Big SEKI Loop (as an alternative to the JMT)
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- This topic has 127 replies, 39 voices, and was last updated 5 years, 10 months ago by Pablo 2000.
Feb 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm #1957528
"Are there vacancies in Cedar Grove campgrounds?"
Yes and no, as you would expect. I generally make a point of arriving on some weekday away from the holidays. I try to arrive there early, about the time that others are leaving, 9-11 a.m., so I always score a site. If you are picky or have an RV, then there might not be so many perfect spots. There are black bears that prowl around those campgrounds, and they will steal your dinner in the blink of an eye. Then they run across the river to make your pursuit unlikely.
I generally try to arrive early like that and spend the rest of that day doing some short easy hiking. That may help with altitude adjustment.
I believe that the permit station ranger makes the same statements about toilet paper. I won't tell you what to do. Let's just say that some backpackers have gotten used to burning up their used toilet paper and then burying the remaining ashes in the hole. Besides, backpacker's toilet paper is very thin and produces very little ash when it is burned.
–B.G.–Feb 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm #1957529Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
What??? You make a fire in the Sierras??? I would think that wouldn't be such a good idea.Feb 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm #1957540
"What??? You make a fire in the Sierras???"
Surely you jest. I never said that I made a fire.
There are some places where wood fires are forbidden. There are some places where all open fires are forbidden. There are places where there are legal fire rings, and you are forbidden from constructing any new fire rings. There are some times of the year when lots of stuff is forbidden. You just have to be aware of the rules in effect for the time and place you planned.
–B.G.–Feb 23, 2013 at 9:14 am #1957710Steve SMember
Cool info on some great hiking ideas. Coming in from the east, I really like the ability to basically find an access trail, and then make that my start/finish point on the loop. That could save a ton of time with regards to driving time. Thanks for the ideas!Feb 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm #1957954Roleigh MartinBPL Member
@marti124Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
This is a great thread. A resupply near the midpoint is possible using Sequoia Kings Pack Train on the JMT at the Kearsarge Pass junction. They only require a 1/2 day to get to that point so the billing is only a one day use of packer and mule. I've used their service 4 years now. (I do the JMT annually, will be doing my 6th this summer. I've done the High Sierra Trail for 7 years prior to that.)
Another option is you can do the High Sierra Trail as a lasso-loop round trip that is around 150 miles long, nearly the same length as what you show. It enables a resupply at Lone Pine, via HorseShoe Meadow Trailhead (less costly than use of the Packers at the Kearsarge Pass junction). I've done it. Great hike.
Start in Crescent Meadows in SEKI.
At Kern River meetup on the High Sierra Trail (HST), go downriver, not upriver (as the HST states), go downriver 9 miles to Kern Canyon Ranger Station where there is a suspension bridge over the river.
Cross river, go east about 18 miles to Horseshoe Meadows TH, resupply via Lone Pine (Whitney SHuttle Service or hitchhike from TH to Lone Pine), stay overnight in Dow Villa, enjoy hot spa, and get back to Horseshoe Meadows TH before 24 hours has elapsed to avoid losing your permit. Get back onto trail but head north on the PCT up to Crabtree Meadows. From there go up to Whitney Summit and Back, then head back to Crescent Meadows via the normal HST route, and you'll get back to the Kern River junction where you originally went downriver, but now you'll stay on the HST to get back to Crescent Meadows. Great hike. You'd need two maps Tom Harrison SEKI/Whitney high country map and the Golden Trout Wilderness map from Tom Harrison.
Advantage of this hike is that you end up where you started, easier to deal with logistics. There is a shuttle bus from Crescent Meadows to Lodgepole, and from there to Visalia, CA where there is a small airport or buses to major airports.Feb 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm #1957961Dirk RMember
To echo the sentiments of others, this is a fantastic thread and one of the reasons I rejoined BPL as a forum member. I would chime in here that during last year's early season hike of the JMT (when we ran into a ton of PCT thru-hikers headed north), I couldn't help but think that there had to be other spectacular routes that would provide far more solitude in the Sierra. I started researching routes this winter with the idea of returning again in a few years. Lo and behold Amy did a lot of this work for us!
I agree with Roleigh on the importance of logistics. The loop aspect of this hike is very appealing (as are the cross country opportunities) primarily because you can save a lot of time and effort at the end of the trip. Leaving via the east side of the Sierra presents logistical challenges that can extend the time it takes to return home. The ETA, for example, doesn't run buses on weekends.
Thank you for this thread, Amy. Great work!
DirkNov 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm #2045041Rex SandersBPL Member
You don't need Google Earth to view KML (or KMZ) files, if the file is posted on a public web site like Amy's.
Just paste the address of the KML into the Google Maps Search box and press Return.
You'll get something like this:
Some KML files are too complex to view this way, but most work fine.
