruffi | California hikes | Travel resources | Pictures of the hikes
Kings Canyon and the Muir Wilderness allow at least three relatively easy ways to cross the Sierra region (east to west or viceversa) on a one-day hike:
  1. From Edison Lake to Mosquito Flat (done in 2006)
  2. From Roads End to Onion Valley (done in 2004)
  3. From Lake Florence to North Lake (done in 2007)
  4. From Mammoth trailhead to the Mammoth Lakes area (done in 2009)
  5. From Lake Edison to Pine Creek via Italy Pass (done in 2009)
  6. From Roads End to Independence via Harrison Pass
Note: All of these would be relatively easy if it weren't for the bureaucracy. The countless rules for parking, camping and hiking give jobs to rangers (paid with your taxmoney) and make your life really difficult. I doubt you will be able to do any of these day hikes without breaking at least one law.

1. From Edison Lake to Mosquito Flat

(first done in august 2006)

Group A hikes from Lake Edison to Mosquito Flat.
Group B hikes from Mosquito Flat to Lake Edison.

Directions for the western trailhead (Lake Edison, Group A). It takes about 5 hours from the Bay Area to Lake Edison. Take 101 south, 152 east (exit 356 in Gilroy), 99 south, Herndon east, 168 east to Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Kaiser Pass. After Kaiser Pass the road becomes narrow and goes down into a valley. After about 30 kms, one reaches Edison Lake. There is a resort and campground by the lake (vermilion Valley Resort, 559 259-4000). The resort runs the boat that crosses the lake (from the resort to the eastern shore) at 4pm, returning at 4:45pm. There are bear lockers on the eastern shore.

Directions for the eastern trailhead (Mosquito Flat, Group B). It takes about 7 hours from the Bay Area to Mosquito Flat. Drive through Yosemite on 120 east. Drive south on 395 past Mammoth Lakes and Crowley Lake and turn right to go to Tom's Place (45' from Mono Lake to Tom's Place). At the exit follow the sign "sno-park". You will pass: French camp, Holiday camp, Aspen camp, Big Meadows camp, Palisades, East Fork, Pine Grove, Rock Creek and the Pack Station. Then the road narrows. The first parking lot is the overflow parking lot. Proceed to the end of the paved road at the Mosquito Flat parking lot (15'). Ideally, park at the very end of this parking lot, which is the trailhead. There are bear lockers. After the restrooms, a bridge connects to the hikers' campground (in theory, you need a wilderness permit to camp here, even if you are going for a day hike only). Mosquito Flat is marked MOSFLT in this map

Group A reaches Lake Edison by saturday 4pm, parks the car at the resort, catches the last boat to the eastern shore at 4pm, camps near the landing, wakes up 4-5am, folds tents and sleeping bags, leaves them at the landing, starts hiking at 5am.
Group B reaches the Mosquito Flat trailhead at whatever time on saturday, camps at the trailhead, wakes up 4am, folds tents and sleeping bacgs, leaves them in the car, starts hiking at 4am, reaches Lake Edison before 4:45pm, picks up Group A's tent and sleeping bags, catches the boat to the resort at 4:45pm. Have $9 with you to pay for the boat.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere the two groups meet and exchange car keys. Both groups: take your wallets with you because you have to drive the other group's car and you have to pay for the boat ride.

Trail (west to east):
The trail from Edison Lake mostly parallels the Mono Creek west to east. It briefly follows the John Muir trail northeast (uphill). At the Silver Pass junction, take the Mono Pass direction (east). Now the trail goes downhill, in order to rejoin the Mono Creek. The hike is relatively uneventful through the junctions with the Second Recess trail, Laurent Creek, Hopkins Creek. After five creek crossings (in a very short time) and steep switchbacks that pass the Pioneer Basin junction, the trail finally crosses the Mono Creek and turns sharply right (south). Steep switchbacks lead to a meadow with the first glimpse of Mono Pass. After passing two lakes (one has restrooms), the trail climbs again and, past a plateau with great views of the Mono Creek valley, becomes very sandy (above the tree line). After a false summit (the saddle that was visible from the lakes), the trail proceeds south towards Summit Lake and then Mono Pass itself (likely to have snow even in summer, but just walk higher than the snow on the right handside). Mt Starr is on the left handside. Steep switchbacks lead downhill towards the Little Lakes Valley. The first lake is Ruby Lake, followed by a series of smaller lakes. Eventually the trail ends in the valley and heads east to the trailhead of Mosquito Flat (a parking lot and a campsite). The total hiking distance is 29 kms from the eastern edge of Edison Lake. It shouldn't take more than 10 hours of hiking (not including stops) at a brisk pace.
If Group B also has to hike from Vermilion Resort (559 259-4000) to the eastern edge of the lake (or viceversa) because you missed the boat, it's an additional 8kms (some two hours). If you start hiking at 4am, you should finish the hike comfortably before 4:45pm and catch the boat no problem.

