Mt. Baldy Loop via Bear Canyon Trail

another great training hike, via a non-common route

*Originally hiked: May 1, 2021

Followed by a great overnight training on Mt. San Jacinto, we decided to do the next tall peak as an overnighter too.  Plans changed and we only did 1 day, but we packed like we were going overnight that helped with training with weight in our packs.  Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) via Bear Canyon Trail is a perfect training hike for those training for the John Muir Trail (which we were training for) or Mt. Whitney or any other hard hike they are about to embark on.



Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
San Gabriel Mountains 16.01 miles 5,734 feet Loop

Mount San Antonio sits at 10,066 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains/Angeles National Forest.  It is the 3rd highest isolated peak in Los Angeles County.  The peak is also referred to as Mt. Baldy, referring to it’s “bare fell-field” terrain visible from Los Angeles.


Vlog on YouTube


Permits, Direction & Weather

*No permit is needed to hike Mt. Baldy.

Parking permit needed:  You will need a Forest Adventure Pass that costs $5 per day or if you’re a frequent visitor I’d recommend the Annual Pass for $30.  Interested in finding a place that sells Adventure Pass click here.

Directions:  Drive towards Mt. Baldy Village.  The best address to put in in my perspective is 6777 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759.  Find parking along the way, we actually parked up near Icehouse Canyon Trailhead as that was where we were going to end our trip.

Weather:  Mt. Baldy Village  &  Mt. Baldy Summit


Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations

Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Wilderness, Trail Map
Trail Map Angeles High Country Map
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralite Foam Backpacking Mattress
Sierra Designs Women’s Whitney Jacket, 800 Fill DriDown Insulation, Packable and Hooded Winter Jacket

Hike Stats


Blabberings

I’ve hike Mt. Baldy twice already, but from different routes: via Ski Hut Trail and via Backbone Trail.  They say this is the hardest route; but honestly they’re all hard!!!

Usually when I hike locally, I like to wake up super early at 4am to beat the crowds and be able to get parking near the trailhead.  For some reason I wasn’t feeling very well and decided to sleep in till about 530am and only got to trailhead by 730am.  With that said – we just needed to get parking near Mt. Baldy Village as that is where the start of the trailhead is.


 

through the town and up the back way for a training hike

After we parked a little up the road from the turnoff to Icehouse Canyon (we were going to come out that way the next day); we proceeded to town and made a right straight across the street form the restaurant.  First part of the hike you find yourself amidst some exquisitely designed homes; that lead behind them to a small trail called Bear Canyon.

To be honest, the most I remember from this is hike is that I wanted to give up many times.  Once you get onto the the trail it is an uphill battle, sometimes ranging in a 30 degree vertical; there were many many breaks. I really enjoyed the views and looking down to see how far we have come up during the insane uphill switchbacks.  I’m pretty sure we even took a nap, once we reached the ridgeline.


quick trot through the snow and summiting

Before we hit the summit there was a short time that the trail did not have any elevation gain, which was such a nice break from the morning crazy climb.  Once we got close to West Baldy, there were a couple patches of snow; nothing that warranted us using microspikes (even though we packed them in case).  Once we reached the summit it was extremely windy, we didn’t spend much time at all there.  We raced down the the ski lift where our next water source would be and we ended up making the decision to take the ski lift down to the parking lot and walk back to the car and call it for the day.

Ski lift and pavement walk/hitch to car

I think it was a good decision, puppy was being babysat – we had already done about 14 miles.  The chairlift is $24.99 for roundtrip and since we were only taking it one way I think we paid about $15 at the restaurant bar.  Once we got done with the windy chairlift ride, we slowly trotted along the paved road to where our car was parked.  It was much longer than we thought it would be, so I did something I’ve never done before and put my thumb out for a hitch.  A nice couple with a truck picked us up and took us down the the car; it was pretty awesome hanging out in the bed of a truck getting a ride after such a long hard day.  Thank you friendly couple who took care of us!


I hope you enjoyed this write up and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to write comments below.

Happy Adventures! Annette


 

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Mt. San Jacinto via Deer Springs Trail

snow covered mountain, but needed a training hike

*Originally hiked: April 17-18, 2021

In March earlier this year, we got permits to hike the John Muir Trail in June.  It was time to train and the only way to do so, was to hit as many hard hikes locally as we can over the weekends.  Our first 10,000 peak to hit was San Jacinto Peak.


Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
San Jacinto State Park 19.10 miles 5,234 feet Out-and-back, loop

Mount San Jacinto sits at 10,834 feet above Palm Springs.  There is a rather strenuous hike that one could do called Cactus to Clouds from Palm Springs (desert floor) to the summit, climbing 10,700 feet.  This trail doesn’t have any water sources until 8,500 feet once almost hitting the Mountain Station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  Respect the climb and make sure you are ready for it.  Read more about my hike in November 2016 here: Cactus to Clouds.

Mount San Jacinto State Park Website


Vlog on YouTube


Permits, Directions & Weather

*permit is required to hike and backpack overnight in the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness.

Permits:  It is very simple to get a permit for day hiking as there is no quota for these.  There are several places you can fill out the form including: State Park Headquarters in Idyllwild, Long Valley Ranger Station and Stone Creek Campground.  Once you fill out make sure you keep a copy of your permit at all times while hiking.

As for backcountry permits, since this is a popular place, you will need to plan ahead as the established wilderness area campgrounds fill up pretty quickly.  To apply for the permit you can find the permit on the Mount San Jacinto State Park website; fill out the Wilderness Permit Application online and submit by mail with $5.00/person.  Check or money order only, no cash.  Don’t forget when sending the permit to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for you to receive you approved permit.

*Note: no dogs allowed in the wilderness.

Directions: The trailhead we started at – Deer Springs Trailhead.  We picked up our permits at the San Jacinto Ranger Station in Idyllwild since we didn’t apply in advance and knew this wouldn’t be an issue as it was dead of winter. The park entrance is N on the 243 about 0.8 miles from the Ranger Station.

Weather: 

Since this trail is a 5,000 foot climb, you will definitely experience different types of weather varying from 80 to 30 degrees easily during the winter.  Make sure you check the weather and plan packing appropriately.

Idyllwild ~ 5,318 feet

San Jacinto Peak ~10,500 feet


Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations




Hike Stats

Day 1

Day 2


Blabberings

It was time to get serious about our training for the John Muir Trail. First of 3 big mountains in Southern California were to be tackled, Mount San Jacinto to begin with.  Since no doggies are allowed, we dropped puppy off at my sisters house early around 5:00am. Before you head up, you need to make sure you pick up your permit or have it. In our case since it was off season we headed to Idyllwild just a mile passed the trailhead where we were to begin. Filled out a self issued overnight wilderness permit at the headquarters, as the time we arrived the office was closed.

We began at Deer Springs Trailhead which took about 5 minutes to drive from the ranger station.  There is no warm up for this hike, it goes straight uphill from the beginning; hence using this as a training hike.

The weather difference from where we started and where we ended up was almost a 50 degree difference. On the way up I passed by a group and there was a girl that had a cardboard sign of Mt. San Jacinto Peak on it and I just randomly blurted out that was a good idea.  She then followed with are you headed up there?  Do you want to take it?  And proceeded to give it to me.  I thanked her, put it on my pack and trotted on.  Cool moment 🙂

Reaching camps

Once we got up to Round Valley, the camp spots were mostly covered in snow and didn’t look inviting.  Instead, we skirted straight up to get close to the summit.  It got very cold and windy and we decided that we would just get up in the morning the next day to summit without our full packs for sunrise.   When we made the decision we had our eyes on a small open area no ice/snow that was perfect to put up our tent.  There was no water source the entire way other than fresh snow, hence the reason we situated ourselves near a big patch or more.

To have water to make dinner and water for the night and the next morning we had to melt the snow in our jetboil.  Weather was coming in and we quickly put all of our belongings we could on while we took care of our camp tasks, but especially melting snow for water.  Dinner was Peak Refuels Beef Pasta Marinara, first time trying it and it did not disappoint.  We obviously went into the tent to have our dinner after having enough of wind and it starting snowing lightly.



The night was restless and very windy, very hard to sleep; 5am we had enough, got up packed up everything headed straight for the summit and back down.  It wasn’t the most pleasant at the summit due to the wind and cold, but a few tears later from my eyes because of this we dashed down to our backpacks to scamper down to our car.

