The Kern Trench, Plateau, Eastern Sequoia National Park Backcountry

Much of the Sequoia backcountry (the entire eastern part of Sequoia) is dominated by the North-South Kern Trench with plateaus (and peaks) on either side. The Kern river flows south, but ends up in Bakersfield (though in the summer it is dry before it gets that far). Access to the Kern is a long hike from the west (Mineral King (7830ft), Crescent Meadow (6700ft)), or over Forrester Pass (13,160ft) (Kings Canyon). But mostly from the Inyo National Forest via the Mt. Whitney trail, or Shepard Pass (12050ft, road: 4500) -- neither of these trails are easy (perhaps the hardest part of the Whitney trail is getting a permit). There is also a trail from the south along the Kern River.

The main Back Country page discusses Books to prepare for your trip Pictures of Coyote Pass, Sawtooth Pass, Franklin Creek, Mineral King, Alta Peak, High Sierra Trail, Bearpaw Meadow, Hamilton Lake, Kaweah Gap are in the main Backcountry page.

Lower Kern River, Little Kern River, Kern Hot Springs, Sequoia The Lower Kern River (6456ft at park boundary) (even above where the Little Kern joins and it gets even larger) is a real river. The bridge below the Hot Springs was replaced after the spring melt shown here and is now well above the flow. In its upper basin, the Kern is the usual small Sierra creek as it flows out of Lake South America (a few pictures later).
Lower Kern River, Kern River Bridge, Kern Hot Springs, Sequoia
Moraine Lake, Kaweah Gap, High Sierra Trail, Sequoia Moraine Lake (9290ft). Scenes like this are why people hike. The lake is on the plateau above the Kern and below Kaweah Gap.
Kern Hot Springs, Kern River, Sequoia The Kern Hot Springs. The one hot bath in Sequoia. The tub drains directly into the Kern River. It is a long way down from the Muir Trail to the Hot Springs, so there is not a lot of traffic. The bridge below the hot springs was washed out in 1980, but the new one is much higher above the river.
Upper Kern River, Sequoia After crossing many side streams you get to the upper Kern canyon where the raging (unfordable) Kern River turns into a small mountain stream. Usually you can find enough water to camp if you can find an appropriate place to camp.
Lake South America, Kern River, Golden Trout, Sequoia Lake South America (11941ft). Think about the shape. Of course it is the mirror view with Brazil on the Left. This is the upper lake on the Kern River. This is also a lake where golden trout spawn.
Tyndall Creek, Shepard Pass, Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Sequoia Above the Kern (along Tyndall Creek, 10900ft) you have the open views typical of the High Sierra, with snow in August. This is the plateau between the Kern canyon and the Sierra crest. Hiking is easy (this is as flat as you get in the Sierra) with constant panoramic views. The access via Shepard Pass (12050ft) meets the Muir Trail in this region.
Bighorn Plateau, Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Whitney, Sequoia From The Bighorn Plateau, Whitney look like an easy trip. That is Whitney in the left center of the image. The back side (the one few people can really see) is almost flat for a while, but does have a cliff.
Tyndall Creek, Muir Trail, Sequoia The Tyndall Creek region has ample (if rocky) camping, if you do not need stakes. If you need them, you may be in trouble. There is nothing like camping on rock. Camping on "a rock," especially one 6 feet high, is one of the pleasures of the Sierra, it beats camping in pools of water. Later before the final climb, Guitar Lake is a nice stop.
Guitar Lake, Mount Whitney, Sequoia
Mount Whitney, Sequoia In places on the upper Whitney trail you can slip either direction. Just stay on the trail. In high winds (and given the fact that you are on a ridge near the highest peak for miles, high winds are the norm) this is not always as easy as it sounds. There are a number of dangers on this hike, altitude, loose rocks, ice, lightening, and getting lost. This far out, other people or animals are the least of your worries.
Mount Whitney, Sequoia No picture captures the Whitney (14494ft, 4417m) experience. Some people do it regularly -- it can be done as a day hike. For those who think the Whitney day hike is too easy, try the Mt. Williamson (at 14375ft, 4380m, the second highest peak in the Sierra, and the peak that is most obvious from 395) day hike via Shepard Pass (stereo of Mt. Williamson). The group we met at 6:00PM with (only) 6000' more to go down were not so sure anymore. This is the view toward the Whitney trail and Mt. Langley (14042ft, 4274m).

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