Heather Lake – Sequoia National Forest

Where: Sequoia National Forest
Mileage: 8.40 miles
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Elevation gain: 2400 feet
Recommended: swim suit, lunch, and camera

To get to the trailhead: Going North on 198, make a right onto Wolverton Rd. Park in the lot next to the trailhead 1.5 miles in.

After reading about Lakes Trail in Backpacker Magazine, I decided to take a couple people with me on this regions (Sequoia National Park) finest weekend hike. Decision: Day hike.

Wolverton Parking Lot sits at 7,303 feet. We took our first steps here towards Heather Lake. I scrambled a bit for about .2 miles trying to get my tracks to start on my new Garmin64st (GPS). To be honest I probably should have figured out how to use it before, but was able to get the track started in time to enjoy my time with some friends and the encompassing area. Trailhead stated 4.1 miles to Heather Lake.

The trail was a steady uphill until we hit the Watchtower trail. This was the more “picturesque” way, but was closed due to icy conditions. We continued up to the right and took Hump Trail, which allowed us to stay cool and sheltered by the Sequoias covered in moss and the creek nearby. The more we gained elevation, the more snow there was! Yes, snow in May in California is still possible. Every step we took the views became even more astonishing as we hit the “Hump” of our hike at 9,400 feet. At this point we were rewarded with a view of rising peaks of granite looming 2000 feet above the Tokopah Valley base.

Less than ¼ mile away from Heather Lake, we snapped some photos and staggered 200 feet downhill to the secluded bowl of water inhabited with rainbow trout and hidden marmots. Surrounded by towering trees and granite cliffs the lake’s reflection was unfathomable with the snow covered boulders lying peacefully. The lake was somewhat of a surprise as most of our mileage till now was spent staggering in the forest.

Lake = water = swimming. The couple we passed on the way up was right behind us and apparently heard us take a dip into the freezing lake; I guess those screams can be heard from a mile away! The lady mentioned “It must be refreshing to get into the cold water on a nice day like this after a hike up…” later mumbling to herself, “Not for me though!” She has a point that it is refreshing; it always is when you get into a lake in the wilderness, a feeling that I can’t explain with words.

Some moments later we decided to try to take the Watchtower trail down only to find ourselves abandoning it and climbing over the hill to the original ascended trail. Why? Ice/Snow. Maybe we should have listened to the sign on the way up, except that if we did not go this way, we would not have seen Tokopah Valley through the eyes of Watchtower Trail. I will definitely make an effort to come back on this trail and take the route that sadly remained unseen in our eyes.

After climbing 200 feet and scrambling across the forest, we found the trail we initially came on; thank you Garmin for showing us the direction of the tracks we formed on our way up. Intermittent rain was upon us as we descended cooling us off quite a bit. It was all downhill from here; we reached the cars and as we snacked it rained. The skies above us cleared up a few minutes later and we headed back to camp.

Note to self: 1. Return to take the Watchtower Trail. 2. Hit the other 3 lakes. 3. Listen to warning signs on trails!

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