JMT, Day 3: Up, Down, Up, Down and on to Guitar Lake


Rock Creek Crossing to Guitar Lake, 11,500′, 11.8 miles

I slept in my sleeping bag liner last night. I stayed warm and managed to get some much-needed sleep. We are up and moving by 6:15 am and do well with packing up quickly, that is until the park ranger stationed nearby comes to chat with us. Of course, we can’t help ourselves and spend a good half-hour talking to her. It’s now 8:30 by the time we hit the trail. We pass several other camping spots on our way done to Rock Creek that would have been more private, but then we probably would not have seen the deer or met Susan and the nice guys from Team Alabama.

At the creek, we are able to hop on boulders, rocks and logs to keep our feet dry, and, just like that, we’ve made it through our first significant water crossing. Hallelujah!


From there, it’s a long slog for our first up of the day, followed by a relatively flat stretch with crazy, cool foxtail pine trees. Each one has tons of personality and looks like a sculpted piece of art. Matt stops every few minutes to shoot another photo of their bizarre formations.


We march along until we reach Guyot Pass after another series of switchbacks. Coming down from there, we traverse Guyot Flats, a long stretch along a sandy plateau with no elevation change and heaps of more cool trees.

Another uphill/downhill at the end of the flats brings us to our lunch break. We eat as quickly as possible and then continue downhill in a steep stretch to Crabtree Meadows


A pretty shallow stream meanders through the meadow, and we stop to filter and take in the splendid scene.

Around the corner, we have another water crossing. There are rocks to hop on, but we decide that it will feel good to cool down our feet in the sandy, shallow stream, so we take off our socks and boots and wade across.


From there, it’s another 1.1 miles to the ranger station at the other end of Crabtree. The trail runs alongside the stream and is quite pleasant. Before too long we arrive at the Crabtree Meadows campsite, and there are hikers sprawled about the meadow, soaking in the late afternoon sun.

There is a note on the trail marker sign prohibiting PCT thru-hikers from camping anywhere else closer to Mount Whitney, which maybe explains why there are so many people here. We venture up the trail to the Ranger Cabin to get the low-down on camping further up the trail at Guitar Lake but find nobody home to answer our questions. We grab two Wag Bags from the box on the cabin deck and then go try our best to make sure we won’t need to use them.

We cross Whitney Creek and are relieved to see a trail sign saying that it is only 2.7 miles to Guitar Lake. Once we hit Timberline Lake, we consult the map and figure that we only have a mile or so to go. But the trail takes us up, up, up, and it feels like it will never end. Either our map reading skills need some serious work, or we are dog-tired.

After what feels like forever, we finally see Guitar Lake below us—what a sight for sore eyes!


We work our way down towards the lake and find a flat, sandy spot with a commanding view of the lake and the basin of peaks all around us.



Evening camp chores get interrupted frequently by the light changing colors on the mountains. We can’t resist grabbing the cameras every few minutes, and, before you know it, we are eating dinner by headlamp.





Many of the other hikers will be leaving here in just a few short hours to attempt to summit Whitney before sunrise. Not us though! We have done enough headlamp hikes to satisfy us for the foreseeable future, and we will try to hit the trail just before daybreak. We wish all the Whitney summiters well tomorrow and selfishly hope that they break camp quietly, so we can get some rest. We shall find out soon enough!


8 thoughts on “JMT, Day 3: Up, Down, Up, Down and on to Guitar Lake

    1. Thanks so much, Ellen! We are hoping to do the Colorado Trail next summer. We haven’t done a ton of research yet. Do you know if it come near you in Telluride? If so, it would be fun to meet up and share some hiking tales in person!

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