This is the fourth of a series of Guides to the High Sierra Trail, an approximately 70 mile trail that runs from Crescent Meadow on... more » the western side of the Sierra Nevada to Whitney Portal on the eastern slope. Each segment roughly corresponds to a day on the trail. This Guide describes Segment 4 of 7: Moraine Lake to Kern Hot Spring.
For the first few miles of this stretch you'll get to enjoy easy hiking as the trail winds gradually through the woods with no steep ascents or descents. If you have a sharp eye, keep a lookout for Mount Whitney in the distance. It's not a clear view, but it's the first peek you'll get of the highest point in the lower 48 states, one you'll hopefully be standing on in a few short days.
You'll pass the remains of an old sheep herder's cabin and through a forest of burnt tree trunks. Eventually you'll hike along the southeastern edge of Sky Parlor Meadow with an unobstructed view of Mt Kaweah.
After joining back together with the other fork of the High Sierra Trail, the long, ~2500 foot descent into the Kern Canyon begins. It starts off moderate but turns into tight, rocky, steep switchbacks. Before the switchbacks, the trail passes through a dense field of ferns - this is where you need to go on rattlesnake alert. They are common here and on the upcoming stretch of trail.
Once you (gratefully) reach the the trail junction at the bottom of the switchbacks, the High Sierra Trail goes to the left. Turn right if you want to camp in Upper Funston Meadow.
About a mile up the HST you'll cross Chagoopa Creek. Given the hot and steep descent into the Canyon you'll probably be ready to fill your water bottles! Above you is Chagoopa Falls - while not visible while in this dense treecover, you'll get a glimpse of it soon.
In another mile you'll reach Kern Hot Spring. There is a basic cement tub as well as a pool that mixes the hot water with the cooler river water. You'll find lots of campsites and bear box storage here, as well as people. less «