Inyo – SHR/JMT Hybrid

Location Inyo NF, CA. Devil’s Postpile Trailhead.
Distance 30 miles
Total Elevation Gain 7300 ft
Topographic Map

This is a great introductory route for testing and understanding off-trail travel. It offers a taste of off-trail travel with the safety net of a nearby trail. If you have never gone off-trail before, I can guarantee that the cross over Nancy Pass will be one of your most memorable backpacking moments.

The segment of this route is spectacular! You’ll cross over moon-scape like passes and shockingly blue alpine lakes. All the while, you’ll hardly see another person.

After spending time on the Sierra High Route, route finding and crossing passes in the shadow of Ritter and Banner, you hobble, scramble, and hop down the banks of Thousand Island lake to meet the John Muir Trail.

Doing the loop in this direction has the downside of the JMT seeming less spectacular after your off-trail portion. However, it is safer to do it this way because it leaves the option of bailing to the trail if you find the off-trail portion taking too long.

  • To enter the national forest, you’ll need a wilderness permit for Minaret Lake.
  • On the approach to Nancy Pass you may think you’re in the wrong place–especially if you’ve never gone over a pass off-trail before. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place and the pass isn’t as bad as it looks.
  • The pass over to Cecile Lake from Minaret is a bit tricky and involves a class 2/class 3 scramble. If you’re having a hard time finding the pass, look for a small trail that winds along the east side of the lake.
  • Off-trail travel takes about twice as long as hiking on a trail. Take whatever distance you normally go on a trail and half it to estimate how long this route will take. Four days is a pretty safe estimate for an average backpacker.

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