• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    22 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    5600 Feet

Easy Parking

This is a very Clearly marked trail and make sure you know this is a Overnight trip. Unbelievably Clear mountain lakes with Unobstructed views of John Muir Wilderness.

I would recommend you spend the night in the area to acclimatize, since the trailhead does start at ~8,000ft and you will be hiking up to ~10,500ft at the end of the first day and climbing up to 13,100ft on the second day. One option would be to reserve a spot at the nearby McGee Creek Campground.

The trailhead is at a decent sized parking lot found at the very end of McGee Creek Road. Although the road starts off paved, the last half mile or so is gravelly rock so smaller cars will need to be careful here. There is a bear locker and a bathroom at the trailhead for any last minute emergencies.

Day 1 is a long hike of about ~8miles, so you will want to start early. After whacking through some initial branches, an entire valley opens up and you’ll get the feeling that you’re just but a speck.

After two miles of a very gradual uphill hike, you’ll come across a safe-but-partially-broken bridge to cross McGee Creek. A short while later, you’ll come across another wooden log bridge to cross the creek again. Watch your balance!

From here, just follow the trail all the way up! The trail does split at one point, with the left trail heading to Golden Lake and the right trail heading to Big McGee Lake; stay on the trail to the right.

After what will seem like forever, you will be rewarded with a campsite right behind the trees lining the shores of Big McGee Lake. If the campsites here are taken, there are more campsites 0.5 miles up the trail on the other side of the lake. The elevation in this area is around ~10,500ft so rest if you are having symptoms of altitude (headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc).

Day 2 is a 6 mile roundtrip hike from the campsite to the top of Red Slate Mountain (elevation 13,100 ft). From the campsite, follow the trail up for about 2 miles to McGee Pass and you will see Red Slate Mountain on the right.

The path up is a mixture of trails, trailblazing, and scrambling through scree. As you go up the mountain, there is a loosely-defined trail that initially heads left, and then curls to the right about halfway up the mountain. There will be some scrambling and creative hiking involved, but it's worth it. Once you arrive at the top, sign the summit register and enjoy the completely unobstructed view of the surrounding John Muir Wilderness.

The hike down can be scary for some people, but just trace your steps and go slow and at your own comfort level. You’ll be down in no time.

NOTE: You will need the appropriate overnight wilderness permits for Inyo National Forest.

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Hiking clothes/boots
  • Sun hat
  • Summit pack (~20L)
  • Food
  • Stove/pot set
  • Headlamp (w/ spare batteries)
  • Nalgene water bottle
  • Water filter
  • Chapstick
  • Sunblock
  • Bear Spray
  • Swim trunks
  • Flip flops
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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

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