From the plateau of the Giant Forest at Crescent Meadow the trail travels high on the northern wall of the canyon of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River to Bearpaw Meadow. This first of the trail is a popular though strenuous two day round trip hike. The "High Sierra Camp" (a simple tent hotel) located here dates back to 1934.
Leaving the meadow the trail climbs through the Hamilton Lakes Basin to Kaweah Gap which at it is the lowest pass over the Great Western Divide within the park. From this pass the route descends into Big Arroyo and then climbs to the Chagoopa Plateau only to drop again into the Kern River Canyon. After following along the Kern River it turns east and climbs parallel to Wallace Creek to the junction with the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail from the Crescent Meadow. This is considered to be the end of the High Sierra Trail but hikers may wish to continue on the John Muir Trail to the summit of Mount Whitney.
For those wishing to complete the crossing of the High Sierra the Mount Whitney Trail branches to the east from the John Muir Trail miles before it reaches the summit of Mount Whitney and descends to Whitney Portal located at the end of the road from Lone Pine, California. From Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal the trail is long and is often hiked in 6 to 7 days or more. It is occasionally performed in even less time by experts.
Work began on the High Sierra Trail in 1928 and it was the first Sierra trail built solely for recreational purposes.
Users should check with park rangers before planing a trip with riding or pack stock. At least one section of the trail is closed to stock and grazing is limited in many areas.