The Approach to North Palisade - starts with the North Fork of Big Pine Creek trailhead, and works up dry slopes and
a long traverse above the north fork canyon, until it reaches a pine forest at about the 9,000 foot level. From there you pass a
series of lakes including the famous third lake that sits at the base of Temple Craig which is the destination for many rock
climbers. The trail then continues to climb to an intermediate meadow before climbing a series of switch backs that leads to
Sam Mack Meadow. We use this as an intermediate camp, and it is a beautiful one indeed. From there you have a choice to
either cross the stream that cuts through the meadow and continue on the trail to gain about another 1,000 feet in order to
reach the glacier moraine (lots of broken up rock debris at the base of the glacier) or go straight up at the end of Sam Mack
Meadow and reach the glacier via a snow and ice climb (if early enough in season). Having done both routes a few times each,
I would recommend the snow and ice approach in early season, and the trail in latter season if the snow and ice are either
melted off (leaving a bunch of loose talus), or in poor condition. Once the glacier moraine has been dealt with (lots of work with
a pack), you finally gain access to the glacier itself and thus easier travel. Begin looking for a good rock outcropping on the
glacier, and set up camp there. You could also camp directly on the glacier but make sure you have good insulation to put
between you and the snow if you do, and make sure you are not in an area that has any crevices or unstable snow. In the
above photo you can barely make out climbers heading up the final approach to camp on the glacier just below the Palisade
Crest in the top portion of the image.
A short distance from the trailhead, Middle Palisade comes into
view in the distance. We will be bypassing this southern canyon
and will be entering the north canyon further up the trail. Thus the
names South Fork and North Fork of Big Pine Creek. North
Palisade is accessed via North Fork (obviously) and Middle
Palisade the South Fork.
Cool bridge crossing of North Fork of Big Pine Creek.
Bridges like this make life much easier for hikers. I can't
tell you how many stream and river crossings we have
had to make over the years. Most are not to tough to
cross, but some have been positively dangerous.
Therefore bridges like this are much appreciated. They
also make for great photo opps.
The trial follows the North Fork drainage most of the way up the
mountain. Lower on the mountain, the water roars through the
canyon, but latter on, it meanders. At this point we still have a fair
amount of water passing through.
Greenery, along with beautiful wild flowers, add a lot to the
overall experience when climbing North Palisade from the Big
Pine approach. It will not be long, however, until this beauty
will give way to the stark world of rock, snow, and ice above.
Beautiful Third lake in the foreground, with Temple Craig in the
background. Third lake is the hangout for backpackers,
fisherman, and rock climbers alike. Many climbers prefer to take
advantage of the advanced routes and fast access that Temple
The North Fork trial is an excellent well maintained trail that
provides access to many areas. As mentioned on other trip
reports, I take my hat off and offer a big high five to the
dedicated trail blazers and maintenance crews that make
travel in the Sierra Nevada's so pleasant.
This image shows the last stretch of trail just before entering Sam
Mack meadow. The meadow will be the last chance to enjoy any
greenery before heading higher into the barren terrain of the
Above we see trail, flower, pines, contrasted up against the rock
snow and ice of the terrain in the upper left corner of the photo.
The climatic zones that the climber is able to travel through in a
days worth of hiking is absolutely amazing in the Sierra's.
Joe walking about our first camp site in Sam Mack Meadow.
This meadow is a great place to camp except for the mosquitoes
that can be a problem in early season. So make sure you have a
tent or some other form of shelter with netting to keep those
buggers out. They can turn a great experience into a miserable
one if you are not prepared. Bug repellent is a must in the month
of July in most places in the Sierra's..
Mike taking a break before heading up the steep snow slopes
that lead up to the Palisade Glacier. North Palisade can be seen
in the upper right hand portion of the above image. The
permanent snowfield just below the summit is a very distinguishing
mark of North Palisade, and makes it easy to identify from a
Mike wandering about on the snow field high above Sam Mack
Meadow. Much easier travel at this point. Snow covering
murderous talus is one of the many perks of climbing in early July.
By August and certainly September, rock hopping will be the
order of the day.
To provide contrast, Mike Husovich, on
another North Palisade Trip traveling over
exposed rocks that make up the glacier
moraine. As you can see, this requires
much more work.
Sean nearing the Palisade Glacier on a previous trip. As
mentioned in the photo above and to the right, traveling latter in
the season requires much more effort due to exposed rocks and
Mike taking a break after working through mountains of
rocks and boulders. My least favorite activity in the
mountains is traveling through brush, but making my way
through jumbled rocks and boulders is not my idea of fun
North Fork of Big Pine Creek - North Palisade Approach timberlinetrails.net