Kaiser Pass
from Shaver Lake to Edison and Florence

Revised 28 Mar 2012 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Western Sierra > Fresno and Madera for context and how to get here.
north prev in Western Sierra: Chiquito and Clover Chiquito Pass and Clover Meadow
south next in Western Sierra: Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs (via Dinkey Creek)
info view GPS waypoints: simple Waypoint+ format, download GPX file, or overlay on interactive map.
This file starts at Shaver Lake, and directs you to many trailheads on both sides of Kaiser Pass:
Balsam Meadow Sno Park Tamarack Ridge Sno Park (snowmobile)
Coyote Sno Park (nordic ski) Red Mountain (jeep trail)
Sierra Summit (downhill ski resort) Eastwood Sno Park (Kaiser winter)
Rancheria Enterprises (snowmobile rentals) Huntington Lake Sno Park (Kaiser winter)
Kaiser Pass White Bark
Florence Lake Bear Creek (4WD)
Lake Edison (Vermilion) Onion Springs (4WD)

Waypoints near Kaiser Pass are plotted to clarify the text below.

Scroll down for directions over Kaiser Pass, including where to pick up permits.
Scroll down further for directions to all the trailheads.

Here is an overview of the entire route from Shaver Lake to the trailheads:

Table of mileages from Gary Craig:
waypointdistancedescription
SHAVER00.0 Shaver Lake town 'entrance' (jct hwy 168 & Dinkey Creek Road)
KPTURN20.7 End of hwy 168 at NE corner of Huntington Lake (right turn to Florence)
KAISR226.3 End of "good" (2-lane) road to Florence
KAIPAS27.9 Kaiser Pass
KAIRAN36.4 High Sierra ranger station
EDIFLO37.4 Junction of road to Lake Edison
FLORLK43.2 Long-term backpacker parking at Florence Lake (absolute end of road is 0.1 or a bit more farther).


GPS route SHAVER-HUNTINGTON
from Shaver Lake to Huntington Lake

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake. Go "straight" on Hwy 168 through the village of Shaver Lake (waypoint SHAVER, last chance for dinner), and go around the west and north shores of Shaver Lake (waypoint SHAVRN).

Here is a map of trailheads near Shaver Lake, trailhead details are below:

Balsam Meadow Sno-Park:
Balsam Meadow Sno-Park (waypoint BALSAM) has sign saying no camping. You could head north to Tamarack Mtn from here, but the Coyote Nordic Ski Sno-Park (waypoint Coyote) is closer to the peak.

Tamarack Ridge Sno-Park:
The Tamarack Ridge Sno-Park (waypoint TAMRDG) is a large parking lot with signs as a snowmobile trailhead. From here you could head east to Dogtooth Peak, Three Sisters, etc.

Coyote Nordic Ski Trailhead:
The Coyote Nordic Ski Trailhead and Sno-Park (waypoint COYOTE) is very near the Tamarack Ridge Sno-Park, and is also a large parking lot, but it has signs as a nordic ski trailhead. It is less than half a mile from the snowmobile trailhead, and appears to offer the best access to Tamarack Mtn.

Red Mountain Jeep Road:
The Red Mountain Jeep Road trailhead doesn't appear to be an official Sno-Park, but it's a plowed turnout (waypoint RED4WD) that provides winter access to Tamarack Creek, about 2 miles north and a couple hundred feet lower than Tamarack Ridge Sno-Parks (waypoints TAMRDG or COYOTE). Trails from Red Mtn Jeep Rd also head east toward Red Mtn, Dogtooth, and Three Sisters.


GPS route HUNTINGTON LAKE
Sno-Parks near Huntington Lake

Here is a map of trailheads near Huntington Lake, trailhead details are below:

Sierra Summit: downhill skiing
20 miles from Shaver Lake is the Sierra Summit downhill ski resort (waypoint SUMSKI). It's not a trailhead, but you can get a pretty good lunch here.