In 2006 the GPS gave these data at the end of the hike: Distance 30.87 km. Average moving speed: 4.3 km/h. Elevation gain: 1665 meters. Elevation loss: 885 meters.

As long as they don't miss the boat at 4:45pm (which reaches the parking lot around 5:30pm), Group B will be home before midnight.

See below for the driving distances from the Bay Area to Kaiser Pass. From the Edison-Florence fork it's about:

  • Bridge: 4'
  • Big bridge: 6'
  • Mono Hot Springs (right after the big bridge)
  • Bear Creek Cutoff: 12'
  • Vista Point: 1'
  • Dam: 1'
  • Resort and ferry landing: 8'

Hike's milestones, west to east (and 2006 times):

  • From eastern shore of Edison Lake (2300m) to John Muir trail (Selden junction): 2.5kms (30')
  • From Muir trail (2350m) to Mono Creek trail (Silver Pass junction): 2.5kms (1h 10')
  • Second Recess Trail (2h34')
  • From Mono Creek trail (2500m) to Laurel Creek trail junction: 6.5kms (2h50')
  • Meadow (3h30')
  • From Laurel Creek trail junction (2600m) to Hopkins trail junction: 4kms (3h45')
  • From Hopkins trail junction (2800m) to Pioneer Basin Lakes and Fourth Recess Lake junctions: 3.5kms
  • Five creek crossings
  • Pioneer Basin junction (4h30')
  • From these junctions (3000m) to Mono Pass: 5kms
  • Crossing Mono Creek to the southern side (5h)
  • Two lakes (5h45')
  • Saddle/false summit (6h)
  • Summit lake (6h15')
  • Mono Pass (6h30')
  • From Mono Pass (3650m) to Ruby Lake (3350m): 2.5kms (7h)
  • From Ruby Lake (3350m) to Lakes Valley/Morgan Pass fork: 2kms (8h)
  • From Lakes Valley fork to Mosquito Flat parking lot (3148m): 1km (8h30')
  • Total: 29.5 kms
Hikers' enemies: you cannot camp legally at Mosquito Flat unless you have a wilderness permit. You get a wilderness permit if you go to a ranger station and claim that you will spend two days in the wilderness (one day is not enough). But the price you pay is a third degree about where/what/how you will go. And they may ask to see your bear canister and who knows what else.


2. From Roads End to Onion Valley

(first done in 2004)

The trail from Roads End parallels Bubbs Creek until it intersects the Pacific Crest trail (22kms). It is flat for the first hour, then, after the four bridges, it winds up steeply towards the Sphinx Trail junction. Continue east (towards Vidette Meadow). The trail is then mostly flat through lush vegetation (lots of mosquitoes). A new section of steep switchbacks take to the junction with the John Muir trail. Turn left (north) for 2kms. Then turn right towards the Kearsarge Lakes (4kms). Do not take the north direction towards Charlotte Lake even if the sign says "Kearsarge Pass" (it's longer and you would miss the lakes). The trail becomes flat again and borders Bullfrog Lakes and the Kearsarge Lakes (3322m). Then it climbs to the Pass (the pass is the V-shaped hole above the last of the lakes). This is probably the steepest stretch of the hike, but not very long. From Kearsarge Pass (3584m) there are amazing views on both sides. From Kearsarge Pass to the parking lot of Onion Valley is very steep downhill. There are more lakes going down (at least four). The grand total is 36kms.

