Evolution Valley

Evolution ValleyChickenfoot Lake Upper Morgan Lake Gem Lakes Treasure Lakes South Fork San Joaquin River Evolution Creek McClure Meadow Colby Meadow Evolution Valley Evolution Lake Emerald Peak Lake McGee Canyon Goddard Canyon McGee Lakes Sapphire Lake Unnamed Lake Darwin Lakes Paiute Canyon Humphreys Basin Red Mountain Basin Sabrina Backcountry Goddard Divide Darwin Lakes

Suggested Flies for Evolution Valley area:
Eastern Sierra Hatch Selection

Other Local Favorites:

Dry Flies:
Parachute Adams #16-18
Olive Caddis #16-18
Royal Wulff #16-18
Yellow Humpy #14
Griffith's Gnat #16-18
Black Gnat #16-18
Henrys Fork Hopper #12
Chernobyl Ant #12-14
Mosquito #14-16
Bivisible #14-16

Nymph Flies:
Hare's Ear #16-18
Prince Nymph #16-18
Copper John #14-16
Pat's Rubber Legs #10


French Canyon Directions

I put this region within the East Side maps due to proximity, not to ease of access. From the East Side, there are two traiilheads that will get you to Evolution Valley. One is to take the South Lake trailhead going over Bishop Pass and dropping into Le Conte Canyon where you pick up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a distance of 11 miles. But you still have to climb over Muir Pass, so you have two 12,000' passes to cross and it is a 20 mile hike until reaching the headwaters of Evolution Valley. The other entrance is by way of North Lake going over Piute Pass (11,500') and passing through Humphries Basin and Piute Canyon. This will bring you onto the PCT north of Evolution Valley, a distance of about 16 miles. Following the PCT southward another 4 miles will bring you to Evolution Meadow. Either direction, it is still over 20 miles of trail to reach either end of Evolution Valley.

The preferred route is often from the West Side, taking the ferry across Florence Lake, it is a 5.5 mile hike to PCT and another 7 miles to Evolution Meadow. This route has a gradual incline of about 1500 feet. An alternative route is a 20 mile hike through Hell For Sure Pass from the Courtright Trailhead.

Notes:Evolution Valley
Kings Canyon National Park starts at the confluence of Piute Creek and SF San Joaquin. A wilderness permit is required for overnight camping. All of the trout caught within the park are wild trout as planting was discontinued in 1977. Some of the waters became fishless without a good food source or spawning areas. Other areas became self sustaining. The stretch of water on the SF San Joaquin upstream from the confluence with Piute Creek continues to have a healthy population of Browns, Brookies, and Rainbow Trout in the 10-12 inch range reaching the rapids just past Aspen Meadows. This is about 2 miles from the park boundary. Within these rapids, the river is devoid of Browns but has a good population Rainbows and Goldens in the 8-11 inch range occupying the plunge pools. Evolution Creek forks off the SF San Joaquin about 3.5 miles from the park boundary to the headwaters of Evolution Lake. This area is known as Evolution Valley. The SF San Joaquin proceeds up Goddard Canyon to the south.

Evolution Creek: From the confluence of Evolution Creek and the SF San Joaquin there is a stretch of cascading waters with small waterfalls for 1.5 miles below Evolution Meadow. This area has some good pocket water holding the largest Goldens in the 10-12 inch range. Once you reach Evolution Meadow, the Goldens are plentiful but quite small in the 5-8 inch range. The meadow water is ideal for dry flies such as Elk Hair Caddis, size 16-18, and terrestrials such as hoppers and ants. There are two addtional meadows with campsites at McClure Meadow and Colby Meadow. McClure Meadow is about 3.5 miles from the SF San Joaquin confluence. A backcountry Ranger Station is located within the meadow. Colby Meadow is another mile further upstream. Above Colby Meadow, the fishing gets better with larger Goldens 8-10 inches holding within pools.

Darwin Bench: This area is considered fishless. The bench has five interconnecting lakes and above the bench at 11,540 and 11,546 are two larger lakes that have remained fishless. On the bench, the lower three lakes used to have some good sized Golden Hydrids up 14 inches and below the bench the larger unnamed lake contained Golden Hybrids. All of these lakes will be treated with a piscicide, CFT Legumine, that was approved in 2017, to eradicate trout species from these lakes. The bench can be accessed from PCT or Lamarck Col. on an unmaintained trail that is well-marked.

Evolution Lake: (100 acres) at 10,852' elevation. 7.5 miles from the confluence of Evolution Creek and SF San Joaquin. Initially planted with Goldens in 1928 with several more plantings until ending in 1963. Contains Goldens 7-10 inches.

Sapphire Lake: (75 acres) at 10,968' elevation. 9.5 miles from the confluence of Evolution Creek and SF San Joaquin. Contains Goldens 7-10 inches.

McGee Lakes: There are four lakes within the McGee Lake system. These range from 12-20 acres in size at 10,680 to 10,900' elevation. There is a trail to the lakes out of Colby Meadows following the creek up McGee Canyon. It is a distance of about 3 miles from Colby Meadows. All of the lakes had Goldens 7-8 inches. Over the last ten years, the Goldens have been removed using gill netting to allow restoration back to native species.

Goddard Canyon: Following the SF San Joaquin from the confluence of Evolution Creek. This stretch has Brookies and Rainbows up to Franklin Meadows. Upstream from there, Brookies are prevalent in the 6-8 inch class. Above the Falls, the SF San Joaquin has Golden-Hybrids up to it's headwaters of Martha Lake.


Fishing Regulations (Effective March 1st. 2021)

Lakes within Evolution Valley:

Open all year. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession

All creeks and tributaries:

From the last Saturday in April through November 15, 5 trout daily bag limit, 10 trout in possession; and, from November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April, 0 trout bag limit, artificial lures with barbless hooks only and trout must be released unharmed and not removed from the water.


© 2023 Steve Schalla
This page is not to be copied without my explicit permission.