Rancheria Enterprises: snowmobile rentals
If you want to rent a snowmobile, for access to 150 miles of free Forest-Service-groomed trails, go to Rancheria Enterprises (waypoint SNOMOB), just beyond the Kaiser Pass turn-off (waypoint KPTURN). As of 2005, rental rates were $190/day (559-893-3234 for reservations). This isn't for the poor, but they do have one gear sled and some snowmobiles with hitches so you could rent just one to drag all your gear up the hill or into the backcountry, then walk the first part and spend more time/effort in the deep woods.

Eastwood Sno-Park: winter trailhead for Kaiser Pass
Cross the Rancheria Creek bridge at Huntington Lake about 1.3 miles north of Sierra Summit (waypoint SUMSKI), and IMMEDIATELY turn right on Kaiser Pass Road (waypoint KPTURN) following the sign to Florence and Lake Edison. In the winter, another right turn into the Eastwood Sno-Park (waypoint EWOODS) is the only option since the Kaiser Pass road becomes a groomed snowmobile trail. You can walk or ski up the hill from here but be prepared to share the road with snowmobiles during the week and to have the road dominated by snowmobiles on the weekends. If you walk up the road, you'll want to take the shortcut between waypoints KAISR0 and KAISR2, where there is often a snowmobile track! See
Steve's trip report for details of climbing Ian Campbell and Givens from here.

Huntington Lake Sno-Park: winter trailhead for Kaiser Peak
Cross the Rancheria Creek bridge at Huntington Lake about 1.3 miles north of Sierra Summit (waypoint SUMSKI), and continue past the Kaiser Pass Road (waypoint KPTURN) around the northeast corner of Huntginton Lake. In the winter, you'll go past the snowmobile rental place and turn left at the sign for the Huntington Lake Sno Park (waypoint HUNTLS). The road is only plowed a short distance past this turn, but walking up the road and turning right up another plowed road is the best access through all the homes in the area if you're climbing Kaiser Peak (via College Rock). See Steve's trip report for details of climbing Kaiser Peak from here.

Here is a map of the Kaiser Peak route, showing details of the Huntington Lake Sno-Park:


GPS route KAISER PASS
from Huntington Lake to Ranger Station

Don't miss the humorous description of this road provided by the Muir Trail Ranch at Florence Lake.

Here's a map of the Kaiser Pass area:

The climb to Kaiser Pass from Huntington Lake starts at waypoint KPTURN, where you leave Hwy 168 on the Kaiser Pass Road. In the winter you have to park at the Eastwood Sno Park (waypoint EWOODS) and can save some walking distance by shortcutting roughly from KAISR0 to KAISR2, following snowmobile tracks up the powerline instead of doing the huge switchback through KAISR1. About 6 miles from the Rancheria Creek bridge the current road becomes one lane where the wide but unfinished road is closed (at waypoint KAISR2). Then it gets rougher and has a big dropoff on the left (KAISR3).

This road is dangerous because the boulders and brush and corners mean you can't see cars coming at you on the one lane pavement. People tow boats with SUVs also, so some of us think it's safer to drive after dark when you can see oncoming headlights. The last 17 miles may take as much as an hour or as little as 30 minutes to drive, depending on traffic and your level of machismo.

There are outhouses and a parking lot at Kaiser Pass itself (waypoint KAISER), but this isn't a good place to camp. Use the White Bark road for that.

White Bark Vista Point: (4WD road, see GPS Route WHITE BARK)
Start at Kaiser Pass (waypoint KAIPAS), which you may miss if you're not watching for it. The Dusy-Ershim 4WD Road cuts off to the right (south) at Kaiser Pass, and even passenger cars should be able to make the mile or so to White Bark Vista and some outstanding views. Only a few hundred yards southeast from the pass on this road is a great place to catch some sleep: at an overlook (near waypoint WHITEO) with good sunrises, no campground fees, and no traffic.

Beyond Kaiser Pass: ranger station and popular climber trailheads

To reach the trailheads, stay on the paved Kaiser Pass Road to the High Sierra Ranger Station (waypoint KAIRAN, 8.7 miles from the pass via waypoints KAISR4-KAISR9). Several of these waypoints are where spur roads leave the main road, but just ignore those turns unless you want to visit the Portal Forebay and other tourist hangouts.

You should be able to pick up permits in an "after hours" box at the ranger station (waypoint KAIRAN). Permits MAY also be available at the ranger station in Prather, particularly when the Kaiser Pass station is closed for the season. Prather has a night box by the front door but closes at 5pm and you need to arrange that by phone in advance.

One mile past the ranger station you have a choice at waypoint EDIFLO: Either go straight and head for Florence, or turn left for Edison and Bear Creek. This turn is well signed on the return trip, but the sign (and the turn) has been missed on the way to Edison. Watch that GPS!


GPS route FLORENCE LAKE
from Ranger Station to Florence Lake

Follow separate directions and waypoints to
Shaver Lake.

Follow directions and waypoints above over Kaiser Pass.

See also the Florence Lake website.

One mile past the ranger station (waypoint KAIRAN), go straight through the junction (waypoint EDIFLO) and continue 6 miles to Florence Lake (waypoints FLRNC1-FLORLK) on Florence Pass Road.

Florence Lake has a confusing set of day use and overnight parking areas, so watch the signs. I've always slept on the pavement in front of my car in the trailhead parking (waypoint FLORLK) which is NOT the end of the road. There is ferry dock where you can take a boat the length of the lake, cutting 4 miles and over 500' of gain off the walk. The Florence Lake Ferry website says the ferry runs from late May through late September, depending on weather and snow conditions. As far as I know there are no phones here, and when I last checked I could not find drinking water if the store is closed.

From an unknownn contributor: About a tenth of a mile before the trailhead there is a signed cutoff for Jackass Meadows and the Hooper Diversion 4WD road... Regular cars may be able to do all but the last quarter mile (which doesn't matter because it dead-ends at the Hooper Creek Dam with no room for parking and no room to turnaround, if one had a long-wheel base truck or full-size SUV you would have a very unpleasant time backing down a steep 4WD section). The possible exception is early season - the road crosses the South Fork of the San Joaquin River, in July it was not more than 6" deep.

Table of mileages from Gary Craig:
waypointdistancedescription
SHAVER00.0 Shaver Lake town 'entrance' (jct hwy 168 & Dinkey Creek Road)
KPTURN20.7 End of hwy 168 at NE corner of Huntington Lake (right turn to Florence)
KAISR226.3 End of "good" (2-lane) road to Florence
KAIPAS27.9 Kaiser Pass
KAIRAN36.4 High Sierra ranger station
EDIFLO37.4 Junction of road to Lake Edison
FLORLK43.2 Long-term backpacker parking at Florence Lake (absolute end of road is 0.1 or a bit more farther).


GPS route BEAR CREEK DAM
from Ranger Station to Bear Creek Diversion Dam

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake.
Follow directions and waypoints above over Kaiser Pass.

This trailhead serves Gabb, Hilgard, Recess, Seven Gables, Lake Italy, etc. It is just south of the Lake Edison trailhead (where the Vermilion Valley Resort is located). Lots of people car camp at the trailhead and go fishing, but most of the backpackers we saw were on the Pacific Crest / John Muir trail.

NOTE: Waypoint BEARCD, the Bear Creek Diversion Dam trailhead, is NOT the same as waypoint BEARCT, the Bear Creek Trail. For the Bear Creek Trail trailhead, see Lake Edison, below.

One mile past the ranger station (waypoint KAIRAN), turn left at the junction (waypoint EDIFLO) and continue toward the Lake Edison trailhead on Mono Hot Springs Road. You will pass waypoint MONOHS at Mono Hot Springs, where you can get a good dinner on your way out. About 6 miles from EDIFLO, turn right (east) at the junction to Bear Creek Diversion Dam (waypoint BEARCJ). This junction is about 3 miles before you reach Lake Edison. This signed road may be paved for a few feet but quickly deteriorates into dirt and then rocky 4WD road. The first mile once was doable in passenger cars but was quite bad in 2001. In fact, one Subaru 4WD broke a strut on the way out. Caveat Emptor!

The Bear Creek Diversion Dam trailhead (waypoint BEARCD) is 2 miles up a bad 4WD road (east) from waypoint BEARCJ (via waypoints BEARC1 and BEARC2). Ignore both right turns between the pavement and the trailhead. The first dead ends, the second goes down to a picnic area by the dam (a nice place to spend the night, but not the official trailhead which is marked with a sign).

The Diversion Dam trailhead (waypoint BEARCD, 7400') is a large parking area with flat slabs, above and west of the dam, and there are several trails leading to the north from it. There is no reason to drop immediately down steep use trails to Bear Creek, unless you can't wait to take a dip in the stream, but the trail does follow Bear Creek northeast to the PCT.


GPS route LAKE EDISON
from Ranger Station to Lake Edison
and Vermilion Valley Resort

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake.
Follow directions and waypoints above over Kaiser Pass.

This trailhead serves the PCT, with a major through-hiker layover and resupply point at the Vermilion Valley Resort. Climbers start here for peaks such as Silver, Graveyard, and Izaak Walton, backpackers start here for a walk up Mono Creek to Mono Pass on their way to Little Lakes Valley and Rock Creek.

If you are headed to Lake Edison, be aware that the Vermilion Valley Resort (waypoint VERMIL) is open early (6am?) for breakfast, and serves dinner until 8pm. They also run the ferry service which leaves the resort at 9am and 4pm, leaving the lake inlet about 30 or 45 minutes later for the return trip. You can get meals, rent rooms, buy bug spray, and catch a ferry to the PCT on the far side of Lake Edison.

One mile past the ranger station (waypoint KAIRAN), turn left at the junction (waypoint EDIFLO) and continue toward the Lake Edison trailhead. You will pass waypoint MONOHS at Mono Hot Springs, where you can get a good dinner on your way out, and the Bear Creek Diversion Dam junction at waypoint BEARCJ. There is also a Bear Creek Trail parking area, at waypoint BEARCT, which has two metal food storage lockers (unlike the Diversion Dam trailhead).

Continue to waypoint EDISN3, which is where you turn left cross the spillway at a sign marked Vermilion Resort. If you don't turn left here, the road dead ends. After crossing the spillway, you will drop to the base of the dam and cross below the dam heading west-northwest. The roads below the dam can be confusing - just follow the main route and avoid going into boater camping areas. The trailhead is northwest of the spillway, so you need to go below the dam and around the west tip of the lake.

There are two trailheads and a boat dock at the west end of Lake Edison. Taking the boat from Vermilion across Lake Edison saves you about 4 miles and over 700 feet of gain and loss - the trail is cheaper, but the boat is worth it. The first trailhead near Vermilion is the one everyone knows about: The Mono Creek Trailhead (waypoint MONOTH) provides access to the PCT. The other trailhead near Vermilion is a little-known 4WD road that leads to Onion Springs, as described below (waypoints ONION2/ONION4).

To reach the Mono Creek Trailhead (waypoint MONOTH), you can either walk from Vermilion Resort through a campground, or you can drive past waypoint VERMIL and turn right at waypoint EDISNJ to park at (waypoint MONOTH). The Mono Creek trailhead is at about 7600 ft elevation.


GPS route ONION SPRINGS
from Lake Edison and Vermilion Valley Resort to Onion Springs

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake.
Follow directions and waypoints above over Kaiser Pass.
Follow directions and waypoints above to Lake Edison.

Lots of people know about the Mono Creek trailhead at Lake Edison (waypoint MONOTH), but there's a lesser-known 4WD road that leads to Onion Springs and on to Margaret Lakes, providing alternate access to Silver and Graveyard peaks, in addition to going past the only true granite arch this writer has ever seen in the Sierra Nevada. (See my trip report.)

If you have a 2WD vehicle or low clearance, you should park near the pack station at waypoint ONION2 (half a mile from Vermilion). If you have a high clearance, maybe even if you don't have 4WD, you can drive 5 miles beyond Vermilion to the end of the road (waypoint ONION4). This trailhead is where the USGS maps show the trail forking just over 8000 ft elevation. Be aware that there is significant downhill on the way in, as you drop from the highpoint (waypoint ONIONH) to the campground (waypoint ONIONC).


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