Trip Type: Loop - 3 Days, 2 Nights
Total Trip Mileage 17 miles on CalTopo
Altitude Gain: 3800' gross
Trail Difficulty: Extreme. This trail contains class 3/4 skills. Recommend a rope for descending The Kehole unless you've got solid climbing experience/skills.
Season: Mid/Late Season
Trail Traffic: Expect high trail traffic from North Lake to Piute Pass but once you leave the trail either at Piute (as we did) or at Muriel Lake) you'll like not encounter anyone.
WSH Trip Rating: 5 out of 5 stars: Well Seasoned Hiker LOVED this trip! Trail traffic, although substantial (not JMT style but still high traffic) doesn't detract from the amazing beauty as you climb to Piute Pass. If you're not a fan of high altitude desolation this might not be your trip as Lost Lakes and the area between The Keyhole and Alpine Col is barren. It also can be foreboding on cold and windy days.
Day 1: North Lakes to Muriel Lake: ~6.5 miles
Yes, only 6.5 miles to Muriel Lake! this one of the beauties of the East Side of the Sierra - that you can get to an alpine landscape quickly. Most of the climbing (1400') is accomplished in the first 2.5 miles getting you to Loch Leven and 10,700'. From Loch Leven the beauty as you climb to Piute Pass is simply stunning as you meander past lake, meadows, and waterfalls. Over the next 2.5 miles you climb another 700' to Piute Pass - probably the easiest pass in the Eastern Sierra. Drop down from here veering left a couple hundred yards down the trail to the unsigned (at least we didn't see a sign) trail to Muriel Lakes. This is one of the most peaceful and beautiful walks as you stroll through granite lined meadows under the watchful eye of Mount Humphries.
Day 2 - Muriel Lake to Mini Goethe Lake (or Lower Golden Trout Lake or you can day hike this section and leave your things at Muriel Lake (~xx Miles) Climb up the rocky moraine on the southeast side of Muriel Lake targeting the outlet of the lowermost Lost Lake. This class 2 is just a warm up for the day. Continue towards the second lost lake picking up a visible use trail on the southeast side of the first Lost Lake. Continue up the Lost Lake Valley until you reach the 3rd lost lake. Keeping right you'll want to target the obvious notch on the right (closest to Muriel Peak) - this is the Keyhole. No, it's not the lowermost point on the ridge but easily attainable via class 2.
Once in The Keyhole you're immediately greeted with a 30' drop off that is arguably class 5. If you bring a rope this is a great place to lower packs. Then follow the small ledge on your left out about 15 feet and you'll find a nice class 3 crack to drop down. If you're comfortable and capable you can leave your pack on and descend here. Once through this section follow the chute down until you can start navigating towards Alpine Col the saddle due West from your position. This traverse isn't difficult but you'll want to take care in areas where loose rock covers slab...it's a long way down if you slip.
The decent from Alpine Col can be tricky but if you keep left (heading west) you'll avoid cliffing out. Heading straight down from the pass is not a good idea - you'll be very sad. Once down head to the west side of Goethe Lake...attempting the east side is not a great path. Navigate around the lake and pick up the use trail just to the north of "Mini Goethe". We got caught in a severe rain storm and had to camp on the north side of Mini-Goethe - great camping at this location. Follow the use trail back down to Muriel Lake or cross country over to Lower Golden Trout
Day 3 - Muriel Lake to North Lake (~6.5 Miles) Retrace your path from Day 1
- There is first come first served camping at the trailhead but sites are VERY limited. If you're coming on a weekend it's likely all spots will be taken
- Early season (before August) be prepared for mosquitos
- My secret for those that read my page. Big Basin Bakery in Bishop!!!! Skip Schatts and eat local. This place makes amazing sandwiches and it's on the 168 just as you turn off the 395.