The way back down

We took a different route back to be able to make this trip a loop.  I honestly think I liked this route better, not because there was more snow, but the views that were granted to us by the landscape that was many many many years older than us.  I particularly enjoyed that we got to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail and being able to see some new camp areas I would have never known in the area if I didn’t hike it.  It was quieter as well on this part of the trail, which obviously if you know me it’s non unusually odd for me to appreciate.

After a couple hours into the trail down back to the car, a coffee was in order of course with the usual hot chocolate mix that we routinely have on the trail.  I might of snuck in some Peak Refuel Breakfast Skillet during our break for some energy.

The trail down honestly sucked; I’ve been having an issue with my knee in the past and the downhill/mileage brought that issue up again.  Needless to say, the hike down took a little bit longer than downhills should take; not much longer I’ll keep telling myself – but I was ecstatic to get to the car.


I hope you enjoyed this write up and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to write comments below.

Happy Adventures! Annette


Check out others who have written about Mt. San Jacinto

Before I picked this hike, I went ahead and tried to figure out the hardest longest routes.  Aside from doing Cactus to Clouds which I did in May of 2016, this seemed like a really good option as a training hike for the John Muir Trail.  I took a look at these few sites for inspiration.  Enjoy!

Modern Hiker: Mount San Jacinto via Deer Springs

Hiking Guy: Hike Mt. San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail

another option for a hike: Hikespeak: San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain Trail

 

Twin Lakes: Sequoia National Park

A calm before the storm in Sequoia

*Originally hiked: Oct 24–25, 2020

This one was a good one about 2 years ago, right before a snow storm hit the area, we got one last backpacking trip in to a lake that is named after us. Ok it’s not named after us, but I do have a twin, so I enjoyed the trip to twin lakes with my twin.



Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Sequoia National Park, CA 14.56 miles 2,800 feet Out-and-back

Permits, Directions & Weather

*permit is required year-round for this hike

Permits: To get permits for Twin Lakes trailhead it defers during the off-season (non-quota) months vs. quota months.  During the summer months you can now get permits on recreation.gov website.  Once you put in your permits you can pick them up at the Giant Forest Museum ranger station.  During off-season months you can drive to the Giant Forest Museum and fill out a self-issued permit form.  Make sure you have your permit on you when you are out in the backcountry.

Directions:  To get to the trailhead from Giant Forest Museum, go about 4.3 miles and turn right onto Lodgepole Rd. Parking is very close to the trailhead and there are bear boxes to put any extra food, scented items that you will not be taking into the backcountry.


Weather: Lodgepole Picnic Area, ~6,900 feet


Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations

  1.  Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park Map – always take a topographic map with you. I probably own almost everyone in the western and eastern sierras from Tom Harrison.
  2.  Moon Sequoia & Kings Canyon Travel Guide


 

Buff Pick

My sis and I have a small side business selling her hand drawings on apparel and such. I use these Buffs all the time, check it out. Buy Twinted’s buffs and neck gaiters here now!

BUY
Snack Picks

In addition some cheese and salami would go well with some of the below, if you fancy a cheese plate.



Hike Stats


Blabberings

My sis and I decided last minute due to a weather window and wanting to do one last backpacking trip before it became a snow trip!  I feel like a lot of the time we don’t end of doing any hikes on the Sequoia (west side) of the Sierras.  I finally got around to looking at more hikes in the area and found that there are just as many lakes that could be our destination

stayed at Sequoia Campground and Lodge Friday night

We drove up Friday night, so we can start the hike early on Saturday morning.  Stayed the night at Sequoia Campground and Lodge in Three Rivers, which was really nice because we had some soup for dinner by the fire and put up our summer tent on a grassy area as that is how the campsites are set up.  Book here.

Being that we would arrive in the dark, this was the best option not to have to do the windy road up past Three Rivers into the park in the dark.  Something I would note as well, is that during winter months this way in is sometimes closed and you will have to enter from highway 180.   It was a nice and quiet campground; something I would recommend if someone decides to do a similar itinerary to ours.

permits, coffee and up we go

Before we picked up our permits we picked up coffee from Sequoia Coffee Co. located in Three Rivers; such a good decision and so glad that they were open.  It just looked so inviting and hit the spot as we both were craving lattes for our drive up to pick up our permits.  I particularly liked the sign that said “A DAY WITHOUT COFFEE IS LIKE…. JUST KIDDING, I HAVE NO IDEA”.

It takes about another hour or so to get to Giant Forest Museum and the trailhead.  The museum was closed, but since we were hiking outside of quota season we filled out the self-issue permit form.  It is located just to the right of the museum on a free standing small kiosk; I learned that they never have pens or pencils, so we always bring one from the car.  Place the permit in the box and keep your copy as you need to take that on the hike.

no views until Cahoon Gap

The first 4.6 miles up to Cahoon Gap are mostly through meadows and trees.  At about 2.6 miles you pass Cahoon Meadow and at this point of the year it wasn’t very green, but you could see the large meadow and feel the cooler air going by it.  a little before the gap there is a small creek that you pass (Clover Creek) where you can pick up water if it is running; when we went you could still get water out of it – we just didn’t need any as we both packed about 3L for our way in since it was just the weekend.

Just before the Gap there is a clearing in which you can see the Meadow and the beautiful surrounding scenery of trees galore. We stopped at Cahoon Gap as this was a perfect place to rest and eat something we were both starving since we had only the latte in the morning.

snack break, reached camp, fishing and a dip in the water

Cahoon Gap was the perfect place for a rest stop; there’s a nice open area we put down everything and sat down and chilled.  If you scroll up I put a list of items that we took as snacks and foods; might be good ideas for your next trip.  I think we spent an hour there and wanting to get to camp soon since we had our fishing poles we packed up and headed out.  We got to the lake after another hard climb around 3pm, which still gave us time for sunlight, but not that much.

We quickly set up the tent and our sleeping stuff; made a wonton soup for a snack and to get warm. After cast out and first cast caught a small little trout. We weren’t going to cook any of the fish, just catch and release.

 

I made myself get into the water without getting my hair wet, but it was when the sun was still out of course ha ha.

Dinner and next morning

Before dinner got quite the show from the duckies going across the lake, the perfect reflection across the lake and the sun shining through the trees. Tried to get some stunning shots to share with the world. Soup again for dinner and hung outside until it got unbearably cold where we needed to hide away.

The next morning woke up and the tent was frosted. Weren’t in a huge hurry but we did have a 5 hour drive and about a 3 hour hike still.

Headed home

I always hate this part of our trips because we know it’s over the day you wake up and know you are on your way out. After our lovely coffee routine, packed up everything and cast our lines out a couple more times with luck.

The way back down was all downhill and went much quicker than we thought. On our drive out there was a little traffic and it was because a guy stopped in the middle of the road stopping traffic just to take a shot of a little bear. Question is where was it’s mother? That guy would have been in trouble along with other travelers!

Till next time mountains!


Check out others who have written about Twin Lakes

Some more hikes in the area that I’ve written about: Sequoias.

I love to read other blogs about hikes before I go out on the trails I’m going to backpack, hike, etc. to get all the information I can.  Here are some more reads if you’d like to take a look.

Twin Lakes – Kings Canyon National Park – Modern Hiker

Twin Lakes – Redwood Hikes

Twin Lakes Trail | Sequoia & Kings Canyon | Oh Ranger

Twin Lakes Fishing – Sequoia National Park


I hope you enjoyed this write up and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to write comments below.

Happy Adventures! Annette

John Muir Trail: Day 3 & 4

A lighter climb day vs. completing the hardest pass day

Day Miles Point A to Point B Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
June 8  10.54 miles Just below Guitar Lake to Tyndall Creek 1,706 feet 1,909 feet
June 9  13.37 miles Tyndall Creek to Vidette Meadow 2,283 feet 3,547 feet

Read more of my blabberings on the John Muir Trail here.

YouTube Vlog

Before I get into my blabbering’s of the trail; check out my vlog of day 3 & 4.


