High Sierra Trail: Day 1 – Crescent Meadows to Panther Creek
Distance: 3 miles point to point
Camping Elevation: 6,750 ft
Bear Box: No
Water Nearby: Yes
When to go: July through end of September
On Friday, September 21st, I drove to Lone Pine and met up with the others in my group. We left two cars at Whitney Portal for when we finished the hike, and one in town in a long-term parking lot.
On Saturday, September 22nd, we were picked up at 6:30 am by the Eastern Sierra Shuttle Service from our hotel and they drove us around the mountain to pick up our permits at the Lodgepole Visitors Center in the Sequoia National Park at around 1:30 pm and then a mile down to the trailhead at Crescent Meadows. If you are getting self-issued permits outside of the quota season then you pick them up from the Giant Grove Museum.
We were originally going to start hiking on Sunday, but since we arrived at the trailhead in the late afternoon, we decided to get started and cover a couple of miles that day when our packs were the heaviest. So our official start date ended up being Saturday.
We hiked 3 miles to Panther Creek.
This was the easiest part of the hike. It was moderately level for the entire 3 miles.
1 mile in you reach Eagle View which overlooks the Great Western Divide and the 7,000 foot canyon that the middle fork of the Kaweah River runs through.
This whole section to Panther Creek is made up of dirt instead of rocky terrain, the trail itself is well marked and this section is not very exposed. There were a couple water crossings but this late in the season some were drying up.
The only downside is that Panther Creek is not well marketed. You need to look for flat ground 3 miles into the trail. It’s in walking distance of water sources so you can filter water for the evening and the morning.
We set up camp in the trees on flat ground. In the middle of the night, the others in my group heard a tree fall. Be careful where you set up camp! Look out for dead trees and don’t set up camp under them, they can fall at any time. The trees in this area burned in the Buckeye Fire in 1980.
There was a full moon on the Tuesday of our hike, so every night it was like someone turned on the flashlight in our tents, it was so bright. But since we went in early fall, when the days are shorter and nights are longer, it was nice to have more visibility at night. Especially when nature calls in the middle of the night!
Remember that you can’t camp in the first 2 miles of the trail. Panther Creek is the first campsite heading East Bound.