Day 1: Basecamp
We drove from Sacramento down to the southern entrance, which was about 4 hours on 99. Entering in the South entrance, the road is quite windy as you climb up to the ranger stations and museums at the center of the park. We just went to our campsite in the Potwisha Campground because we go in pretty late, which is maybe 15 miles up the road from the entrance to the park. We did stop on the side of the road to see Tunnel Rock (see picture to the right), which is a massive rock that small car used to be able to drive through before the changed the route of the road.
Day 2: Permits and 9-Mile Hike
Let me first say that it was super hard to find where to get the permits for the High Sierra Trail. We eventually made it to Lodgepole ranger station and got our permits. There are a few short walks that you can do close to the Lodgepole ranger station and the Museum to see the Great Sequoia grove. I highly recommend walking through the Great Sequoia trees because they are amazing and gigantic.
We started the hike at like 11am, which hiking 9-miles is probably a little late for starting to hike to camp, but oh well. There are bear boxes at the trailhead that you have to put any food or toiletries into if you are not taking them with you because the bears will break into your car. We put stuff in there and nobody took it. We hiked to 9-mile creek, which as the name implies is 9 miles in from the trailhead. For most of the hike, it was a steady uphill climb the entire way. Make sure to bring a map because we thought we had passed where we were going to camp a couple of times. At 9-miles creek, there was one bear box and some pretty flat areas for tents. We were the only ones that stayed the night there and the water source was pretty easily accessible from where we were staying. We had 3 good-sized deer wander through our camp all afternoon and a portion of the night.
Day 3: Day Hike to Bearpaw
We hiked up to the Bearpaw ranger station. It was 2 miles up and 2 miles back. For the first mile of the hike, the trail made a steep set of stairs down into almost a canyon with a river and a set of camping spots with a bear box. After crossing a bridge, the trail started climbing back up the other side of the canyon, up and over the ridge. It was a pretty hard and steady climb up to the ranger station.
There are a couple of benefits to making it to the ranger station. They have outhouses, but the outhouses are not kept up. With some of the outhouses, it would be more sanitary to dig a cathole and go in the wilderness. The ranger station also has a kitchen that is staffed for most of the time during the season (May- September). At the kitchen that they have going, you can get sandwiches, chips, huge brownies and other things, so make sure you bring some cash. Unfortunately, I forgot my wallet and we were not able to get one of those brownies, but we want to come back and finish the trail. On the way back from the ranger station close to the bridge that you have to cross, we sat and stuck our feet in the water and swam a little bit in the pools. You do have to be careful to make sure that you don’t get swept away.
After visiting the Bearpaw ranger station, we came back and relaxed at camp. Back up the trail maybe 5 minute walk, there is a huge rock that creates a break in the trees forstargazing. At like 10pm, we walked up there with some snacks and stargazed for like a hour. Because of the lack of lights pollution, we were able to see a piece of the Milky Way and a good number of shooting stars.
Day 4: Hike to Mehrten River
We hiked 3 miles from 9-mile creek to Mehrten river back the way we came. It was a mainly uphill, but still had some downhill. Again, it was extremely beautiful hiking along and being able to see down into the valley.
When you get to Mehrten River, it is a river crossing that you have to do, but instead of continuing to hike along the trail, you need to get off the trail to hike up the river. It is not well marked at all. If you are hiking up the trail, then on your right hand side, up against a tree, there is a wood sign with faded sharpie lettering on it, which marks the correct river. From the trail hike up the river and unto the ridge a little bit (you might have to wander around to find it), there will be a bear box for storing food. Some backpackers told us it fills pretty quickly, but we were the only ones that stayed at Mehrten River that night.
The camping in the area is interesting because there are not all that many flat spots for a tent. We camped in a hammock and were able to find a couple trees pretty quickly. The river is gorgeous and it feels amazing to stick your feet into it. At camp, the trees are spread out, so stargazing from your tent or hammock is easy. Off in the distance you may also be able to see the lights from the town just outside the Southern entrance.
Day 5: Hike Back to the Trailhead and Morro Rock
We hiked from our camp back to the trail and then continued on the trail back to the trailhead for about 6 miles. Be cautious climbing down from the camp with a heavy pack because the rocks can get slippery and the extra weight doesn’t help with the controlling your balance. The hike was beautiful looking down into the valley and out. The hike generally is downhill with some switchbacks and there are a few stream crossings on the way back.
We were able to get back to the parking lot and our car was fine. We drove around and went sight-seeing. As part of our sight-seeing, we went to Morro rock. There is a bus that can take you from the museum to the base of the hike and there is a parking lot, so there are always a good number of people. The hike was about 1,000 steps up to the top and portions of it, you will have to duck under a rock shelf. After backpacking 6 miles, we were having a tough time, but we still made it. Standing on the top of Morro rock was absolutely amazing. You see so much of the of the valley on either side. The 1,000 steps climb is completely worth it.