Day 3

Date: June 8, 2021

Just below Guitar Lake to Tyndall Creek

10.54 miles  |  Elevation Gain:  1,706 feet   |  Elevation Loss:  1,909 feet

Day 3 Ramblings

Day 3 I woke up with barely a voice; this always happens in the backcountry especially when we are so tired, but we did have a pretty long day the day before summiting Mt. Whitney and all.  We ended up staying below Guitar Lake for the night as it was more enclosed and we wouldn’t have to worry about the wind.  This day was one of our easier days in elevation gain being the same up as down.


 

Highlights for the day

Bighorn Plateau: reaching this point was pretty cool because we could see Whitney from the other side and it’s this wide open space with 360 degree view of the mountains surrounding us.

Wallace Creek: dipping our feet into the small creek and taking a break for lunch.

Reaching Tyndall Creek: Although a little crowded; reaching the site and crossing Tyndall Creek was amazing.  When we reached the site, we set up camp right away and headed to fill up water for the night and dinner and do the camp clean thing and rinse off quickly in the creek.

Marmots we’re definitely used to people as they were just coming up to us 5 feet away easily.



Day 4

Date: June 9, 2021

Tyndall Creek to Vidette Meadow

13.37 miles  |  Elevation Gain:  2,283 feet |  Elevation Loss: 3,547 feet

Day 4 Ramblings

To be honest, I was more nervous about this day than I was doing Mt. Whitney.  Forester Pass is the hardest pass on the entire trail.  I get tired just thinking about the elevation gain and loss on this day.  It was a very cold windy day and definitely wore me out and couldn’t wait to get into an enclosed area with trees to get out of the wind and relax a little.  The trail up to Forester was unique and very steep; I can’t explain it as good as the pictures do, but the pictures don’t do it justice.  It was such a cool pass!  Once we passed over Forester, my initial thought was, wow I’m glad I didn’t have to come up this way; the trail seemed much tougher to climb from the North.

Highlights for the day

Forester Pass: Obviously climbing the hardest pass of the trail felt amazing once we had finished, but we had a lot of work to go on the downhill.

Nap by the creek: One of the best quick naps I took was along the creek after the crazy long downhill stretch.

Deer: running into a small herd of deer on our way close to camp.

Passing by many campsites:  I thought it was very interesting on this part of the trail there were so many campsites lined up along Bubbs Creek.  I kept saying, let’s stop here, let’s stop here, let’s stop here.  We decided to get all the way to the junction to where we would hit Kearsarge Pass junction the next day as than we had an early climb up to Glen Pass.



I hope you guys enjoyed my blabbering’s, tune back for the next few days as I finally gather my thoughts and such for this trip.

Happy Adventures!

Annette


 

2021 Outdoor Gift Guide

can’t wait to get out there with some of these items?

2021 has been quite the year; I hiked the John Muir Trail, something I’ve wanted to do for over 10 years and was fortunate enough to make it work with my job, no fires, no forest closures.  I noticed in the past couple years that many people have turned to the outdoors for fun and enjoyment, activity, something to do and/or even a little therapy.  I do want to reiterate that there is the Leave No Trace practice that us outdoor folk adhere to.  I wish that everyone practices this.  We are the fortunate ones to live on this earth and fortunate enough to enjoy it.  This in turn means we should take care of it like we would take care of our own children!

Anyway, enough ranting on this subject and let’s get to what I wanted to share with my readers.  I spent a little time picking out my favorites that would be great gifts for anyone who is into the outdoors.  I hope you take a look and find something that you could buy for your loved one this year.

*Note: there are affiliate links below, if a purchase is made from my recommendations this will in turn help pay for the expenses that keep this blog up and running.


Jetboil Flash Java Kit

I don’t actually own this exact one, but my buddy who we go backpacking with just upgraded his to this one.  I ended up just buying a coffee press that goes with the current Jetboil I have.  Either way, this is a good one for camping and hiking/backpacking.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair

I bought this mainly because it’s hard not to have a chair to sit in when backpacking especially for multiple days.  I used to use my Thermarest Z-Lite pad, which I would also use for sleeping.  This was probably one of my favorite; I even took it with me when I went to a lake just to fish.

Where to buy: REI

BUY


Camp Kitchen Bass Pro

One of our camping trips our friend brought this for us as a surprise.  I have never had so much comfort in the kitchen on a camping trip then when using this item.

Where to buy: Bass Pro Shops

BUY


Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven

On my wish list.  It’s a propane camp stove and oven; I’ve always wanted to be able to have something like this for comfort camping.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Garmin inReach Explorer+ 

We’ve had this for many years now, different versions of it and this by far has been a blessing.  The best because we can check in with family and they can follow us.  There were two hikes where we were able to have family check with the Rangers on what to do.  I recommend this for safety for anyone who goes out into the backcountry.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


YETI Tundra 65 Cooler

Cooler that keeps everything cooler for much longer than other simple coolers.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


 

Stanley Stainless Steel Shot Glass and Flask Set

I used it and think it’s perfect to put away in the camping box or even take on our backpacking trips (especially in the cold).  I’m sure you know someone who will love this.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket

Recommend this one for anyone honestly.  It’s perfect to use at home too; it stuffs into a small bag, so easy to pack and take on trips with you and it’s quite warm.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Osprey Transporter 65 Travel Duffel Bag

Perfect bag for any type of travel including camping or even flying for vacation.  I think what I like best about it is that there are various ways you can carry the bag itself.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Osprey Gravity Filter

That filter you can leave alone while setting up camp after backpacking to your location.  This is a must for any of your backpacker friends.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Twinted Buffs/Neck Gaiters

My sister and I have a side business we are working on.  We have neck gaiters available including the one in the photo on the left, which is of a graphic we did of Hume Lake.

Where to buy: Lakeside view – all-over print neck gaiterYosemite down below – all-over print neck gaiter

BUY


LuminAID  PackLite 2-in-1 Phone Charger Solar Lantern

I own just a solar charger blowable one, but this would be a good addition to my gear.  Having a charger for the lantern as well.  Check it out.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Sea to Summit X Bowl

A bowl that’s easily packable in your kitchen box for camping or if you want to take it on a backpacking trip.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Eno Lightweight Hammock

One of the best gifts someone gave me, I even use it at home.  Who wouldn’t want a hammock to relax in at home or whatever trip they are on.  And guess what, it stows away very simply in a small stuff sack.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Sea to Summit Aeros Lightweight Pillow

This pillow another item that is perfect for any road tripper whether it may be going camping, backpacking or just road tripping.  Easy to pack away and very lightweight.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


GoPro HERO9

Everyone who loves the outdoor deserves one of these.  I still have my GoPro from years ago the Hero4.  And it still works amazing, wouldn’t mind the newest one, has better sound quality, etc.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Coleman RoadTrip Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

If you have a camper friend that loves to grill at home, this would be a perfect gift for them as they can use it wherever they go.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Power Practical Luminoodle Portable LED Light Rope

String these lights anywhere you want on any trip.  I’ve even took them backpacking and used a portable charger that I use to charge my phone with.  I like how it’s not too bright.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Sea to Summit Pocket Shower

That small object you can take on your backpacking trips or camping trips.  Apparently it gives an 8 and  half minute shower, which make sense because between 2 of us we were able to quickly get in our “shower” outdoors.  Might not be quite the winter item, but definitely good for sring/summer/fall trips.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Big Agnes Ultra Light Backpacking Tent

We actually own the 3 person one, mostly because we wanted something for our backpacking trips where we could put all our items in the tent with us instead of leaving stuff outside.  You have to be very careful with the material, but man does it compress into a tiny spot in your backpack.  Very easy to put up as well, so it wouldn’t matter if you had to put it up in the dark.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


YETI Tumbler

This item is good for the adventurer, but also good for someone who needs a coffee mug.  It keeps things hot or keeps things cold.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp

The best of the the headlamps I’ve owned.  I pack it whenever I leave the house on any type of trips, a simple day hike, day at the beach, bike riding, etc.  Always good to have one in case of an emergency.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Snow Peak Mug

This has been one of the most used cups I’ve had during my adventures.  It is so lightweight I’m ok with bringing the lid for the mug to it to keep my coffee warm for longer.  It is made out of titanium and packs very easily not taking up that much room.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Seat to Summit X-Pan 

My sister bought me this for my birthday one year and we have used it to make multiple items: quesadillas (still need to write about this), Tacos at 10,000 feet and grilled cheese sandwiches all during our backpacking trips.  I would recommend buying some GSI Outdoors Pivot Tongs to go with it, the cooking is endless with it out there.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


Alps Mountaineering Weekender Seat

Like the name says it in itself, good for the weekends.  What do people do on weekends?  Go do something outdoors; this would be a great seat to pack up and take on your next adventure.

