Some of my favorite places in the world can be found in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and I've recently discovered my favorite time of the year to be there: the fall (or autumn as some readers know it).
Over the course of four days my group and I saw zero bugs and crossed paths with only three other hikers (once inside Kings Canyon).
And the downside? Things were a bit brown, the lakes were a bit low, the temperatures were often below freezing, and we got snowed on one night, but these were small inconveniences to accept in exchange for having the Sierra to ourselves.
Our itinerary ended up being the following:
- DAY 1: Onion Valley Campground to Kearsarge Lakes (5.3 mi / 8.5 km)
- DAY 2: Kearsarge Lakes to PCT Mile 784.3 (5.6 mi / 9 km)
- DAY 3: PCT Mile 784.3 to Tyndall Creek Campsite (9.6 mi / 15.5 km)
- DAY 4: Tyndall Creek Campsite to Shepherd Pass Trailhead (14 mi / 22.5 km)
Three of the four of us had already been over Kearsarge Pass, 11,709 ft / 3,569 m, and Forester Pass, 13,153 ft / 4,009 m (except we had all hiked north over Forester the first time), but Shepherd Pass was a mystery to all of us (and we didn't do much research into what it entailed).
Turns out that although the approach from the west to Shepherd Pass is relatively mild, once you begin descending the eastern side you're in for nearly 6,000 feet (1,829 m) of downhill hiking to the trailhead/carpark.
We left our vehicle at Onion Valley – 13.5 mi / 21.7 km away from the Shepherd Pass trailhead, and despite our best efforts, were unable to secure a ride when we made it down to the road and were forced to camp one more night at the trailhead.
If you want some punishment (and switchbacking), then I suggest hiking up to Shepherd Pass from the east (and probably go climb Mount Williamson, 14,380 ft / 4,383 m, while you're at it). The trail is seriously impressive.