Trekking Solo in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness

The Jennie Lakes Loop with a side trip to Mitchell Peak is a 30+ mile trek through lush Sequoia forests.

I like to take off to the wilderness once a year by myself. This year’s trip was in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. Several things to love about Jennie Lakes: one, the sheer beauty, and two, no permit is required. You just get up to Sequoia and you’re on the trail without all the red tape of a big trip.

Jennie Lakes Loop Quick Facts

  • No permit required

  • 2-3 Days

  • 16.5 miles (add 15 miles for Mitchell Peak)

  • Moderate

  • Trailhead Elevation 7,600′

  • Jennie Lake Elevation 9,000′

  • Weaver Lake Elevation 8,700′

  • Mitchell Peak Elevation 10,365′

I had a meeting in Bakersfield with a client on the way up, then got to the trail at 2 pm. It was pretty hot, and it’s never easy strapping on a heavy pack at high elevation (8,000 feet compared to the 1,000 I had come from). I hiked in the six miles to Jennie Lake. I really felt the altitude that first day — I got so lightheaded setting up my tent that I had to get down on all fours. It passed soon enough, and after dinner I took in the sunset on the rock face across the lake. It had a magical feel to it, like something out of a fairytale. When the sun sets in the Sequoias, watch for a rock face and you can see it turn a brilliant orange and light up everything around it.

On the morning of day two I got up feeling great. No trouble with acclimatizing like the day before. My goal for the day was to hike across a network of trails to Mitchell Peak. Then, from Mitchell Peak, I planned to loop back across to Weaver Lake, and then home after that. Mitchell Peak turned out to be elusive, even with my map. This side trip to bag a peak pushed the trip to 30+ in distance.

I couldn’t find the turnoff toward Mitchell Peak at Rowell Meadow, so I ended up walking back and forth about a mile until I found a tiny sign pointing to a fork in the trail called Marvin Pass. This led me up to Mitchell Peak, which wasn’t a huge trek but it’s never easy with warm weather, a heavy pack, and swarming bugs. The bugs were so bad I had to wear a net over my face.

Rowell Meadow is a beautiful setting, a classic Sierra meadow. In the background is Ball Dome, a huge granite dome. I was tempted to divert from my plan and climb the dome, but I didn’t have a good map to get there. I figured I should stick with my schedule instead.

I even had an animal encounter at Rowell Meadow. It looked like a squirrel, but bigger, with a large tail. When it turned to face me I realized it was a beaver. He faced off with me, daring me to come closer. I’d heard stories of beavers not being too friendly, so I kept my distance and took a quick snapshot with my phone. Then I backed up, giving him space. Being attacked by a bear or mountain lion makes for a cool story. But being attacked by a beaver? How do you tell that story?

Being attacked by a bear or mountain lion makes for a cool story. But being attacked by a beaver? How do you tell that story?

I hit Mitchell Peak that afternoon. It was a breathtaking view I’d never seen before. The entire crest of the Sierra spans across a 200-degree view. To the north, you can make out the chain of crags that make up Mount Whitney. I spent a half hour taking in the views before I remembered Weaver Lake was a long way away. I didn’t realize from the topographic map that the I had to cross a deep canyon to get to Weaver Lake. The sun disappears quickly in deep canyons like this and it tends to give me the creeps when I have to hike in the dark by myself in remote places.

By this point I was hiking as fast as I could. The day seemed to be dragging on forever. I must have put in close to 15 miles that day, maybe longer, when I finally reached Weaver Lake just as the sun was setting. I was so tired I barely had enough energy for dinner. Once again, I took in a sunset display, this time against the rock face over Weaver Lake. The water was perfectly still, giving off the reflection of the orange rock.

When I got up on day three, I was only 3 miles from the trailhead. I had a quick breakfast, packed up, and got back to the car in time for a hot cup of coffee before the morning ended. I got home by late afternoon, took a shower, and shared all my photos with Bec. What a magical place. I can’t wait to go back.

Trail Map


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Elevation Profile

Big Meadows Trailhead

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