Day 1 to Post Coral Meadows
Trip Type: 4 Day/3 Night. Add a Day for a layover and Devils Punchbowl
Trailhead to Devils Punchbowl: 14.9 miles
Altitude Gain: 2100 feet
Trail Difficulty: Difficult
Trail Traffic: Low to Moderate
SEASON: Early to Mid
WSH Trip Rating: 4 out of 5 stars: Areas of unmaintained trail - requires trail finding skills.
Trail Head Access: Find your way to Highway 168, through the town of Prather. Stop in Prather for your permits. The ranger station is just past the roundabout/traffic circle (there's only one). Continue on Hwy 168 to the Dinkey Creek Rd turnoff (just before Shaver Lake). Turn right take this to McKinely Grove Rd and take another right. Take this to the Courtright Reservoir turn off, Take a final left and follow this to the reservoir. Right when you arrive at the reservoir stay to the right and take the road across the dam and follow this to the parking area.
Day 1, Maxton TH to Post Coral Meadows - 7 miles : From the parking lot find your way to a "trail" sign which will lead you about 100 yards to a 4-wheel drive/OHV road. Take this road and follow it north for approximately 2 miles. Pay attention as there's no obvious sign for where the trail leaves the road but you should know it when you see it. Take the trail right and gain 600' to the saddle before dropping down into Long Meadow. This is tame, tree covered climb. Enjoy the long descending stroll to Post Coral Meadows. The best camping is to the right of the trail before the creek. There are some posted "No Camping" signs but you'll find sites further west (away from the stream).
Day 2. Post Coral Meadows to Devils Punchbowl - 7 miles: This is the toughest day of the trip. This begins with 1200' climb in the first 2 miles. This is tree covered and again, while challenging, the well marked trail makes this relatively tame. Continue another 2.2 miles (500' gain) to Fleming Lake. Great places here to take a break and fill water bottles but marshy so could be buggy in early season. Also great camp sites for those that prefer hiking the 11.2 miles on day 1. From Fleming Lake climb another 500' in the first mile to your highest point on the trip at 10,240'. Here, as you reach alpine country you'll get a great view of the Red Mountain ridge and Red Mountain. Stunning! At mile 6.5 (13.5 from the trailhead) leave the trail that heads to Hell For Sure Pass and Disappointment Lake and take the trail south to Devils Punchbowl. This section is unmaintained so route finding skills will be crucial. This section is also surprisingly difficult. You drop down 400' but then climb a final 300' in .4 of a mile to Devils Punchbowl. Best sites are on the right as you arrive (north side of the lake.
Day 3. Devils Punchbowl to North Fork of the Kings River - 6 miles: Again you'll need route finding skills as you follow the lake around to the west. Lots of rock slabs will make the trail difficult to pick up. Follow these to the southwest side of the lake and drop down to lake level to pick up a use trail. From here climb the 100' rise to get out of the lake basin and pick your way down the next 4 miles (descent of 2000') to the North Fork of the Kings. Unbelievable meadows on this section - some of the best in the Sierra. Top secret stuff! Once you reach the river head northwest on the trail for just under a mile for the best camping along this stretch.
Day 4. North Fork of the Kings to Maxton TH - 10 miles: Back on the well worn trail this is a relatively easy hike out. Follow the North Fork of the Kings for another 1/3 of a mile and the break north on the trail through undulated tree covered landscape. Quite nice. Arrive back and Post Coral Meadows, fill up water for the final 7 miles out retracing steps from day 1.