North Lake to South Lake Loop
ElevationAscent: 9,037' 2,755 m
Descent: -8,492' -2,588 m
High: 11,905' 3,629 m
Low: 8,104' 2,470 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)
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“A loop through the heart of the Sierra Nevada from North Lake, through Evolution Basin, to South Lake.”— Bruce Hope
North Lake to Hutchinson Meadow. From the parking area near the pack station, make your way through the campground to the Piute Pass Trail (9,400 feet), ascend the Piute Pass Trail, entering the John Muir Wilderness 0.4 miles after leaving the trailhead. Going up, you'll pass several lakes to arrive at Piute Pass about 4.2 miles from the trailhead. Here there are great views into Humphreys Basin. From the pass, continue on down the Piute Canyon Trail along Piute Creek, camping at or near Hutchinson Meadow, about 11 miles from North Lake.
Hutchinson Meadow to Evolution Meadow. From your camp spot at or near the meadow, continue down the Piute Canyon Trail to its junction with the John Muir Trail (JMT). Take a left onto the JMT to head southeast along the South Fork of the San Joaquin River and enter Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Take the JMT south, climbing to a camp in Evolution Meadow along Evolution Creek about 22 miles from North Lake.
Evolution Meadow to Evolution Basin. From your camp spot, continue south on the JMT along Evolution Creek, passing through McClure Meadows at around 24 miles from North Lake. There is also a seasonal ranger station at McClure Meadows. Continuing on you'll pass Colby Meadows, ascend a steeper grade to Evolution Lake then continue climbing through Evolution Valley to Evolution Basin and Wanda Lake, 32 miles from North Lake. Continue climbing to the 11,955-foot crest of the Muir Pass and the iconic Muir Hut. Descend from the pass, past Helen Lake and camp at or near Big Pete Meadow, about 40 miles from North Lake, along the Middle Fork of the Kings River in Upper Le Conte Canyon.
Big Pete Meadow to Dusy Basin. Continue descending glacier-carved Le Conte Canyon on the JMT until you reach the junction with the Bishop Pass Trail, near the seasonal ranger station in LeConte Canyon. Head east on Bishop Pass Trail, and begin ascending the seemingly endless switchbacks up into stunning Dusy Basin, some 44 miles from North Lake. Make your final camp near one of the unnamed lakes in the Basin.
Dusy Basin to South Lake. On the last day (or segment if you're a superhero who's running this), continue east on the Bishop Pass Trail, cross Bishop Pass (11,970 feet), 47 miles from North Lake, and descend past a series of sparkling lakes along the South Fork of Bishop Creek to the South Lake Trailhead - for a final distance of about 54 miles. Take your waiting shuttle car (or hitchhike) to return to North Lake. Note that parking at South Lake can be quite limited during the summer months, particularly on weekends.
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Land Manager: USFS - Inyo National Forest Office