High Sierra Trail: Crescent Meadow to 9 Mile Creek

“The High Sierra Trail has all the memory-making potential of a much longer hike, packaged into a job-friendly, one-week vacation. There is perhaps no better way to laterally cross the immense Sierra Nevada range on foot.” Zebulon Wallace

Soon after I heard that my ex-colleague did the High Sierra Trail and better yet wrote about it, I went ahead and bought his book through Amazon. You can find it here: Plan & Go | High Sierra Trail. I’ve ready through most of it, wanting to do the trail myself; I haven’t gotten to do it yet, but my sister and I are planning to possibly do it next year together. His book has a lot of relevant information that will help guide you through the process. Either way, this past weekend we were able to do the first portion of the JMT.

 

Plan & Go | High Sierra Trail: All you need to know to complete the Sierra Nevada’s best kept secret (Plan & Go Hiking)


Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Sequoia National Park
24.8 miles
3,840 feet
Out and back
Background

One of the first things I do before heading out into the wilderness or on a trip is a ton of research. If I am heading into the Sequoia and Kings Canyon Area I always go to their Plan Your Visit page. They have so much information on this page for where to visit if you are just there for the sites. I obviously prefer getting into the backcountry as there are much less people there and it’s a kind of therapy. I also own this book called: Sierra South – Backcountry Trips in California’s Sierra Nevada that includes this portion of the hike. Most of the time this is where I get my ideas of where to hike then I go on the internet.

Photo Teaser Books I Recommend
Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in Californias Sierra Nevada
Sierra North: Backcountry Trips in California’s Sierra Nevada

Under the SEKI Plan Your Visit page click on Things to Do. Lots of information about more than just overnight backpacking. I particularly move forward on the site straight to: Overnight Backpacking. Be sure to check out everything before you go especially in the winter due to road closures. Also, no matter what anywhere you are going into the backcountry whether it’s a day hike or an overnight trip check the certain restrictions the park, forest, wilderness has in place. In this case read over the Minimum Impact Restrictions on the Seki page. I cannot re-iterate more to follow these restrictions for the outdoors is a sacred haven that humans are honored to visit places like these. It is home to the wild, let’s respect it.

Weather
The two sources I use to check weather before we leave: National Weather Service and Mountain-Forecast.com. Your best bet and most accurate is to check with the ranger for the latest update on forecast and conditions.
Crescent Crescent Meadow National Weather Service
Moro Rock Weather Forecast
Alta Peak Weather Forecast
You will be a slight bit higher this is why I put the Alta Peak weather in, because you will be between Alta Peak and Moro Rock in elevation on the trail.


Permits

Winter
During the winter months, usually between end of September and end of May the permits are self-issued. Depending where you are going to hike the available places to fill out the self-issuing permits are the Foothills Visitor Center, Giant Forest Museum, Kings Canyon Visitor Center, Cedar Grove Visitor Center and the Mineral King Ranger Station. You can find more information on Seki’s Visitor Centers and Facilities Page.

For this hike the best places to enter your self-issued permits are both the Foothills Visitor Center and the Giant Forest Museum. Since in the winter you can’t drive up to Crescent Meadow because of road closures, your best bet would just to go straight to the Giant Forest Museum since you’ll be parking there and fill out the permits there.

Summer
During the summer months, it is a little more difficult to obtain permits as there is a process. Do not go out into the backcountry without a permit. Here’s a quick summary of how to put in your permits.
1. Check the Wilderness Trip Planner
2. Find the trail of the trip you are planning and fill out the Wilderness Permit Application.
3. Once you fill out the application send by Mail or by email. Fastest way to receive your permit back would be by email; all the information is on the application.
4. You will receive an email and have 10 days to redeem it and pay for it. Once paid you will not get a refund. Price is $10 for a reservation and $5 per person.
5. Print out your Pay.Gov confirmation letter.
6. Bring the confirmation letter to a wilderness office/visitor center after 1:00pm the day before or before 9:00am the day of your trip. Make arrangements ahead of time if you will not be able to pick up your permit before 9:00am (Call (559)565-3766 or seki_wilderness_office@nps.gov).



Directions

From the South: On Highway 99, exit onto CA-198 E toward Visalia/Sequoia National Park. The park entrance will be about 10 minutes after passing the small city of Three Rivers. Once you enter and pay the fee required at the Ash Mountain entrance, drive about 16 miles until the Giant Forest Museum.
From the North: On Highway 99, exit onto Kings Canyon Highway 180 E. The park entrance is about 53 miles after getting onto Highway 180 E. There will be a split in the road 1.7 miles after entering the park. Make sure to turn right onto CA-198 south. Drive about 29 miles until the Giant Forest Museum.
Both routes the road is very windy, be careful of fallen rocks. During the winter months park across the street of the Giant Forest Museum, fill out your permit and head onto Crescent Meadow Rd. It is an extra 3 miles one way on the road to Crescent Meadow. During the summer the road is open to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow, but due to congestion of so many visitors I would opt parking and taking the shuttle into Crescent Meadow. It’s free, here is some more information on the Free In-park Shuttle page. Make sure to find a larger parking area, Giant Forest Museum parking area is probably going to be full especially if you come into the park on a weekend or a holiday.


