The hike in was great—like, huge-gorges, snowcapped-peaks, knock-your-socks-off excellent. But it is nothing—nothing—compared to the Hamilton Lakes basin. We crest the final set of switchbacks, and abruptly we stand just before a blue jewel of a lake surrounded by thousand-foot-tall granite walls. This is Yosemite on steroids, a glacial cirque reduce deep in the Terrific Western Divide. Each and every tick of the clock improves our currently-great predicament, as sunset turns the rock coral, then starlight starts to fleck the sky and, just before I know it, I’ve got a front-row seat to the finest dinner show in the Sierra. I do not know how tomorrow could possibly be far better, but I suspect it may possibly be.
Turn-by-turn from the Crescent Meadow trailhead
1) Take the Higher Sierra Trail 10.six miles east, threading with each other lodgepole pine forest, alpine meadows, and significant views of the Terrific Western Divide higher above the Middle Fork Kaweah River gorge, to Bearpaw Meadow Higher Sierra Camp.
two) Subsequent day, remain on the trail 1.six miles.
three) Cross the wooden bridge more than Lone Pine Creek and veer east to remain on the Higher Sierra Trail, which steadily climbs 900 feet in 1.9 miles to the Hamilton Lakes basin.
four) Retrace your methods 14.three miles to the trailhead.
Campsite 1: Bearpaw Meadow
Pass the Bearpaw Meadow Higher Sierra Camp, a summer time-staffed, rustic backcountry lodge, and descend .1 mile to the 1st-come, 1st-serve backpacking camp at mile 10.six, tucked in a grove of red firs and lodgepole pines. It lacks the views of the tent cabins subsequent door, but it is a lot less expensive. Great strategy: Get a sunset beer at the adjacent Higher Sierra Camp and toast all that revenue you saved.
Campsite two: Hamilton Lakes
This hike’s pièce de résistance, the Hamilton Lakes basin at mile 14.three is actually a cannot-go-incorrect sort of heaven. Choose a granite shelf on the northwest corner of the larger (eastern) of the two lakes for your tent, and skip the fly on a clear evening. You just may possibly really feel like you have tiptoed into the living space of the mountain gods. Nature calling? Fortunate you: Probably the world’s most scenic pit toilet is 100 yards northwest, facing two,500-foot-tall Valhalla, an El Capitan appear-alike.
Based on snowpack, July is usually prime time for petal peeping at this elevation. A parade of summer time blooms smears the meadows along this bit of the Higher Sierra Trail appear for purple and blue lupines, red Applegate’s paintbrushes, and exceptional crimson Western columbines.
DO IT Trailhead 36.5547, -118.7493 25 miles northeast of 3 Rivers on Crescent Meadow Rd. Season June to October Permit Necessary ($10 + $five/particular person) reservations encouraged in higher season.