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The High Sierra Trail: Segment 3 of 7

Precipice Lake to Moraine Lake
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Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 9.8 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  This is the third of a series of Guides to the High Sierra Trail, an approximately 70 mile trail that runs from Crescent Meadow on the... more »

Tips:  Campsites
There are plenty of campsites scattered through Big Arroyo. There is a bear box and a higher concentration of campsites just... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Kaweah Gap, Great Western Divide

After leaving Precipice Lake, the trail gradually climbs the last 300 feet to Kaweah Gap. The Gap marks the end of the long climb and is where the High Sierra Trail crosses the Great Western Divide (which divides the watersheds of the Kaweah, Kern and Kings rivers).

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At the Gap, look for the nearby plaque honoring Col. George Stewart, founder of Sequoia National Park. The peak to the north of the Gap is named after him.

From the Gap you experience the view down Big Arroyo to the Southeast, and a peek into 9 Lakes Basin to the north. Across from you are the Kaweahs, one of the many sub-ranges in the Sierra.

The High Sierra Trail descends from Kaweah Gap into Big Arroyo. If you want to camp at the heart-shaped lake just below the Gap, descend a few switchbacks and approach it via an obvious cross-country route.

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2. Water/Fishing Hole

As you descend into Big Arroyo you will see some opportunities to camp and refill your water, but this is the first big creek crossing where you will likely be able to reliably find water later in the season, and you'll probably get your feet wet earlier in the season.

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There are nice granite slabs around here that are just asking you to sit down and take a break. There is a hole that is packed with little brook trout so if you've brought a fishing pole along it's worth a few casts.

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3. Old Big Arroyo Patrol Cabin

While not exactly *on* the High Sierra Trail, this cabin is about 500 feet down the trail to Little Five Lakes. It's worth a quick side trip, and also offers some nice campsites (including bear boxes).

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This is an old cabin that is still standing strong. It is not open to the public; it is used by the park service as a Patrol Cabin/SAR headquarters. Unfortunately, information on the history of this cabin is lacking, but it's likely a remnant of when this area was used by sheep farmers long before becoming a National Park.

Later in the year, this may be your last water source until Moraine Lake (approximately 7 miles away) so tank up!

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4. Water Source (unreliable)

While not a particularly long or steep climb (by Sierra standards), the trail out of Big Arroyo is hot and exposed. You will go through a lot of water, especially if hiking this stretch mid-day.

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There are a few creek crossings on the map (this POI is the biggest), and while they are a good source of water for most of the season, you should not rely on them in a dry season or later in the summer - make sure to fill up before starting up.

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5. NOT A LAKE

This is an odd little spot on the trail. USGS maps show a lake at this location, but the lake has long been dry. What now exists is a dried up field of boulders that is slowly being overtaken by grasses.

In other words, do not rely on this as a water source. The next reliable water source is Moraine Lake or Chagoopa Creek.

6. Trail Junction - Decision Point

The trail splits at this junction. The official High Sierra trail route goes to the left, following Chagoopa Creek. To the right, the trail will take you past Moraine Lake. In either case, they join back together in a couple of miles in Sky Parlor Meadow.

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Most people actually take the Moraine Lake fork since the lake is a nice destination for camping.

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7. Moraine Lake Campsites and Bear Box

Moraine Lake is a nice destination for camping and offers a bear box, lots of space to spread out, and a nice temperature for swimming.

Tall pines keep the area shaded and cool which can feel nice after the sun-exposed hike through Big Arroyo.