8.4 miles, Full day
This is the first of a series of Guides to the High Sierra Trail, an approximately 70 mile trail that runs from Crescent Meadow on the western side of the Sierra Nevada to Whitney Portal on the eastern slope. Each segment roughly corresponds to a day on the trail. This Guide describes Segment 1 of 7: Crescent Meadow/Wolverton to 9-Mile Creek.
The HST officially begins at Crescent Meadow, but starting from the trailhead at Wolverton is also an option. This Guide's track includes both approaches. Distance and elevation gain differences between the two starting points is minimal. Starting from Wolverton makes the permit situation a bit easier since fewer people use this trailhead. Purists, however, will prefer to stick to the official starting point of the High Sierra Trail at Crescent Meadow.
The trail contours and gradually climbs along a steep ridge. To the right, the ridge drops to the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. To your left, the ridge rises to the summit of Alta Peak at over 11,000 feet. The trail is generally exposed and sunny, lined with massive quantities of colorful wildflowers in the prime hiking season.
Due to this steep ridge, the first flat-ish established campsite opportunity is at 9-Mile Creek - this creek is not labeled as such on maps, but is often referred to as 9-Mile due to its location of approximately nine miles from the trailhead.
The campsites at 9-Mile aren't the greatest - there are only a few spots and most are sloped. For other camp options, you can move on to the next creek crossing (Buck) or all the way to the backpacker camp at Bearpaw Meadow. All three locations have bear boxes for food storage.
You must camp a minimum of 2 miles from the nearest trailhead. There is a dry campsite near Panther Gap (dry = no water). Otherwise, the first camp area is at 9-Mile Creek (see POIs)
I have personally experienced bears on this stretch of trail. They are active at 9-Mile Creek - keep a close eye on all of your food and keep it packed away in the bear box or your bear canister when not in use.
This is a great stretch for wildflower and wildlife photography.
Since this is the first day on the trail, it is a good idea to take it easy and pay attention to your body. As the days go on you will grow stronger and acclimate to the altitude, but day 1 can be tough. Don't over do it, and make sure to factor in the extra time it can take to shuttle, pick up the permit, and get organized at the trailhead.