Bear Lakes Basin Loop Backpack

Little Bear Lake and Seven Gables
Little Bear Lake and Seven Gables


“I Loved it…I Loved it All”
~Edward Abbey

Bear Lakes Basin is a hidden gem nestled in the John Muir Wilderness that features serene lakes, high passes, and exciting cross-country travel. Last August, my son and I explored this high granite basin, one of the finest in my years of travel in the high Sierras.

We started the Sierra weekend off “Rockin’s Favorite Way”: leaving work, picking up dinner on the way (gluten-free pizza), driving to trail head, hitting the trail around 6:00, hiking 6 or so miles (headlamps required), find campsite (sometimes this is tricky), set-up camp and then relax to enjoy bizzillions of stars overhead. Interested in more of these quick challenging week-end get-a-aways? Here are a few:

The traditional route into Bear Lakes Basin from Pine Creek Trail Head, heads up Pine Creek Canyon, through Granite Park, over Italy Pass, then into Bear Lakes. Silly Chili and I had a great tip from a hiker we met along the way and by-sided Italy Pass and climbed Granite Bear Pass (un-named on map) to the south and not Italy Pass. This route not only was shorter, but I believe more scenic, challenging, and interesting.

TRIP DATE August 16-17, 2014
LENGTH About 24 miles with maintained and unmaintained trails and off trail boulders, snow, and talus
TRAIL HEAD Pine Creek, north of Bishop, CA, John Muir Wilderness, CA
DIFFICULTY Strenuous with on and off trail
NAVIGATION Map and compass
MORE INFO Steve Roper’s The Sierra High Route passes through this stark wonderland.

Night 1 – Pine Creek Trail Head to Honeymoon Lake

Our route took us on-trail up Pine Creek Canyon, then at about 6 miles leaving the maintained trail to Honeymoon Lake. It took us a bit to find camping in the dark of night, but we quickly located a use trail at the east end of the lake with a large flat area.

Click once on any photo in the mosaics below to view full size. Flip through all photos by clicking arrows on the sides of photos or on mobile device, swipe. To exit slide show, click X in the upper left hand corner.



Day 1 – Honeymoon Lake to Meriam Lake

After an early start we quickly went up canyon, checked our GPS and map and redirected to the north side of the creek, heading northwest up into Granite Park. The lush park is filled with creeks and green carpet. We then located our destination, Granite Bear Pass and headed cross-country over large boulders, snow, and talus.

The pass is the gateway into a fairyland. Grant and I spent a few hours exploring the many lakes, overlooks, and cascading creeks. This basin would be the perfect overnight stay for a 3 day trip.

We then headed up rugged and rocky Feather Pass and down through a series of gorgeous lakes and tarns to our overnight destination, Meriam Lake.

Fun fact. The pic below is featured in the slider at the top of Dirty Girl Gaiters new website! Yes, I am a dirty girl.

Rockin' and Silly Chili atop Granite Bear Pass
Rockin’ and Silly Chili atop Granite Bear Pass


Day 2 – Meriam Lake to Pinecreek Trail Head

We headed out early to enjoy the sunrise and put some miles under our feet. The use trail leaving Meriam Lake is a bit of a trick to find, but easy to follow once located. This use trail intersects with the main trail heading up to easy and wide Pine Creek Pass and then we retraced our steps back to the trail head.

Sunrise - Outlet of Meriam Lake
Sunrise – Outlet of Meriam Lake



This was one fast, beautiful, and very fun weekend trip into the High Sierras. I am thankful to have shared it with my son, Silly Chili.

I don’t know about you, but just writing this post made me want to pull the maps out and start planning for this upcoming summer! What are your backpacking plans for summer 2015? Please share in the comments below. 


  1. what a impressive location, for hiking i also found another same link but this is too much wondering thanks for sharing

    Women’s Hiking Gear List

  2. Nice website and travelogue! I’m planning a trip in the same vicinity and trying to determine the class of the ridge/pass above Gable Lakes into French Lake Basin. Looking at the ridge running north from Four Gables peak, specifically. Seems like a Class 2 until the very top of the ridge, perhaps? Do you have an experience making that cross country pass? Any insight is appreciated! Thanks!

  3. Awesome hikes and pics Rockin! I am catching up on your posts from this month and following your current hike, Good stuff!
    So big plans for a 30 day 300 mile section hike of the AT this summer for me! Pretty excited and quite ready. And come fall I am going to hike up Mount Vesuvius. It will only be a day hike but I am still psyched about it! Happy Trails!!!

  4. Wes Phillips

    Nice trip report and very motivating. I always enjoy and benefit from you insights, plus I appreciate the inspiration of the name of you blog! Trips with permits secured are 1. Early August – – Florence Lake up Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake/ 6 days 2. Early September – – – Circle of Light via Kersarge Pass then down to Bubbs Creek, Avalanche Pass, Colby Pass, Forrester Pass/ 8 days Intend to apply for a permit for a 3 day late October Grand Canyon trip.

    • Yaaaaaay the party continues!

      Wow you are the organized one. What a great summer you have planned. #1 trip I have experience with but have not been over Avalanche Pass or Colby Pass in trip #2. Thank you so much for sharing your upcoming adventures.

  5. Looks like an awesome area to explore. Great photos.

  6. annathrax

    I want to be your son! Lol. Awesome photos rockin’!! Happy International Womans Day! Its women like you who inspire! X

  7. Backpacking plans…
    PCT Tehachapi to Vasquez Rocks
    PCT Crater Lake to Fish Lake & summit Mt McLaughlin
    Mt Adams 360 loop
    Mt Hood 360 loop in a day (Timberline Trail)
    Hike down Grand Canyon and back out next day.
    Smith Rock loop near Bend

    Let’s get this party started!


    • Boy howdy the party has started!!!
      So first can I help in anyway when you are starting in Tehachapi?
      Next can I add to the party…
      Spring Break: Lowest to Highest – Badwater to top of Mount Whitney
      Summer: Tahoe Rim Trail
      PCT through Washington
      Sierra High Route

      So who will be the next to add to the party?

  8. Jeff Wrinkle

    Where is the turn off of US 395 to get to the trail head? I am curious how close the turn off is to “Tom’s Place”. I did a lot of camping (Rock Creek Lake) and backpacking (Hilton Lakes) back in the day.

  9. trietnguyen1982

    Nice scence

  10. dynamic area..beautiful pictures..nice job

  11. That is definitely an outstanding location. I led a national Sierra Club Junior Knapsack (12-15 year olds) trip through the Bear Lakes Basin in 1975. Awesome place. I need to return to that area. Great pictures. Thanks.

  12. Rockin’, great post. Loved the photos. The photo under the heading “Day 2 – Meriam Lake to Pinecreek Trail Head” is stunning. Trips in planning are Sespe Wilderness with my friend John in April and somewhere in the Central Sierra’s with my regular crew in July. Hopefully another trip or two will also happen. No way I can keep up with you but will be doing a lot of day hikes. Just went yesterday to the San Joaquin Hills just south of my house.

    • Warren, Just looked up Sespe Wilderness. I had no idea it was there! Looks like an area with natural hot springs. Can’t wait to hear where you plan to go in the Sierras. Another cool backpack I haven’t written about is a trip into Peter Panda Lake. Grant did it with buddies last summer. It is all on trail and was amazing. Hey I think I have an idea for a job if and when I retire, a trip planner. Ha. As always thanks for sharing!

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