Sawmill Lake

Independence, California 93526

Sawmill Lake

Sawmill Lake Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"This trail begins in the near-desert conditions of the Owens Valley and climbs to a deep blue lake in the High Sierra. Along the way you will pass through a variety of ecosystems and sample some history as you walk beneath the ruins of a mill that supplied lumber to miners in the 1860s. Besides being a challenging weekend backpack, this trail offers an entry or exit from the combined John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail (JMT/PCT) between Pinchot Pass and Glen Pass. A word of warning: The Sawmill Trail is hot, dry, and exposed to the sun for the first 2,510 feet of this very strenuous 5,400-foot climb. Get an early morning or late afternoon start, and carry at least two quarts of water per person. Also note that this is a bighorn sheep preservation area; dogs and cross-country hiking are not allowed."

More Sawmill Lake Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada (Wilderness Press)
Kathy Morey & Mike White with Stacy Corless, Analise Elliot, Chris Tirrell & Thomas Winnett
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"This extremely strenuous trip climbs steeply from the sweltering Owens Valley at 4700 feet to a refreshing, beautiful alpine lake at 10,000 feet. After the long, steep, exposed climb, you’ll arrive weary but with a mountaineer’s “high” from the hard work. Expect solitude here: Few dare tackle this grueling climb."

Sawmill Lake Trip Reports

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Very challenging hike; start at 4K and summit over 12K. Need to start very early (we started pre-sunrise with headlamps)to avoid too much heat at lower elevation. We went from Sawmill to South Lake; about 60 miles. For the experienced and in top shape individual only. Until we hit the John Muir trail, didn't see anyone; then became a typical summer on the JMT. Nice views on top; you experience the change of scenery; from scrub brush to alpine lakes. Ending at South Lake; 10K easy finish and over one of my favorite spots; Dusy Basin.

Sawmill Lake Photos

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Trail Information

Nearby City
5,400 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
2 days
Mid-June through September
4,640 feet
Trailhead Elevation
10,040 feet
Top Elevation
John Muir Wilderness; White Mountain and Mount Whitney Ranger Stations
Local Contacts
USFS John Muir Wilderness (Central Section); USGS Aberdeen Peak
Local Maps

Trail Log