Silver Bearpaw Trail

Silver Bearpaw Trail Notes by Ken McGlynn

Campsite List - possible places to stay along the trail

Clover Creek
Twin Lakes
Ranger Lakes
Lost Lake - about 3/4 mile off main trail
Comanche Meadow - in Sugarloaf Valley
Sugarloaf Stream Crossing - about 1-1/2 mile before Ferguson Creek
Ferguson Creek
Roaring River Ranger Station at Scaffold Meadow
First stream crossing in Deadman Canyon
Second stream crossing in Deadman Canyon - Quiet Village
Grave campsite in Deadman Canyon
Drift fence campsite in Deadman Canyon
Big Bird Lake - 1/2 mile steep climb from the drift fence
Tamarack Lake trail junction at Lone Pine Creek
Hamilton Lake trail junction at Lone Pine Creek
Bearpaw Meadow
Panther Gap trail junction with the High Sierra Trail
  - about 1/4 mile up the Panther Gap Trail

Most of the aforementioned sites are somewhat improved, sometimes a table or two, and all have water readily available depending on seasonal conditions.

The wide choice of where to stay obviously offers the hiker an opportunity to split up his trip in any way he wishes to do so. Some campsites, such as Twin, the Deadman Canyon sites and Bearpaw, are more popular and unavailable on occasion. Again, before a campsite is chosen, the impact should be weighed. The number of hikers on the trip, the meals to be cooked or not cooked, and the condition of the site itself are factors to be considered. There are a sufficient number of sites on the trail to make this determination of ecological balance most flexible.

When a High Sierra trip is planned, the type of country surrounding the main trail should always be taken into account. Side trips, with or without pack, are an excellent way to add variety to a walk. Nothing feels better than to take off your backpack and walk without it after carrying it for days.

The Silver Bearpaw offers great opportunities for side excursions that will please the mountaineer, the fisherman or just the sunbather.

Big Bird Lake - about 1/2 mile off of the main trail

This lake is by far the most popular side trip on the entire hike. Because of its immense size, it’s truly a worthwhile place to see. The fishing is usually pretty good, since there are usually few people, but the water is quite cold for swimming, though not impossibly so. The short hike to the lake offers spectacular views of the glaciated walls of Deadman Canyon.

Lost Lake - about 3/4 mile off of the main trail

Lost Lake is hardly as spectacular as Big Bird but it is most beautiful in its own way. The lake is similar in setting to Ranger or Twin as it is a relatively small mirror set in a wooded area. Once again, the fishing is better than Twin or Ranger because it is a bit off the trail. Camping is very nice since there usually is an improved site available. Swimming is possible because the size of the lake serves to keep the water tolerably warm.

Hamilton Lakes - about 4 miles from the main trail

The main Hamilton lake lies on the High Sierra Trail. Consequently, it is very heavily used. the lake is in a granite setting with the imposing trail up to Kaweah Gap traversing over it. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to get a campsite at Hamilton because of the number of campers using it. The trail up to the lake is slightly difficult but offers a spectacular view of Angel Wing, a delicate but massive granite outcropping. Fishing at Hamilton is poor.

Tamarack Lake - about 4 miles from the main trail

Tamarack is a beautiful, if small, lake nestled in a canyon running parallel to Hamilton Lakes. The fishing is usually quite good since it is less used than Hamilton. Tamarack is shallower than most lakes making it quite good for swimming. It also has a small cabin on its banks that is an adequate emergency shelter for a few people if is is not occupied.

Other interesting side trips

A hike up Cloud Canyon will offer the backpacker a view of one of the most spectacular canyons in the Sierra. Cloud is at least as pretty as Deadman and well worth the trip. Coppermine pass connects the two canyons at the top at the site of an early mine. The pass is not maintained but usually passable. Cloud is highly recommended for the unit with two or three extra days.

A trip to Tamarack offers the mountaineer a chance to climb Triple Divide Peak and Lion Rock. Triple Divide is accessible from the top of Deadman Canyon, also. Hamilton offers Mt. Stewart, Eagle Scout and, over Kaweah Gap, a beautiful view of the Kaweah Peaks Range. These trips are once again recommended for the more physically adventurous.

Equipment List

While each hiker has his own method of packing, here are a few suggestions on what to bring:

A good pack, preferably on a good frame that will not fall apart and will ride softly on the back. There is no reason to have miserable, raw shoulders or hips. the pack and frame should be tested beforehand and adjusted where needed. Remember, the flatter and higher a pack sits on your back, the less leverage will be pulling at your shoulders. A belly band is a must.

A warm but light sleeping bag is important. Down is preferable, but there is nothing wrong with a Dacron or whatever type bag that has been tested for warmth and packability beforehand.

A ground cloth or poncho is a must for insulation from dampness when sleeping or during a summer shower.

A tube tent or at least one per every two people is a must since there are occasional night showers. Don’t forget rope for it and perhaps a few clothespins with which to hold up the ends.

A sweater and perhaps a light nylon jacket are very handy for chilly mornings and evenings, or for fending off mosquitoes.

Shorts are recommended for hiking. A pair of long pants, sweatpants or pajamas come in handy during the evenings for use with the sweater.

Two changes of socks are sufficient. Socks can be washed and dried very quickly on the trail.

A few pairs of underpants and an extra shirt or t-shirt also come in handy.

Last, but not least, a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. Vibram soles are a good bet but not necessary. The main point is that the boots must fit well, be comfortable, and like the pack, must be tested. They must be well broken in. Again, there is no reason for misery. You will be walking over rocks.

Don’t forget your personal gear, but pack with weight and comfort in mind. You don’t need a beach towel as a small hand towel will do. An air mattress is quite heavy - why not get close to the earth for a week? Don’t forget a book on the plants, the geology, or the animals of the High Sierra; you may learn something. Use your head and your imagination but remember that you must carry it. You can be comfortable without carrying 50 lbs (or even 20 lbs). Don’t be afraid of wearing dirty clothes or of getting dirty.

Warning! This information is about 40 years old. It is presented for historical reference only. -ed.