Copper Creek Trail
Trip Type: Loop - 3 Day/2 Nights. Well Seasoned Hiker completed this in 2 but it's not recommended. Suggest nights at Grouse Lake and Granite Lake. An alternative is to add a day and include a night at State or Horseshoe Lakes for Day 2. This avoid the long 15 mile day 2 and only adds 2-3 miles to the total miles for the trip.
Total Trip Mileage 33 miles
Altitude Gain: 10,480' gross
Trail Difficulty: Difficult. Only for experienced backpackers. Requires cross country and Class 2/3 rock skills.
Season: Mid Season
Trail Traffic: This is a low traffic area
WSH Trip Rating: 5 out of 5 stars: This trail follows the first day+ of the Sierra High Route and offers beautiful alpine views and experiences..
Kings Canyon, Roads End to Grouse Lake (8.5 miles and 5100' of elevation gain): This first day is not for the faint of heart. While the Copper Creek Trail is unbelievably well maintained and has a "hikers grade" the uphill is relentless. WSH strongly suggest leaving as early in the morning as possible to avoid the scorching heat that typifies the climb out of Kings Canyon. Camel up (bring water) as the climb is dry until you approach Lower Tent Meadows. In Aug. 2021 water at Lower Tent began to dry up but there was still water trickling at Upper Tent Meadow (approximately 5.2 miles in). Continue to climb to 10,250' and leave the trail skirting the buttress towards Grouse Lake. You may find a use trail but stay high on the buttress and avoid dropping down into the meadow below. Follow the Grouse Lake outlet to the lake. There are ample campsites around the outlet and it's a phenomenal place to call it a day.
Grouse Lake to Granite Lake (15.5 miles): Navigate around Grouse Lake on either side and head for the saddle NW of the lake and just NE of the unnamed peak at ~11440'. Navigating on the West side of the lake you'll be tempted to want to climb and keep your altitude. This can be done but easier walking can be found by targeting the grassy benches on the North side of the lake...towards the inlet. Follow these benches to what Roper calls Grouse Lake Pass. Once on the saddle veer NE and up another 100' or so to access a grassy ramp which will drop into Granite Creek Basin. Follow this and pass the 3 tarns at 11,000' targeting the next pass, "Goat Crest Saddle". This is an easy walk from the South but getting down the other side and into Glacier Lakes involves a little class 3. Once at upper Glacier Lake navigating down to the next Glacier Lake is relatively trivial.
Leave the lower Glacier Lake keeping left (West) over the saddle. Here you'll be faced with route finding skills and various class 3 slab walking. Take your time and pick your way down avoiding the outlet where slabs have various drop offs. Once down you'll enjoy a beautiful 2 mile stroll through Glacier Valley until you hit the State Lakes trail. Take the trail West through undulating terrain and attack Glacier Pass (~1200 ft gain). This pass can be a bit frustrating as it has 3 major false tops so be patient. Drop down from the pass and continue another couple of miles to the marked trail junction to Granite Lake which is about .5 miles from the junction.
Granite Lake to Roads End (10.7 miles) Retrace the .5 miles back to the Granite Pass Trail and climb 400 feet to the unnamed saddle near where we left the trail to Grouse Lake on Day 1. This is a relatively grueling 400' climb because of the stairs the trail crews felt compelled to install but shouldn't be difficult since this is an early morning attack on fresh legs. Once you make the saddle it's a 5000 foot drop to Cedar Grove Road End. Fortunately this trail is almost completely root and rock free so let your legs fly!!!
1. Copper Creek Trail, while a tough 5000' climb in 8+ miles is super well built. Few rocks and roots and a fairly consistent grade make this climb seem easier than it should be.
2. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND STARTING EARLY! This trail has little shade and faces in the sun. Try to get on the trail just before dawn to take advantage of cooler weather.
3 Grouse Lake not only beautiful but has excellent and ample camping. Highly recommend areas around the outlet as they're sandy and comfy for sleeping.
4. Cross country from Grouse Lake to Granite Lakes is relatively tame but there is some Class 3 coming down from Goat Crest Saddle.
5. If you choose to continue past Grouse Lake on Day 1 as I did I recommend the second Glacier Lake for camping. It's more protected from the wind and has better camping choices.