Where to buy: Amazon

BUY


A fun bag of little items

Last but not least, my other idea is grab a few little items and put them in a bag and hand it to them for their present.  Check out some of my recommended items.




19 Eastern Sierra Lakes that You Have to Visit

Once upon a time in a land far far away, beyond where most Los Angeles dwellers would go, where the leaves rustle with the simplest of winds, where the lakes glisten when the sun hits them perfectly, where the wildflowers bloom after the snow melts, where the only sound you hear are the birds chirping, where taking a dip in it’s lakes is the #1 rule of our adventures, where life is simpler.  Ok, I’ll get to the point, the place is called the Eastern Sierras.  

Ever since about 10 years ago when backpacking and hiking became part of my life, I’ve traveled a lot to the Eastern Sierras.  You might ask, why not go into the local mountains here in Los Angeles and I have my reasons, but mostly because the Eastern Sierras have a certain beauty that is unmatched to anywhere else I have been.  The mountains are more or less untouched by civilization and it better stay like that because it is hard to find places like this!  One of the biggest reasons I like to adventure here is the abundance of lakes, water and mountains that can be explored.

The Eastern Sierras are located in California on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.  The gateway to its dramatic scenery of desert floor to mountains is U.S. Route 395.  I know this highway like the back up my hand now and wanted to share some of my favorite lakes that I have been to, whether it be hiking or just driving to (I’ll warn you, most of these lakes are hiking adventures and the occasional backpacking trip).

Personally, I’d like to see every single lake in the area.  By no means is this the list of all the lakes in the area.  I noticed that when I reminisced about each of these lakes, they all had their own stories to tell, the experience, meeting certain individuals, experiencing failure or accomplishments, etc.  I put together a map of these lakes on google if you feel the desire to get out and explore one of them.  Check them out here: Eastern Sierra Lakes.

Since I drive from Southern California, the list is in order of South to North not by map, but by trail head. 

If you haven’t already check out my YouTube channel for some of my adventures. Beyond Limits on Foot YouTube Channel.



Chicken Spring Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Lone Pine Hike 9.0 miles (round trip) 1,302 feet

Sitting at 11,242 feet, to reach Chicken Spring Lake you begin your journey at Horseshoe Meadow.  About 4 years ago, I did this trail as a solo day hike to train for climbing Mt. Whitney.  I had planned on it being a training also for a half marathon I was supposed to do in Mammoth Lakes.  Well, I’m going to own it and say I overslept and didn’t make my bus to run the half marathon (I will one day I promised myself).  The trail to Chicken Spring Lake other than the elevation is fairly easy after the first climb to Cottonwood Pass.  I had the honor of meeting some hikers who were exiting the JMT (John Muir Trail) through Horseshoe Meadow.  Read more about my solo trip here: Chicken Spring Lake – Golden Trout WildernessOvernight permits required.


Cottonwood Lakes

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Lone Pine Hike 4.3-8 miles (one way) ~1,000 feet

Each Cottonwood Lake sits above 11,000 feet; there are 6 lakes and they each have their different back drops which makes a perfect backpacking destination.  Choose from 1 of 6 lakes below.  These lakes are great for if you are willing and ready to summit Mt. Langley a 14,000 foot peak in the area.  The Cottonwood Lakes is a great area to go fishing.  Overnight permits required.

We attempted Mt. Langley a couple years ago, and when I say attempt, we were 3 miles away from the summit, 1 mile from where we set up camp.  It was going to be dark and we had started the lake hike considering we couldn’t drive up till that morning and had to wait till 8:00 am to pick up our permits.  We probably made the right decision to just go back and camp and honestly I was ok with this decision because we swam a little, fished and relaxed the rest of the night.  (We will come back for you Mt. Langley, I promise!)


Consultation Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Lone Pine Hike 12 miles to the overlook (out and back) 3,300 feet

Consultation Lake is a lake you only find yourself at if you feel like you want to venture off and take a freezing dip after the summit of Mt. Whitney the highest peak of the lower 48.  Both times I hiked Mt. Whitney we stayed the night above Consultation Lake and were able to sit perched above the lake under the stars in our sleeping bags until we fell asleep.  Our first time up Mt. Whitney we ended up falling asleep outside and woke up at midnight to get into tent.  There is something magical about sleeping under the stars and the view we had of Consultation Lake was breathtaking.  Overnight permits required.

Further reading on our trip to Mt. Whitney and why Consultation Lake was a perfect place to stay at:  Mt. Whitney – Inyo National Forest.


Big Pine Lakes – Second Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Big Pine Hike 5.5 miles (one way) 2,400 feet

I had the pleasure of visiting this place twice, once in the summer and another time in the summer with snow (yes you heard it right, us Californians have snow in the summer too)!  The first time in the area, we actually hiked up to the Third Lake because there were so many people at the Second Lake.  Warning, this is a very popular trail and if you are looking for solidarity, you will not get it here unless you go further to the upper lakes.  The reason why Second Lake is visited often is due to the view seen in the picture above; during the summer the water is fine turquoise with the sun being out and the backdrop is Temple Crag, one of the most beautiful crags.  Overnight permits required.

Check out my video for North Fork Big Pine on my Beyond Limits on Foot YouTube Channel.


Long Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Bishop Hike 2.0 miles 1,823 feet

Long Lake sits peacefully at 10,758 feet, just 2.0 miles from the trail head.  It’s literally a Long Lake that you will pass on your way up to Bishop Pass or it can be made your destination by taking the Bishop Pass Trail from South Lake.  We set eyes on hiking to Bishop Pass, which is 5.5 miles from the trail head, but neither of us in the group were feeling that great with lack of sleep and a hard week, so we decided to find a camp spot at the end of Long Lake and relax on its banks.  Another adventure that didn’t go as planned, but hey we got some fishing in (did not catch anything, probably related to the time we fished) and relaxed in the outdoors.  Honestly, I want to come back and get up all the way to Bishop Pass as there are approximately 4 other lakes you can hit.  A side trip to Chocolate Lakes on the way back would be in order as well.


Blue Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Bishop Hike 3 miles 1,350 feet

To get to Blue Lake, you begin your journey on the banks of Sabrina Lake.  On our way into the Sabrina Basin, it was a beautiful fall day and we got to experience the most abundant colors of fall.  The road up to Sabrina Lake would have been just enough to put a smile on my face, but hey why not throw in a hike.  Blue Lake sits at 10,400 feet with towering walls of granite slopes surrounding it.

With just a little over 3 miles to hike to the lake, this is a perfect destination for day hikers.  We opted to backpack to the lake and slept on the west banks high above the lake, which amounted to great views from above and less mosquitoes to bother us.  I was hoping to hike further in, but the mosquitoes were unbearable and we spent some time in the tent to get away from them.

I remember reaching our camp spot and before we did anything else all of a sudden I heard a huge splash in the water.  Of course my boyfriend didn’t tell me the course of action he was taking and jumped from the ledge into the water.  I wimped out and did not do the jump mainly because it felt like there would be some rock climbing I was not ready for.


Ruby Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Bishop Hike 5.23 miles 899 feet

Ruby Lake is also a great spot for a day hiking destination.  Ruby Lake sits just above Rock Creek Lakes an area known for it’s fly fishing and abundance of water and lakes.  Just remember certain times of years the mosquitoes can be brutal here.  We opted to stay the night at Ruby Lake to fish and tan and relax.  We may have also jumped in as that is our #1 rule, it was freezing, but felt amazing to cool off!  Great way to spend a quick weekend away from the city.  Read more about this hike: Ruby Lake via Mosquito Flats: John Muir Wilderness.

Also, check out my YouTube video: Ruby Lakes via Little Lakes Valley Backpacking.


Lower Pine Lake

Closest City Type Mileage
Bishop Hike 2 miles

Pine Lake sits just under the 10,000 foot mark at 9,942 feet.  To get to Pine lake is just under 2 miles, therefor we decided to hike in later after work on a Friday to get to the first lake on the trail at least.  We got there in the dark, so we didn’t get to see the beauty of the lake until the next morning and the way down.  We went on to explore more of the trail doing both Italy and Pine Creek Passes; the back country in this area has an abundant amount of lakes.  I really cannot wait to come back here.  On our way out back to the cars is when we caught Pine Lake’s perfect serenity; the water was absolutely calm and we could see the mountains and trees, the landscape around, reflection in it.


