Cirque Country

Goat Crest to Horseshoe Meadows Route/Goat Crest to Horseshoe Meadows

In this section, the SHR starts on Monarch Divide and proceeds northward into the basin of the Middle Fork Kings River.

First, there is a steep descent into beautiful basin of Upper and Lower Granite Lakes. Upper Granite Lake is alpine and Lower Granite Lake is subalpine. They occupy a hanging valley in the Dougherty Creek basin.

From Lower Graniite Lake, there is a Class III descent into the tablelands of upper Dougherty Creek, then a traverse though a lodgepole pine forest on the west side of Windy Ridge to the Horseshoe Creek basin. This section ends at a group of meadows and subalpine lakes tucked into the forest.


Dougherty Creek & Meadow - Named after brothers Bill and Bob Dougherty who were 'pioneer' sheepers in the area. Very likely, the guys who replaced the previous tenants, the bighorn sheep.

Goat Crest - Named (mistakenly) for the Bighorn Sheep that originally inhabited the area.

Monarch Divide - Originally named "Dyke Ridge" by the Whitney Survey, it was later renamed by the US Geological Survey in its first 30 minute map of the area. "Dyke" refers to Whitney's impression of the divide as volcanic in nature-a huge lava dyke separating the two rivers. (Many of Whitney's interpretations of California geology were quickly overtaken by science.)

Topo: Goat Crest to Horseshoe Meadows

Below is a 2x profile of this section of the SHR. Using the time-honored Sierra Club formula of 1 hour/1,000' (vertical) + 1 hour/3 miles (horizontal), the hiking time for this section should be around 4 hours plus breaks.

Profile: Goat Crest to Horseshoe Meadows

This segment starts with a good view of Monarch Divide and Upper Glacier Lake (10,640') - looking northeast from a swale of thick grass on the north side of Goat Crest (11,500'). The dark mountain on the horizon is Marion Peak (12,719'), Monarch Divide's highest point.

Just a few yards beyond is the brink of a steep descent into Glacier Lakes Basin.

Descending from Goat Crest into Glacier Lakes Basin. This slope shows the classic shape of glaciation on granite.

Looking back up toward Goat Crest on the descent into Glacier Lakes Basin.

The view northward on the descent from Goat Crest into Glacier Lakes Basin. Beyond Upper Glacier Lake is Windy Ridge, a spur of Monarch Divide. Horseshoe Meadows, the destination for this segment is located on the tablelands visible in the middle distance west of Windy Ridge. Windy Point is visible past the tablelands.

In the far distance from left to right: the Black Divide, the Sierra Crest from Mt Powell to the Palisades, all looming over Le Conte Canyon and the Middle Fork Kings somewhere far below.

The inlet to Upper Granite Lake (10,640'). Not quite alpine, not quite above tree line, this seldom-visited lake seems pristine, but was probably visited by sheepers on an annual basis before the land was protected by the Park Service.

The view from a bench below the outlet of Upper Glacier Lake. Visible is the lower lake (10,429'). Beyond the tablelands is Black Divide. The so-called Enchanted Gorge is visible as the huge white gash just to the left of the picture's center.

The north-facing walls of Goat Crest form an awesome cirque wherein lies Upper Glacier Lake. This view is from just below the lake's outlet.

Traversing the descent from Upper to Lower Glacier Lakes. In the distance is Black Divide and Enchanted Gorge.

The outlet of Lower Glacier Lake and the brink of a steep descent into Glacier Valley. The next few miles of the High Route are clearly visible -- a virtual straight line from this prospect to Windy Point, the white hill beyond the tablelands.

Glacial polish at the outlet of Lower Glacier Lake. The awesome power of flowing ice carved all Sierra basins, but I guess Glacier Lakes Basin was so illustrative of glacial features, it earned its name from the US Geological Survey. The first map of the area was the Tehipite 30' map dated 1903.

Lower Glacier Lake and Goat Crest on the horizon.

Looking north across the tablelands toward Windy Point from the outlet of Lower Glacier Lake.

The Class III descent from Lower Glacier Lake into Glacier Valley.
Glacier Valley, the tablelands and Black Divide in the distance.
Meadow at just over 10,000' in Glacier Valley.
Crossing a tributary of Dougherty Creek while traversing the lodgepole pine-forested tablelands.

The Sierra High Route rarely travels through this type of terrain, preferring slabs, boulder fields, and generally sparsely-vegetated alpine areas.

Somewhere in the tablelands.
From somewhere in the vicinity of Horseshoe Meadows, the view across Le Conte Canyon of Mt Goddard and Goddard Canyon in Black Divide.