2004 time:

  • Roads End (1534m) to Sphinx Creek junction (1914m): 6.5 kms, 2.5 hours
  • Sphinx Creek junction (1914m) to Charlotte Creek camp: to East Creek junction i.e. Junction Meadow (2490m): 10.9kms, 5 hours
  • East Creek junction (2490m) to PCT junction, i.e. Vidette Meadow (2900m): 4.7kms, 6 hours 15'
  • PCT junction (2900m) to Charlotte Lake junction (3218m): 2.4kms, 7 hours 15'
  • Charlotte Lake junction (3218m) to Kearsarge Lakes (8 hours) to Kearsarge Pass (3610m): 3.9kms, 8 hours 45'
  • Kearsarge Pass (3610m) to Onion Valley campground (2800m): 7.6kms, 11 hours
Total: 36.5 kms, 11 hours
West to east is mostly downhill, so even faster.

Pictures of this hike

Directions for the eastern trailhead for the Bay Area. Take 101 south, 152 east lo Los Banos (about 1 hr 30') to 99 (about 2hr), 99 south to Fresno (about 300 kms, 2h 30'). In Fresno, take 180 east and follow it (the freeway is not completed yet, it will go through town and then turn left into Kings Canyon Ave) to the Big Stump park entrance (85 kms, 1h 15') to the fork with Sequoia Park (5') to Grant Grove village (3kms, visitor center, restaurant, water, restrooms, market) to Cedar Grove (50 winding kms, 50', via Kings Canyon Lodge 20', Boyden Cavern 30', Kings Canyon border 40') and then (10 kms) Roads End.
Cheap gas in Fresno: Arco on Kings Canyon Ave, or the gas stations on Clinton Ave & Weber. Cheap lodging: Belmont Ave exit of 99.

Directions for the western trailhead. Drive through Yosemite on 120 east. Drive south on 395 to Independence. Turn right towards Onion Valley and drive to the end of the road, which is the campground.

Camping at Onion Valley is difficult. The caretaker of the local concentration camp (in 2010) does not let people camp in the parking lot (the environmentally friendliest way of camping). Unlawfully, you can head for campsites 7-8. Look for the sign "trailhead". Hike 50 meters and you should find flat spots to camp. The unfriendly caretaker is not paid to patrol the trail so he won't bother you. If you want to be 100% legal, get a (free) permit for overnight camping on the Robinson Lake trail and you can camp anywhere along that trail (e.g., 50 meters from the campground).

Campgrounds: Canyon View ($18 in 2004), Moraine (ditto), Sentinel (ditto) are all in the Cedar Grove area. They are all at 1400m of altitude. The National Forest (free camping) is just before Cedar Grove.

3. From Lake Florence to North Lake

(first done in 2007)

Group A hikes from Lake Florence to North Lake.
Group B hikes from North Lake to Lake Florence.

Directions for the western trailhead (Lake Florence, Group A). It takes at least 5 hours from the Bay Area to Lake Florence. Take 101 south, 152 east, 99 south. Before Fresno, take the Herndon exit and find Herndon East (not terribly obvious, turn left at the traffic light over the railway tracks). Keep driving east (many traffic lights). Eventually you will see a sign for 168 east. Continue on 168 east (uphill) passing Shaver Lake and bypassing Huntington Lake. The road summits at Kaiser Pass. After Kaiser Pass the road becomes narrow and goes down into a valley. After about 18 kms from Kaiser Pass one passes the Bolsillo campground and Forest Office and after 2kms one reaches a fork: Florence Lake to the right, Lake Edison to the left. The branch that goes to Florence Lake is about 9 kms (Ward Lake is half way between this fork and Florence Lake). There is a store and a campground by the lake. The store runs the ferry that crosses the lake (from the store to the eastern shore) five times a day, from 9am till 5pm. Group A can start hiking very early only if it takes the ferry the day before at 4:30pm, and camps on the eastern side of the lake. Before starting the hike, Group A can pack tent/sleepingbags and leave them at the landing.

