As others have stated, the road into Mineral King is narrow and winding. Most of it is one lane wide; most of it is paved. It is very slow moving and there isn't anywhere to stop on the way in. Pack a lunch before heading in. Silver City may have something, but we did not stop so I am not sure.
Once near the roads end, we started off by visiting the ranger station for an update before starting our hike. On a late Saturday morning in September, it was cold and the water pipes were frozen. The ranger did inform us to use the bear boxes for any food we would be leaving in the car - even as day hikers. There were bear boxes for use at the trail head; also present was a pit toilet with a men and woman side.
The Sawtooth trailhead was just a mile or two down from the ranger station; a lot of cars in the parking lot (the majority which were overnight backpackers). The trail was very well cut and started heading up. The steepest part was within the first mile with some steps - the remainder was a more gradual incline. The middle part of the hike was through lightly forested area creating some shade.
While our GPS did have some problems in the shade, we did clock it in a bit longer than 4.2 miles one way. We also did not go up to the upper lake for there was a snowfall the night before that had not yet melted making some of the rock icy. We saw slightly less than 30 people on the trail, only 2 other day hikers. Everyone else had been backpacking. Several people were packing up their tents from the lake when we had arrived.
We really enjoyed the hike, and kept it moving so it didn't take all day. There are nice views all along the hike, but we really enjoyed the last mile or so near the lake. For a more strenuous dayhike in the Mineral King area, we thought this was a good choice!
Also in the area, we went a mile or so in on the Atwell-Hockett Trailhead. You start out headed gradually down. In interests of time, we stopped at the bridge crossing the river - a very nice spot. After looking at the map, it seems perhaps we should have gone a bit further for this is where the Atwell grove really started. We did see a number of sequoia on this trail. The first part of the trail was fire damaged from years past. The part of this trail we had didn't have the grand views, but was more of a forest hike. We did see a buck. Bear boxes were provided at the trailhead. Parking was at the paradise ridge trail lot, and then you walked through the campground to get to the trailhead...no parking in the campground.
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