Bucket List: The High Sierra

Sierra Nevada Mountains

The Rae Lakes

Region: Republic of Californistan

Logistical Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking Difficulty: Moderately High

Degree of Risk: Moderately High

Estimated time required (including travel and logistics): One Week

Almost synonymous with the word ‘mountains’ is John Muir’s range of light, the Sierra Nevada — perhaps the ideal of mountain ranges anywhere on Earth. With it’s myriad bright exposed granite domes and faces, thousands of alpine lakes, soaring peaks and typically mild weather, it’s no exaggeration to say this is hiker heaven.

We were blown away by King’s Canyon

Why Hike Here?

  • Even by high mountain standards the Sierra Nevada are beautiful
  • As Ansel Adams well knew, these peaks photograph unusually well
  • Hike in the footsteps of John Muir
  • The John Muir Trail…widely considered America’s #1 hike
  • The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
  • Mt. Whitney, highest in captivity (in the lower 48 anyway)
  • Half Dome, Yosemeti Valley
  • Vast number of placid, clear alpine lakes
  • Unusually mild weather for this big a mountain range
  • During  peak season rain is uncommon

But First Consider…

  • Altitude is a factor here
  • Many passes above 10,000 feet
  • Whitney is above 14,000 feet
  • Don’t let the fact that bad weather is uncommon fool you into thinking it can’t happen, or be VERY bad when it does happen
  • Lots of tough stream crossings
  • Short hiking season (July-September)
  • Some sections hot, bone dry in summer
  • Many hikes crowded; some are mobbed
  • The JMT is a very formidable undertaking (almost three weeks, at least one of which is without supply)
  • Consider the shorter Rae Lakes Loop instead
  • Bears a problem in some areas, though danger is mostly to your food supply
  • Rattlesnakes are about (bites are rare)
  • Outside peak season the weather reverts back to typical mountain norm (IE, unpredictable and generally awful.)


Don’t expect solitude on the heavily hiked Mt. Whitney Trail. By Jakub Fryš – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78702629

Hikes that we have done here:

  • The Rae Lakes Loop

Hikes that we want to do here:

  • Mt Whitney*
  • Cloud’s Rest
  • Monarch Divide Trail**
  • Evolution Basin**
  • At least one other section of the JMT or PCT

*On the Bucket List

**Brian LOVES Kings Canyon NP and thinks it’s the most underrated in the entire NPS system