Maggie Lake-Mountaineer Creek Loop
Golden Trout Wilderness
- Highlights: The Maggie Lake-Mountaineer Creek loop is a strenuous backpack of 36 miles in the Golden Trout Wilderness that combines the best of the Silver Knapsack Trail with other trails to create a memorable Sierra Nevada trek with pristine lakes, mountain vistas, pioneer cabins, and great swimming holes on a trout stream that leads to a serene mountain meadow. Pyramid-shaped Florence Peak (12,432 ft), highest summit of the Southern Sierra, dominates the northern skyline on most of this trip. Loop trails at the Clicks Creek trail head are easily added to this trek to create a 50-miler.
- The Silver Knapsack trail is 45-mile trek, with a High Adventure patch, which the West Los Angeles Boy Scout Council used to run out of Camp Whittsett summer camp.
Directions: The drive takes at least 3 hours from Bakersfield. Head north on Highway 99, and exit onto Highway 65. Continue north another 40 miles to the Lake Success-Highway 190 exit just before reaching Porterville. Drive 19 miles east on Highway 190 to Springville, continue 23 miles past town, and turn left on the opposite side of Quaking Aspen Campground. Drive north 4½ miles on paved road to a signed junction, and turn left (towards Summit Trailhead) onto dirt road. Continue past the Click's Creek trailhead and Jordan Peak turnout to a Y-junction 9 miles from Highway 190. Drive uphill ¼ mile on the left fork to the Summit Trailhead. Call (559) 539-2607 for USFS road conditions.
Trailhead: The trek begins from the Summit trailhead.
Day 1 (8.5 miles) - From trailhead at 8280 ft, descend north to South Mountaineer Creek, then hike over an 8700 ft rise. Further on, the trail passes a junction with the Jacobson Trail on the left, then a junction at 5.0 miles with the Mountaineer Creek Trail on the right, and finally a junction with the Griswold trail on the left. The trail then crosses the 9300 ft shoulder of Maggie Mountain at 8.0 miles and drops to creekside campsites at 8½ miles. Camp here if a climb of Maggie Mountain is on the agenda, or go left fork at a nearby trail junction and continue west another mile to crowded sites at Maggie Lake.
- Maggie Mountain climb - The 10,042 ft summit of Maggie Peak takes 1-2 hours, with some steep class 2 scrambling on the last 400 feet of elevation gain. The route starts at the 9300 ft pass above the creekside campsites, and ascends west along the ridge.
Day 2 (2.6 miles) - Continue north from Maggie Lake to Frog Lake, then on to Twin Lakes at 11.1 miles and 9100 ft elevation. There are great campsites near the isthmus joining the lakes.
Day 3 (11.5 miles) - The trail climbs to a pass at 13.7 miles and 9920 ft elevation that marks the high point of the trek, as well as the boundary of Sequoia National Park.
After crossing the shoulder of Sheep Mountain, the trail descends north to a T-junction. Turn right and pack along Windy Ridge to a trail junction at 16.4 miles. Take the right-hand trail and continue descending to the south to reach the Quinn Snow Survey Cabin, which sits above Quinn Meadow at 18.4 miles and 7860 ft elevation. A snow shovel lashed high on the north wall of this turn-of-century summer home of sheepman Harry Quinn demonstrates the potential snow depth in winter. A mile south from the cabin, the Park boundary is reached where the trail crosses Soda Creek. A short distance past the creek, go right at a junction and climb to the west 450 feet up a steep grade before leveling out for the next few miles. The trail along this stretch has not been maintained and is tricky to follow. Eventually, a very steep descent leads to the Walker Cabin at 22.6 miles and 7300 ft elevation. Nicknamed "Happy Camp" by scouts on the Silver Knapsack Trail, this cabin was built by sheepmen in 1886. There is a nice campsite on the far side of the cabin, and water is usually available from a miniscule stream that feeds the adjacent meadow.
- Sheep Mountain climb - The 10,060 ft summit of Sheep Mountain provides great views and is reached after a short hike of .3 miles with only 140 feet of elevation gain from the 9900 ft pass.
Day 4 (5.6 miles) - The trail, which improves dramatically, picks up on the opposite side of the meadow and descends to the Nelson Cabin site on Soda Creek at 24.5 miles and 6440 ft elevation. After hiking a couple of miles through Pine forest, go right (west) at a trail junction in a barren sandy area that is reached at 26.1 miles, and represents the low point of the trip at 6290 ft elevation. The trail then heads back to the NW, switchbacks to the south across a creek, and curves around the mountainside to enter Mountaineer Canyon before reaching a trail junction at 26.1 miles. Go right at a trail junction on the hillside and continue ascending to a campsite at the confluence of North and South Mountaineer Creeks at 28.2 miles and 6880 ft elevation. There is a great swimming hole and rock slide a short distance downstream.
Day 5 (2.4 miles) - Continue up North Mountaineer Creek to nice campsites at Mowry Meadow, a short distance from a T-intersection with the Summit Trail at 30.6 miles and 8360 ft elevation.
Day 6 (5.0 miles) - From the trail intersection, retrace the route of Day 1 for 5 miles along the Summit Trail back to the trail head.
- Jordan Peak Lookout side trip - Views from this lofty fire lookout include the canyon up which the Wishon Trail winds (to the west), Florence Peak (to the north), and the Needles Fire lookout and Jerky Meadows/Jug Springs Trail (to the east). To reach the lookout, turn right at a signed intersection 2.2 miles south of the Summit trailhead and follow it about 1 mile to the parking area. From here, a 1-mile trail leads to the lookout at 9115 ft elevation.
Maps: Camp Nelson and Quinn Peak 7½-minute topographic quadrangles
- Bears are a potential problem and bear bags need to be hung at all campsites.
- Beware of hornets nests when crossing mountain meadows on this trek, and rattlesnakes may be encountered at the lower elevations.
- Giardia is a concern and a water purifier is needed. Iodine tablets are recommended for the Walker Cabin site, where the water source may be only a couple of inches deep and tricky to filter.
- A Wilderness Permit (free) and California fire permit (free) are required and can be obtained at the Tule River Ranger Station on Highway 190, just before you enter Springville.