Maps
Photo Teaser Maps I recommend
Mineral King Hiking Map
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National parks recreation map (Tom Harrison Maps)

Stats

Note: these mileages are based on winter months beginning at Giant Forest Museum

Point of Interest Elevation Mileage
Giant Forest Museum 6,500 feet 0 miles
Crescent Meadow/High Sierra Trail trailhead 6,700 feet 3 miles
Eagle View 6,900 feet 4 miles
Panthers Creek 7,100 feet 5.7 miles
Mehrten Creek 7,640 feet 9 miles
Nine Mile Creek 7,591 feet 12.4 miles


Description

Day 1: Giant Forest Museum to Nine Mile Creek Campground
12.4 miles
We woke up at 4:30am to drive from Los Angeles up to potentially hike from Giant Forest Museum to Bearpaw Meadow Camp. Ideally we would have left the trailhead much sooner than we did, but even then this was a lot of mileage for our first backpacking trip of the season. We packed everything up the night before in the car, so really all we had to do is get in the car and drive up. We have an America the Beautiful Annual Pass that we just had to show to the lady in the Ash Mountain entrance. We asked about current snowpack on that trail, but what we were told was contradicting information. We decided to stop at the Foothills Visitor Center where again that information can only be relayed by a wilderness office that was only open M-F. The exact words I was told “that’s a backpacking trail”. Either way, what they should have mentioned that if we drove up to the Giant Forest Museum there would be someone with much more information there.

We stopped quickly in and filled out our permits and spoke with the ranger a little about how much snow there was. We were lucky enough to have a pretty free of snow trail at least till hitting 8,000 feet with patches here and there. We parked across the street got ready and headed on our way to Crescent Meadow. I knew that the road was closed and it would add another 3 miles, but we decided to do this trail anyway knowing that there were a few campsites along the way with bear boxes. I still recommend taking a bear canister with you as this area has seen a lot of bear traffic.

We left our car at 10:30am onto Crescent Meadow Rd. We averaged about 3 miles per hour before we got onto the trail as Crescent Meadow Rd. is a paved road. About an hour later we finally got to Crescent Meadow and the closer we got, we heard over thousands of frogs in the meadow. The first mile to Eagle View was a steady uphill climb in a dense forested area. At this point still thought we were making good time. Eagle View was our first view of the valley below with snow capped mountains and a slight glimpse of Moro Rock to our west. It was time for a little break and a snack, two of my go to snacks lately are Honey Stinger Vanilla Flavor (honey flavor is really good too) and Krave Beef Jerkey Sweet Chipotle Flavor.


After leaving Eagle View about a mile later there are a few switchbacks. About a mile later there is a turnoff for Wolverton Cutoff. Panther Creek crossing is the first larger water source with nice shady spot to sit down next to the falls. We took a short break here and continued onwards as it was already after noon and we wanted to get to camp before dark.

We hit Mehrten Creek campsite around 2:00pm and at this point we had already hiked almost 9 miles. The way up to Mehrten Creek we crossed many small drainages/creeks and several somewhat hazardous sections; just make sure you are staying alert where you are stepping. Through dense forest and sheer cliff to your right. Finally we could hear a much louder creek, falls ahead of us. Mehrten Creek was the most dangerous creek crossing of the trip for us. I could only imagine at certain times a year this being even more dangerous. There is a campsite up a steep ways with a bear box, but we did not go looking for it as we were headed to 9 mile creek just a good 3 miles from there.


The rest of the way up to Nine Mile Creek Camp we lost site of the valley in dense forest with patches of snow covering the trail, nothing more than 6 inches. This felt like the longest part of the hike as we were absolutely ready to have camp set up. Unfortunately we finally found the bear box and the campsite was covered in snow. We did however find a nice spot to clean up the couple inches of snow and set up our tents next to each other.

Once we set up our tents we split up and started some of the camp chores. Getting any dry wood we can that was laying around, meant a little more walking around, but that kept us warm. Grabbing some water to filter and starting the fire. While we’re on the water filter conversation, we have a new filter that is absolutely the best thing. We can literally just leave it to filter right into our bladders. It’s called a LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System.

The night turned out not to be too cold, well obviously the fire helped. We also found a thermarest mat in the bear box that was perfect to put on the trunk we were sitting on that was wet from the latest snowfall. Of course when we left we put that mat right back in there, hopefully someone will be able to use it. Dinner was Sapporo Ichiban, one of my newest favorite backpacking meals because it’s so easy to make and it’s very nice to have soup at night.


The night turned out not to be too cold, well obviously the fire helped. We also found a thermarest mat in the bear box that was perfect to put on the trunk we were sitting on that was wet from the latest snowfall. Of course when we left we put that mat right back in there, hopefully someone will be able to use it. Dinner was Sapporo Ichiban, one of my newest favorite backpacking meals because it’s so easy to make and it’s very nice to have soup at night.

Day 2: Back to trailhead
12.4 miles

The next day we were slow going and I must say we definitely hit our limit. My soles and legs were dead about 5 miles before where the car was. We made it to Crescent Meadow and took a nice break there on the bench next to the shuttle stop. We got back to the car About 4:00pm, went and ate at The Gateway a nice burger and fries and headed home. The next morning straight back to work. I love my weekends!

*Originally hiked on: April 14, 2018


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: