The North Fork of Big Pine Creek Trailhead - is nothing more than a parking lot, with a few storage lockers here and there along with an outhouse (as you can see in the photos below. But the real beauty lies in what it leads to. It provides access to some of the finest scenery in all the Sierra.From spring through most of the summer, you will pass by beautiful wildflowers, several lakes, beautiful meadows, and spectacular views of Middle Palisade, Disappointment Peak, Mt. Agassiz, along with Mt Sill, Polemonium Peak, North Palisade, Starlight Peak, Thunderbolt Peak, and several others once the Palisade Glacier is attained.
The Palisade group is the most alpine subrange in the Sierra Nevada, and is certainly a mecca for climbers, hikers, and backpackers of all skill levels. Just hiking along the North Fork of Big Pine Creek is a treat all in itself no matter what your goal is. As with most climbs on the Eastern Side of the Sierra's, we usually leave for the mountains after work on a Friday, and drive to the trailhead in the evening, and spend the night at the trailhead parking lot. This gives us some time to acclimate for altitude sickness purposes. It also makes an early start in the morning possible. Also notice the dry conditions at the trailhead during the summer months. Even though the trailhead is at 7,700 feet above sea level, the terrain on the Eastern Side of the Sierra during the hot summer months can seem like a desert. But after a few miles of hiking you will enter into a rich forest area which will then give way to beautiful lakes and lush green meadows. Above you see the end of the for the Day Hiker Parking Area (7,814 ft). There is not many places to park here, and the roadside parking is limited down a bit lower. So you need to get here early, or you may have to use the Overnight parking option. You are not allowed to leave your vehicle here overnight. On a couple of trips, when we have a fairly large group, we will take everyone (along with their packs) to the day hikers parking lot. There we will drop everyone in the group (along with their gear, including the drivers backpack, etc) and this makes it so only the driver has to go back down to the overnight parking area and hike back up. This saves about a mile and a half on the trail which we find helpful. Both the overnight hikers trailhead and the day hikers trailhead intersect a bit up higher on the trail which makes both options totally workable. Shortly after beginning you hike, you will be greated with the Big Pine Creek Trailhead sign and so rules and regulations and then a Trail Sign letting you know that you are on the North Fork/South Fork Trail. Make sure to always follow the North Fork signs and not the South Fork, unless you are climbing the Middle Palisade which is also a fine climb. The North Fork will be the best bet for gaining the Palisade Glacier (which is the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada and in my opinion the best approach for climbing either or both the North Palisade, Polemonium Peak, and Mt Sill. But this is only the start, for the makeup of this beautifully varied landscape is why the Palisade group of peaks are considered one of the finest alpine hiking and climbing areas in all of California. Email Sign Up
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