This is the third of a series of Guides to the High Sierra Trail, an approximately 70 mile trail that runs from Crescent Meadow on the... more » western side of the Sierra Nevada to Whitney Portal on the eastern slope. Each segment roughly corresponds to a day on the trail. This Guide describes Segment 3 of 7: Precipice Lake to Moraine Lake.
After a satisfying stop at Precipice Lake, continue along the High Sierra Trail as it switchbacks through a boulder field and past some shallow unnamed ponds. You are in an alpine zone here, and plants are small and low to the ground but hearty enough to survive the harsh conditions and short growing season. You'll see columbine and paintbrush growing along the trail and even some snow patches lingering late into summer.
A short mile and 300 feet of gain later, you'll be standing atop Kaweah Gap, the pass which marks the trail's crossing of the Great Western Divide. You may be tempted to hop off the trail here and explore the 9-Lakes basin to your left, but to stay on the trail descend to your right into the open bowl of Big Arroyo.
After a few switchbacks, the trail descends comfortably through Big Arroyo for several miles, eventually meeting a trail junction near an old patrol cabin. There are many campsites scattered throughout the Arroyo including several near this trail junction.
This junction marks the beginning of a gradual but hot and exposed climb out of Big Arroyo. The grade for the rest of this segment, both up and down, is gentle. It is also the driest stretch of the trail so it is best to fill up on water in the Arroyo.
As you climb out of the Big Arroyo you'll get views of the southern peaks of the Great Western Divide such as Sawtooth Peak before entering the forest atop Chagoopa Plateau. Eventually, if you choose the right fork at the trail junction (see POIs), you'll arrive at Moraine Lake, a great place for a swim and a nice place to camp. less «