Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

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Nighthawk
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Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by Nighthawk » Sun May 15, 2016 3:43 am

Hello everyone. I'm looking for a short mid-June backpack destination with a nice lake or stream and some pretty scenery.
I've got long lists of places I want to go that are 7000' and over, but not so many early season normal snowpack ones.

Backpacking experience: Level 3. Decades of backpacking with occasional cross country travel in the Sierra and elsewhere.

Terrain: comfortable with Class 3, but I want something easier this trip. No snow travel.

Main interest: Granite and water to play on and in, backed by some scenery. A gentle, not-too-icy stream coursing over granite with some pools for wading would be ideal (like our 3rd trip listed below). If there's a peak or ridge nearby for a dayhike, that's a nice bonus.

My trip will be 2 nights on a weekend.
Out and back is fine. I'd like to do about 3 miles each way. Less is fine.
I want to be within about 4 hours drive from the Mount Diablo area.
I will be hiking with a dog and one other adult.
I'd like to avoid mosquitoes as much as possible.

The biggest constraint is I'll also be hiking with a toddler (2 1/2 years old). I figure I'll probably get a mile or so of his walking and otherwise he'll be carried (or if I want to go any faster than the 0.5 miles per hour which is his normal pace). So the packs end up pretty heavy with his 30 lbs, and the load wiggles around. With that, and his pace, I want something short.

Examples of previous trips with the kid:
Loch Leven Lakes
Island Lake from Carr Lake, plus visiting Penner
South Fork Silver Creek from Wrights Lake (this was our favorite)

I know this is the High Sierra forums, but I'm open to other areas that fit the criteria.

Thanks!








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jessegooddog
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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by jessegooddog » Sun May 15, 2016 7:34 am

20 Lakes Basin is a great area for families - the water taxi across Saddlebag Lake"should" be operating by mid June (cuts off 3 miles round trip) and the hike through the basin is not at all steep. Lakes everywhere. Right outside Yosemite, so dogs are welcome including on the taxi. I would avoid the loop section to the right carrying a child - the trail around the Odell and Helen lakes is very rocky if I remember correctly. Good camping at Greenstone.

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by balzaccom » Sun May 15, 2016 8:05 am

We have a section in the destinations section of our website that gives early season hikes, and another that focuses on starter hikes...

You can find our site by clicking on the link in my signature line.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by SSSdave » Mon May 16, 2016 2:11 pm

Hello Nighthawk,

It is off trail over canyon wall glaciated granite slabs. An off Waterhouse Lake not many are aware of:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=38.22138,-119.90372&z=15&t=T

Also look at the satellite tab on the above.
20 Lakes Basin is great for mid to late summer but its high elevation will be too snowy or soggy mid June.

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by maverick » Mon May 16, 2016 2:22 pm

Jessegooddog wrote:
20 Lakes Basin is a great area for families - the water taxi across Saddlebag Lake"should" be operating by mid June (cuts off 3 miles round trip) and the hike through the basin is not at all steep. Lakes everywhere. Right outside Yosemite, so dogs are welcome including on the taxi. I would avoid the loop section to the right carrying a child - the trail around the Odell and Helen lakes is very rocky if I remember correctly. Good camping at Greenstone.
Dave wrote:
20 Lakes Basin is great for mid to late summer but its high elevation will be too snowy or soggy mid June.
With 20 Lakes Basin starting at 10127ft (Greenstone Lake), it maybe a bit early for mid June.
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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by wildhiker » Mon May 16, 2016 3:45 pm

Yes, mid-June is difficult for the type of trip you want to do - you want some of the high country granite, but it's mostly still snowy or mosquito-infested. Here are a few possibilities.

