JMT Faves: Muir Trail Ranch, Selden Pass & Marie Lake (Aug. 2015)

Last week, I had the great fun of taking Dwight to see some of the places I loved the most while hiking the John Muir Trail last year: Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), Selden Pass and Marie Lake.


The welcoming Muir Trail Ranch sign; Dwight hiking up to Selden Pass; and the incomparable Marie Lake. (Click on image for a larger version.)

Dwight is always significantly impaired by high altitude, but thanks to Diamox, and a few days’ of acclimatization time at the fabulous Muir Trail Ranch (elevation 7,665 ft.), he hiked successfully to almost 11K, with over 3200 ft. net elevation gain, and made it to our target destination, Marie Lake.

Muir Trail Ranch deserves its own write-up and photo gallery, so I’ll save my “Ode to MTR” for another day. I’ll just note that Dwight’s acclimatization time included some leisurely fishing on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River, where it runs through the ranch by the tent cabins. Here are two images of the San Joaquin, where Dwight fished with his 3-oz. Tenkara rod, while I enjoyed some rock scrambling and tree-worship on the rock outcroppings high above the river.

The South Fork of the San Joaquin River runs through Muir Trail Ranch, near the ranch's four tent cabins.

The South Fork of the San Joaquin River runs through Muir Trail Ranch, near the ranch’s four tent cabins.


The next day, powered by Diamox and MTR’s superlative breakfast, Dwight aced the climb up the tedious, sun-baked switchbacks that north-bound JMT hikers face when they leave Muir Trail Ranch, and successfully crossed Selden Pass to reach our coveted campsite at Marie Lake.

The hardest part of this hike is right at the beginning, gaining 2000 ft. elevation in the 3 miles between MTR and a lovely crossing of Senger Creek, which provides the first opportunity for water (and which, farther down, is the same creek that sparkles past the front doors of the little log cabins at MTR).

Once past Senger Creek,  we soon found ourselves on what I think of as “a Sunday walk in the park” along the Sallie Keyes Lakes (elevation 10,313 ft. at the upper lake’s inlet), with a comfortable duff trail beneath our feet and the magnificent trees shading us.


Lower Sallie Keyes Lake is lined with spectacular trees, including this gnarled giant.

Soon, the trail reaches lovely Heart Lake (10,572 ft. at its inlet). It’s a little gem – water provides a lively musical recital all along the trail here, and flowers both large and tiny fill the rock crevices along the right side of the trail and the little meadows or marshes on the left side, as we head gradually up to Selden Pass.

Heart Lake

Heart Lake is captivating, with its infinity edge and plenitude of flowers, and lively streams right along the trail.

Before long, we find ourselves at Selden Pass (10,877 ft.), richly rewarded with a panoramic view of my favorite lake of all, Marie Lake (10,567 ft).

A first view of Marie Lake, from Selden Pass.


Dwight explores Marie Lake as the sun starts to fade.

And this is the view somewhat before “hiker midnight” (9:00 pm), but not long before two people who are truly happy campers call it a night.

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3 Responses to JMT Faves: Muir Trail Ranch, Selden Pass & Marie Lake (Aug. 2015)

  1. Karen says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. My heart aches to be out there too. I love the “hiker’s midnight” photo in particular for its serenity and mystery. Also, did Dwight actually catch any fish?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Diana Owens says:

    It was a pleasure talking with you, yesterday. Thank you for introducing me to Marie Lake and its beauty. It sounds like a wonderful hike for me to research, recommend, and possibly shoot for myself. Thank you for your kind and inspirational company. Best wishes – Diana


    • betty says:

      I’m so glad you’re considering this hike! I really enjoyed our conversations, loved meeting Marissa, and send best wishes for your son’s bar exam and new job. I greatly appreciate the ride and your skillful negotiation of that very tricky road! -Betty


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