I'm looking to explore the a number of High Sierra lakes in California's John Muir Wilderness; specifically in Humphreys Basin. Geology (from photographs) appears severe with rock, scree, and debris, Topography appears manageable, and the vegetation appears sparse. The trails move across the North side of the basin and continue out of the area. Inter-lake trails are not denoted on the USGS maps.

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Does anyone have any experience bouncing between these lakes in this area? Is the geology and vegetation easy to pass through within the basin?

3 Answers 3



I just returned from the area and found that once we crested over Piute Pass and into the Humphreys Basin, the terrain is easily traversable off trail. While the fragile ecology struggling to survive in the rugged windswept mountains may not appreciate traffic from heavy boot-laden steps, access to all of the area lakes, streams, and prominences is easy.

A view of Humphreys Basin looking West from Piute Pass into Piute Canyon. Summit Lake visible.

  • Could you post a photo?
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 21:45
  • +1 I second that. We have hiked often in the lake country under Mt. Humphreys -- Muriel Lake, Marmot Lake, Desolation Lakes -- down as far as Golden Trout Lake and up as far as the rock-bound lakelets well over 12,000 feet. There are a few trails, and the cross-country hiking is easy. Mt. Humphreys provides an easy reference for orienting yourself
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 3:15

I have done a good bit of exploring in the Ansel Adams Wilderness north there, and nothing on that map would cause me any concern as the steep parts look avoidable. Just stick to the flatter parts and remember that,

If the map and the terrain disagree, trust the terrain.

Swiss Army Aphorism

  • Thanks for the insight on your experience in The Ansel Adams Wilderness!
    – J.P.M.
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 19:35
  • But, the Swiss army uses Swiss maps, and Swiss maps never disagree with the terrain. Anywhere else they do, but not in Switzerland.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 21:44
  • 1
    @gerrit I suppose that's why the Swiss only get lost when they leave the country Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 23:45

No experience here, but the Google Satellite images appear to show trails. The USFS maps also show trails, but those differ from the ones in the sat imagery. In either case, the terrain seems safe, and pictures from someone else's trip report suggest open terrain with no significant problems.

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