Due to the winter storm that spread across the southern and central Sierra Nevada, the main road to access the Jennie Lakes Wilderness is now closed for the season. Typically it will re-open by Memorial Day in May of 2020. This of course is weather dependent and assume an average winter season.
Users of the wilderness who are experienced with winter backpacking conditions may still be able to access the area. However, additional travel time and miles to hike may be required. Please plan accordingly if you decide to do so.
Big Meadows TH – Photo by Dan Hall
User Dan Hall went out into the Jennie Lakes Wilderness for a later summer trip. His adventure started September 21 and ended on the 23. Here is what he has to report. Thanks Dan!
I backpacked and hiked in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness from September 21 to 23. My route was from Big Meadow Trailhead to Jennie Lake where I camped, and then the next day I took a dayhike on to JO Pass.
From the trailhead to Jennie Lake, there were no blow downs across the trail, nor any catastrophic slides, collapses or ruts. The trail was clearly signed at junctions, generally in good shape, easy to find and follow. There was ample drinking water flowing at the junction to Weaver Lake and a short distance beyond there, but none the rest of the way to Jennie Lake.
From Jennie Lake to JO Pass, there were no catastrophic slides, collapses or ruts, but there were several blow downs across the trail. All were possible to get past, by hikers and stock, without significant problems or environmental damage. This section of trail has obviously received less maintenance, as is also indicated by the number of tree branches encroaching on the trail. It is, however, still easy to find and follow. There was no source of water along this section of trail, except at Jennie Lake.
I did not hike the trail from JO Pass to the junction for Weaver Lake, but I talked with three groups of backpackers who were doing the Weaver & Jennie Lakes loop, coming up from Weaver Lake to JO Pass. They told me the trail was overgrown in some areas, hard to find and therefore slow to hike, but still passable.
The camping area at Jennie Lake is great, to put it mildly. More details about the trails, general area and my trip are provided in the captioned photos at http://tinyurl.com/yczgncsz (and you should first read the note regarding captions).
Post from the Sequoia National Forest to all visitors.
Poodle-dog bush can cause severe irritation to the skin if touched, akin to poison oak or poison ivy. It can raise blisters lasting as long as two weeks or more. The plant is covered in sticky hairs, which can dislodge easily and can be passed on to hikers who touch it or brush up against it. The swelling, rash and itching appear twelve hours to two days after contact. Use caution and avoid this plant.
It is found in nearly all habitat types that have recently burned including conifer forests, chaparral, oak woodland and riparian areas. Poodle-dog bush is frequently found along trails.
Wear long sleeves and pants if you plan to visit the Sequoia National Forest within previously fire burned areas. This plant was recently found in the Converse Basin area on the Hume Lake Ranger District. Historically, it has been discovered in areas burned by wildfire which is happening more across the Forest and in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Notes are as follows:
– This native California shrub grows at elevations from 300 to 7,500 feet. It can grow almost 10 feet tall, and has purple bell-shaped flowers.
– It is a perennial, woody shrub with long shiny leaves. It emits an unpleasant, slightly pungent odor.
Great news for the 4th of July weekend. Confirmed at 8:09 AM, the Big Meadows road is open! Users can now access the Jennie Lakes Wilderness area a lot easier. However, there is still snow in the wilderness. Expect wet trails in places, snow drifts, and fast moving streams. Stay on the trails to prevent resource damage too. Enjoy!
Shot of Jennie Lake back in June of 2017
Many of you are anxious to get back to the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. Access to the two of the most popular trailheads is not feasible right now. A phone call just moments ago, 4:22 PM PST to be exact, to the district office resulted in what one would expect with such a large snow pack; the road is closed. Big Meadows Road (14S11) is still closed and the US Forest Service is hoping to see it open in July. There are a few things to keep in mind about opening a road.
Generally the US Forest Service does now plow roads to get them open for the summer season. Big Meadows is not an exception to this rule either. When the snow melts and parts of the road are drive-able, it may still not be safe. Keep in mind that road crews need to drive the road to make sure down trees are removed, rocks pushed out of the way, and the drive will be deemed safe for everyone to use. This takes a lot of time, so please be patient.
Conditions are resembling late spring in the area. The snow is melting, rivers are flowing fast, and the water is cold. That being said, some of you more experience users who know how to safely winter camp may end up heading out there before the road opens. There is a winter route some have taken before to access the Jennie Lakes area. There is also the Stony Creek Trail in Stony Creek Campground that links users up to Poop Out Pass near Jennie Lake. Currently there are not reports on route or trail conditions to JLW website, so if you do go out please be mindful of your surroundings and limits. Consider reporting back your trip and findings so it can be shared with everyone.
June 1 is National Trails Day. A perfect time to get outside and make a difference on a trail. If you are interested, make sure to check out the link below to find an spot near you. If there isn’t one nearby, but you want to start an event there is information on how to do so. Go and help a trail!
American Hiking Society’s National Trail Day
Many will head outdoors this weekend in some fashion or another. If you haven’t been to a National Forest in awhile, I encourage you to plan a day trip and go see it. The video above really captures some great scenery and drives a good point home. You OWN the National Forests. It is YOUR taxes that have secured these lands for multiple use benefit. Get out and see them. Get involved in some way to make them better for the next generation and the next.
Just a quick note about the road access into Big Meadows and ultimately Jennie Lakes Wilderness. A press release from the Sequoia National Forest states the road into Big Meadows WILL NOT be open for Memorial Day weekend. If you were hoping to get out into the JLW then, you’ll need to reschedule.
The exceptional snow pack this last season means delays, as just mentioned, in getting into the wilderness via several trailheads. This may mean an opportunity for more solitude for some but be mindful of your navigation and winter backpacking skills if you do decide to head out. You’ll have to do more miles for walking and likely in snow. Rivers are at their peak, flowing fast, and the water is freezing cold. Hang in there a little while longer and you’ll enjoy a snow free JLW soon enough.
The final snow survey for 2019 has been completed for the Kings River Basin. April 1 was the big date for the State’s water allocation, so May does not get as much attention in the news. However, for those wanting to head out into the local forest / wilderness, it is a big deal. May gives a picture into how long or short the season may be. A lot of snow likely, but not always, means delays for people accessing trailheads. In the case for the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, it looks to be that way going forward.
The snow survey results are 171% of normal. Water content is anywhere from 46% to 60%! This means nearly half of the existing snow pack is water. This is great news for streams, aquifers, and the forest’s health. Finding water should be a lot easier this year compared to some of the past years. However, this much snow means you’ll either have to work harder to get out into the wilderness this season.
Typically when the snow pack is well above average, it takes longer to melt (assuming average temperatures). This results in either people not being able to access some of the popular trailheads or needing to change their plans for Memorial Day weekend and the month of June. You can expect to see updated reports as we get closer to the holiday weekend and into the summer season. Please feel free to share what you discover about road access and trails this season!
Thanks Eric Zamora for sharing your ride along experience with us. Eric went out with PG&E to find out information about doing snow surveys in the central Sierra Nevada. Here is a quick video with beautiful shots of the snow covered mountains. Enjoy.