Silver Lake is an “out and back” trip that is perfect for an extended weekend. You’ll pass over Farewell Gap into Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog habitat. There are no fish in the headwaters of the Little Kern River or Frog Lakes. If you want to fish, then power uphill to Silver Lake for plenty of fish. An optional return back to your vehicle will add one day, but you will minimize the amount of ground you’ll need to double back on.
Day 1 – Mineral King to Bullfrog Lakes (8.3 miles)
The trail begins at Mineral King. Once parked the trail goes south along the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The trail is well-marked and the views are spectacular. Water can be found at both creek crossings (Crystal and Franklin Creeks). The trail has been well designed and maintains a steady grade with long switchbacks for several miles (6.4 miles). Don’t forget to keep an eye out for marmots, wildflowers, and a view of the Mineral King valley.
Once you pass Franklin Creek, the trail gets steeper. Views of Tulare Peak to the southeast can been seen as well as Vandever Mountain near Farewell Gap. Continue trekking uphill and the trail will eventually arrive at Farewell Gap. At this point, the trail transitions over to the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Sequoia National Forest. Farewell Gap is also a divide between the Little Kern River and East Fork of the Kaweah River. Sometimes snow will stay on the south side well into the summer due to the strong winds that blow here.
After enjoying a break or the views from Farewell Gap, continue south and downhill for another mile. A faded trail cutoff will save 0.2 miles at this point and goes left/straight, while the main trail continues downhill and to the right. Take the cutoff and contour over to Bullfrog Creek. Once you cross the creek, the trail quickly goes uphill or downhill. Take it uphill towards Bullfrog Lakes. The last 0.8 mile stretch is very steep climb. The talis along the upper portion makes for a good ankle workout. Once at the top the trail ends at the lower lake. There are no fish in the lake, so no need to break out a fishing pole if you brought one.
Day 2 – Bullfrog Lakes to Silver Lake (7.2 miles)
Make your way back down the unmaintained rocky trail for about 1 mile. Make a left, going south, and follow along the eastern side of the Little Kern River drainage. It is a gentle downhill slope. Some of the brush along the trail is over grown, so watch your step. Enjoy an easy first couple of miles until you reach Broders Cabin. The cabin is no longer there, but you can see the flat in which it was built upon. At the trail junction, continue uphill and cross a small creek on your way to a vista point.
The vista point is about 0.5 miles from the junction. It provides a wonderful view of Farewell Gap and the upper portions of the Littler Kern River drainage. For the next mile the trail is a slight downhill grade to Shotgun Creek. Before crossing the creek, you’ll see an old sign and trail heading up a steep hill. This is the route to Silver Lake. A small set of switch backs along a very brushy trail lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes. The trail then enters some trees and makes its way up to Silver Lake. The trail is easier to find at this point and will continue marching uphill for about 2 to 2.5 miles. Once at the lake, the eastern and southern sides of the lake are best for camping. Set up your rod, if you brought one, and enjoy some fishing.
Day 3 and 4 – Returning Back the Way You Came
Simply follow the trail back to Bullfrog Lake for another nights stay and then to the trailhead on Day 4. Depending on your speed and physical condition, it is possible to do it in one day and skip by Bullfrog Lake.
Optional – Shotgun Pass to Franklin Lakes to Mineral King
An optional way of going back, so you don’t cover the same way twice, is to continue north to Shotgun Pass on Day 3. The trail drops down into the Sequoia National Park and junctions with a main trail approximately 1.5 miles later. You’ll go left towards Franklin Pass for about a mile and then proceed downhill, another 2 miles, to Franklin Lakes. Check with the Park, but you may be able to set up camp here for the night and then, on Day 4, have a 5 to 6 mile downhill trek to Mineral King. If you are considering doing it all on Day 3, keep in mind that staring in Mineral King to Franklin Pass is 8.3 miles.