How to Get One of America’s Best Backcountry Campsites
By Michael Lanza
Precipice Lake sits in a granite bowl at 10,400 feet along the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park, about a half-mile before 10,700-foot Kaweah Gap. Below the north face of 12,040-foot Eagle Scout Peak, with the nearest tree at least a couple of trail miles below it, the lake’s glassy, green and blue waters reflect a white and golden cliff with black water streaks that embraces the lakeshore. A ribbon-like waterfall, originating in a remnant glacier above the lake, pours down the cliff. Walking up to Precipice Lake reflexively triggers the part of our frontal lobe that’s responsible for the word: “Wow.”
Our small party reached Precipice Lake in late afternoon on the third day of a 40-mile backpacking loop from the Mineral King area of Sequoia; within minutes, we realized that we’d stumbled upon one of the prettiest wilderness campsites any of us had ever seen—and one of my 25 favorite backcountry campsites ever—so there was no reason to hike a step farther that day. We found tent sites among the granite slabs a short walk above the lake, and my then-12-year-old son and I threw our air mats and bags down on one slab and slept out under a sky riddled with stars.
You can also enjoy a night at Precipice Lake by backpacking the 40-mile loop described in my story about that trip, which featured a few outstanding campsites (a second one, shown in the photo gallery below, made my list of 25 all-time favorites), a mystical grove of giant sequoia trees in the wilderness that we had to ourselves, passes reaching over 11,000 feet—and miles of hiking through an incredibly photogenic landscape of razor peaks and alpine lakes so clear you could stand on the shore and read a book laying open on the lake bottom.
My story about that Sequoia trip also describes how to get a permit for that hike, lays out a day-to-day hiking itinerary, and provides other important details for planning it yourself. Like most stories at The Big Outside, reading it requires a full subscription, which costs just pennies over $4/month for a year or just five bucks for one month. Click here to subscribe now and get a free e-guide.
Check out the photos below of some of my 25 best-ever backcountry campsites, and then see my feature story, linked below the photo gallery, about all 25 of those campsites.
I can help you plan this or any other trip you read about at my blog. Find out more here.
See my story “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites,” which shares photos and short anecdotes from the most breathtakingly pretty places in the wilderness where I’ve pitched a tent (or slept under the stars) over nearly three decades of backpacking and trekking all over the U.S. and the world while writing for this blog and for many years as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine. That story has links to existing stories at The Big Outside about the trips on which I enjoyed those special campsites, and those individual stories include trip-planning information on how to visit each one yourself.
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