North Lake Campground via John Muir Trail

3 reviews #24 hike out of 190 in
52.6 mi
28 hrs 17 min
3,930 ft
Elev Gain


This is an EPIC and strenuous 50+mile backpack trip one way trail to North Lake Campground in Kings Canyon National Park.

This trail goes by Bishop Pass, Little Pete Meadow, Big Pete Meadow, Le Conte Canyon, Helen Lake, Muir Pass, Upper Golden Trout Lake, Summit Lake, Piute Pass, and Loch Leven.

This trail is legendary for scenic Sierra routes. The total length is 68 miles and goes through fishermen's dreams spots like Humphrey Basis, transcends a bit of the John Muir Trail, passes the famous Muir Cabin and the spectacular Evolution Lakes Basin. There are plenty of resources for those dreaming of this major, amazing expedition.

The trail climbs precipitously up to Piute Pass as your eyes bug out to the amazing scenery. If you are going to camp early on the first day, do so on the east side at Piute or Lock Leven Lakes as the small lake in the pass is bare and windswept.

After crossing the pass, the trail enters Humphrey Basin, famous for it's fishing. You can take the trail straight down into the canyon or there are lakes (Muriel, Desolation and Golden Trout) on either side to explore and fish. The trail then drops further into the Piute Canyon as the walls close in and the roar of the river accompanies you. There are a few campsites here and there on the specatular way down between pines and firs. Once you approach the valley and the King's River there is one last campsite on the left before you get to where the trail is more popular/crowded.

The Piute Canyon trail then meets the JMT/PCT at the northernmost point of King's Canyon National Park. Dogs can't go further south, but the trail crosses a bridge and turns right along the south fork of the San Joaquin River. There's a big campsite on the right, and smaller ones further down the trail. The San Joaquin roars next to the trail for the next mile or so before your path heads up, through a stock-control gate, and up up up to Evolution Valley. The trail goes up the valley, crossing the creek in spots. I had no trouble crossing, but it was August and the water was only knee high. The trail continues on the east side of the valley with many camping opportunities and one or two locations where a swim is almost required. You pass though McClure and Colby Meadows and pass a intermittantly-manned ranger station in Colby when the trail then climbs up to Evolution Lakes.

Again there are campling spots on the west end of the lake and on the north side of the middle of the lake. Take your pic, and fish, or watch people in this epicly famous location. The trail then continues up into the pass filled with lakes. The trail passes Wanda Lake before entering the pass and the famous Muir Hut.

As the trail descends from Muir Pass there are a couple of amazing camp sites that must have the best sunrise view. The trail drops to Big Pete Meadow and then ascends into Dusy Basis past some improbably amazing water falls. Climb up into Dusy Basin as you approach Bishop Pass. Your trail almost over, you climb another 5 miles from Bishop Pass back to South Lake where you will wonder why you didn't stay another night.

Getting Started

I did this starting at South Lake, heading over Bishop Pass and then going to North Lake. I don't think either one is preferrable. North Lake Campground is a small first-come, first-served campground and there are plenty more Forest Service campsites on the way up. The backpack parking is about 1/2 mile down the road. Access to this campground and the trail itself will be impossible after large snows. Arrange a shuttle to leave your car at the huge parking area at South Lake. Then get dropped at North Lake Campground, put on your pack, and startup the trail. Note that you are NOT going to Lamarck Lakes, so don't take the left fork when you pass that.

Taking Children

This would be an amazing and unforgettable experience for a tough and experienced preteen/teenager, but otherwise, it's too much for the younger set.

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Public Tracks

Forest 5 years, 2 months ago
North Lake to Southlake Loop
May require shuttling. There's a shuttle that runs at approx 4 PM from south lake back to Bishop that can stop at the North Lake junction given safe conditions. It's about $5.
ronny 5 years, 1 month ago
Evolution Basin
North Lake, Piute Pass, JMT South, Evolution Basin, Muir Pass, Bishop Pass, South Lake
Wesley 4 years, 2 months ago
steventennant18 4 years, 5 months ago
amaximov 4 years, 7 months ago
Alpine Nils 4 years, 11 months ago
3H Hiking Group 5 years, 1 month ago
cfernand65 5 years, 4 months ago