High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lake

The High Sierra Trail showcases some of the best landscapes, features, and trails in the Sierra Nevada. It begins at Crescent Meadows on the western side of Sequoia National Park, among the groves of Giant Sequoia and ends at the highest point in the contiguous United States — the 14,505′ summit of Mt. Whitney. It passes multiple alpine lakes, meadows, valleys, canyons, rivers, and mountains along the way. At times, it feels like you’re a character in Lord of the Rings.

Well-marked and easy to follow, the High Sierra Trail is a moderate hike that follows a ridgeline of mixed conifers, offering spectacular views of the Great Western Divide and lush meadows along the journey. Alternately rising and falling, the High Sierra Trail crosses three major tributaries before reaching Bearpaw High Sierra Camp.

It’s not nearly as crowded as the John Muir Trail, but it offers the same jaw-dropping (and leg-busting) mountains. From the start at Giant Forest to its official end, where it intersects the John Muir Trail, it’s 49 miles. The majority of hikers, though, do only a small part of it in a simple out and back, 11.6 miles to the designated backcountry campsite at Bearpaw Meadow.

The hike starts at the Crescent Meadow parking lot. A wilderness permit is required and can be obtained at the Lodgepole Visitor Center between 7 am and 3:30 pm. The permit is free for Bearpaw guests. With the permit you can drive to Crescent Meadow even on summer weekends, when the road is closed to other visitors.

This post covers the first leg of the trail to Hamilton Lake. Note: there are almost no camping opportunities on the way to Bearpaw so figure on hiking 11 miles to the campground from the trailhead.

  • Near: Sequoia National Park, CA
  • Distance: 38 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1500 ft
  • Hike Time: 3 days
  • Difficulty: 7/10
  • Trail Condition: mostly well maintained trail
  • GPX File Download: >>CLICK HERE<<
  • Permits: >>CLICK HERE<<
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Kid Friendly: No

Google Map Link


36.554756, -118.749048

Trail Detail


Hike to High Sierra Camp Profile


Day Hike to Hamilton Lake Profile








2 thoughts on “High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lake

  1. You wrote, “A wilderness permit is required and can be obtained at the Lodgepole Visitor Center between 7 am and 3:30 pm.” Do you mean one can get a walk-up permit for this hike? Or 7 through 3:30 is the window one can claim a permit after reserving it months in advance. Thanks.

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