Trip Details

Duration: 6 days

Group size: 4-12 participants

Trip Rating: Moderate

Price: $1750 per person

Date: July 7-12, 2019

Horseshoe Meadow to Horseshoe Meadow

  6. MAPS
Trip Overview:

Arrive at Cottonwood Pack Station by 7:00 AM where your gear will be weighed and you will be served a hearty breakfast. Your personal vehicles will be left in the Cottonwood Pack Station parking area.

Begin and end at Horseshoe Meadow

Streams meander through tree-rimmed meadows. Three creeks encompass the native habitat of the California state fish, the brightly colored golden trout. We camp near each of the creeks, with ample opportunity to angle for these beautiful fish. Making your way through this section of the Southern Sierra, you will sample a bit of the old west, skirt ancient volcanoes, enjoy the spectacular scenery of Miter Basin, and traverse a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hikers should be able to walk 13 miles, 2,000’ elevation gain and 2,500’ loss. You should acclimate to at least 8,000’ to 10,000’ for 1-3 days prior to the trip.

Elevation Profile: 44.2 miles, 6,400’ total gain and loss on moving days

GENERAL:This trip requires many stream crossings and some may require wading. Hikers should be prepared with trekking poles as well as sandals or water shoes to ford creeks.

Moving Day 1: Horseshoe Meadow over Trail Pass to Ramshaw Meadows
11.9-12.9 miles, 1,150’ gain, 2,400’ loss
The path drops 100’ from the pack station to join the Cottonwood Pass trail. Follow the trail west a short distance to the Trail Pass junction at mile 0.3, turning left to cross Horseshoe Meadow toward Trail Pass. In one mile, the path will merge with a trail running along the east side of the meadow as it continues up 600’ through forest to 10,500’ Trail Pass and the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Enjoy views of the Golden Trout Wilderness before continuing straight, to drop 1,150’ in 2.3 miles through open forest to the trail junction at Mulkey Meadow, a favorite lunch spot. There are two routes to camp from this point.

Option 1: Turn right at the Mulkey Pass/Tunnel Meadow trail junction toward Tunnel Meadow. The trail skirts the northern edge of Bullfrog Meadow before climbing a low ridge and then descends along the South Fork of the Kern River, our first native golden trout creek, through Tunnel Meadow. Watch for the abandoned air strip as you pass through the meadow and an unnatural dip in the trail at the end of the meadow where it crosses a collapsed tunnel dug in the 1880s to divert water from Golden Trout Creek into the South Fork of the Kern River. Go straight toward Little Whitney Meadow at the Golden Trout Creek Trail junction at mile 10.6. In another 0.3 miles, turn left at the Ramshaw Meadow junction to follow the South Fork of the Kern River past the east side of Red Hill. Cross the Kern Peak Stringer in 1.3 miles and then turn right in another 0.2 miles on an unmarked trail to parallel the Kern Peak Stringer for about ½ mile to camp.

Option 2: Continue straight across the Mulkey Pass/Tunnel Meadow trail toward Templeton Meadows. The trail stays close to the stream for 1.6 miles as it crosses Mulkey Meadow, before climbing 300’ in 1.1 miles over a low ridge. The path drops 800’ over the next 1.5 miles to the eastern end of Ramshaw Meadow. Leave the Templeton Meadow trail, turning right to follow the north side of Ramshaw Meadow for 2.5 miles toward Red Hill. Finally, cross the South Fork of the Kern River to the west side of the meadow as you approach Red Hill and follow the unmarked trail that parallels the south side of the Kern Peak Stringer for about ½ mile up to camp. We recommend scheduling at least one layover day at this camp to fish the South Fork of the Kern River and to hike up to Kern Peak for fabulous views of the Kern River drainage and the southern Sierra. See the Layover Day Hikes in the next section for a detailed description. Water is readily available from Mulkey Meadow to camp in normal water conditions.

Moving Day 2: Ramshaw Meadows to Little Whitney Meadows
When one thinks of the Sierra, one thinks of granite peaks. The uplift that brought the granite to the surface also created pathways for magma to reach the surface, creating volcanic cones and basalt flows. Both routes, listed below, pass by the Groundhog Cinder Cone and miles of ancient basalt flows on their way to Little Whitney Meadow.

