SUMMARY: A 51-mile backpack trip on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas that passes within 2.5 miles of the summit of Mt. Whitney. Allow 6 to 9 days for the trip.
DESCRIPTION: The Monarch Trail can be started from either end, but it is best to start at Onion Valley and travel west, then south after joining the John Muir Trail. You may want to camp at Flower Lake the first night below Kearsage Pass and continue on early the next morning. If the pass is crossed the first day, camping is good at Kearsage Lakes to the south and slightly off the trail. From Kearsage Lakes, the trail goes by Bull Frog Lake (no camping) and meets the John Muir Trail coming from Glen Pass. The next campsite can be found anywhere in the Vidette Meadow or upper Bubbs Creek Basin. Continuing south and up Bubbs Creek Basin, you gradually pass out of timber and cross Forrester Pass. After the pass, the trail is steep at first then follows the gradual slope down to the headwaters of Tyndall Creek. Camping is good anywhere in the area Tyndall Creek or near the Wright Creek Junction. Continue on the John Muir Trail past the Wallace Creek fork (keep to the left) and across the Big Horn Plateau (to the west is one of the most spectacular views in the Sierras). You will want to stop here to admire the view of Western Divide and the Kings-Kern Divide. The trail goes on by Sandy Meadow and swings east to the Crabteee Ranger Station at Crabtree Meadows. Camping is good at Upper Crabtree Meadow but is better and worth the extra 1½ miles to Lower Crabtree Meadow. Follow the Muir Trail towards Mt. Whitney and camp at Guitar Lake. The camp is exposed, but there is plenty of room and the next day's trip will be shorter. The trail will begin at a sharp climb up to the Mt. Whitney Trail Junction. Follow the Lateral trail to the summit. The trail continues over trail Crest and down switchbacks, past Mirror Lake to Whitney Portal. This last day totals about 15 miles or more if you climb the summit, so start very early in the morning. Camping at Whitney Portal is best on the side of Lone Pine Creek, one mile down the paved road.
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