Great loop, you've got me thinking, thanks!
— RexFeb 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm #2070912
Daniel sent a PM asking about access from the east side instead of from the west side.
The loop could be done by coming in from any east side trailhead. The disadvantage is that you end up crossing the road at Cedar Grove in the middle of the hike, so it breaks up an otherwise fantastic backcountry hike. But, if it's easier to get to the east side from your home, and you don't mind a road crossing in the middle of the trip, then you could access the loop from the east side.
Any of these passes would give direct access: Bishop Pass, Taboose Pass, Sawmill Pass, Baxter Pass, Kearsarge Pass, Shepherd Pass, Whitney Portal, New Army Pass, or Cottonwood/Siberian Pass. Some are longer or harder hikes to get to the loop (Shepherd has lots of elevation gain and New Army is further distance). Some are easier to get permits. Some see less trail maintenance and might be a bit thrashy (Baxter, Sawmill, and as of a 2013 storm Shepherd).
If you go to the CalTopo view (http://caltopo.com/map?id=027E) and change the map layer (upper right) to NPS Visitor Maps all of these access points are clear, except Baxter Pass which is not labeled on the NPS map.Feb 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm #2070949AnonymousInactive
"Some are longer or harder hikes to get to the loop (Shepherd has lots of elevation gain and New Army is further distance)."
Anyone contemplating using Shepherd Pass would do well to contact the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center (760) 876-6222 to check on the progress, if any, toward repairing the massive damage the trail sustained after heavy July, 2013, rainfall. All 4 crossings of Symmes Creek were washed out, and there are numerous washouts of the trail below Anvil Camp, including a 20-30' deep washout just below Anvil Camp. There are also several washouts on the headwall. If this damage is not repaired before your trip, it will turn an already difficult approach/resupply into a real ordeal.
The Sawmill Pass trail also sustained damage, but was still hikeable when we came down it last September.
Edited for content after refreshing my memory. The sign, above, is posted at the TH.Feb 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm #2070969
Thanks Tom for the heads-up. The 2013 damage to Shepherd Pass Trail, and also problems with Baxter Pass and Sawmill Pass trails are described on the SEKI Trail Conditions page. I added a link to the page to the original post, making it easier for people to find it.Feb 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm #2070996AnonymousInactive
"The 2013 damage to Shepherd Pass Trail, and also problems with Baxter Pass and Sawmill Pass trails are described on the SEKI Trail Conditions page."
Thanks for the link, Amy. The damage to the Shepherd Pass trail is even worse than the TH sign indicated. That is very bad news for me, as I use it a lot. Sawmill was pretty chewed up last fall, and I suspect it will be even worse after spring runoff, even if it is low. The Forest Service/NPS are way too short of funds to make much progress in repairing damage of that magnitude. When I talked to them last September, they were not even aware of the damage to Sawmill, 3 months after the July flash floods. They simply didn't have the personnel to regularly patrol the trails. I doubt much has changed since then. Hard times all up and down the East side. :(Feb 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm #2071003
Tom, do you know of any source of updated information on these trail problems at Shepherd, Baxter, Sawmill, Taboose?
I generally find the national park service web site to be inadequate or late for these trail conditions outside the parks. Since it is all national forest, it would be neat if we could find our way to some planning or progress reports. This assumes that they will jump on it early in the season. I ask, because I had plans there for mid-season.
–B.G.–Feb 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm #2071025AnonymousInactive
"Tom, do you know of any source of updated information on these trail problems at Shepherd, Baxter, Sawmill, Taboose?"
I'd give the East Sierra Interagency Visitors Center a call, Bob. The guy I talked with was a serious type who actually gets out in the field, and had been up Sawmill a couple of weeks before the July storms that caused the washouts. I can't remember his name now, but if you could ask around there for someone like him, you'd likely get as much information as is available. When I reported the washout(s) on Sawmill, he took it all down and immediately sent a report in while I was there, along with a request to send someone out to evaluate the damage. Apparently they did, because it's now on the website Amy linked us to. Another possibility would be to post inquiries on highsierratopix.com later this year and see if anyone who has been up there recently responds.
I share your concerns about timely information, as my plans for this year are also potentially impacted. IIRC, you are planning something to do with Baxter. As you probably know, it is not well maintained under normal circumstances and, if it has sustained any damage, will likely not be very high on the USFS priority list. My guess would be that Shepherd Pass will be first in line, as it has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Sawmill, like Baxter, doesn't see a lot of use but, if it doesn't sustain further damage this spring, will probably be hikeable, and would put you on the JMT not too far north of Dollar Lake. Sawmill Pass is a really pretty route, BTW, especially the Woods Creek drainage on the west side.Feb 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm #2071036
"I'd give the East Sierra Interagency Visitors Center a call"
I don't normally deal with them there except when it is time to pick up a Whitney permit, and I wasn't aware that they had much staffing except during the summer. However, it may be the only game in town.