Directions for the eastern trailhead (North Lake, Group B).. North Lake is located off 168 west of Bishop, about 1.5hours driving time south of Mono Lake, i.e. 6/7 hours from the Bay Area. From Bishop, take 168 west, aka West Line St, almost to the end. The road passes Aspendell after 20'. Slow down and turn right into the dirt road that goes to North Lake (if you get to Lake Sabrina you went too far on 168). When you turn right for North Lake, follow the road with the 15MPH sign (the other one is usually closed). The road is narrow and unpaved for a few kms. The (very small) campground and the trailhead are located past the lake: the moment you pass the lake to your right, you get to a fork for either the campground and trailhead (left) or hikers' parking (right). Only campers are allowed to camp at the trailhead. If you are not camping, then you should use the hikers' parking lot and walk an extra km to the trailhead. There are two trailheads at the North Lake campground: take the one for Piute Pass. (Note: the only way to legally park a car at the trailhead the whole day is to pay a campsite for two nights, and it is expensive at $19 in 2008).

Group B: don't forget that you need to take your wallet (driver license and all) with at least $10 (in 2007) with you to pay for the ferry. Group B: make sure you reach Lake Florence by 5pm (last ferry). If group B is large enough, they can call the ferry even after 5pm and the ferry will most likely come. Group B: make sure you pick up Group A's tent/sleepingbags before boarding the ferry.


  1. Mosquitoes from beginning to end
  2. Lots of small creeks to cross (especially before august)

Trail (west to east):

  • From Florence Lake (2311m) to Muir Trail Ranch (2372m): 8kms (the most confusing part is the very beginning, because both a "road" and a poorly-marked trail lead to the Muir Ranch and they intersect several times: after the gate, they want you to stay on the higher of the two)
  • From Muir Trail Ranch to the John Muir trail (2421m): 2kms
  • From John Muir trail to Piute trail junction (2453m): 3kms
  • From Piute trail junction to Piute Creek Pass junction (2892m): 10kms
  • From Piute Creek Pass junction to Piute Lake to Piute Pass (3481m, highest point): 12kms
  • From Piute Pass to North Lake campground (2848m): 8kms
  • Total: 43 kms
Hiking west to east is mostly uphill. Hiking east to west is uphill only for a couple of hours, then mostly downhill. The eastern trailhead is 500 meters higher than the western trailhead.

The most scenic section is between the John Muir Trail and Piute Pass.

If hiking east to west, and arriving after dark, it might be tricky to follow the last km of trail to the exact location of the landing (N37.24962 W118.94091).

The western driving route is by far the most complex, so here are driving times to Florence Lake:

  • 101&85: start on 101 south
  • 101&152 east (Gilroy): 26' (take 152 east)
  • Casa de Fruta: 20'
  • 152&5: 25'
  • Los Banos: 15'
  • 152&99: 25' (take 99 south)
  • Madera: 10'
  • (Note: gas station Arco, Avenue 12 exit, you are advised to fill up here)
  • Herndon Ave exit: 10' (go east on Herndon Ave)
  • Herndon&41: 15'
  • Herndon & 168east (Clovis): 5' (take 168 east)
  • 168 & Fryant turnoff: 20'
  • Prather: 5'
  • Auberry turnoff: 2'
  • Stop sign on Lodge Rd: 3' (turn left at the stop sign)
  • One lane road: 7'
  • Shaver Village: 13' (you are advised to eat here)
  • Kaiser Pass Rd (turn right, last gas station on left, ranger station with phone on right)
  • Kaiser Pass: 16'
  • Ranger station: 24'
  • Edison-Florence fork: 5'
  • Ward Lake: 15'
  • Lake Florence: 15'
Note that traffic between Kaiser Pass and Florence Lake can be a nightmare because it's a one-lane road and every SUV met on the road can imply a 5-minute stop.