Via Groundhog Meadow 6 miles, 200’ gain, 600’ loss.

This short, relatively flat day offers anglers the opportunity to fish Golden Trout Creek. Return to the junction with the Tunnel Meadow trail turning left toward Little Whitney Meadow. After rejoining the trail, go 0.3 miles to the Bear Meadow junction and turn right. In another 0.6 miles, at the Volcano Meadow junction, turn right again, always following the trail signs to Little Whitney Meadow. The path follows Golden Trout Creek through Groundhog Meadow and past Cinder Cone and ancient lava flows before arriving at Little Whitney Meadow. Cross the meadow from the junction or navigate around the end of the meadow to our camp on the west side of the meadow. Watch for the rustic cabins of the historical Little Whitney Cow Camp at the north end of the meadow.

Via Volcano Meadow (route 2) 8+ miles, 600’ gain, 1,000’ loss. An alternate route is through Volcano Meadow. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, “The Volcano Creek strain of California golden trout is considered to be the most genetically pure population within the native range.” This infrequently visited area of the Golden Trout Wilderness offers spectacular views and a high probability of wildlife sightings. Due to the lack of visitors and fishing pressure, the beautiful golden trout of Volcano Creek are plentiful and willing to bite. Return to the junction with the Tunnel Meadow trail turning left toward Little Whitney Meadow. After rejoining the trail, go 0.3 miles to the Bear Meadow junction and turn right. In another 0.6 miles, at the Volcano Meadow junction, turn left onto the lightly used Volcano Meadow trail. Cross Golden Trout Creek and then climb 300’ over the saddle to the south side of Cinder Cone before dropping 450’ to Volcano Meadow. Follow Volcano Creek almost to the junction with Golden Trout Creek before the path turns north to trace the western edge of the lava flow to the south end of Little Whitney Meadow. Cross Golden Trout Creek and walk north along the west side of the meadow to our camp.

Water is readily available throughout the day in normal water years.

Moving Day 3: Little Whitney Meadows to Big Whitney Meadows
8.6 miles, 2,200’ gain, 850’ loss.
Walk around the north side of Little Whitney Meadows to the trail that will follow Johnson Creek north, passing through Salt Lick Meadow before crossing to the east side of the creek. The trail climbs 1,900’ in five miles to a saddle east of Johnson Peak before dropping 200’ to the meadows of Barigan Stringer. Cross the creek to encounter two trail junctions. The first junction is the Rocky Basin Lakes Trail; go to the right. The second junction in just 0.1 miles is the Barigan Stringer Trail; go to the left toward Big Whitney Meadow to climb 200’ over a low ridge before dropping 500’ to the Siberian Pass junction at the edge of Big Whitney Meadow. Follow the trail east toward Cottonwood Pass 1/3 mile to our camp on the right side of the trail.

There is reliable water at the Johnson Creek and Barigan Stringer crossings.

Moving Day 4: Big Whitney Meadows to Upper Rock Creek
6.3 miles, 1,400’ gain, 750' loss.
Return to the Siberian Pass junction and turn right to climb 1,150’ in 3.2 miles to the pass. The trail crosses the desolate Siberian Outpost for 0.7 miles to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Continue straight toward the New Army Pass junction, mile 5.3, and the Soldier Lakes junction, mile 5.8. The lower Soldier Lake is just up to the right of the Soldier Lake junction, but your path drops down 400’ in ½ mile to camp at the eastern edge of the meadow surrounding Rock Creek Lake. The camp at Upper Rock Creek is a comfortable location with excellent layover options. One can spend a relaxing day following the creek as it winds through meadows and cascades over slick rock or follow the trail back up to Soldier Lake. Miter Basin and Mt. Langley will call to the more adventurous hikers. See the Layover Day Hikes in the next section for detailed descriptions.

Moving Day 5: Upper Rock Creek over Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadow
10.4 miles, 1,450’ gain, 1,800’ loss
Follow the trail up to the Soldier Lake junction, 400’ in ½ mile. Turn right and follow the path past the junction of New Army Pass, mile 1.0, to the Pacific Crest Trail at mile 2.3. Go left at the junction toward Cottonwood Pass to undulate through open forest past Chicken Spring Lake to the pass, mile 6.7. Leave the Pacific Crest Trail toward Horseshoe Meadow, dropping 1,400’ in 3.7 miles to the pack station.

The only reliable water is at Chicken Spring Lake.


Safety, trail conditions, weather, group interest and other factors play a part in determining the final route for this trip. Many options exist.

Miter Basin
6.0 miles, 1,100’ gain and loss
There is an unmaintained trail that follows Rock Creek into Miter Basin from near the small lake. The trail climbs through open forest to a large meadow and then continues up the basin to a mix of slick rock and meadow where you are surrounded by 13,000’-14,000’ peaks, about two miles and 700’ elevation gain. You can follow the drainage up an additional mile and 400’ elevation gain to beautiful Sky Blue Lake. Other lake basins and Crabtree Pass (12+ miles round trip, 2,400’ gain and loss) are options. Your distance depends on how far you elect to venture into the basin.
Water is readily available in Miter Basin in normal rain years.
Summit Mt. Langley
11+ miles, 3,700’ gain and loss
To travel to the top of Mt. Langley, return to the Rock Creek Trail trail past the Soldier Lake junction and then turn left at the junction to New Army Pass. Ascend toward New Army Pass, watching for an unmaintained trail to (Old) Army Pass on the left. Turn north and ascend the scree and gravel on the south slopes of Mount Langley. The slope gets steeper towards the end. The easiest route is found by skirting the summit plateau slightly to the left to avoid the steep rock straight ahead. Once the plateau is reached, travel straight north, and when you reach the steep North Face of Langley, turn right and head west toward the summit. The summit is an unimpressive platform of sand and rocks, but the views in all directions are amazing. Source: http://www.summitpost.org/army-pass-normal-route/156296.
Water is available to Soldier Lake and may be available part way up the New Army Pass Trail.


Location Daily
Cottonwood Pack Station/Horseshoe Meadow 0.0 10,065
Cottonwood Pass/Trail Pass Junction 0.3 9,950
Junction from Eastern Trailhead 1.3 10,000
Trail Pass 2.3 10,500
Templeton Meadows Trail Junction 4.6 9,350
Big Whitney Meadows Trail Junction 10.6 8,930
Ramshaw Meadows Junction 10.9 8,920
Ramshaw Meadows Camp 12.9 12.9 8,800
Return to Ramshaw Meadows Junction14.98,920
Bear Meadow Junction 15.2 8,910
Volcano Meadow Junction 15.8 8,890
Johnson Creek Trail Junction 18.5 8,440
Little Whitney Meadow Camp 6.0 18.9 8,400
Johnson Peak Ridge 24.1 10,300
Rocky Basin Lakes Junction 24.6 10,085
Big Whitney Meadow/Siberian Pass Junction 27.2 9,750
Big Whitney Meadow Camp8.6 27.5 9,800
Big Whitney Meadow/Siberian Pass Junction 27.8 9,750
Siberian Pass 31.0 10,900
Pacific Crest Trail Junction 31.7 11,060
New Army Pass Junction 32.8 10,940
Soldier Lake Junction 33.3 10,800
Upper Rock Creek Camp 6.3 33.8 10,400
Soldier Lake Junction 34.3 10,800
New Army Pass Junction 34.8 11,060
Pacific Crest Trail Junction 35.9 11,340
Leave Sequoia National Park 36.8 8,830
Chicken Springs Lake 39.9 11,220
Cottonwood Pass 40.5 10,680
Cottonwood Pack Station/Horseshoe Meadow 10.4 44.2 10,065
* Distances and elevations based on Tom Harrison maps. Please note that this represents the planned itinerary. Weather or other factors may affect the choice of campsites and daily travel. All decisions are made by the Head Packer with attention to the safety and comfort of guests and stock.


Day To Elevation Latitude N Longitude W Miles Gain Loss
1Ramshaw Meadows8,80036.351118.27112.91,1502,400
2Little Whitney Meadow 8,400 36.373118.348 6.0200600
3Big Whitney Meadow 9,800 36.435118.269 8.62,200 850
4Upper Rock Creek10,40036.495118.280 6.31,400 750
5Horseshoe Meadow10,06536.451118.172 10.4 1,450 1,800
Total 44.2 6,400 6,400
*Mileage, gain, and loss based on Guthook’s PCT Guide.
Sheep at Soldier Lake
Guitar Lake
Timberline Lake
Rock Creek Meadow
What you need to know…for riders


We supply horses, saddles, food, kitchen and eating utensils, and camping equipment. Dormitory tents will be provided for men and women. Private tents for couples or singles will be reserved by request. Food will be plentiful and deluxe in quality. We provide the preparation of meals; any help is appreciated but not mandatory. Those desiring to learn how to pack may participate in making up loads and packing the mules.


  1. Check-in time is 7 a.m. at Rock Creek Pack Station except when OTHER LOCATION is specified.
  2. Free parking for guests' cars at pack station.
  3. Breakfast is served the first day while the mules are being loaded. The last meal furnished is lunch the last day.
  4. We provide a small saddle bag for trail necessities. Please do not bring your own saddle bags or day packs unless they are pocket size. Participants may not carry large camera cases with extra lenses on the saddle. If you have extra camera equipment, it can be packed in your duffel or in a safe place on mules.
  5. You will be limited to 3 lbs. in the saddle bag, which includes your lunch. Your jacket and rain gear are not included in the 3 lbs. and may be tied on the back of the saddle. No day packs allowed on riders' backs.
  6. Each person is assigned a horse for the duration of the trip with regard to the guest's weight, height, and ability.
  7. Dunnage limit is 30 lbs. per person (this includes sleeping bags, fishing equipment, liquor, etc.). There will be a surcharge of $3 to $10 per pound on dunnage in excess of the 30 lbs. You may bring your own tent if under 10 lbs. which will not be included in 30 lb. weight limit.
  8. Trip fee does not include alcoholic beverages or lodging night before and after trip.
  9. Gratuities are optional and a personal choice.
  10. Trip will terminate in the late afternoon of last day.
  11. Free shuttle back to Rock Creek Pack Station for trips terminating at other road heads.
  12. Reservation form must be accurately completed. The information on age, height, weight and riding ability is used to assign riding animals. Failure to provide accurate information may result in the participant being denied going on the trip with loss of trip fee.
  13. We advise guests to purchase cancellation and trip travel insurance.
  14. Participants will be sent an assumption of risk and a liability release form. All guests must assume the risk and sign the forms before using Rock Creek's service. Our forms have excellent guidelines for riding safety that we ask you to study.
  15. The pack station does not boil or treat water. Campsites are remote enough that we feel safe in using the water. It you want to purify water bring your own filter pump or purification tablets.


Bring belongings in stout canvas or nylon duffels; side zipper recommended, ideal size approximately 14" x 32". It is a good idea to use a large plastic bag INSIDE of the duffle to protect contents from external moisture.

Sleeping bags can be in separate duffels --again, line the inside of the duffle against rain.

Place all cosmetics, soaps, medications, etc into small plastic containers with close-fitting caps, THEN into sturdy resealable plastic storage bags. If anything breaks or bursts from altitude changes, the plastic bag contains the spill.

When possible, it is a good idea to transfer alcoholic beverages to sturdy plastic bottles with well fitting caps - it will save weight and protect against breakage.

Check in fishing worms and bottle goods separately; don't put in duffel. Place fishing rods in metal or plastic cases.

You will be given a small saddle bag that goes on your saddle horn to carry your lunch and a few personal items. (Weight limit 3 lbs - including lunch).

Remember - try to minimize the weight of your dunnage by packaging only the amount of any item you will need (like soaps, lotions and medications).


