Hover Setting


Humphreys Basin

Sunset behind Pilot Knob

Humphreys Basin

- An ideal hike through High Sierra country. A remarkable trip in every way for which I'm very grateful.

Skip to the route recap

Over several years I researched routes to backpack in the High Sierra. I knew about the Sawtooth Range and Mono Recesses from my father. I knew about areas in Yosemite, Desolation Wilderness, Sequoia and Kings Canyon from my own travels. I started reading trip reports online and talking to friends. I visited my local REI and got some book recommendations - like section hikes along the PCT. I compiled quite a list. Finally, I bought Steve Roper’s Sierra High Route. I was surprised it took half the book for Roper to get to the actual route - he spent a lot of time on the history of the area and the early explorers. But I was captivated. And the region that most captivated me was Humphreys Basin because it seemed so remote and so characteristic of the High Sierra.

You can find a route video of the main hike here.


Olmsted Point
Clouds Rest and Half Dome from Olmsted Point

View of Mt Dana
Mt Dana from Tioga Road

Hummingbird Lake in the Hoover Wilderness
My lunch spot at Hummingbird Lake

View of Shamrock Lake with North Peak and Mr Conness
Looking down at Shamrock Lake with North Peak and Mt Conness in the background

Shamrock Lake
View from Shamrock Lake

Selfie at the Mobil in Lee Vining
Outside the Mobil in Lee Vining

Campsite at Four Jeffery
My campsite at Four Jeffery

Drive Highlights

  • No traffic leaving the SF Bay Area Friday morning!
  • Long drive with slow moving construction traffic on Tioga Road through Yosemite.
  • Water taxi and The Loop hike from Saddlebag Lake. Nice but would not do again unless fishing.
  • We love Whoa Nellie Deli at the Mobil in Lee Vining!
  • So much smoke in the valley you couldn't even see Mono Lake.
  • Very active bear overnight at Four Jeffery. Great car camping facilities though, including heated restrooms with flush toilets.

  DAY 0

Trail sign for Bishop Pass
Trail sign along Bishop Pass trail

Long Lake in the morning
My first view along the shores of Long Lake

Long Lake
View from further along Long Lake

View back from Bishop Pass
Looking back from Bishop Pass

Dusy Basin and beyond
View of Dusy Basin with Mt Agassiz and Thunderbolt Peak on the left

Selfie at the top of Bishop Pass
Bishop Pass Trail Sign

Day 0 Highlights

  • Easily one of my favorite hikes: up and over Bishop Pass to views of High Sierra peaks and Dusy Basin.
  • Long Lake with fish jumping all over and several stunning spots with mountain views.
  • Watched a friendly marmot play on the trail and draw a crowd.
  • Met the Sierra Club outing trip leaders and group at Four Jeffrey! #TeamOsprey
  • Shuttled to the Pine Creek Pass trail head.


Looking up to Piute Pass
View of Piute Pass

Sunset at Muriel Lake
Sunset at Muriel Lake

Day 1 Highlights

  • Long slog up and over Piute Pass with full packs - but what a view at the pass in both directions!
  • Entering the Wilderness
  • Marmot playing by Muriel lake, rolling a bear canister around with no success.
  • Camping at Muriel Lake and a short swim to explore an island.
  • Cold but clear night skies with the Milky Way, satellites, airplanes and shooting stars.


Sunrise at Muriel Lake
Sunrise at Muriel Lake

Desolation and Wedge Lakes from Star Col
Desolation and Wedge Lake from Star Col

View of Star Lake, French Canyon and beyond
View of Star Lake, French Canyon and beyond

Sunset behind Pilot Knob
Sunset behind Pilot Knob at Desolation Lake

Alpenglow upon Mt Humphrey's
The classic alpenglow upon Mt Humphreys

Day 2 Highlights

  • Cross country hike to Desolation Lake
  • Hike above Star Col to "Upper Puppet Pass" and breathtaking views
  • Beautiful camp under Mt Humphreys and among marmot village


Sunrise behind Mt Humphrey's
Sunrise from behind Mt Humphreys

View of Humphrey's Basin from Puppet Pass
View looking back at Humphreys Basin from Puppet Pass

View of the French Lakes
View ahead to the French lakes, Merriam and Royce peaks

View back at the French Lakes from Pilot Knob saddle
View back at Alsace Lake from Pilot Knob saddle

Looking across Knob Lake to the Glacier Divide
Looking across Knob Lake to the Glacier Divide

Day 3 Highlights

  • Toughest day and some of the best views
  • Cross country hike up and over Puppet Pass
  • Scramble up to the saddle of Pilot Knob
  • Camping and a quick dip at Paris Lake


Sunrise on Pilot Knob
Sunrise on Pilot Knob at Paris Lake

View of the French Lakes
Views of Elba Lake, French Canyon, Merriam and Royce peaks.

Selfie at the French Lakes
Selfie at the French Lakes

Merriam Lake trail sign
Trail sign for Merriam Lake. All uphill from here.

View of Pilot Knob
Looking back at Pilot Knob

Merriam Lake
Merriam Lake

Looking back at Mt Humphrey's
Outlet of Merriam Lake looking back at Mt Humphreys

Day 4 Highlights

  • Cross country down to French Canyon and then long, steep hike up to Merriam Lake
  • Spotted a garter snake along the creek in the meadow below Merriam
  • Swimming holes and a beach at the picturesque lake


View of unnamed lake
View of unnamed lake and Merriam Lake beyond

View from the summit of Royce Peak
View from the summit of Royce

Willie Goat atop Royce Peak
Atop Royce

Noname Lake
Noname lake

Day 5 Highlights

  • Climb to the summit of Royce Peak
  • Quiet moment at the sandy shore of a noname lake
  • I get my trail name, Willie Goat
  • Threat of thunderstorms, but little rain

DAYS 6 & 7

Campsite along Honeymoon Lake
Perfect campsite at Honeymoon Lake

Selfie at Honeymoon Lake
Happy even after several days in the wild

Pine Lake
Pine Lake on the way back down

Days 6 & 7 Highlights

  • Up over Pine Creek Pass to camp at beautiful Honeymoon Lake.
  • Hike 3,000 feet down Pine Creek to the trailhead.
  • Burgers in Bishop!
  • Long drive back home over Sonora Pass, crossing the Sierra Crest for the fifth and final time.


  • Location: Humphreys Basin, John Muir Wilderness (and other National Forest sections) via the Piute Pass trailhead at North Lake, exiting Pine Creek Pass near the Tungsten Mill.
  • Date: August 2021.
  • Stats: 42+ total mileage with ~10,000ft elevation gain.
  • Maps: Mount Tom and Mount Hilgard USGS quads. NatGeo 809 Mammoth Lakes, Mono Divide. Permits and reservations arranged by the trip leader.
  • We were very lucky we got to do this hike as all National Forests in California were closed later on in August due to wildfire risk.
  • The trip was organized and led by the Sierra Club, originally scheduled for 2020. Special thanks to the trip leaders for getting us through safely, deepening our sense of appreciation for the area and the delicious food.
Route from the trip leader
Route from our trip leader, Days 1 - 7


What a trip!
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