Piute Canyon
Piute Canyon

We continued with the ‘easy’ portion of our trip on the morning of Day 5 by turning off the John Muir Trail and heading up Piute Canyon to Humpreys Basin. About 10 miles long and with about 3000 feet of gain, it’s not terribly difficult by Sierra standards, but it was enough to keep us busy most of the day.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the climb through Piute Canyon. It starts off steep and rocky, but the climb is bearable due to the wonderful Piute Creek running through the steep canyon. After a short distance of climbing the canyon opens and you climb up above the Creek with a view down into its gorge-like path. There is a wonderful spot to stop and rest where the creek passes by in small waterfalls, cascades, and pools. A short while after that the rocky trail begins to morph into a forest dirt path and the climb becomes more gradual – in fact, barely noticeable.

Upper Golden Trout Lake
Upper Golden Trout Lake

After passing through the unremarkable Hutchinson Meadow, there are only a short few miles remaining until Humpreys Basin. The trail steepens a bit as you climb close to the treeline. The first time I came through here I was a bit confused due to the disagreement between my map and my GPS. The map showed trails where none existed, as far as I could tell, and my GPS showed me off from where I expected the trail to be. Fortunately, Humpreys Basin is pretty wide open so it’s easy to get your bearing.

After sighting Lower Golden Trout Lake we cross-countried to the Upper Lake. There is no camping within 500 ft of Lower Golden Trout, but there are nice legal campsites at Upper GT if you know where to look. Note that the campsites on the small piece of land between the two lakes is not legal camping, even though there are lots of campsites there. We found a really nice site that overlooked the lake, gave us easy water access, but also was high enough to give us great sunset views as well.

Mt Humpreys at Sunset
Mt Humpreys at Sunset

After setting up camp around 3 pm, David and I took off with our fishing poles to circle the lake. The fishing was pretty good. I pulled out a couple of golden trout and tons of brookies. The teeny tiny fish really wanted to bite at this lake – I kept pulling out fish not much bigger than the lure. But we did both get some nice ones in between the eager little guys.

More than anything, I was looking forward to sunset from our camp. On a solo trip I camped at Upper Golden Trout in 2007 and at the time, smoke from the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara had blown towards the Basin. It made for one of, if not the most, memorable sunset in my backpacking career.

Sunset at Upper Golden Trout Lake
Sunset at Upper Golden Trout Lake

While we (luckily) did not have smoke in the Basin to influence the sunset colors, it did not disappoint. We watched the light on Mount Humphreys change from white to orange to pink, and then we watched the horizon go through the most amazing transformation of colors. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was really excited to see that my pictures pretty much came out, capturing how the sky was changing minute by minute.

After sunset we hit our tents with the plan to get up early the next morning. The hike from Upper Golden Trout to Piute Pass is pretty easy, with only a few hundred feet of gradual gain. From the Pass it’s a mere 5 miles back to the North Lake trailhead where we started from.

The morning was lovely – warmer than expected, and we got to watch sunrise on the distant peaks we could see from our campsite. We took off an were on our way out in no time, fresh food and showers on our mind. It was a nice and uneventful hike back to the trailhead, and upon arriving back at the car, we put the finishing touches on yet another successful Sierra outing.



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  1. David

    It’s been a few years since I was last up in Humphrey’s Basin. We’d had this ambitious idea of hiking all the way to South Lake, which for a number of reasons didn’t work out. We had a great couple of days exploring this area though. Good stuff.

  2. OK, class, tell us about your summer vacation

    […] noticed that Calipidder was back in the High Sierra and experienced the usual splendor (it’s like you could throw your camera up in the air with […]

  3. Derek

    As usual, your trip reports and photos are awesome. I miss the high Sierras, it’s been about 20 years since I’ve backpacked in there. I am planning some trips in the next year and you’ve gotten me all excited.

    Question: How did you integrate Smugmug so well with your WordPress blog? I would love to replicate what you’ve done. Was it custom coding (I know you work in s/w or something) or was it a simple plug-in?

    Thanks,

    Derek
    100peaks.com

    1. Calipidder Listing Owner

      When you get a power or pro user account with smugmug they let you customize it to your heart’s content. It’s actually really easy – they have a little wizard to do the basics, and if you want to do more they let you add your own code (like css) as well. So far I’ve only gotten around to playing with the wizard and haven’t even tinkered with adding my own code, and it still integrates pretty well. I’m definitely happy with it and it’s worth the pro account just for that.

  4. Doug Pensinger

    Excellent trip, gorgeous pictures! You weren’t using an SLR on this trip either? I’ve been to Evolution Vally from Florence Lake 10+ years ago. We camped in the valley and day hiked to Darwin Lakes one day and McGee Canyon another. It was a much easier hike than yours, especially your second day; that col looks intimidating I enjoy your write ups and your pictures, thanks for sharing!

    1. Calipidder Listing Owner

      Thanks! Yes, I carry a compact camera for most of my longer backpacks – on this particular trip it was a Nikon P5000 with a small wide angle conversion lens. It served me well for many years, but I just replaced it with a more ‘professional compact’ Panasonic (review here)

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