Route Logistics & Details

Below you will find some basic details on the logistics behind organizing and executing the Southern Sierra High Route. The logistics are organized around starting at Bishop Pass Trailhead at South Lake and walking south to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead. 

Route Information & When to Hike
Mt. Sill, Sunrise, Scramble, Southern Sierra High Route

Most likely, the best time to hike this route is late Summer/early Fall (mid July to late September), when snow is at a minimum. The route starts at the Bishop Pass Trailhead at South Lake and ends at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead south of Mt. Whitney and Miter Basin. This relatively high alpine route is about 100 miles in length. At many points it travels on or parallels the John Muir Trail, which makes for some interesting conversations and interactions with other hikers along the way.

There are a few awesome side trips and peaks that are also possible while hiking this route. Peak options that are in line with the route are: Mt. Sill, Mt. Russell, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Langley. These are all classic 14,000 foot peaks in the Sierra, but you will most likely need a few extra days if you are hoping to add in one or more of them. In Alan Dixon's information he also adds an alternate called the Baxter Alternate - which heads over Mt. Baxter, down to Baxter Lakes, and back to the John Muir Trail. This is a worthy alternate that is physically demanding, but offers incredible views on less currently travelled terrain. 

Alan Dixon offers an incredible full route description in his page. 

Sunrise scramble up Mt. Sill.

Maps

Alan Dixon has created a FREE very useful map set, as well as, data points and information on the travel times and distances. 

Transportation

Because the route starts and ends on the Eastern Side of the Sierra, transportation to and from the route can be fairly easy. If you have a vehicle you can leave it at the Bishop Pass Trailhead and catch a ride on the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority bus back to Bishop from Lone Pine. You could then hitch a ride back to Bishop Pass. Alternatively, the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority runs a shuttle directly to Bishop Pass in Summer. 

If you are planning on flying into Reno, you could do this route completely by public transit - assuming your days are flexible and you are not on a tight timeline. 

Food & Resupplies

In Bishop, CA there is a Smart and Final (with great deals) and a Safeway that are located in the same shopping center. The Eastern Sierra Transit bus drops people off and connects at the Safeway parking lot (a very convenient option). These two stores are probably your best bet for reasonably priced food on the East Side.

 

There are very few places to resupply on the Southern Sierra High Route. You could have someone meet you (or exit the wilderness) over Baxter Pass - assuming you did the Baxter Alternate, or over Kearsarge Pass into Onion Valley. The latter is where other hikers often get resupplied by horse packers/people who meet them at the trailhead.

Overall, it seems most efficient to either do the route in one carry of food, or to have someone hike out and meet you for a resupply at a specific location. 

Pre - dawn on Mt. Sill. 

Crabtree Lake, Sierra Nevada, Southern Sierra High Route

Crabtree Lake after dropping into Miter Basin.

Permits & Other Requirements

You will need to have a permit to enter at either starting trailhead on the Southern Sierra High Route. You are able to reserve a permit ahead of time or take your chances with a walk-in permit. Permits can be picked up at the White Mountain Public Lands Information Center in Bishop or at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center. There are other permit pickup locations, but these are the closest to either terminus.

Luckily, because you will be approaching Mt. Whitney from the north or south you do not need a permit to climb Mt. Whitney. We would encourage you to move through the Whitney Zone in a day, as it can be fairly crowded and hard to find a camping spot without creating more impact. Remember, all waste must be packed out in this area - so consider carrying a "wag bag" with you while you are traveling through. 

Bear canisters are a requirement in the Inyo Wilderness.