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Backpacking the North/South Lake Loop: Piute Pass to Hutchinson Meadow

Day 1 of 6 - North Lake Campground to Hutchinson Meadow

East down Piute Creek Canyon

DAY ONE on the North Lake/South Lake Loop

Bishop Loop Day 1 Details
Distance: 12.1 miles
Time: 6-9 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 2,056 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: Late July-Early October
The Piute Pass Trail is a gentle 2,000 ascent up a gorgeous canyon over five miles.  We woke at sunrise at the North Lake Campground, had breakfast and coffee, and broke camp.  We hit the trailhead at approximately 7:30 a.m.  The weather was sunny and perfect. Our goal? Head over Piute Pass, through Humphreys Basin and down to Hutchinson Meadow.

There are several early stream crossings using large logs, but nothing that required getting our feet wet.

About half way up to Piute Pass you reach Loch Leven, a beautiful lake at 10,743 feet.

After a series of gorgeous waterfalls and water features, you climb up to Piute Lake at 10,958 feet.

Finally, it’s a short ascent to Piute Pass at 11,423 feet.

There was one remaining snow field across the trail approaching Piute Pass, with some parts of the snow breaking away – so we used caution and took the safest route across the snow.

From Piute Pass, the views are spectacular to both the East and the West.  To the east, it’s back down Piute Pass trail from where you came.  To the west, it’s the vastness of Humphreys Basin.  We sat, ate lunch and enjoyed the gorgeous views.  There is also a side trail here that heads southwest towards Muriel Lake.

Panorama of Humphreys Basin from Piute Pass

We then continued to head west down and through Humphreys Basin.  The expanse of the basin is truly beautiful.  After passing Summit Lake, there were a few wet crossings and some use trails heading south towards Upper and Lower Golden Trout Lakes.

Humphreys Basin had several water crossings

Once below 10,800 feet the tree line starts again and you head through the forest towards Hutchinson Meadow.  On the west edge of Hutchinson Meadow are a series of wet stream crossings – about six to be exact – that come one after the other…so we left our water shoes on and banged them all out in order.

After the last one, there is a beautiful meadow on the south side of the trail, with gorgeous flat granite rock features – the perfect place to camp for night one.  We pitched our tent directly on the granite and the water source was super close and clean.

We got some beta on this campsite from a pair of backpackers coming the other way on the trail a few hours earlier – and their beta was spot on!  We pitched camp, and then I tried my hand at some fishing in Piute Creek.  No bites, but a beautiful place to cast a line and I had a family of deer as my audience. The bugs were probably the worst here of any night on the trail – so we used the head nets for a bit in the evening before climbing into the tent.

The elevation at Hutchinson Meadow is 9,500 feet – so campfires are allowed.  There was one camp site in the trees with a fire pit, but we chose to camp in the open meadow on the granite and forego a fire for this first night.

Piute Pass Trailhead to Hutchinson Meadow Trail Map & Elevation Profile

Download file: NL-SL-Loop-Day-1.gpx

Originally hiked on Sunday, August 20, 2017.


Continue to Day Two: Hutchinson Meadow to the Goddard Canyon Bridge Junction


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