Selden Pass is the third major pass one encounters when hiking southbound on the John Muir Trail. It’s also the lowest of the major passes, at just 10,800 feet. What it lacks in elevation it makes up in beauty. Of all the passes on the John Muir Trail, loiter around this one the most.
The first gem in the area is Marie Lake, just a mile north. If one were to survey JMT thru-hikers as to the most beautiful spot on the entire trail, Marie Lake would at least get an honorable mention. Several peninsulas jut their way into the pristine water, and there is an arrowhead-shaped island in the middle. Stunted pines (the elevation here is over 10,500 feet) and polished granite complete the picture.
If you are intending on stopping at Muir Trail Ranch, there are only about nine trail miles left once you pass Marie Lake, and about eight of those are downhill. That means that there is plenty of time to explore. If you’ve camped in Rosemarie meadow the night before, you should be hitting this spot at about “second-breakfast” time. Find a good spot and enjoy. The next time I’m there I’m determined to swim out to the island—regardless of the temperature of the water.
The view from the top of the pass, in both directions, is among the best of the trail. To the north is Marie Lake, and to the south Heart Lake and the Sallie Keyes Lakes. All of them are easy on the eyes, especially since they are low enough to be surrounded with some trees.
Moving south, past Heart Lake, you reach one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail: the isthmus separating the two Sallie Keyes Lakes.
The trail borders the western edge of the southeastern of the two lakes, but the entire isthmus is wooded with good views in all directions. The shade, views, and pine needles over soft dirt make it a perfect spot for a break, and perhaps even a nap! During my thru-hike I was shocked to see the first day hikers since Tuolumne Meadows here at Sallie Keyes. They had walked up from Muir Trail Ranch.
Selden Pass was named for Selden S. Hooper, who was a member of the USGS and participated in the survey of the area from 1891 until 1898. On some older maps you may see his name misspelled as “Seldon.”
Those who know the area know that Mount Hooper is close by. You might guess that it is named for Selden Hooper. Not true! Mount Hooper is actually named for Selden’s father. Keeping things in the family, Rose Lake, nearby, is named for Rosa Hooper, Selden’s sister.
Good hiking, Ray