I think the most picturesque place on the entire John Muir Trail is Marie Lake. I always make an effort to camp there. There are lots of places that are a close second, though, and Sallie Keyes Lakes is one of them. Here is why:
- It’s has a beauty all its own. The reason there are two Sallie Keyes Lakes is because a triangular isthmus runs between the eastern and western bodies of water. If you are hiking southbound, that isthmus starts narrow and widens as you move south. That land in the middle includes a small hill which is a great place to take a break.
- It’s also a great place for breakfast. If you camp at Marie Lake the night before (like I do), you’ll reach Sallie Keyes less than a couple of hours after leaving camp. I like to get some distance behind me before I eat my morning meal, and this is about as nice a place you could pick to do so. There is lots of water for cooking and refilling your container of choice, trees to provide shade (something you will see less and less of as you move south), and several downed trees to provide a seat or backrest.
- The trail runs very close to the water. Water is almost everywhere on the JMT, but you don’t get to hike right next to it all the time. Even less frequently do you walk within a few feet of a lake and stay under a nice canopy of tree limbs.
- You will have just passed over your third major pass. Seldon Pass is less than two miles to the north, so you will still have that wonderful glow that comes with putting a pass behind you. You will experience that feeling six more times on the trial: once for the other five passes and once when you come down off the summit of Mount Whitney.
- You will arrive at Muir Trail Ranch in just a few hours and it is almost all downhill. Whether you are spending two nights and a zero day, one night, or just getting your resupply and moving on, it’s always a treat to descend into MTR. When you leave you will have more than half of the trail behind you!
Don’t rush by Sallie Keyes Lakes; linger a while and enjoy one of the real gems on the JMT!
Good hiking, Ray