Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation gain: 1,023 ft
When to go: July-Sept
The trail meanders up a canyon and then past a beautiful fish-filled lake called Timberline Lake. That morning the fish were literally jumping out of the water all around the lake.
There’s no camping there, so it’s super clean and beautiful. As you continue towards Guitar Lake, you realize you are now truly at the base of the Eastern Sierra with Mt. Whitney looming over you – what a sight!
Guitar Lake was rumored to sometimes be a bit ‘ghetto’, but we thought it was very clean and nice. We had also heard that the little tarn above the lake was a good place to camp, with great views of Guitar Lake, Mt. Hitchcock, Whitney, Mt. Hale etc. And those facts were correct – that little tarn was an awesome place to spend the day.
We got the sweet spot right in front overlooking Guitar Lake, with the little stream that runs out of the tarn and down giving us a super fresh water source. We did laundry, lounged around on the rocks, chatted with hikers going up and down Mt. Whitney, and just had an amazing day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. doing nothing but relaxing at 11,600 feet – the byproduct of which was a nice little acclimation period at our highest altitude yet! That extra day would most certainly make our assault on Mt. Whitney the next day easier.
We met a great military vet and professor from Branson, MO who was on the PCT. We met a retired man in his 70s who remembered camping at that very same tarn with him family 50 years earlier! We helped him re-create the photo he still has of his mom there. We met people going up and down – giving us their round trip times and words of encouragement for the next day. We were invaded by three different groups of boy scouts who all intended to get up before sunrise and try for the summit early.
If you decide to hike the HST (or the JMT for that matter), I highly recommend a long day at the tarn above Guitar Lake – just a great place to camp and enjoy your last day in Sequoia National Park.