Big McGee Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Bishop Hike 15.4 miles round-trip 2,950 feet

Big McGee Lake is over 7 miles in from the trailhead, sitting at 8,131 feet. We did this trail in the early season and were lucky enough to see the area flourished with flours in the meadows especially. It’s a great

Read more about this hike: Big McGee Lake via McGee Creek Trail: John Muir Wilderness.

If you want to see the area a little more in depth, check out my Big McGee Lake Backpacking Trip on YouTube.


Convict Lake

Mildred Lake

Lake Dorothy

 

Lake Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Convict Lake Bishop Hike/Drive 3 miles around lake Little to none
Mildred Lake Bishop Hike 4.25 miles one-way 2,200 feet
Lake Dorothy Bishop Hike 5 miles 2,900 feet

I put these 3 together as they were a backpacking trip we’ve done twice and they are all worth it to see. If you’re not a backpacker, go check out Convict Lake; lots of things to do there: hike around the lake, get on a kayak on the lake, fish, etc. There’s a campground also
that you can reserve ahead of time that’s right by the lake and very convenient if you love the lake.

I never normally do the same trail twice backpacking, but that has changed over the years as I noticed that going back to the same place twice isn’t so bad; it gives you more opportunity to explore more of the area honestly. One of our first major backpacking trips was in this area and we went back 8 years later. It was epic both times and I love the fact that there are so many lakes in the area, great for lake hopping and base-camping at one.

Convict Lake – 7,850′ feet; Mildred Lake – 9,850′; Lake Dorothy – 10,350′.


Thousand Island Lake

Thousand Island Lakes
Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Mammoth Lakes/June Lake Hike 6.3 miles 2,900 feet

Thousand Island Lake (9,850 feet) is a well-known destination (no camping near the lake) amongst backpackers and honestly permits to get here have been very scarce because they go so fast as soon as they are open. It is one of the largest high-country lakes and of course was named because it literally does have thousand lakes. It’s regarded as one of the most astounding lakes in the Eastern Sierras with Banner Peak sitting above at 12,936 feet.

I was given the chance to see it again when we hiked the John Muir Trail.  My first time up at this lake we hiked up from the June Lake Area side from Rush Creek Trailhead near Silver Lake.  Spent a night at Waugh Lake then headed over Island Pass to find it’s jaw dropping beauty below as well descended down. I wish we could have camped there, but trekked on further after a nice lunch view/spot because of the restrictions.

My second time was on the John Muir Trail, I wanted to stay at this lake, but it was just a little too far for one of our days and we were given the chance to see the mighty Banner Peak from Garnet Lake.  I didn’t put this lake on my list, because if you visit Thousand Island Lake, you are less than 2 miles away from Garnet and can make the side trip.

You can read more about our trip here: Ansel Adams Wilderness Area.


June Lake

June Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
June Lake Drive Drive N/A

I picked June Lake because it’s a hidden gem above the well-known Mammoth Lakes and it’s worth a visit especially if you are in the area. We’ve been to June Lake several times and for different reasons: to snowboard, to fish, to try something at the brewing company, to camp before backpacking, to backpack, to have an amazing burger after backpacking and just to drive the scenic loop which includes other lakes in the area as well. Great vacation spot if you want to stay in an area that is less populated than Mammoth Lakes. I’d take a weekend getaway here anytime.


Lake Mary

Lake George

Crystal Lake

Barney Lake

Pika Lake

Closest City Type Mileage Elevation Gain
Lake Mary Drive Drive N/A
Lake George Drive Drive N/A
Crystal Lake Hike 3.0 miles round trip 900 feet
Barney Lake Hike 5.0 miles round trip 1,090 feet
Pika Lake Hike 10 miles round trip 1,390 feet

The Mammoth Lakes area is definitely a favorite of mine to visit throughout the year weather it’s for snowboarding, fishing, backpacking, hiking, etc.  The top 2 lakes that I would go to if we were driving or camping are Lake Mary and Lake George.  Lake Mary is nestled perfectly in the valley and has awesome boating activities.  We stayed once at a nearby campground and got up early to rent a boat for fishing; awesome lake for that.  Lake George is our go to spot to fish on the side of the lake, there’s even an awesome jump that we did from a rock; we paddled out climbed it and jumped in and paddled back.  Only offset of these two lakes are they are very popular because you can drive up to them.  Parking is difficult in summer months.

As for the other 3 lakes that I picked for this article they are all accessible by foot only.  Crystal Lake is a good climb and along the way up, the views get more and more spectacular.  This place is a good day hike for families; we opted to carry our paddleboards up and use them on the lake.  The other two lakes we did as one of our Labor Day Backpacking Trips:  Barney Lakes is on the way to Pika Lake, so you can hit both at the same time.  We didn’t sleep at Barney Lakes, we ended up going more into the backcountry and on our last night out, found a nice spot hidden away at Pika Lake.


Get out there

I just wanted to share all the amazing places that I’ve been to and my hope is that I at least gave you the reader the ambition and inspiration to get outside and explore what this amazing place has to offer.  I love the Eastern Sierras; honestly these aren’t all the lakes I’ve been to, maybe I’ll compile a whole list in the long run – but these were my most memorable.  Please if you have any questions, comment below and I’d be happy to reach back out to you!  Hope you enjoyed!

Happy Adventures!

Annette

 

John Muir Trail: Day 1&2

Finding our rhythm on the first couple days of the trail

Day Miles Point A to Point B Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
June 6 7.33 miles Whitney Portal to view of Consultation Lake 3,323 feet 67 feet
June 7 11.27 miles Consultation Lake to the summit of Mt. Whitney to just below Guitar Lake 2,815 feet N/A

 


YouTube Vlog

Before I get into my blabberings of the trail; check out my vlog of the 1st couple of days.


Day 1

Date: June 6, 2021

Whitney Portal to view of Consultation Lake

7.33 miles  |  Elevation Gain: 3,323 feet   |  Elevation Loss: 67 feet

Day 1 Ramblings

We found ourselves driving up the same day we were starting the trail; 4:00am the alarm went off.  Everything was fully packed in the car just needed to pick up my sister and her boyfriend as they were going to drive my car back instead of having it parked in one place for 3 weeks.  I was having some issues with getting my permits emailed to me (note to self, don’t try to get them last minute), so we decided it was best to show up at the Ranger Station when it opened.  Closest ranger station is the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center right before hitting the small town of Lone Pine.

So there’s this thing called a wag bag.  “Wag bags are basically dog bags for humans”.  You can purchase these ahead of time or when you pick up your permits can get a free on at the permit pick up center (in the Whitney zone, you have to use the wag bag).  Upon receiving my permit, I was handed several papers of all the rules for each of the forests/parks we would be entering during the trail (can we please be mindful of these, there’s a reason they are in place!!!).  Instead of carrying all of it, I took photos on my phone and used it as reading material on some of the nights!

I remember getting to the trail around 9:00am, the only thing left to do was put on our boots, add water into our 1.5 L Hydrapak, say goodbye to our puppy and put our backpacks on and set out.  I had the luxury of my sister who was going to take care of our puppy during our 21 day adventure.  Big shout out and thanks to her!

heading out on our way

At 9:30am after a picture with the trailhead sign (I guess that’s a thing), we headed up the steep mountain.  Our goal for the day was to hit Trail Camp or Consultation Lake.  The one major hard part of this leg of the trail was that our packs were at their heaviest, mine was 41 lbs. and Joe’s was 48 lbs.  We had 10-11 days worth of food in our packs as we wouldn’t be resupplying until Muir Trail Ranch (120 miles away).

Along the way up, we probably took way too many breaks; though now I would say that wasn’t an issue as we were acclimatizing ourselves.  Multiple times we would run into the same people, mostly people day hiking Mt. Whitney or overnighting it.  About 3 miles in, I changed my shirt to the long sleeve and never wore the shirt again while hiking.

Before we left for the trip we downloaded an app called Guthook; this app has a full map that can be used offline for the John Muir Trail.  It shows water sources, good camp spots, photo opportunities, passes, etc.   Pretty solid source for the entire trip!  I recommend anyone going out on the trail to download this and use it as a resource, make sure you download it for offline use, because obviously almost the entire John Muir Trail there is no cell service.

*my attempt at a night shot; needs a lot of work!

first day thoughts

I didn’t feel nearly as ready as I’d hoped to be physically, mentally I was completely ready to tackle this endeavor.  We had set out to do this trip 3 years ago, but the fires insisted for us to stay away; this was ok because the trail wasn’t going anywhere.  The knowledge and practice I attained over these 3 years waiting I believe made me mentally stronger to reach this ultimate goal of hiking the entire John Muir Trail. 

I was ecstatic to find that there were several cool ledges open for tent spots with a view of Consultation Lake and it’s vast towering walls above it.  We did a little over 3,000 feet in elevation gain and my calves were feeling it.  We still had about just the same the next day; so straight to bed we went after dinner.

I knew our packs would be a little lighter the next day since we had eaten some of our food; that definitely brought up my spirits of having to summit Mt. Whitney the next day.  I also remembered that we get to drop our packs 1.9 miles from the summit at the junction.

I enjoyed our breaks and taking in the moments we were living through; after all we had an entire day to get to our next destination.  We were in no hurry; we had 20 days left to finish the trail and we weren’t even in the double digits yet, ha.


Day 2

Date: June 7, 2021

Consultation Lake to the summit of Mt. Whitney to just below Guitar Lake

11.27 miles  |  Elevation Gain: 2,815 feet |  Elevation Loss: N/A

Day 2 Ramblings

No alarms, because nature was the alarm (well or people around waking up early and making noises).  We set out around 8:30am with full pack and with no breakfast.  That was the worst plan ever; all we had was our coffee and hot chocolate which honestly was the best thing every morning, but after passing Trail Camp and filling up our water, you hit the infamous 99 switchbacks.  I’ve done it before and know how grueling it was, but now I was doing it with a full pack.

I could have let it get to me mentally when people were passing me, but there was no one with a full pack except us as far as I could see.  No excuses, I needed something to eat as soon as possible as the elevation and the hungry side of me was giving my body a hard time to move forward.  After we finally ate and took a long break, the rest was history; feed yourself when you need it.  I recommend eating in the mornings at least something to get you through the first few miles of the day (another note to self).

getting closer to Trail Crest

I remember when we finally got up to the cables portion of the trail; Trail Crest would be so close, which means we were just around the corner away to dropping our packs to head to the summit.  Up till this portion we hadn’t even been on the John Muir Trail yet; the John Muir trail actually ends on Mt. Whitney.  Officially we decided it ends at Whitney Portal because you have to get down the mountain at some point (we’d like the mileage for the JMT to be updated ha)!

There was no snow on the trail at all yet, usually the sketchiest part (being that it was still June) is when you get to the cables portion.  I couldn’t believe how little snow there was; I wasn’t complaining because this would make our trek much easier, but definitely not a good sign for water pack in California.

summiting for the 3rd time

Getting to that junction was just about the best feeling of that day; but wait we still had to summit.  This was the first time we ran into PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hikers going from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada (usually a 5-6 month journey).  Joe didn’t have his salmon packet and mayo the day before and decided to offer it up to one of the people at the junction doing the PCT.  I believe she was from Denmark and loved mayonnaise; how funny that exactly what she loved we were offering it to her.

After some energy food and rest, we pushed on to the summit; that 1.9 miles felt like it was 5.  The only thing going through my head the whole time was you can do this, you’ve done it twice before.  With working on my breathing and pushing along with my hiking poles it actually was feeling pretty good going on this portion of the trail.  This leg of the trail is one of the most stunning (hard to say that because I felt like almost every moment was).  Once you hit the Needles, I think it’s one of the more dramatic areas of the trail because as you look to one side it’s straight down and the same thing the other side.

I knew we were getting super close to the summit at that point and I feel like I got a whiff of energy that led me to the top.  The last few steps once I saw the hut at the summit, I took in slowly as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be summiting this mountain again.  A conversation came up at the summit and a few people agreed, that this is something you just do once.  In my head I thought, wait I’ve done it 3 times now and I would be ok with doing it again.  Although I know there are a lot of other mountains to climb; so maybe it was true for me too in a way.  We will see I guess.

*Laundry room in the tent: every night!

finding home for the night

Guess what was pretty awesome?  I had cell coverage at the top, called my sister sent a photo of us to her and then put myself right back on airplane mode.  My first initial thought was, why did I turn on my data?  I mean wasn’t this the point of the hike to get away, but honestly why not try and get that phone call out that we’re ok and we made it to the top; this was the most difficult part of the trail we were to endure, so I thought.  After the summit, we returned down to our packs at the junction where most would head back and we would head forward towards Yosemite, still over 200 miles away.

Packs were still there, check!  Another break needed, check.  Once we strapped our backpacks in we did not stop at all on the 4 mile gruesome downhill to Guitar Lake.  What an insane trail; I think my most commented saying was “man I’m glad we didn’t have to come up this way”; this would stand true until the end of the trail ha.

Ran out of water on the downhill; there was nothing after Trail Crest and even before on the switchbacks that we could fill up on.  We had left a few sips and took them slowly knowing we were getting closer to water.  Recommending filling up on the switchbacks or before with more water than you would ever think you need.  Altitude does that.

no really, finding home for the night

As we were descending into this new valley I have never been in before, our goal was to make it to Crabtree Meadow area.  The descent and ascent that day felt like enough at some point that we found Whitney Creek just beyond Guitar Lake and went south until a huge rock emerged into our views.  One of the many times I said, “what a perfect campsite” the entire trip.  6:30pm struck and it was time to hide away and relax as that felt like one of the hardest days hiking (I thought that every night ha).

We were so tired, we didn’t even have dinner (mind you we did have a very late lunch around almost 4:00pm).  Cornuts and jerky all the way and we were the happiest people in the valley, I think.  This was the first night where we came up with our so called “cocktails” that we would make every night for dinner time.  I packed a ton of electrolyte tablets in both our packs and 1.5 L of water and a tablet or two of Nuun Vitamin Tablets did the deed for the evening.  Those of you thinking actual cocktails, no, not actual cocktails; just some lovely electrolyte tablets that happened to have a good fuzzy feeling after a long day of hiking.


I hope you guys enjoyed my blabbering’s, tune back for the next few days as I finally gather my thoughts and such for this trip.

Happy Adventures!

Annette


 

Big Pine Creek North Fork to Third Lake: John Muir Wilderness

Unfortunately this seems to be a very popular trail.  Please make sure that you practice Leave No Trace; we found a lot of trash here and there.  We found a couple campfires; it specifically says no campfires on this trail when you pick up your permits.

*Originally hiked on June 9, 2019 & June 2, 2018

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Inyo National Forest/John Muir Wilderness
11.4 miles
2,750 feet
Out-and-back

— What to Expect in this Guide —

  1. Background – Fun facts, trailhead info, things to know, map of hike.
  2. Itinerary Options – Some ideas following 1-3 day options for you to choose from.
  3. Weather – Always important to check the weather before you head out.
  4. Permits – This section includes how to put in for a permit and where to pick up the permit. *Permit is required to hike in this area.
  5. Directions – how to get to the trailhead.
  6. Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations – A source for important maps that you should take on a hike, reading material before the hike and some recommendations on gear items that would be great for the hike.
  7. Check Them Out – More fun reads by other authors that you can check out.
  8. Hike Stats – Quick overview of the mileage and elevation for points of interest on the hike.
  9. Description – Just in case you want to just hear my story and see some more My favorite part is the recollection of the hike and the awesome pictures that I can share with you guys. Be sure to check out my rambling and photographs in this section.

Before I get into the guide, I wrote a couple recipes down that we have taken on the trail.  We actually did the To-Go Wraps for both 2018 & 2019 trips and made Tacos at 10,000 Feet.  Check them out.

Also, if you are one of those people who love video blogs more than reading all the blabbering in the world you should check out my channel and some great footage from this spectacular hike.


— Twinted Inspiration —

One of the best things about getting outdoors is we get an inspiration to draw/design the places we have been to.  My sister and I have a small side business in which we make our designs come to life.  Our Moments page on Twinted website: temple crag show how the design comes to life.  Check out then big pine collection

Big Pine Lake Second Lake, pencil drawing by Michelle Halloran

@twintedinc

Digitized drawing of the above on a sweater available for purchase!


— Background —

Big Pine Creek North Fork trail is nestled in the California High Sierras west of Bishop and Big Pine.  A fun fact about the trail is there is a cabin about 3.5 miles in that was once a summer home to a Hollywood Star.  Lon Chaney was an famous American stage and film actor, director, screenwriting and make-up artist.  He was well known for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera.  Chaney had a summer cabin built for himself made of stone and wood (1929).  This cabin still stands and is a nice place to day hike to if in the area or pass by on a longer backpacking trip. Inyo National Forest Service has taken over ownership as a Ranger Cabin and visitors are not allowed inside.


— Trailhead Info —

Big Pine Creek North Fork
The trailhead to Big Pine Lakes is at the end of Glacier Lodge Road.  Glacier Lodge burnt down in 1998, but they still have cabins for rent, a small store, showers and a free trout.  A campground is available for overnight use for a fee.  This is the last place you will see a vault toilet if you are off to the lakes.

Glacier Lodge Website


— Things to Know —

This is the know before you go section.

  • No campfires are allowed in the area
  • Food, scented items and waste must be stored in a bear canister
  • Burry human waste 100 feet away from water sources and 6-8 inches deep
  • Check snow report before entering in (2019 we had a huge snow year and we took our microspikes).

— Map of Hike —

Big Pine Area Trails Map on recreation.gov


— Itinerary Options —

One Day
Even if you do this as a day hike, take your essential gear for the day and in case of emergency.

  • Hike ~11.4 miles; ~2,750′ elevation gain out-and-back

Two Day

  • Day 1 – Hike ~6.5 miles; ~2750′ elevation gain from trailhead to Fourth Lake (make sure to stop at Second Lake and even Third) *option to go to 5th lake for an extra 0.6 mi
  • Day 2 – Hike ~10 miles; ~850′ elevation gain from Fourth Lake to Summit Lake and Black Lake to trailhead *option to go to 6th and 7th lakes for an extra 2.0 miles

Three Day

  • See all the lakes and take side trip to Palisade Glacier.

— Weather —

The weather both years was absolutely amazing, but the week after I heard that there were hurricane like winds up there in the same area.  It did get very cold this year (2019).  The weather can change at any time in the mountains, be sure to prepare and pack the right things as needed.
Glacier Lodge (Near trailhead) – Elevation 7,313 feet
Third Lake – Elevation 10,892 feet


— Permits —

— Backcountry Permit —

Day Hikes: You are not required to have a wilderness permit for a day hike. Be sure to leave your itinerary with your family in case anything happens.

Backcountry Permits are required to hike overnight in the John Muir Wilderness Area.  To obtain a permit you can obtain it in person at any of the Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers or to be sure you get a permit, reserve up to 6 months in advance on the Recreation.gov website.  Just like most trails in there is an overnight quote, so planning ahead is advised.

*Note: You will not be refunded the $6 reservation fee at any point after completing the purchase. You can get refunded for the permit if you cancel the reservation up to 22 days in advance.


— Directions —

Big Pine Creek Trailhead
Address: 4024 Glacier Lodge Rd, Bishop, CA 93514
From Big Pine, turn west on W Crocker Ave. It will turn into Glacier Lodge Rd. in about .5 miles. Continue on Glacier Lodge Rd. for about 10 miles. There is day parking at the trailhead and the trout pond, no overnight for vehicles here. You can park closer to the trailhead near Glacier Lodge by talking to the owners who will tell you where to park (there is a fee) or drive back out to the Hiker Parking area.  The difference in mileage isn’t much though.


— Maps, Books & Gear Recommendations —

 

— Maps —

1. Palisades Trail Map (Tom Harrison Maps) – My favorite type of maps are the Tom Harrison Maps. This is the perfect one for this hike; it is also available at the Visitor Center if you forget to buy one ahead of time.
2. Caltopo map of Big Pine Creek North Fork to Third Lake – This is a map I created on CalTopo of the exact route that we took. I also have a photo of it attached above.
3. Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in Californias Sierra Nevada– A book about other hikes in the Southern Sierras. I find most of my trips in this book and the tom harrison maps that I’ve bought throughout the years.

— Some Gear Recommendations —

1. Patagonia Women’s Ultralight Down Jacket – I don’t have this jacket yet, but I have heard so many good things about it. It may just be in my next shopping spree.
2. Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium– This is by far the best sleeping gear I have ever bought. I usually wrap my down jacket and scarf around it to make it even more comfortable. I’ve learned throughout the years to not blow it up all the way; this will allow the pillow to conform to your head better.
3. Sea to Summit X-Pan, 8″, Orange – If you want to make those tacos above 10,000 feet like in my blog: Tacos at 10,000 Feet, then this would be the best kitchen supply you can use for it. We actually used this on this trip, that’s why it’s on my gear recommendations list. Very easy to clean and cook in it.

Check out What’s in My Backpack? and Trail Food: Grub Ideas for the Trail for more of the items I take on a hike.


— Check Them Out —

Before I go on hikes, I always like to check out other write-ups to see if the person who went has any good ideas and just to see how their trip went. Here were some good reads you can check out.


— Hike Stats —

Point of Interest Mileage Elevation
Big Pine Creek Trailhead 0 miles 7,814 feet
Big Pine Wilderness Camp 2.7 miles 9,196 feet
Lon Chaney Cabin 3.5 miles 9,220 feet
First Lake 4.5 miles 9,980 feet
Second Lake 5.1 miles 10,138 feet
Third Lake 5.5 miles 10,283 feet
Fourth Lake 6.5 miles 10,750 feet
Fifth Lake 6.8 miles 10,683 feet
Sixth Lake 8 miles 10,983 feet
Seventh Lake 8.5 miles 11,083 feet

— Description —

I’ve been itching so long to go to Big Pine Lakes and the way I had it planned it didn’t really end up working out that way, but I still had a very good time. We had a friend in town the night before visiting from Canada, which in turn as the trip leader, decided to let everyone sleep in a little longer.  Instead of waking up at 3:30am like I planned, we woke up at 5:00am and ended up leaving the house around 6:00am.  Not too bad considering to get the permits we were about a 3 and half hour drive away.

Getting there

We arrived at the Eastern Sierra Agency Visitor Center around 10:00am and luckily there were only a couple people in front of us in line. I intended to arrive at the ranger station when it opened, so we could get on the trail much earlier. The visitor center opens at 8:00am and usually there is a line on a Saturday morning; this is where you would pick up your Mt. Whitney permits if you intend to climb that beast. The ranger mentioned that I was lucky to get a permit, because this trail is very popular. I wasn’t too excited to see too many people, but usually you can find your own area, it’s so vast out there.

From Lone Pine it took us another hour to get the Big Pine Lakes trailhead; we went straight to the Glacier Lodge Store and spoke to one of the owners about parking there. As mentioned above, there is a $5 fee for parking at Glacier Lodge. If you go back down Glacier Lodge Rd. there is a hikers parking area that is free for parking. We opted to park at Glacier Lodge. Do not park at the trailhead if you are planning on backpacking overnight.

Starting up the trail

We started up the trail at 11:00am approximately, a much later start than I am used to. We still had a full day to get up as far as we felt like going.  The weather was quite pleasant. We got to the Second Lake around 3:00pm and it was full with people.  We decided to take a break and head on towards Third Lake which was not much farther.

Third Lake had some people too, but it felt like we were alone and we found a very nice camp spot. After setting up our tents, we sat by the lake a little and fished.  I had no bites at all and decided after a couple hours to go make dinner.  We were going to have something delicious: TACOS. I have the recipe if any of you would like to take a look:  Tacos at 10,000 Feet.

Heading back out

Didn’t take us very long to get back to the cars, but we did take our time in the morning and made some coffee with hot chocolate.

Note to self: Wake up earlier to be able to go further in or drive up on Friday night and stay close to Lone Pine or Bishop where you will pick up your permits.

Robinson Lake via Onion Valley: Inyo National Forest

Robinson Lake is one of the closer lakes by hiking in the Eastern Sierras, but little did we know that it was one of the steeper trails we’ve ever done.  The elevation gain is 1,350 feet in 1.4 miles.  To say the least that is a very steep grade for a lot of trails; I would say this is a great training hike if you want to get a lot of elevation gain within a short amount of time.