Hiking time (2007):

  • Lake Florence landing: start
  • Fork to Lake Florence landing: 13' (trail and road intersect a few times, try to stay on the trail after this sign)
  • Creek crossing: 1h
  • Gate and "no trenspassing sign": 1h10' (go straight through gate)
  • Fork to Kings Canyon (first Selden Pass fork): 1h15' (go straight)
  • Creek crossing: 1h39'
  • Gate: 1h47' (stay to the left of the gate, don't go through it)
  • Creek crossing: 1h 49' (if you stayed on the trail, all three creek crossings have a board that serves as a bridge)
  • Tiny creek crossing and sharp left turn uphill: 1h 50'
  • Gate announcing the end of private property: 2h
  • Blayney hot springs turnoff: 2h 2'
  • Second Selden Pass sign: 2h 8' (take the Piute Pass direction)
  • Little camp by the Joaquin river: 2h30'
  • Third Selden Pass sign (John Muir Trail): 2h 45'
  • Piute trail junction near bridge over the Piute Creek (2453m) (the trail begins ascending steep switchbacks): 3h30'
  • Viewpoint and downhill: 4h 15'
  • Small creek crossing: 4h 23'
  • The trail turns sharply east: 4h 30'
  • Small camp and downhill: 4h 40'
  • West Pinnacles Creek crossing: 4h 45'
  • Rapids by the trail: 5h
  • Gate: 5h 1' (Pilot Knob becomes very visible, marking the direction of the trail)
  • Flower parade: 5h 15'
  • East Pinnacles Creek crossing: 5h50' (cross on logs)
  • Hutchinson Meadow: 6h15'
  • Junction with the trail to Piute Creek Pass: 6h25' (go straight)
  • Quintuple creek crossing: 6h35'
  • Gate: 7h
  • 10,000 Ft Sign: 7h19' (steeper ascent)
  • Same longitude as Great Trout Lake: 8h15'
  • Creek crossing and sharp curve to south: 9h
  • Summit lake: 10h
  • Piute Pass: 10h10' (don't miss the left turn to the Pass, as the trail continues straight south)
  • First basin: 10h20'
  • Lake Leven: 11h15'
  • Double creek crossing (both with rudimentary bridges): 12h
  • Muir Wilderness sign: 12h8'
  • Lamarck Lakes fork: 12h20'
  • North Lake trailhead: 12h22'

4. From Mammoth trailhead to the Mammoth Lakes area

It is possible to hike from the "Mammoth" trailhead northeast of Oakhurst to the Devil's Postpile area south of Mono Lake. This is a relatively short (24 kms) and relaxing (lush vegetation) version of the trans-sierra. Altitude is not an issue.

Driving directions from the Bay Area: take 580 east and then highway 99 south to Merced and then take 140 to Mariposa/Yosemite and then in Mariposa take 49 east to Oakhurst (a Yosemite visitor center, across the highway from the Shilo Inn). You can also take 145 from Madera to Oakhurst, but a lot of people get lost trying that.

From Oakhurst take 41 north. Five kms north of Oakhurst turn right into Bass Lake Rd and 5 kms later turn left on 274 and then left again on Beasore Road and continue straight for about 80 kms until the Clover Meadow Ranger Station. From the ranger station to the dead end is about 10kms of unpaved road. The road from Bass Lake is good for about 45 minutes, then it gets bad (although still paved) for about 45 minutes, then it gets seriously bad for the last 30 minutes. There are plenty of signs except for a couple of spots towards the end.

100 meters before the end of the road there is a parking lot. There is no water, there are no bear boxes, no restrooms. Camp anywhere in the parking lot.

Park and return to the road and continue straight up. There are two "trails" (one heading west and one heading east) on the way. Ignore them. Yours is the only one that is really a hiking trail and heads northeast.

The trail dives steeply towards the San Joaquin River (at 1800m the lowest point of the hike). Then crosses the bridge and starts going up consistently, passing a series of meadows each of which affords a bit of rest during the uphill climb. The names on the maps (Snake Meadow, Corral Meadow, Cargyle Meadow) are pointless because the few signs along the trail do not have them. Even if you wanted to, it's hard to make mistakes at the junctions because only one is clearly visible. The other trails that join yours are really difficult to spot. Most of the way is in the forest.

The first meadow is Snake Meadow: it has a sign pointing to Hemlock Crossing and to 77 Corral. You want to continue straight to the latter. After about 30 minutes of meadows, there is a creek crossing, then 25 minutes of uphill, then 5 minutes to a clearing and finally the first views of the mountains to the north. After another junction with a trail that heads to Hemlock Crossing whose sign is nailed to the ground. The trail continues east flat. In 100 meters there is a junction with the trail coming from Iron Lake just before a shallow creek crossing (to the right you should notice living-room furniture made with chainsaws). This is probably Corral Meadow (2400m).

