Two users decided to do the Silver Lake Loop trip and did the optional route back through Mineral King. Here is what the report had to say:
The trip began on July 20 and ended on July 24. We stopped into the Wilderness Ranger Station in Mineral King for a permit and information. The ranger mentioned the area experienced some localized, but heavy rains over the 4th of July weekend. Some of the streams blew out trails and gullies were created near Farewell Gap.
The trail up to Farewell Gap was an steady grade. Easy to hike and yes, some of the trail was blown out. It was not difficult to maneuver through. Once at Farewell Gap things became much worse (trail wise).
The trail down to Bullion Flat and Broader’s Cabin was there, but the first mile was eroded pretty bad by the storm the ranger warned us about. You can still see the trail bed, so that wasn’t hard to find in the rock talis. However the gullies created by the storm had taken its toll. Some where 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide and extending over 100 feet long down the hill slope. Once across Bullfrog Lake Creek, the trail was back to its usual over grown self. However, one could still see the trail bed even through the sage brush. The views were incredible and the streams were all flowing with water.
About a mile north of Broader’s Cabin Site, the trail does a switch back down the hill side and another continues to contour. Orange flagging marked the system trail heading down as the higher route, which is a more “mountaineering cutoff trail”, continues on. We took the lower route and eventually had to climb back up. It wasn’t hard though as orange flagging marked the trail at the next junction. It was heading up towards Silver Lake / Coyote Pass where the lower trail went down to Little Kern River and Wet Meadows direction.
As the trail makes it way back up to the ridge, vegetation gets dense. White thorn, manzanita, chinkapin, and sage help keep your legs clean. Once at the top, don’t forget to turn around for a final view up into the headwaters of the Little Kern River. Farewell Gap sits at the top and this is a great spot for lunch. Continue on for another mile and you’ll be at Shotgun Creek where the trail up to Silver Lake begins.
The trail up to Silver Lake was steep at first, but levels off a little bit. Consider it a “two-step” climb with the hardest parts being at the beginning and end of the 3 mile climb. Follow the cairns after the first mile. One could get lost.
We did the optional loop back as discussed on the site. The hike up to Shotgun Pass was only 35 minutes, but it was a good climb up through decomposed granite. Once at the top you are greeted with views of the high sierra. Great spot for photos and to sit for a few minutes for sure. We then followed more cairns (stacked rocks) all the way down to the main trail in the Park, Rattlesnake Creek Trail.
Once on the trail to Rattlesnake Creek, it was all uphill to Franklin Pass. The trail is washed out in places from the storm, but very easy to find. In fact, we met a trail crew member who was going to be working the area for the next week or so.
Once at Franklin Pass the trail down is well used and really easy to follow. There are two camp spots on the norther side of Franklin Lake. A grey bear box is at one of them. Otherwise just below the dam, say 150 feet, is a camping spot with a brown bear box. The remainder of the trail back down to Mineral King is simple and the grade is nice too. Easy to make good time.
Overall would do the trip again. I can see why some call it the “gem” of the wilderness on the Sequoia side. The geology and color rich earth with waterfalls makes it hard to leave, let alone the views from Silver Lake and onward. Very peaceful and we were the only ones till we arrived at the Rattlesnake Creek Trail. Lots of fish in Silver Lake.
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