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Inyo National Forest 3.27 mi 1,325 feet Out-and-back

What’s in this Guide?

Feel free to scroll down to any of the sections below.

  1. Map of Hike
  2. Background of the area
  3. Trail Information including trailhead location, elevation of trailhead and lake, permit information, weather and more information on the trail.
  4. Directions
  5. Gear Recommendations
  6. Description of Hike

Map of Hike


Background

Onion Valley sits at 8,900 feet nestled 13 miles outside of a town called Independence off the US 395.  There are several campgrounds on the way up to Onion Valley, where Onion Valley Campground is located as well as a couple trailheads including Kearsarge Pass, Golden Trout Lake and Robinson Lake trails.  These trails are great for both day hikers and backpackers as a destination to lakes is often the enjoyment of these overnight and day trips.

On the way up to Kearsarge Pass, a trail once used as an Indian trading route for centuries, offers 4 lakes that one may choose to stay the night at or day hike to.  It is also your gateway to Kings Canyon National Park, joining up with the JMT (John Muir Trail) and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) – two famous long distance trails.  The Golden Trout Lakes begins on the same route to Kearsarge Pass, but veers right towards Kearsarge Peak.  The trail is steep and rises 2,200 feet over 2.2 miles to Golden Trout Lakes.  Both of these trails can lead to epic summits surrounding the area.


Trail Info

Trailhead – located inside the Onion Valley Campground.  It is not the same trail as getting to Kearsarge Pass.

Elevation – Trailhead (9,200 feet), Robinson Lake (10,500 feet)

Permits – Required for overnight trips, obtain on Recreation.gov website or at any Inyo National Forest ranger station/visitor center.

Weather Onion Valley Campground ~9,000 feet; Robinson Lake ~11,000 feet

Forest Service Information on Robinson Lake Trail – more information about the trail


Directions

From Independence, take Market St west.  Market St turns into Onion Valley Rd and continue on road for 12.8 miles till you reach the Onion Valley Campground.  Parking for hikers is located right before the campground near the Kearsarge Pass trailhead.  Walk through the campground and look for trailhead signs for Robinson Lake.


Gear Recommendations



The Hike

*originally hiked: 11/9/19

Reaching Onion Valley Campground around 12:30 pm, we hit the hike just after deciding to make the trek up since it was a short one.  The road up to Onion Valley is pretty cool considering we were able to see the abundance of fall colors.  When we reached the parking area, there were only a couple other cars.  We packed up our day packs and headed through the campground to the trailhead.

The trailhead is very easy to find, but not easy to hike.  I remember being super sore already and it made it rough to climb up to Robinson Lake.  The beginning of the trail is just past the campsites and right away climbs switchback after switchback.  The second part of the hike has very short switchbacks and feels like it just goes straight up.

quick trip

The sun would be hiding behind the mountains soon, so we scurried up as fast as we could to get a look at the lake with the sun gleaming on it.  Spent about 45 min around the lake fishing and relaxing.  There were only two fish, being that it was very late in the season and considering the lake was covered in ice.

I was worried on the way down because I didn’t bring hiking poles (mainly because I forget them at home, didn’t think we were going to do any hiking).  Luckily the hike was short enough that it didn’t make much of a difference for having them or not, but I would have really liked to have them on the uphill.


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15 Items That Always Go In My Hiking Backpack

Thursday evenings are mostly spent finishing packing my backpack for an adventure for the weekend.  I usually begin packing earlier in the week, some of my stuff is even packed from another trip; but this helps me decide if I need to make a trip to the store if I am missing anything.  Since I work full time, most of these hiking trips are day trips or a quick overnight trip; this in turn means that we leave either Friday night or Saturday before anyone thinks of waking up since it’s a weekend.

I used to run into occasions where I would forget an item or two that I should have packed or wanted to pack.  Over the years I’ve compiled a list that contains everything I would potentially take on any kind of hiking trip, one night, two night, day, etc.  Depending on what type of trip, I change the packing list to go with what kind of hike I will be going on.  It was very interesting to see the items I always pack when I go on any of these hiking trips.

*By no means is this list everything I take on my hikes, these are just items that I noticed always join me on my adventures.  There are plenty of other items that can be packed, check out what else is in my backpack.


Backpack – Whether it be a day pack or an overnight pack, this is something I always pack on.  To go hiking, you will need to purchase a backpack that will be comfortable for you and the type of hiking you will be doing.
Osprey 65 L Backpacking Backpack Osprey 10L Hydration Pack Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Dia Daypack
Overnight backpack Day hike backpack Day hike backpack

So you may ask, do you ever go hiking without a backpack?  No, I honestly feel like somethings missing if I go hiking without a backpack.  The items you carry in your backpack may even save your life if something happens.  But what about if I go for a trail run?  You will still need water, so any type of hydration pack where you can fit some necessities would go perfectly for that type of adventure.


GPS Satellite Communicator and/or GPS Watch – I honestly will never go without these on any adventure.  If you aren’t someone who owns one of these but goes out on backpacking trips or local hikes without cell reception, I definitely recommend buying the Garmin inReach.  The Garmin watch is a plus and I actually use this for daily workouts too (running, swimming, elliptical, weights).  It has map settings too that I can put on if we’re out of cell phone range.  There are different variations of this watch and is very similar to smart watches.
Garmin inReach Explorer+ Garmin inReach Mini GPS Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Watch
Satellite communicator, maps and gps navigation Smaller version on the Explorer+ Multisport GPS Watch, TOPO Maps, Garmin Pay, Music

Compass & Map – These are one of the 10 essentials in hiking that most people think they do not need.  I can’t say I’ve ever ran into a moment where I was in trouble and needed to a compass, but I have definitely run into many instances where I’ve needed the map as a resource instead of the gps.  I find comfort in the map, because you can see a larger area than on a small electronic device.  Add these to your packs when you’re headed out for a hike!
Compass Tom Harrison Maps Protection Paracord Bracelet
Simple navigating tool Topographic Maps Compass, fire starter, emergency knife & whistle

Sunscreen & Hat – Did you know you can get a sunburn in the snow too or even when it’s cloudy?  Always take extra sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
Carabiner Sunscreens Columbia Sun Protection Hat taking it easy retro trucker cap
very easy to clip to pack another hat option Hat design created by our company, Twinted, Inc.

 


Hydration Reservoir & hydration tablets – This is another necessity on any hike you will go on, you need to take water and extra if you need.  The other item I like to take along on all our hikes are hydration tablets that have electrolytes.  This helps me especially on the longer hikes and backpacking trips.
Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir Nuun Electrolyte Tablets
2.5-3.0L are the best mixes easily with water

Headlamp & Hiking Poles – The headlamp is an extra must, because you will never know how long a hike can take you unless you are on it and doing it; this would be ideal for any emergency situation you may run into on hike.  As I’ve gotten older, I have opted to bring my hiking poles everywhere.  I’ve noticed my pace is better with them and saves my knees for the downhill.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp Flash Carbon Trekking Poles
battery operated, bring extra batteries lightweight, collapsible

First Aid Kit & Emergency Blanket – these come with me on every hike and I recommend everyone takes with them.
Adventure Medical UL Kit SOL Emergency Bivvy
Ultralight Medical Kit Emergency shelter

Extra Food & Clothes – Never go out into the wilderness without extra food and extra clothes.  I’ve definitely had instances where I was happy that I brought extra food and clothes with me, because sometimes things just don’t go as planned.  We had a hike that turned out to be 15 miles, not only did I need the extra food, but I also needed to change out of a shirt that I wore, because it was soaking wet and was making me cold.  Be prepared when you go out there.
StarKist Salmon Creations Honey Stinger Organic Waffle To-Go Wrap Extra clothes
I always pack a couple extras of these for the hike. Lemon Dill is the best one. 150 calories for 1 waffle, for it’s weight and size perfect as an addition I always pack one or two of these depending on the hike Depending on weather, always take extra clothes to change into or add on

Hope you guys enjoyed this and get inspired to go outside to hike or backpack. Let me know if you have any questions or need ideas for what else to take on the trail.

Happy Adventures,

Annette – Beyond Limits on Foot


— Follow @beyondlimitsonfoot on Instagram —