SUMMARY: A 60-mile backpack on the west side of the Sierra Nevadas that ends at Camp Kern. Allow 6 to 9 days for the trip. A slightly shorter version of this trail is also available.
DESCRIPTION: The Paiute Trail begins at the end of the North Lake Campground west of Bishop. You might consider staying here for a day to acclimate. Traveling west for 3½ mile toward Paiute Pass the first day of camping is good at Loch Levin or closer to Paiute Pass to Paiute Lake. The view from the 11,423' summit is awesome. The view of both sides is fabulous. Continue down the rocky trail to Hutchinson Meadow where mosquito protection is essential. Leading the meadow area the trail continues downhill (somewhat steep and very rocky in places) to the John Muir trail Junction. Drinking water and swimming are very good here. Rather than cross the bridge, follow the trail downhill to Hot 'springs campground. Watch for trail signs, as this campground is somewhat off the trail. Camping is good and a hot bath is available across the river. The commercial Diamond D guest ranch buildings are visible along with a large fenced off area. The trail continues through Blaney Meadows and crosses the San Joaquin River on a well-maintained bridge. Swimming is popular here but be warned, the water can be very fast and very cold depending on the time of year and the previous winter snowpack. A decision needs to be made here. A trail branching to the right along the north side of Florence Lake just before the bridge leads to a telephone, from which you can call for a boat during July and August. This ferry transports hikers and their packs for $2.50 (price is subject to change) the length of Florence Lake. Should you decide to hike around Florence Lake, the trail follows along the east shore to the northern end of Florence Lake where it meets the Southern California Edison Road (closed to public vehicles). Follow this road to the public parking area and the Florence Lake store. The store can be a very welcome site and useful to stock up on food and such. Camping can found at a USFS public campground at Jackass Meadow, a short but steep hike down from the store. Follow the paved road and watch for the signs.
At this point, one of two different routes can be followed. The route described here as Version 1 is the longer. For the shorter route, see Paiute Trail-Version 2. The trail for Version 1 is well marked the end of the parking area at the southeastern end of Florence Lake. Follow the trail uphill along Boulder Creek to Summit Lake past Dutch Oven Meadow (camping is pretty good here). Continue to Hot Springs Pass and southwest to Quili Camp. Then hike on to Rock Meadow and westward to Red Lake. From here, follow the Red Mountain Trail to a junction and camp in the area of Tamarack Creek. The trail drops to meet Highway 168 and follow the road north (turn right) for 3½ miles to the trail through Camp Oljato to Camp Kern.
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