Backpack Atop Sawmill Pass

Rate this Adventure 20 miles 6700 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Gilberto Gil

This backpacking trip provides access to both the John Muir Trail (JMT) and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and offers up beautiful views of Woods Lake Basin.

At 11,347 ft., Sawmill Pass lies on the Sierra Crest and enters Kings Canyon National Park in the Woods Creek area. Both the John Muir Trail (JMT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) can be accessed through this pass.

The Sawmill Pass trail is a steep and arduous climb, gaining over 6700 feet of elevation to the pass in 10 miles. The trailhead is located right past a Powerhouse just below an elevation of 5000 feet in the Owen's Valley with no water or shade at the trailhead or along the first few miles of the trail. Once the first 3000 feet of elevation is gained and in Sawmill Canyon, the trail climbs through mostly forested slopes providing some relief from the sun as well opportunities to get some water from a flowing creek. The trail then heads to Sawmill meadow, with towering granite walls around making it a great spot for lunch. Beyond the meadow the trail zigzags up a headwall eventually reaching snow (at about 9000 feet) requiring the use of snowshoes to avoid post-holing. With snow covering the rest of the trail, a topographic map of the area will be useful in continuing on the correct route up to the pass. One will pass the frozen Mule Lake and the beautiful Sawmill Lake before crossing a timberline basin and making the steep ascent to the top of the pass.

Once atop the pass, take in the view of the High Sierra. One could then continue down to set up camp in the Woods Lake basin or find a spot much closer to the pass. Camping by the pass will provide beautiful views of the light of the sun hitting the nearby peaks creating a spectacular sunset and sunrise. However, the pass is exposed, being well above the tree line, so camp here only during fair weather. If one has the extra time and energy, attempt an easy class 2 summit of either Mt. Cedric Wright or Collosseum Mountain, both of which are an easy walk from the pass.

Read More




Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Stay Nearby

Independence, California

Grays Meadows

Overview Grays Meadows Campground is situated along Independence Creek in the Onion Valley area of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its location on the creek and proximity to the rugged John Mu...

Big Pine, California

Big Pine Creek Campground

Overview Big Pine Creek Campground, surrounded by sprawling meadows and towering trees, is perfectly situated in the scenic Big Pine Canyon. Campsites are perched along the cool, fish-filled waters...

Big Pine, California

Upper Sage Flat

Overview Take the family to Upper Sage for a pleasant camping trip along the banks of Big Pine Creek. Here, visitors can experience the beauty of the creek that runs along the base of a narrow cany...

Big Pine, California

Big Pine Canyon

Overview Big Pine Canyon Recreation Area includes two group campground sites. Named for glaciers that can be seen at the end of the valley, Clyde Glacier Group Site and Palisade Glacier Group Site ...

Nearby Adventures

  • John Muir Trail: Camping at Pinchot Pass

    After the mild, but not negligible, 1000 ft ascent into Pinchot Pass, you'll be ready to rinse off the grime and take a rest. There are a few options for lakeside camping along the trail like Twin Lakes and an unnamed lake on the west side of the ...

  • John Muir Trail: Middle Rae Lake

    You'll have to deal with some crowds at Rae Lakes but that is because this is an amazing setting to spend the night. If sharing this place with others is the worst of your worries then you're doing pretty well. Hikers flock here for the incredible...

  • Summit Mt. Gould

    Starting at 9,200 feet at Onion Valley Campground, take Kearsarge Pass Trail. The hike begins immediately with a substantial increase in elevation, switchbacking up the mountain. On the way up rest and enjoy the beautiful alpine lakes, which inclu...

    9 miles 3812 ft gain

  • Backpack Over Kearsarge Pass to Charlotte Lake

    This adventure begins at Onion Valley Campground outside of Independence, CA. The parking is abundant and the road is snow dependent. Snow will be plowed as long as it is not currently being hit with a massive storm. Dogs are allowed on trail up t...

    16 miles 2623 ft gain