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Bearpaw High Sierra Trail

The High Sierra Trail follows a ridgeline of mixed confiers and offers hikers spectacular views of the Great Western Divide and beautiful mountain scenery found nowhere else on Earth.

Well-marked and easy to follow, the famed, 72-mile High Sierra Trail starts along a ridgeline of mixed conifers through rugged Sierra terrain. With roots dating back to 1928, this multi-day trek offers spectacular views of the Great Western Divide and lush meadows along the journey.

For those starting the full High Sierra Trail thru-hike from Crescent Meadow, or those simply interested in a relaxing overnight trip with a few creature comforts, Bearpaw High Sierra Camp marks a perfect end point to a day of hiking. Enjoy a hearty meal that will prepare you for the rigors to come. Then relax on the porch or by the fire with sweeping views of the Great Western Divide while reveling in the company of fellow hikers and High Sierra Camp hosts who love to share their knowledge of the trails and surrounding country. 

From here, it can take up to a week to cross the Kaweah Gap into the Kern River Canyon before ascending on towering Mt. Whitney, taking in deep river canyons, high alpine peaks and lakes along the way.

The moderate hike to Bearpaw starts at the Crescent Meadow parking lot. A wilderness permit is required and can be obtained at the Lodgepole Visitor Center between 7:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The permit is free for Bearpaw guests. With it, you can drive to Crescent Meadow even on summer weekends, when the road is closed to other visitors.

Distance: 11.5 miles each way
Time: 5 to 10 hours, each way (average 7 hours)
Trailhead: Crescent Meadow, approximately 10 miles south of Wuksachi Lodge®
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

Bearpaw map preview

Click map for an interactive version of the map as well as more detailed information of the trail.
Part of the Trail Map of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Generals Highway
(Redwood Hikes Press, 2013)

Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps or Google Street View.

High Sierra Trail Recommendations

Getting to Bearpaw High Sierra Camp – Day 1

  • The night before your hike to Bearpaw, we suggest you stay at the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park to allow time to acclimate yourself to the higher altitude. Stay a night after your hike as well so you can rest for your drive home.
  • Start hiking early! A 7:00 a.m. start time is advised to avoid some of the mid-day heat and will allow enough time to shower and relax before dinner.
  • Drink and carry plenty of water. There are several creek crossings along the way; carry a water filter or iodine tablets. Potable drinking water (safe to drink) is not available on the trail.
  • Eat little but often. Big meals sit heavy and demand oxygen for digestion. Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, and avoid fats and proteins that are hard to digest.
  • Mehrten Creek is approximately 6 miles into the hike and a good place to stop for lunch.
  • It takes the average person about 7 hours to hike into or out of Bearpaw Camp.
  • It is wise to rest and enjoy Buck Creek (it has a concrete bridge) because the last 1.3 miles gains 600 vertical feet and is without water.
  • As the High Sierra Trail tops the ridge, a sign identifies the campground. DO NOT take the trail to the campground! Stay left on the trail (toward Hamilton Lake). The tent camp lies 300 yards ahead. Walk around front of the dining hall for lemonade where camp hosts will greet you.

Beyond Bearpaw

  • After passing Hamilton Lakes and its beautiful waterfalls, the next phase of the journey is a difficult one as you pass over Kaweah Gap and down to Big Arroyo Junction.
  • From there, the challenges continue as you will ascend more than 1,000 feet to the Chagoopa Plateau before descending into the Kern River, which is the lowest point on the Trail. Fortunately, the Kern Hot Springs are a soothing experience for weary hikers.
  • Next, you’ll journey from the Kern River toward Junction Meadow, which then leads to the John Muir Trail at Wallace Creek. This is one of the easier sections of the journey.
  • Now, your greatest challenge looms. Wallace Creek leads to Guitar Lake up to the highest point in the High Sierra Trail – Mt. Whitney. Be prepared for a strenuous trek and possibly even mountain thunderstorms. Make sure you get a very early start on this day.
  • Finally, you will complete the journey by descending from Mt. Whitney down to Whitney Portal. It’s 11 miles but all downhill, which helps.
  • Most people choose to hike the High Sierra Trails, but for a fee, mules are available via the Cedar Grove Pack Station. Call (559) 565-3464 for information.
  • Personal items cannot be shipped on the Bearpaw weekly pack trains. Arrangements must be made privately.
  • The High Camp staff knows a great deal about the area’s hiking trails, and the region as a whole. They can serve as a helpful resource for you on your adventures.

What to Bring

  • Warm hat
  • Sweater and/or fleece jacket
  • Extra socks (laundry facilities are not available)
  • Sweat pants, tee shirts, etc.
  • Rain poncho
  • Ball cap or sun visor
  • Camp shoes or sandals (also good for crossing creeks)
  • Map
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water filter or iodine tablets
  • Insect repellant
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle and/or canteen
  • Walking stick
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit/blister kit

Note: If you have existing medical conditions that require medication, bring extra in case of unexpected delays.

What to Expect on High Sierra Trails

Mid- to Late June:

  • Possible snow on trail and higher water levels
  • Cool temperatures (low 40's to mid-70's)
  • Fewer insects
  • Possible thunderstorm activity
  • Songbirds
  • Little trail usage (backpackers)

Early July:

  • Some flowers
  • Warmer temperatures (high 40's to mid-80's)
  • Increase in insect activity
  • Songbirds

Mid- to Late July:

  • Flowers
  • Warmer temperatures (high 40's to mid-80's)
  • Possible thunderstorms
  • Insects
  • Increase in trail usage (backpackers)

Early to Mid-August:

  • Some flowers
  • Warmer temperatures (high 40's to mid-80's)
  • Possible thunderstorms
  • Insects
  • High trail usage (backpackers)

Late August Through Mid-September:

  • Decrease in flowers
  • Berry season
  • Cooler temperatures (low 40's to high 70's)
  • Decrease in insect activity
  • Low trail usage (backpackers)

For High Sierra Trail conditions, maps, and information, call the Wilderness Office at (559) 565-3766.

For weather information, call (559) 565-3341.