Added by Cameron Gardner
This 3-4 day backpacking trip provides beautiful views of granite high country and alpine lakes for swimming and fishing. This trip can be modified to a loop and is customizable for your needs.
Before heading out, you will need to get a backpacking permit to stay overnight in this area. You can buy one here to pick up in town at the Bishop, CA Ranger Station, in the morning.
The trailhead begins at North Lake campground (9,345'), in a beautiful lush area, with streams and aspen groves. A 5 mile hike takes you to Piute Pass, and along the way you will encounter switchbacks, a waterfall, and two alpine lakes near the top. Some people just hike to the pass and back for a nice day hike. Alternatively, you can go cross country towards Mt. Humphreys – go right immediately after the pass for a smooth walk on granite.
The first night, you can camp at one of the Humphreys Lakes (~12,000') just below Mt. Humphreys, a truly beautiful area. Weather permitting, you can plan to climb Mt. Humphreys in the morning. If you choose to skip the climb, you can keep heading in deeper, toward the north side of Desolation Lake. This area is all pretty rough country, without a designated trail for most of the trip. From here, Steelhead Lake, to the north, is a good spot to set up for the night.
If traveling around the north side of Desolation Lake, you will need to climb down some challenging ridges to reach the ridge above Star Lake, where you will face even more treacherous avenues. Rainy weather can make the granite very slick, so be sure to find a safe path if you decide to travel cross country. This can be difficult in this area because it is primarily all steep inclines, if you venture far enough. Once down from this ridge the country wasn't as bad, including Class 3 climbing, rock fields, and eventually some nicer meadows, but still remember that rain can still create potential for accidents.
The ridge above Steelhead Lake (~11,400') is a good place to set up camp, where you can look back at the basin, see the peaks you have passed, as well as a multitude of other alpine lakes. From here, you can summit Four Gables (12,720'), then head back out on the backcountry route French Canyon Trail, which is a much faster option than cross country travel, although it is not well maintained. After 6 miles you will reach Hutchinson Meadow. Another mile leads to an unnamed trail to Lower Honeymoon Lake (~10,400'), a beautiful lake below melting glaciers. This is a difficult trail to follow but well worth the trouble.
From there, the return trip to the parking area is 10 miles along Canyon Piute Trail. Then head back to Bishop for some food and drinks – Burger Barn is a good option on Highway 168.
Be prepared for rain in this area, and quick-changing weather. Tom Harrison's Mono Divide High Country Map is a good guide for this trip, which you can use to customize your trip to see certain lakes, or summit certain peaks. It also provides elevations and destination names.
- Backpacking permit
- Sleeping Bag
- Bear Canister
- Backpacking Stove
- Topo Map
- Water purification
- First Aid
- Hiking Shoes
- Trekking Poles
- Rain gear
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!
More Adventures Nearby
Soak in Mammoth's Hilltop Hot Springs
Yosemite / Hilltop Hot Springs
Mammoth’s volcanic valley floor is peppered with these natural steamy tubs with panoramic views of the Eastern Sierra. It’s pretty damn whimsical.
Hike Golden Canyon, Death Valley
Yosemite / Golden Canyon Trail
Golden Canyon is located about 10 minutes south of Furnace Creek in Death Valley NP, on Badwater Road.