ROUTE 4 - Grinnell-Hopkins Pass

Cross country over the Silver Divide and back via Grinnell and Hopkins Passes.

One of the Upper Hopkins Lakes.
Easy southeast descent from Hopkins Pass toward Third Recess.
Northeast to Big McGee Lake and the Owens Valley from the top of the crux.
Steep snow on the crux of Hopkins Pass from the northwest.
Early light on Hopkins Pass from Big McGee Lake.
View back west from the trail to McGee Pass.
Grinnell Pass southeast from the outlet of Red and White Lake.
From Grinnell Pass southeast to Grinnell Lakes.
Sunset under clearing storm clouds
Laurel Lake to the west.
Second Recess south from Laurel Creek.

(Mouseover triggers interactive features.)

Route Description

Route 4 Data TableThis cross country route loops from Mono Creek over the Silver Divide and back, following the Laurel Creek drainage to Grinnell Pass, and returning over Hopkins Pass and down the Hopkins Creek drainage. It's a 32 mile, three day trip, but could be more fun to do in four.

This loop has the same start as the Gabbot Pass trip. See ROUTE 1 for information on trailhead access, backcountry permits, and the Vermillion Valley Resort ferry service on Lake Thomas A Edison.

From the eastern shore landing, hike the trail east toward Mono Pass. The water in the North Fork of Mono Creek can be fairly high during peak runoff, but is usually pretty tame. At about 6.8 miles, just before the Laurel Creek crossing, turn left and head up the hill (north). There is a sign here, and something of a trail (but not much). marker 1 is the view back (southeast) toward Second Recess.

The Laurel Creek drainage gets more interesting higher up. The trail, such as it is, disappears among blowdowns, etc, but the navigation is straightforward. Traversing right up valley toward Grinnell Lake gives a view west marker 2 of Laurel Lake and Bighorn Pass (to Rosy Finch Lake, and a variation on this loop).

Grinnell Lake is a nice bivouac spot. marker 3 is a sunset under storm clouds on the Mono Divide.

Hike the easy terrain northwest past Little Grinnell Lake. At the head of the valley, a Class 2 traverse up and right over loose material leads to Grinnell Pass (11,606 ft). Don't miss the view back (southeast) across the Grinnell Lakes marker 4.

Descend the steep north slope of the pass - crampons are helpful here if there is a lot of hard snow, as in this case marker 5. Traversing the rock bands to the east of Red and White Lake takes some skills (it's more technical than the pass itself).

Descend easy terrain northwest to pick up the trail east to McGee Pass (12,197 ft). marker 6 is a view west from near the pass with some typical Sierra afternoon weather - sleet on the way. Cross the pass and drop to Big McGee Lake, another good bivouac, but hardly off the beaten path.

Ascend the valley southeast from Big McGee Lake marker 7; there is a "use trail" on the right that is easy going. In this picture, the route to Hopkins Pass diagonals left along the snow bands under the inverted snow triangle on the ridge (actually a cornice). As marker 8 shows, the late season snow is steep, and hard in the morning - crampons are helpful - although this could be Class 2 in another year with less snow.

marker 9 is a view northeast across Big McGee Lake to the Owens Valley from near the pass. Descend Hopkins Pass (11,413 ft) to the southeast on easy Class 1 terrain marker 10.

Wander down the upper Hopkins Creek drainage, past small lakes marker 11, over the most enjoyable terrain of the loop. Eventually pick up a trail (much more heavily used than the Laurel Creek trail) and descend to intersect the main Mono Creek trail.

From here it's back west on the trail to the Lake Edison landing to catch the ferry (or a longer hike out to the Mono Creek trailhead).