Ten minutes later there is another creek crossing. Next is Cargyle Meadow (a meadow at the foot of a mountain), announced by some wooden plank that help you cross a swampy section. Steep switchbacks take you in 30 minutes to a summit from where you have the first good views of the western mountains. Now you are on a foresty plateau, passing by a flowery meadow. Ten minutes later a sign announces that you are crossing the Lower Staircase Creek. Fifteen minutes later you pass another tiny creek, presumably the upper one. Then the trail begins to descend. Fifteen minutes later (five hours into the hike) you reach the bottom of the Granite Stairway. The trail goes up steep again for half an hour. At the summit (the highest point of the hike) you have great views of the Minarets. This is when you exit the forest.

After a steep descend, in 25 minutes you reach the fork to Fern Lake. You now have unobstructed views south. The steep descend continues coasting the canyon on your left until it crosses the King Snow Creek, about one hour after the Fern Lake junction. This is a wide crossing with low water. After this there is another uphill section, this time on a annoyingly sandy trail. Then the trail dives one last time towards Devil Postpile. It's about 30' from the crossing to the sign welcoming you to Devil's Postpile and a further 15' to the junction with the John Muir Trail. The ranger station is 15' down the trail, past Soda Springs. You will know you have arrived because a) the number of people around multiplies by 100 and b) you hit the river.

  • Trailhead (2250m) to bridge (1800m): (1h)
  • Trailhead (2250m) to Snake Meadow: 7.1Km (2h)
  • Creek crossing (2h30')
  • First view of the mountains north (3h)
  • To Corral Meadow (2400m): 9.6Km (3h)
  • To Cargyle Meadow: 11.1Km (3h 45')
  • Lower Staircase Creek (4h 15')
  • To Granite Stairway: 16.4 Km (5h)
  • To Summit (2850m): 17.2 Km (5h 30')
  • Junction to Fern Lake: (6h)
  • Crossing the King Snow Creek: 20.7 km (7h)
  • Devils Postpile border: 22.4 Km (7h 30')
  • JMT junction: (7h 45')
  • Ranger Station (2250m): 23.7 Km (8h)

Weather for western trailhead
Weather for Devil's Postpile

5. From Lake Edison to Pine Creek via Italy Pass

Western trailhead: Lake Edison ((2,300m). It takes about 5 hours from the Bay Area to Lake Edison. Take 101 south, 152 east (exit 356 in Gilroy), 99 south, Herndon east, 168 east to Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Kaiser Pass. After Kaiser Pass the road becomes narrow and goes down into a valley. After about 30 kms, one reaches Edison Lake. There is a resort and campground by the lake (vermilion Valley Resort, 559 259-4000). The trailhead is at the dam, southwest of the lake, before the resort. Follow the signs for "Vista Point" and you get to the Bear Ridge trailhead. There is a bear box at the trailhead. (Make sure you do NOT get confused by the big sign "Bear Creek Cutoff" that is a completely different trailhead)

The Bear Ridge trail is a rather tedious exercise in reaching the John Muir Trail.

Go south on the JMT and make sure you don't miss the left turn for Italy Lake. From this point on the trail is an abstraction, although it is fairly obvious where you are going. The trail stays to the left of the creek. As you go up, the creek will dig a deep gorge. Follow the cairns to find the proper way to go through a notch and enter the next level of the canyon. Above the gorge, cross over to the other side (right side if you are going up) where the terrain is nicer, no bouldering/bushwhacking is required and there is a very visible use-trail.

When you reach the lake, coast it walking to the right of it until you find a prominent chute (200 meters wide). Climb up the chute and stay to the left. You should find the sandy use-trail that contours to the north of the little lake and heads towards Mt Julius Caesar. The trail disappears and you have to just climb straight up east. The pass is very visible although not obvious if you are expecting a "V-shaped" pass: it is actually a 200-meter horizontal line to the immediate right of Mt Julius Caesar.

