South Lake to North Lake Backpacking

Bishop, California 93514

South Lake to North Lake Backpacking

South Lake to North Lake (Backpacking) Professional Review and Guide

"Many backpackers view the South Lake to North Lake loop as one of the supreme backpacks in the High Sierra—it offers a visit to three incomparable alpine basins, Dusy, Evolution, and Humphreys; and three scenic canyons, LeConte, Evolution, and Goddard. In addition, you’ll experience a bevy of picturesque lakes, rollicking streams, serene forests, and flower-bedecked meadows."

South Lake to North Lake (Backpacking) Reviews

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Snow shoed thru knee deep honeycomb sun holes for a solid 3 days. Hiked another 3 days. (Spent a day trying to snowshoe up a couloir on Donahue Pass). Got snowed on that afternoon. Would recommend hiking thru the snow early in the AM when the sunholes are solid as it gets slippery and slushy in the PM. Trails flooded with snow melt and muddy. Recommend good boot waterproofing before going this time of the year. No visible trails for about 3-4 days so good knowledge of mapping/compass/GPS recommended. Lakes frozen over so no fishing. Plenty of river fishing available though. We were going to take the JMT to Reds Mdw/Devils Postpile but northbound hikers said it was still very snow covered and all lakes were frozen so we ended up taking the River Trail to Agnew Mdws. Very Beautiful alternative with easy navigation as you just follow the river the whole way. Alot of bear activity and mosquitos at lower elevations (About Olaine Lake to Agnew). Fantastic Trip with outrageous scenery the whole way but if you don't want to deal with some of the above elements, I'd recommend doing this trip towards the end of summer. This is a must do trip for any backpacker! Looking forward to next hike / fishing trip to see what we missed on the JMT between Reds Mdw & Thousand Island Lake. (Quite a few lakes on this section of the trail)
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I've spent four summers in a row hiking in the Sierras and this is by far the premiere backpacking trip in the Range of Light. You climb three mountain passes, enter three basins–all of which are breathtaking, and hike near waterfalls, lakes, streams and, if you go in late July, a bouquet of wildflowers. Nothing compares with the vastness of the basins and the intimacy of the meadows and forests rolled into one. Having the classic Sierra weather, the evenings are always clear displaying the fullness of the night sky. Nothing like stripping down and wading across the frigid and fast Evolution Creek, and then an hour later, relaxing in McClure Meadow overlooking the famous Evolution Basin. Bring DEET. The mosquitos are unrelenting. We hiked North to South, which I highly recommend, for the scenery gets better and better everyday. It is the most enjoyable backpacking trip I've been on to date.
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We traveled from Agnew Meadows north to Tuolumne Meadows. It was a great three day trip. At this time of year you need to be ready to see lots of other hikers and campers (hence the term Muir Freeway). This was my fourth time on this portion of the Muir Trail but the first time going south to north and this time of year. I usually go after Labor Day which I would strongly recommend. A lot less traffic, vertually no bugs and still great weather. Overall it was great but camp sites were somewhat hard to find and very worn by all the previous campers. Some of the best camp sites we saw were not within the mileage we needed to make each day to finish in three days. We would of liked to camp at Ruby Lake, the higher elevations after Island Pass but before the climb really begins in earnest to go over Donahue Pass and finally the lake above Upper Lyell Base Camp would of been our prefered choice but there is only one good camping area and it was taken by a large party of four tents. I have hike the entire John Muir Trail twice and I rate this section in my top three of the entire trail for beauty and a great back country experience. Happy Treking! Larry Hudson

South Lake to North Lake (Backpacking) Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
9,240 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
5-7 days
Late summer through early fall
Inyo National Forest - permit required
Local Contacts
USGS 7.5-min. Mt. Thompson, North Palisade, Mt. Goddard, Mt. Henry, Mt. Hilgard, Mt. Darwin, and Mt. Tom
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018