Deadman Canyon—Kaweah Gap—Black Rock Pass Loop

Hike in Sequoia National Park and enjoy the iconic high-Sierra landscape of towering granite, giant Sequoia trees, and sparkling blue lakes. Backpack all or part of this 88-mile, very strenuous route with over 26,000 feet of elevation gain that loops through Deadman Canyon, Elizabeth Pass, Kaweah Gap, and Black Rock Pass. The very popular High Sierra Trail travels through this country on its way to Mount Whitney to the east. It's possible to shorten or extend this route, or even connect to the John Muir trail for hundreds more miles of wandering.

Getting There

Lodgepole Campground is the main trailhead for this route. It may be accessed from the west via SR-180 from Fresno or SR-198 from Visalia. The drive from Washington mostly on I-5. The nearest airport is in Fresno.


From Lodgepole campground, hike past Twin Lakes and Ranger Lake. A great first day ends in 6.7 or 9.9 miles. Continue over Silliman Pass and along Sugarloaf Creek to Ferguson Creek and Roaring River and into Deadman Canyon with second night options at mile 19 or 25. Upper Ranger Meadow at mile 30 is a common third night camp options to scramble to Big Bird and Little Bird Lakes.  The route then continues up and over rugged rocky Elizabeth Pass at 11,344 ft  before dropping steeply to Lone Pine Creek, Hamilton Creek, and Upper Hamilton Lake at mile 42 with several roomy but sometimes crowded camps for the fourth night.   

For the shorter loop, hike west on the High Sierra Trail to return to Lodgepole Trailhead in three days with camps at  at Bearpaw Meadow (mile 44) and Mehrten Meadow (mile 51.5). This loop is 57.5 miles. 

For the longer loop, hike east from Hamilton Lake past Precipice Lake and on over  10,711 ft Kaweah Gap, then descend through  Big Arroyo, leave the High Sierra Trail (which continues on into the Kern VAlley and over to Whitney) and hike to the spectacular Little Five Lakes at mile 52 for the fifth night's camp and perhaps a free day of exploring.  Climb west and over the immense rock pile of Black Rock Pass at mile  54 and 11,668 ft, the highest elevation reached on this loop with equally immense views. Descend to Cliff Creek and ascend past a couple smaller camps to Ranger Meadow (mile 63) or the bustling Bearpaw Meadow backpackers' camp (mile 68) for the sixth night and a return to the the High Sierra Trail. Hike west on the High Sierra Trail, leaving it and climbing northwest to Mehrten Meadow. There are camps at mile 75 and nearby peaks to investigate! From here hikes back to the trailhead to complete the 88-mile loop.  


  • There are many shorter loops and side trips, often with a granite pinnacle or alpine lake at their end.
  • Near the trailhead areas are the world famous Big Tree groves of giant sequoias. There is a free park shuttle to travel between trailheads.
  • Approved bear-safe food storage is required throughout the park, but many camp locations have bear lockers. It is possible to complete this loop relying on the lockers and without having to use a bear canister. See the land manager (link below) for regulations and bear locker locations.
  • Permits are required for any wilderness camping in the park. They are available in advance at They tend to go fast!
  • Much of this trail is above treeline with very little shade or cover from storms. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
  • These trails tend to be above 8,000 feet in elevation and many go above 11,000. Some time spent acclimatizing before setting out on an extended backpacking trip will help to reduce the chance of experience altitude illness.
  • Difficulty: Very Strenuous
  • Length: 88.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 26,400 ft
  • 11,644 ft
  • Land Manager: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Parking Permit Required: National Park Entrance Fee
  • Recommended Party Size: 8
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • Trails Illustrated Sequoia King Canyon National Parks
Trip Reports

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  • Deadman Canyon Loop
  • Sequoia National Park

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