Once on the other side, head for the very visible lake and stay to the left of it. Eventually you will start hitting use-trails. The trail is quite frustrating because it goes up and down instead of just losing elevation. After Honeymoon Lake and the junction with the trail going south towards Pine Creek Pass, the trail becomes a freeway. The last hour is a rapid descent down very long switchbacks. You will see the tungsten mine below you. The trail never reaches the mine itself but coasts it and plunges into the woods under it. It then ends at a pack station. You have to walk through this pack station in order to reach its gate and the parking lot.

Eastern trailhead: Pine Mill Creek trailhead. Take the Rovanna Exit off highway 395 just north of Bishop, and drive west to the Pine Creek Pack station (2,255m). The road continues beyond the pack station, but there is a gate that stops you from driving any further. Make sure you take the Pine Lake and Honeymoon Lake trail. It's about 10 kms to Honeymoon lake (3,169m). A use trail continues towards Granite Park but soon disappears when you start hopping over boulders, but countless cairns mark the route. You cannot see Italy Pass but you can see the false pass to its left.

The direction should be obvious though (west). Countless cairns lead to Italy Pass. From this side the route is even easier than from the other side. The added value is a much nicer landscape with lots of lakes and great views of Mt Humphreys and other peaks. When you reach the last lake, Italy Pass becomes very visible:

Milestones (west to east):

  • South Lake Edison (2,300m)
  • Junction with JMT south (3,000m, 10 km): 3h
  • Junction between JMT and the Bear Creek trail (2,700m, 12.5km): 4h
  • Leaving the JMT for the Lake Italy trail (2,800m, 15.5km): 5h
  • Notch over gorge: 6h20'
  • Lake Italy (3,400m, 22km): 8h
  • Italy Pass (3800m, 25km): 10h
  • First eastern lake (3,600m, 28km): 10h 30'
  • Uphill section: 11h 15'
  • Honeymoon Lake (3,169m, 33km): 12h 30'
  • Lower Pine Lake: 13h 30'
  • Second footbridge: 13h 50'
  • Pine Creek trailhead (2,255m, 44km): 15h20'

Weather at Italy Pass

6. From Roads End to Independence via Harrison Pass

The Kings-Kern Divide is a 10 km horizontal ridge (from Thunder Mt in the west to Mt Stanford in the east) that separates the Kings River basin on the north from the Kern River basin to the south, and that connects the Great Western Divide (Thunder Mt and mountains to the south) with the Sierra Nevada (Mt Stanford being in between the Palisades and Mt Williamson).

The KK Divide can also be reached from Shepherd Pass via a trail that ends at Lake South America, very near both Lucy's Pass and Milly's Pass. While there is no official trail, one can therefore hike in a few hours from East Lake (the southeastern terminus of the trail coming from Roads End) to Lake South America (the northwestern terminus of the trail coming from Shepherd Pass).

Harrison Pass (3880m) might however be an easier (if longer) option to achieve this trans-sierra route. After leaving the trail south of East Lake, stay left (north) of Lake Jimi Hendrix and keep following the creek east. After passing one lake to the right, one lake to the left, climbing a massive wall with a spectacular waterfall, you reach the glacier announced by the twin lakes. From the second twin lake you have the best views of the west face of Mt Stanford and in front of you is the 1km long barrier of Harrison Pass that connects Mt Stanford and Mt Ericsson. From here the slope to the latter looks deadly. However if you make it to the pass, you will see that it is just easy class-2. Once on the other side of the pass, you are exactly north of Lake South America. Read here for details on crossing the Kings-Kern Divide.

  • Roads End (1534m) to Sphinx Creek junction (1914m): 6.5 kms, 1.5 hours
  • Sphinx Creek junction (1914m) to Charlotte Creek camp (2200m): 5.5 kms, 2 hours
  • Charlotte Creek (2200m) to Junction Meadow (2490m): 5kms, 1.5h
  • Wading the creek
  • Junction Meadow (2490m) to East Lake (2886m): 3kms, 1h
  • East Lake (2886m) to creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m): 2kms, 30'
  • Creek before Lake Reflection (3059 m) to Harrison Pass (3877m): 6kms, 3h'
  • Lake South America (3641m): 2km, 1h
  • Shepherd Pass (3672m): 3km, 1h
  • Symmes trailhead (1920m): 17km, 4h