The Big Pine Canyon Glacierssee map
Big Pine Canyon is the location of the southernmost glacier in the United States, and the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada.
The Palisade Glacier sits at the base of the Palisade Crest in the North Fork Basin,. Climbers and hikers alike are familiar with the impressive wall of 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks; most notable are North Palisade (14,242'), Mt. Sill (14,1632'), Mt. Agassiz (13,891') and Mt. Winchell (13,768').
The Middle Palisade Glacier, dominated by 14,040-foot Middle Palisade, is found in South Fork Basin. Glacier melt from Palisade and Middle Palisade, produces the unique torquoise hue of First, Second, Third, and Finger Lakes.
Both North and South Fork trails provide spectacular scenery and are well worth at least a day hike during your stay in the canyon. No wilderness permit is needed for day trips, but is required for overnight stays in the backcountry.
Big Pine Creek Canyon North (photo) and South (photo) Fork trails pass a chain of 15 lakes on the way to the glacier areas. These spectacular rugged glacier fed lakes are well stocked with good sized trout, the higher ones with the ever-treasured golden trout. Both trails provide beautiful scenery. Day hikers or riders should plan a full day for these trips. Baker Lake trails from the pack station cross Logger's Flat on Baker Ridge to 10 remote lakes in a beautiful alpine setting.
North Fork, Big Pine Canyon
This is a hike of up to 19 miles which accesses the Big Pine lakes and the Palisades Glacier. The trail generally follows the north fork of the Big Pine creek, weaving among lodgepole pine, aspen and jeffrey pine with some switchbacks, passing a stone cabin built by movie actor Lon Chaney. The trail takes hikers past Lakes 1, 2 and 3. Third Lake is fed directly from the Palisade Glacier, causing it to be a milky turquoise color. Temple Crag (photo) looms over the trail and can be seen before one even reaches the first lake.
Mileages from the trailhead (one-way): First Lake - 4.5 miles/9900' (photo), Second Lake - 4.8 miles/10,000', Third Lake - 5.5 miles/10,400', Fourth Lake - 6.5miles/10,750', Palisade Glacier - 9 miles/12,400'.
South Fork, Big Pine Canyon
This hike takes the hiker to Willow Lake at 4 miles/9600' and Brainard Lake at 5 miles/10,650'. The trail is more exposed than the North Fork and gives access to the Middle Palisade Glacier.
Inyo National Forest Information - http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/wild.html
Major peaks in the area:Temple Crag 12,999 FT.
Mt. Sill 14,162 FT.
Polemonium Peak 14,000 FT.
North Palisade 14,242 FT.
Thunderbolt Peak 14,000 FT.
Mt. Winchell 13,768 FT.
Mt. Agassiz 13,891 FT.
Split Mountain 14,058 FT.
Trail heads in the area:Taboose Pass
North and South Fork Big Pine Creek Trailhead Photo
Overnight trailhead parking for the north and south fork of Big Pine Creek is available 7/10ths mile east of Glacier Lodge. Day parking is available in a small lot just at the entrance to Glacier Lodge.
If you plan to stay overnight in the Gold Trout, John Muir, Ansel Adams and Hoover Wilderness areas, you will need a wilderness permit year-round. Permits are NOT available at Glacier Lodge. For more information about wilderness permits and how to reserve one, please visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/wild/howto.shtml or call (760) 873-2485. (taken from the Inyo National Forest web site)
Wilderness permits for certain areas are under a quota, meaning that a limited number of people are allowed entry into the wilderness each day, per trailead. Most trailheads have quotas in effect from the last Friday in June through September 15. Outside of quota periods, when stations are not open, you may self-issue a wilderness permit at ranger stations and visitors center on the forest. Visitors are urged to schedule their trips in advance so as not to be disappointed.