Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
5,511.00 ft (1,679.75 m)
Trail type
30.90 mi (49.73 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The route from Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Sky Blue Lake in the Miter Basin is a 31-mile out-and-back in the southern High Sierra. There are a number of variations to this route, and the hiker is encouraged to add or subtract as they see fit. Practice leave no trace principles, and take action to defend wilderness areas (

This loop begins at Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead in the Horseshoe Meadows area. There are three campgrounds in this vicinity, as well as day use and overnight parking. It is a popular destination with a number of accessible trails. Wilderness permits are required for backcountry camping, which can be found at At New Army Pass, this route enters Sequoia/King's Canyon National Parks (dogs not allowed).

Beginning on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail, take the left at the first junction (1.5 miles) onto South Fork of Cottonwood Creek Trail in order to access the Cottonwood Lakes. From here, the New Army Pass Trail turns sharply west toward the Sierra crest near Cottonwood Lake #1. The trail passes Long Lake and High Lake before a steep ascent to New Army Pass (12,280ft.). The southernmost peak from here is Cirque Peak (12,894ft.), and to the north, Mt. Langley (14,032ft.) Descend nearly 2,000 feet to link up with Rock Creek, where the Miter Basin Trail follows the creek north. This glacially-carved basin is surrounded by looming, sharp peaks, with a multitude of class 2 and 3 climbing options on all sides (see Secor's High Sierra). Sky Blue Lake lies at the northern end of the basin, and just west of The Miter (12,769ft.). It is a beautiful lake, but just one of a handful in the basin and our arbitrary destination for this route (to continue north, Crabtree Pass offers a manageable class 2 option).

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Mountains. Wildlife. Desolate.


Climate Change. No Dogs in National Park.

Trailhead Elevation

10,124.00 ft (3,085.80 m)

Highest point

12,299.00 ft (3,748.74 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Lodging + Camping

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California


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