Unfortunately, the whole permit reservation system has everything wide open for summer. That would be a bummer to be sitting on a reservation for months and then to go to pick up the permit and find out that the trail is closed.
–B.G.–Feb 3, 2015 at 5:40 am #2170762
I am intrigued by this route. Thanks go out to Amy and others who have added comments. It looks great in so many ways.
I do have a few questions that I should probably research myself but in case someone has done so already and can answer with minimal effort I'll ask a couple questions.
The route description says that no resupply is required, but does that mean no resupply is easily and cheaply available? I really much prefer to keep my resupply intervals to 4 days or less when possible and would like to have the option of taking it easy at times if I don't feel like pushing enough to manage 15 mile days every day. If necessary I might bite the bullet and go with no resupply and or push for longer days, but it sure would be nice to have a lighter pack and the option of not having to do super long days.
On a related topic, what are the bear canister requirements for the route? Required for the whole route? Just parts of it? If not required to use an approved canister, I'd consider either a Ursack or a counterbalance hang.
If resupply is available it becomes easier for me to deal with the caniser issue since I would then be able to use my smaller canister and smaller pack.Feb 3, 2015 at 6:24 am #2170769Lori PBPL Member
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
I would not be able to take Diamox, and neither can anyone else who is allergic to Sulfa. Fortunately, I have yet to actually need it.
You SHOULD have a bear can if you are anywhere on the JMT and don't want to camp near the lockers. They are required in the Whitney Zone, which is where you are on the southern end of the loop. (I would never take an Ursack anywhere in the Sierra Nevada.) Fortunately Sequoia/Kings rents the Bearikade in the visitor centers.
There are also going to be marauding shirt/pack strap eating deer along the High Sierra Trail segment, particularly at Hamilton Lake.
The only resupply possible I can see without paying $$$ to a packer to bring you stuff would be if you had somebody leave some stuff at Bearpaw, and I'm not even sure they would let you do that.
It looks like a great loop – Deadman is one of my favorite places. I would totally pack a Bearikade Expedition for that, if I hadn't already committed my vacation to the Rubies and Gardiner Basin.Feb 3, 2015 at 7:05 am #2170778
The problem of needing to carry that much food, for me, is that more food = bigger canister = can't take my favorite pack. I can manage 4 days pretty well with my small bear vault 450. I might even get 5 days out of it by packing super carefully and leaving all the food for the first day out of the canister. So there is the extra weight of the food, the extra weight of the bigger canister, the extra weight of the bigger pack, and the fact that I also just like my small pack better. To make matters worse the next bigger pack that I own is a lot bigger and a lot heavier, so I'd probably need to buy yet another pack.
In addition to the cost of using a packer, there is the problem of having to commit to a day and time to meet them. I really hate fixed schedules and prefer to avoid them when I can. I like being able to do an easy or a hard day depending on how I feel each day. If it wasn't for that I might be inclined to cough up the $$$ for a packer.Feb 3, 2015 at 7:12 am #2170782Lori PBPL Member
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
I suppose it depends on what you eat. I've gotten a week in the Bearikade Weekender – the first 2-3 days are well off the beaten path so bear bagging plus the canister is possible. Regardless, your first day's food doesn't have to go into the can at all.
I would spend four days on the first segment anyway, just to take a day trip down Tehipite from Simpson Meadow. By the time I got to the JMT the food and trash would all fit in the canister.Feb 3, 2015 at 7:13 am #2170783
Of course, HYOH. For me, the design point of this loop is to provide a way to take a long trail walk in the backcountry of the southern Sierras. It is specifically optimized to form one long wilderness trip for those who are interested in an uninterrupted backcountry hike. That said, here are three options for resupply.
1) Start the hike at Roads End as the loop is described. Exit the loop at the junction with the Kearsarge Pass Trail and hike east to Onion Valley trailhead, and hitch down to Independence. I suspect that would be a full day off the trail. That point is about mid-way.
2) If you draw a line along the Bubbs Creek Trail you'll form a figure eight out of this loop. You could just hike it as two short loops instead of one long loop. Start the hike at Roads End and hike to the eastern end of the Bubbs Creek Trail. This is very near the junction with the Kearsarge Pass Trail. Then go west down Bubbs creek to return to your car. Then proceed to take the other half of the hike.
3) if you started the hike at Onion Valley you could presumably arrange for a resupply when you pass Roads End in Kings Canyon. I'm not aware of any package-holding services in the park, but you could look into that option.
