Baxter Pass – The Loneliest Pass In The Sierra
Just North of Independence, Ca.
There is a dirt road that runs West towards the Eastern crest of the High Sierra.
Chances are good that you won’t see any other vehicles on this road. It is rarely traveled.
At the end of this road is a trail head that starts nicely enough along a rushing creek but soon starts up a long canyon over a trail that is overgrown in many parts. The trail leads up to one of the most striking, beautiful and rarely visited passes in the High Sierra; Baxter Pass.
Following is a guide to hiking this pass and beyond. What to see, where to camp, secret fishing tips and where to exit at the end of your trip. If you are able to bring a second vehicle to park at a different exit point then you will have options to travel through some of the best and most beautiful parts of the Sierra before leaving.
Baxter Pass Day #1
Maps needed – USGS 7.5 minute Mt. Clarence King , Aberdeen (These two will get you over the pass down to Rae Lakes and much of the area surrounding Rae Lakes
The dirt road rises steeply to the trail head which starts at approximately 6,000 feet.
Travel West on a dirt road just North of the town of Independence. It is called the Bell Access Road which turns in to Oak Creek Road ends at a the Oak Creek Campground. The road ends and the trail begins at 6,000. The trail starts up a gentle, sandy ascent along the North side of the creek bed. There is a great variety of flora here including sagebrush, juniper and mountain mahogany. Oak Creek is never far from the trail so most years you should have access to water all the way to the pass.
After about 2 miles, at an altitude now of 8,800 feet the trail crosses the creek which can be difficult in the spring. Then it begins to switchback up through flowery meadows and brush until you reach Summit Meadow about 3 miles from the trail-head. As this is near the creek it is a good place to camp for the night.
Baxter Pass Day #2
As you clear your way through the thick vegetation at Summit Meadow and begin to climb rapidly, you begin to wonder where the pass is. The way seems to be blocked by the towering marbled rock of Diamond Peak (13, 120). When you reach 11,000 feet it seems there is nowhere else to go but over one or the other shoulders of this peak when the trail suddenly bends to the right.
The last 1,000 feet of gain is steep over loose rock which can be very warm in the midday sun. When you reach the crest you feel the cool breeze in your face and are rewarded with fine views of the Owens Valley to the right; Acrodectes Peak in front of you with Mount Baxter on its East flank.
Between you and Mt. Baxter is a bowl of multicolored bands that look like a recent lava flow. You wonder if you might be on Mars. Beyond in the Owens Valley and The White Mountains.
Congratulations, you have climbed up to one of the most difficult and loneliest passes in the Eastern Sierra.
From here you make your way down to Baxter Lakes where you will find good camping with no company to bother you during your stay.
Baxter Pass Day #3 and Beyond
Where to go from here? There are several great options.
From Baxter Lakes the trail descends to Dollar Lake and the junction with John Muir trail with beautiful Rae Lakes just below. You can spend time at Rae Lakes and explore Sixty Lakes Basin and return the way you came. OR
You can take the John Muir Trail North to the Sawmill Pass / Woods Lake trail and exit over Sawmill Pass
You can go left at the junction of the John Muir Trail and the Woods Creek trail and follow it around and down to the Kings River and exit at Cedar Grove on the West side. You can also take the Bubbs Creek trail at the footbridge crossing the Kings River and follow it east to Vidette Meadow where it rejoins the John Muir trail then come back over Glenn Pass (11,992) and return to Rae Lakes then exit back over Baxter Pass. NOTE: This part of the Sierra is one of the most beautiful you will find. It is green and forested with plenty of water. It is also very popular with hikers and bears.
Lastly, instead of going over Glen Pass you can take the Bullfrog Lake/ Kearsarge Pass trail and exit there.
What I did on my visit to Baxter Pass was quite different.
From Rae Lakes we traveled South on the JMT crossing Glenn Pass (11,992). We then continued down the JMT, along Bubbs Creek and crossed over Forester Pass (13,000 ft) then down to the headwaters of the Kern River. There we spent a couple of days fishing for Golden Trout at Lake South America and several un-named lakes in the area before returning to our car via the Tyndall Creek Basin and Shepherd Pass.
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Hopefully this information is helpful to you. Should you do this hike I would love to hear from you email@example.com. You can also email me at this address should you have any trouble with your download of if you have any questions.
Happy Trails !!