  • Sleeping bag with a comfort range of 20 to 60 degrees and a moisture proof ground cloth.
  • Air mattress or small 1/4"-1/2" foam hip pad recommended - your night's rest will affect your next days enjoyment. Bring the best sleeping pad you can manage.
  • Broad-brimmed hat is essential for protection from sun at high altitude. It must have strings to keep from blowing off.
  • Sunglasses (RX glasses) - high altitude sun is BRIGHT!
  • Coffee mug (plastic for camp)
  • Pint water bottle for your horn bag
  • Pocket knife or small multi-tool
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Camera and film (sturdy strap)-- if using digital - don't forget an extra battery and card
  • Rain jackets and pants or slicker (rolled up you can tie them to the back of your saddle)
  • Hat protector (to keep your hat dry)
  • Light jacket (windbreaker)
  • Wool or fleece pullover/sweater (layers will keep you comfortable)
  • Heavy jacket
  • Bandana
  • Woolen cap (evenings can be cold)
  • Gloves (recommend gloves for riding, may want warm gloves for evenings)
  • Socks
  • Riding boots
  • Shoes for camp (moccasins, athletic shoes, etc)
  • Shirts and pants (long sleeved shirts offer sun, bug and branch protection)
  • Underwear
  • Bathing suit
  • Bath towel/wash cloth/soap (try a multi-use bar or liquid for use on hair, body and laundry. Biodegradable choices are available.)
  • Insect repellent such as Cutters
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • comb/brush clips/pins/ponytail holders
  • Shaving kit (a small mirror is helpful)
  • Sun Screen (lotion, cream or stick)- use liberally for sunburn and chapping prevention.
  • Chapstick with sun protection SPF 15 or better
  • Moisturizer (cream or lotion - altitude and sun can be dry and chap skin)
  • Prescription medicine (if required - if you have any allergies, remember to bring appropriate medication)
  • Band-aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, eye drops, moleskin for any blisters
  • Baby powder/Talcum powder (helps to relieve any raw or irritated areas from boots, clothes or saddles)
  • Kleenex
  • Jogging suit (sweats are comfortable for after-swim and campfire lounging)


We are dedicated to conducting our trips so that others following us will find the country unspoiled. Livestock is a natural part of the wilderness and when properly managed enhances man's enjoyment of our unmechanized wilderness area. Today, just as it was when the entire west was mostly wilderness, the horse and mule remain our companions and servants in wilderness travel. We practice and expect you to observe the following during your trip.

  1. Keep horses on trail; do not cut switchbacks (corners).
  2. Tie horses 200 feet away from streams, trails and campsites. At camps, horses and mules are tied to picket lines, stretched between trees on granitic soil.
  3. If you can't tie animal to picket line use a tree greater than 8" in diameter, not on grass. Tie high and short (2-3 ft.) so horse doesn't get foot caught in rope.
  4. Choose a tent site at least 100 ft. from water (THE LAW) where drainage will not be a problem, avoiding the need to trench. No tents or camp area allowed on grass or meadowlands.
  5. Utilize pre-existing fire rings where possible. Don't surround fires with rocks! Dig a hole in sand and cover when finished. When you leave camp, bury ashes from fire rings. Leave existing fire rings clean for the next user.
  6. When breaking camp, return the spot to its natural state and broadcast a covering of needles and cones. Scout the area to make sure nothing will be left behind. Remove the smallest pieces of aluminum foil and trash.
  7. Pack out all trash. Don't bury garbage, scatter organic wastes or leave foil in campfire pit. Burn cans and flatten. On our group trips we have a bag for cans and aluminum foil.
  8. Don't use soap (even biodegradable) in streams or lakes, Wash yourself, clothes and dishes away from water sources.
  9. Bury human waste 200 ft. from water, campsites and trails. Dig a hole 4-6" deep and after use tamp with sod.
  10. Don't pick flowers or cut branches from live trees. Use only downed wood for fires.
  11. You are required to keep bears from getting to your food at all times. Please ask for current regulations and suggestions on how to prepare for your trip.

What you need to know…for hikers
For pack stock supported hiking trips (HWPS)

Dunnage limit is 30 lbs. per person (this includes sleeping bags, fishing equipment, liquor, etc.)

You may bring your own tent up to 10 pounds that is in addition. The PCT 28 day trip allows 35 pounds of duffel.


Bring belongings in stout canvas or nylon duffels; side zipper recommended, ideal size approximately 14" x 32". It is a good idea to use a large plastic bag INSIDE of the duffle to protect contents from external moisture.

Sleeping bags can be in separate duffels --again, line the inside of the duffle against rain. Place all cosmetics, soaps, medications, etc into small plastic containers with close-fitting caps, THEN into sturdy resealable plastic storage bags. If anything breaks or bursts from altitude changes, the plastic bag contains the spill. When possible, it is a good idea to transfer alcoholic beverages to sturdy plastic bottles with well fitting caps - it will save weight and protect against breakage.


