The map below shows hikes that I have posted. Double click to zoom in on an area. Click on a hiker icon to discover great hikes! Red stars indicate long distance hikes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great Sierra Loop

*disclaimer- this route is currently in the planning stages and has not been completed.  Please proceed with caution.


In the summer of 2011 I had my first extended backpacking adventure on the John Muir Trail.  It was a great experience, one that has inspired me on many thrilling adventures.  Through these experiences I have gained an appreciation for designing personal adventures whether near the Colorado Trail, Big Bend National Park, Wind River Range, or the North Country Trail. These opportunities have opened up possibilities that wouldn't have been possible if I had limited myself to trails.

The Sierra High Route has always been on my list of top hikes in North America.  While researching it, I have become inspired to complete an even larger route, one that will take at least a month and combine some of the most scenic and remote locations in the Sierra.  Somewhere I heard the idea of a loop with the John Muir Trail (JMT) and it made me wonder, would it be possible to do a loop with the Sierra High Route(SHR)? Maybe it could even be done without much hiking on the JMT at all.

As I have investigated route options I have discovered several other excellent off-trail routes that can be a part of the route. The big three that form a significant portion the loop include the previously mentioned Sierra High Route, Skurka's Kings Canyon High Basin Route (KCHBR), and Dixon and Wilson's Southern Sierra High Route(SoSHR).  The designers of these routes have put a lot of thought, research, and experience into these exceptional routes. Please refer to them for detailed information for corresponding sections of the loop.

There were a few gaps and I have recieved helpful advice from online forums such as and also researching other trip reports online.

At this point I have come quite near to finalizing my route. Certainly with a route like this there will be a great deal of flexibility.  If you have stumbled upon this page, some portions of this route may not be for you.  For example, I included a section of the JMT from Shadow Lake to Red's Meadow as I missed it when I hiked the JMT.  Do your research and find the best route for that meets your needs and skill level. Hike your own hike and hike at your own risk.

Ideally I will begin my hike in August 2017.

Great Sierra Loop

Youtube playlist of Google Earth flyover overview and  flyovers of all ten sections.

 This Great Sierra Loop is a narrow loop that stretches from Twin Lakes all the way south of Mount Whitney to Horseshoe Meadows.  My goal is to find the most remote and scenic non-technical route while utilizing the JMT/PCT only went it offers the finest scenery.

The route is ~600 miles long with a significant portion of off-trail travel. This will no doubt be a challenging but rewarding hike.  It includes > 65 passes and over 100,000 feet of elevation gain.  It passes through some of the most remote locations in the lower 48 and in all the Sierra. The route is divided into ten sections based off surprisingly available resupply points.

1.  Twin Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows

Starting clockwise in the north at Twin Lakes the Great Sierra Loop follows the Sierra High Route to Tuolumne Meadows.

2. Tuolumne Meadows to Red's Meadow

From Tuolumne Meadows the route will quickly depart the SHR near Fletcher Lake and cross the Cathedral Range and a pass south of Amelia Earhart Peak.  The route joins the John Muir Trail and goes over Donahue pass before heading off-trail to Marie and Davis Lakes.  The loop then rejoins the JMT and follows it to Red's Meadow.

3. Red's to Bishop Pass

*profile is actually backwards (Bishop to Red's)

From Red's the loop follows the Sierra High Route all the way to Bishop Pass (with optional detour into Ionian Basin near Muir Pass).

4. Bishop Pass to Horseshoe Meadows

From Bishop Pass the route follows the shared SHR/SoSHR (optional summit of Mount Sil) until leaving at Palisade Lakes and joining the Kings Canyon High Basin Route heading up Cataract Creek.  It follows the KCHBR until reaching the JMT at Bullfrog Lake.  The loop follows the JMT until leaving for Center Basin and Junction pass and continuing on the SoSHR to Horseshoe Meadows (including Mt. Whitney via Mountaineers route).

5. Horseshoe Meadows to Road's End

From Horseshoe Meadows the Great Sierra Loop follows trails to Kern Canyon and then ascends to Franklin Pass before heading over to Mineral King.  After Glacier and Black Rock Passes the route goes to Nine Lakes Basin near the Kaweahs for several impressive passes: Lion Rock, Lion Lake, and Triple Divide.  After going over Colby pass the loop joins the KCHBR and follows it including a portion on the Sphinx Pass alternate on the way to Roads End.

6. Roads End to VVR

From Road's End the route follows the shared SHR/SoSHR until descending to and crossing the Middle Fork of the Kings River and ascending Goddard Creek. The route continues to climb with an option of a side trip to the summit of Mount Goddard via the Southwest Ridge/West Chute Route.  Then it descends to Martha Lake and continues through Goddard Canyon. Next it follows Piute Creek before climbing up to Turret Lakes and Three Island Lake.  Then the route joins the JMT and follows it to the Bear Ridge Trail and VVR.

7. VVR to Red's Meadow

From VVR the loop follows trail and then heads up to Graveyard Lakes and heads over the Silver Divide and follows trail past Ida Hot Springs to Red's Meadow.

8. Red's Meadow to Yosemite Valley

From Red's Meadow the Great Sierra Loop follows the Sierra High Route until after Blue Lake Pass. Then it follows trails in Yosemite over Red Peak Pass and along Illilouette Creek. Then the loop follows the Panorama and Pohono trails for great views of Yosemite Valley before descending and hiking through the valley. (If looking for more solitude the Yosemite Valley ection can be skipped by heading from Illilouette Creek to Nevada Fall and continuing the route).

9. Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows

From Yosemite Valley the Great Sierra Loop goes past Vernal and Nevada Falls and then up to Clouds Rest.  Then off-trail to Mathes and Nelson Lakes and over the Cathedral Range to Elizabeth Lake and on to Tuolumne Meadows.

10. Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes (west)

From Tuolumne Meadows the Great Sierra Loop follows the Pacific Crest Trail to Smedberg Lake.  Then it goes off-trail to Doe Lake and then over Suicide Ridge to Rock Island Lake. Next it follows trail over Rock Island Pass and past Crown, Robinson, and Barney Lakes before turning east and finishing at Twin Lakes.

Here is a map of the route (current as of 4/3/16):

As a loop a hike on the Great Sierra Loop can start at many locations and there are several options for public transportation.

A bear canister will be required for the majority of this route.


I believe only a single permit is necessary for this route.  I believe as long as a backcountry hiker attains a permit from the entry trailhead, that permit should be valid for the entire hike unless the hiker leaves the backcountry for greater than 24 hours.  

If this is the case, then acquiring a permit will not be an issue as a hiker will be able to choose any available trailhead along the loop.

Andrew Skurka's SHR mapset- mapset
KCHBR mapset
SoSHR mapset
Sequoia/Kings Canyon Trails Illustrated 205
Yosemite Trails Illustrated 206
erik the black jmt (personally owned)

And if this loop isn't enough see the comment below for a northern extension!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Long Distance Future Hikes: 1000+ miles

Some of the best long distance thru hikes in North America can be viewed in the map below. Most of these are only attainable in my dreams, but hopefully you have the chance to complete a portion of these spectacular hikes. Click on an icon for more information.  Please let me know if you know of any other worthy hikes to add to this list.

American Discovery Trail
Appalachian Trail
Colorado 14ers thruhike
Continental Divide Trail
Eastern Continental Trail
Florida Trail
Great Eastern Trail
Great Plains Trail
Great Western Loop
North Country Trail
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Northwest Trail
Southwest Horseshoe
Sea to Sea Route

unique long distance hike
100 miles in every state in a year- ~one state per week, the best 100 miles in every single state!

Trip Planning: Extended Sub 1000 Mile Adventures

My goal for this post is to create a resource for those who are trying to identify their next extended backpacking trip that is less than 1000 miles.  The map below includes 19 of the best routes I have identified to date.  Click on an icon to learn more.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for additions.

Arizona Trail-800+ miles
Bigfoot Trail-~400 miles
Benton MacKaye/Appalachian Trail Loop-521 miles               
Cohos/Sentiers Frontaliers/AT Loop-
Finger Lakes Trail-558 miles
Glacier National Park-self designed route
Grand Enchantment Trail-770 miles
Great Divide Trail (Canada), 740 miles
Great Sierra Loop (Sierra High Route, Big SEKI loop, High Sierra Trail)-self designed 510+ mile loop including parts of Sierra High Route, PCT/JMT, Big SEKI Loop, High Sierra Trail, and other off trail routes
Hayduke Trail-800 miles
Idaho Centennial Trail-900 miles
John Muir Trail-211 miles
Long Trail-272 miles
New England Trail (not national scenic)- with east branch through rhode island on North South Trail and Mid State Trail and Wapack Trail in Massachusetts.  ~800 miles
Oregon Desert Trail-800 miles                         
Ozark Highlands Trail-218 miles
Southern Appalachian Loop Trail-
Sierra High Route-195 miles       
Superior Hiking Trail- ~300 miles

Trip Planning: Best 1-2 week adventures

My goal for this post is to create a resource for those who are trying to identify their next one-week to two-week backpacking trip.  The map below includes 29 of the best routes I have identified to date.  Click on an icon to learn more.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for additions.

I have included the list of hikes below in alphabetical order with links.

Adirondack 46 peaks-
Big Bend: Basin to Rio Grande Loop-
Bighorns Solitude Loop Trail-65 miles
Bob Marshall Loop-100 miles
Border Route Trail/Kekekabic Trail-~100 miles
California Coast (lost coast)-53 miles :
Centennial Trail- 111 miles
Cohos Trail-162 miles
Colorado Trail Collegiate Peaks Loop:
East Coast Trail (Newfoundland)-136 miles
Glacier National Park North Circle-
GSMNP Hazel/Forney Creek Loop~57 miles
Highline Trail (Utah)-95.7 miles                                                                  
Isle Royale Figure Eight~135 miles
Maah Daah Hey Trail-96 miles
North Country Trail Manistee National Forest
Pacific Northwest Trail- Olympic National Park-~140 miles
Pacific Northwest Trail- Pasayten/North Cascades-200 miles
Rae Lakes Loop-46 miles
Sawtooth Loop - 65 miles
Tahoe Rim Trail-165 miles
Teton High Route-77 miles
Toiyabe Crest Trail-72 miles
Torngat Mountains National Park-route unidentified...looks amazing!
Weminuche High Route-~50 miles
West Coast Trail/ Juna de Fuca-~75 miles              
Wind River High Route-~80+ miles
Wonderland Trail-93 miles
Yellowstone Circumnavigation-~180 miles
Yosemite-Red Peak Pass Loop-73.5 miles

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!