Hopkins Pass is a good cross-country route/pass for hikers and climbers to access Pioneer Basin from Big McGee Lake. It also can be used to traverse along the Sierra Crest to Mt. Crocker, along with Peak 12,416, or also known as "Robber Barron Peak", Mt. Hopkins, and back around to the East to Mt. Stanford, and Mt.Huntington. It is known that the entire traverse of these peaks is called the "Robber Barron Traverse".
Approach and Route Description
From Big McGee Lake
or the McGee Pass Trail
, skirt the lake to the main drainage gully left (south) and look for the Hopkins Pass Trail, a trace trail, with some minor brush and plenty of overgrown trail, so be alert. This trail ascends the right side of the drainage as you ascend up to a small alpine lake just under the South-East face of Red and White Mountain and directly below a snowfield under the 'Two horns'.
Cross the drainage and look for the trail. Much to my surprise, there were what looked like the remains (bones) of a animal. Next to this pile of bones was a carin, which I thought was a memorial. The trail continues from here. At this point, the trail goes into a class 2 with route-finding moderate. Some carins are here and there, but from my observation and own trip, there are several ways up. You can get into Class 3 easily, so beware if you're carrying heavy packs into Pioneer basin.
The trail will eventually lead to Hopkins Pass, and the View is inspiring. From here you can follow the Sierra Crest as close as you want, literally. Most of the S-SW slopes of Crocker is covered with dense vegetation. If one stays close to the Crest, (exposed class 3-4) you can bypass most of it up past a false summit block to the peak. If you dodge out due to exposure, the bushwhack/boulderhop will be tedious, arduous task, but class 3 in spots near the top with huge boulders everywhere. There are some nice little body size caves or alcoves one can duck into along the way near the top to wait out strong winds or take a rest.
The Sierra Crest continues on to the summit block of Crocker. Mainly Class 3. Amazing views of the Pioneer Basin, McGee Creek and all the way South to Mt. Hilgard.
Descent or Thru-Route
To get back to McGee Creek simply retrace your steps with the route info you have gone with to here. To access the Pioneer Basin or the Hopkins Lakes to the Mono Creek Trail, walk down the gentle slopes to the lakes and find trace trails to lead back to the Mono Creek Trail.
April-Oct: Nothing much but the basics
Oct-Jan: Ice axe and Crampons may be needed