All of these options would change flow of the trip entirely. It is a long way to hike without resupply, at my pace 9 or 10 days. But for me that is the whole point! If you want to hike in 4-5 day chunks, there are plenty of other ways to visit the Sierra and I'm not sure this loop has any particular advantage over other options. Pete – I don't know you, but I'll go out on a limb and suggest an alternative to planning a resupply. Hike the loop in the clockwise direction. Bite the bullet and carry food for 9 or 10 days. Since you said you'd like to have the option of taking it easy at times, then do just that – hike at whatever pace suits you. If you end up averaging just 5 miles a day, then return to your car via Paradise Valley (Woods Creek Trail). If you make slightly faster pace, then return via Bubbs Creek Trail. If you make a little more mileage, then return Colby Pass and Cloud Canyon. And if you find that you are in the mood to walk 15 miles a day, then continue all the way south to the High Sierra Trail and return via Kaweah Gap and Roaring River route. You don't need to commit up front.
If you start at Roads End and hike counter-clockwise, then there's no straight-forward way to shorten the trip once you've passed Woods Creek Trail. By hiking in the clockwise direction you give yourself more flexibility later in the trip.
Bear information: http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_bc.htm
That page has a link to a map that shows areas where bear cans are currently required. WRT this route, it includes the JMT section between Pinchot Pass and Forester Pass.Feb 3, 2015 at 10:19 am #2170837
That certainly is helpful and gives me some options to consider. I have no need to rush in deciding as the trip would likely be in September.
My take on the wilderness experience aspect is that, for me at least, stopping to resupply doesn't detract substantially from the experience. Also to be honest I really don't find sharing the trail with quite a few other backpackers to detract all that much either. On my JMT hike, I enjoyed the company of almost all of the folks I met on the trail other than the first day. The only part where I minded the crowds very much on the JMT was the first day out of the Yosemite Valley and to a slightly lesser extent the evening at LYV. In 2013 I even managed to camp in beautiful places where no one else was around for a good percentage of nights. So I am not looking at this route as much for more solitude as for the fact that it is a loop and that it eases the permit hassle.
Maybe I am weird in this, but I often find the interaction with others on the trail a plus, once away from the hoards of day hikers. I have done trips where I was completely alone the whole trip and I actually enjoyed that less.Feb 3, 2015 at 11:42 am #2170864Wim DepondtBPL Member
@wim_depondtLocale: The low countries
Some other ideas:
-It is possible to send a resupply package to the Onion Valley trailhead, thus preventing the need to hitch in & out of Independence. Costly though: 125 USD flat fee (thank god the €/$ was good … back then :-)). Contact Pine Creek Pack Station and Sequoia Kings Pack Trains ([email protected]).
– Another option is to use the Mt Williams Motel resupply package at Independence (http://mtwilliamsonmotel.com/) . Chris Chater, one of the owners of Mt Willams Motel, is apparently also prepared to sherpa resupplies over Kearsage pass for a liberal donation to the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation (source: Doug, the co-owner of Mt. Williams Motel).
– If travelling counter clockwise from Roads End and if your bear canister is too small for the entire journey, one might consider using the food boxes for the first couple of nights. Do your research. Also not entirely according to regulations if I remember correctly.
PS: State Lakes – Lake Basin – Cartridge pass is a viable option for the SEKI-loop (two days): superb views, easy route finding and little talus. It was one of my best days in de Sierra. There is use trail over cartridge pass.
edit:typoFeb 3, 2015 at 2:05 pm #2170902
Thanks, I'll consider those options. It would be worth the fee for pack service to me to be able to travel with a lighter pack. The only part I tend to balk at is that I assume I need to be there at a set day and time and I prefer to play my schedule by ear as I go. Can't have everything though :)Feb 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm #2170918
I reported this before. I've passed by the Kearsarge Pass/JMT/Charlotte Lake trail junction before when I saw guys just hanging out in the shade. I would go over to ask them how things were going, and they were typically waiting there for the horsepacker to arrive with the food bag. The backpackers were going southbound, and that was the last resupply on the way out over Mount Whitney. They would report that they had been waiting there an hour or whatever past the agreed meeting time, so that has to be a nervous time for the backpackers.
I've also arrived at the same spot when the food handover was happening, so it is good to see things work as they are supposed to.
I'm always coming and going over Kearsarge Pass, so I see these things a lot.
A similar scene shows up at LeConte Canyon Ranger Station.
–B.G.–Mar 2, 2015 at 11:06 am #2179227William FinchBPL Member
@sekihikerLocale: Kings Canyon/Sequoia
You have put together a cool, long trip that can be done without resupply. I just ran across your trip reports for the first time today and I can't imagine how I have never seen them before. Maybe you have never visited my site, either at: http://www.sierrahiker.comMar 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm #2182622Patrick O’NeilBPL Member
Hi everyone, I'm not from California and have been trying to get a JMT SOBO permit and I've given up. This loop looks interesting. I have a question for those experienced in the area: is there any kind of shuttle service to road's end from Fresno? I think not because google has revealed zip. Anyone hitchhike in and out before?
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