  • Footwear. For this trips a medium-weight pair of hiking boots. We do not recommend lightweight hikers or tennies since they give little ankle support and the soles are often thin.
  • Camp Shoes. A lightweight pair of tennies or Tevas to wear in camp. This will reduce vegetation damage at our campsites.
  • A day pack. It should be large enough to take water, extra clothing, rainwear, camera, etc during the days.
  • Sleeping Bag. Most summer trips are warm and a bag rated to about 25°F will be plenty warm enough. We much prefer down bags, and good quality ones at that. Your bag should weigh in around 3 pounds.
  • Sleeping pad. A 3/4 or full length closed cell foam or Thermarest. If you bring a Thermarest also bring a repair kit to fix pesky holes!
  • Coffee mug (plastic for camp)


  • 2 pair synthetic liner socks.
  • 2 pair heavier synthetic or wool blend socks.
  • Long underwear top. Capilene, some other synthetic or the new pure Merino wool types.
  • Long underwear bottom.
  • Warm pants. Tights or Expedition Weight Capilene.
  • Warm shirt. Synchilla or R2 weight works well.
  • Another fuzzy sweater top or pile jacket of some sort
  • GoreTex Jacket and Pants. A lightweight set is sufficient and heavy bulky clothing is unnecessary. Side zips on the pants should be long enough to slide over boots. Jacket must have a hood. Do not skimp on your rain gear. Nylon ponchos are not acceptable.
  • Shorts for on the trail
  • Tee shirt for on the trail
  • Lightweight capilene or similar gloves.
  • Warm hat. Synthetic or wool.
  • Sunhat


  • Sun glasses.
  • Water Bottles. Two quart (1 liter) wide mouth bottles and/or a hydration system holding up to 50oz. (2 liters). Don’t bring bike bottles or any bottle that doesn’t have a wide opening.
  • Headlamp. --and a spare set of batteries!
  • Pocket knife. Swiss army style.
  • Personal toiletries. It is not necessary to smell like a rose each day so do not over do it.
  • Ear plugs are great to have in a noisy tent.
  • Personal Medical Kit. The guide will carry a large kit so yours will predominately consist of foot repair items, mild pain killer such as Advil and bandaids.
  • Sunscreen and lip screen. SPF 30+. A 1oz. bottle will be enough. Make sure the lip stuff actually contains a sunscreen.
  • Bug repellent.
  • Camera. A spare battery and card are good backups
  • Ski/trekking poles. These are not essential, but can be handy on the trail. It is your choice, but they do save wear on the knees.
  • Plastic trash bag. Handy for keeping gear in outside the tent should it rain.
  • Optional reading material, etc. OPTIONAL ITEMS:
    • Small notepad and pencil
    • Collapsible plastic wash basin (optional)
    • Solar shower (optional)
    • Water filtering pump (optional)
    • Liquor (be sure to check in with the packers to see that your liquor is packed safely)
    • Fishing equipment (optional)
      • CALIFORNIA FISHING LICENSE. Please note that fishing licenses are NOT available at or near the pack station. Be sure to get one BEFORE you arrive for your adventure. You can find information on California fishing licenses and online purchase at TakeMeFishing.org. You can purchase them at a Bishop sporting goods store, as well.
      • Rod/reel/line (a rod that breaks down into 3 or more pieces is recommended)
      • Compact metal rod case to carry on saddle
      • Canvas creel (no tackle boxes)
      • Leader material (1-3 lb.)
      • Flies: black gnat, mosquito, grey hackle, brown hackle, & royal coachman (No. 12-14 hooks)
      • Bait: worms & Pautzke red eggs
      • Egg hooks, worm hooks (No. 10-14)
      • Split shot
      • Lures (personal choice)
      • Pliers


Tom Harrison Maps, paper or download onto phone/tablet:

  • Golden Trout Wilderness
  • Mt. Whitney High Country

Apps for Smartphone/Tablet, download applicable areas prior to departure:

  • Gaia GPS
  • Topo Maps

Click on the map to see a larger version