My first two visits to Kings Canyon National Park were through the backcountry, and I'd like to share those experiences with you here. I'd love these posts to encourage you to strengthen your leg muscles, prep your gear, and head out on the trail for an overnight adventure.
Date: August 1-7, 2010
Distance: 54 mi. / 87 km
The trailhead for this loop is accessed from the east side of the Sierras, from near Bishop, California. The trailhead is actually in the John Muir Wilderness, and permits are managed by Inyo National Forest.
We were lucky enough to get exactly the permit we wanted, and hit the trail bright and early on a Sunday morning. It was my first time backpacking in the Sierras, and my hiking partner (my future husband!) had wisely chosen to shorten our daily miles to be very manageable. The loop can certainly be done in 4 or 5 days, for those who are ambitious and in great high-altitude shape.
Our first day we hiked from South Lake to Dusy Basin (pictured above), climbing up and over Bishop Pass with an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. It was definitely a challenge for my sea-level lungs to make it up and over the pass. I have a great appreciation for the high peaks of California thanks to this particular trip.
On our second day, we dropped down to LeConte Canyon, passing amazing waterfalls. From there we turned north-west and followed the roaring Kings River to a great campsite beyond Big Pete Meadows.
Thankfully the next day my partner had planned a short and easy couple of miles to the Evolution Lake outlet. We trekked our way there and had camp set up well before lunchtime. The afternoon was full of exploring the lake basin and fishing for some sweet and delicious lake trout. The day was capped by an amazing sunset over Evolution Valley.
Our last full day on trail was back in the John Muir Wilderness, as we tracked briefly north and then east to Piute Pass, only a few miles due north of Evolution Lake, but on the other side of the imposing Evolution Range.
I loved exploring the northern section of Kings Canyon National Park. I think it was made even more special for being my first backpacking trip in the Sierras.
It was also particularly exciting to retrace these steps this summer as we made our way through this section (in the opposite direction) about half-way through our hike along the John Muir Trail. We crossed Piute Creek and into Kings Canyon National Park on Day 11. We had such fond memories of Evolution Lake that for Day 12 we again spent a day of relaxing and fishing. On Day 13 we crossed over Muir Pass and dropped into LeConte Canyon.
Beyond LeConte Canyon it was new trail for me through Kings Canyon National Park. Keep an eye out over the next week for Backcountry Part II, which will share another great backpacking trip idea for Kings Canyon.