1) Island Lake in the Grouse Lakes area of the Tahoe National Forest, where you have already gone, is a great spot. You might consider going back. Another nearby trail is the one from Loney Meadow up Texas Creek to the Rock Lakes. The side road into Loney Meadow leaves Bowman Road further north, but is only about a mile long and opens up before the one to Carr Lake. The trail is easy to follow up the valley with really great wildflowers in June. The last mile is on a closed rough road. But there are no water features to play in until you get to the lakes. The upper lake is more scenic, in a rocky area, and as I recall has some shallow areas for wading. It's about 3 miles total with about 700 feet elevation gain.

2) Here's an off-beat suggestion that might work for you. See if you can snag a reservation (reserveamerica.com) for the Emerald Bay "boat-in" campsites in D.L. Bliss State Park. From what I can tell, walk-ins are OK, too, but there apparently is some issue with where to park overnight - check with the park staff. This area is always open and free of snow by mid to late May and should be pretty nice in June. It's about 1.5 miles and 400 feet down from the Vikingsholm parking area (but you can't leave a car there overnight - maybe you can at the Forest Service Eagle Lake parking area (fee) across and down the road a bit?). Add another half-mile if you detour over to see Vikingsholm itself. If you go there, you might as well take the side trail another 1/2 mile or so up to Eagle Falls, which is really impressive in early season. You will have lots of company - hikers and boats - during the day, but I bet it gets pretty quiet at night. I've never stayed at this campground, but have walked past it many times on day hikes and thought it would a nice spot to camp. There are many small coves on the bay with sandy beaches to wade in and make sand castles. There are good views of the alpine high country to the west. If you walk another mile (practically level) northeast on the Rubicon Trail to where it comes out at Lake Tahoe itself, you have more great views across the lake and another sandy beach. The campground itself is typical State Park luxury with picnic tables, piped water, nice bathrooms, etc., under large pine trees - but with no RVs!

3) Here's one I did with my family when our youngest was a toddler - Lost Lake/Sword Lake in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness of the Stanislaus National Forest. You start at the "County Line Trailhead" at the end of the Montgomery Meadow road off the Clark Fork Rd off Highway 108. Check with the NF if the road is open. This one is a little higher - up to 7500 feet at a saddle - but it's fairly open terrain and is usually snow free early in the season. The trail is about 2.5 miles, 400 feet elev gain going in, 700 feet coming out. The first part of the trail is over open forest & meadow, but then gets into granite near the lakes. You pass a couple of small creeks on the way as well. I remember finding places for the kids to play in the lakes. There is great scenery for the adults, with the cliffs of the Dardanelles rising up to the southeast. You can continue hiking over moderate terrain deep into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.

4) Another possible option is Lake Margaret off Highway 88, starting at Kirkwood, at about 7400 feet elevation. We did this as a day hike with small children, but I believe camping is allowed. The terrain is broken granite with lots of small meadows, tarns, and creeks. Could be mosquito-ey. Its about 2 miles with maybe 400 feet total elevation gain. Crossing Caples Creek could be difficult in early season - we were there in August.

5) Another possibility off Highway 88 would be Shealor Lakes near Silver Lake. The trail is only 1.5 miles in with about 400 feet elevation gain each way. This is all granite country. But the lakes are on a north slope and might have snow still. Also about 7500 feet elevation.

Good luck. I remember how hard it is to find the perfect trip with small children.

-Phil

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by Nighthawk » Thu May 19, 2016 1:05 pm

Thanks everyone for the suggestions!

Jesse:
I think the Saddlebag Lake area is too high for us for June. I'll keep it in mind for later though, I didn't know there was a water taxi there. I used the one at Edison Lake once, and it was definitely a nice start.

Dave:
Waterhouse Lake looks great! There's another smaller lake near it to explore and a short climb to a great viewpoint onto the meadow below. Plus the Stanislaus could be fun to go down to and dayhike along. I'll have to watch other trip reports come in and see what conditions are at that elevation closer to the date. I was thinking it would be too high, and if not snow then choked with mosquitoes but maybe not. It's a short drive too.

Phil:
I certainly wouldn't mind going back to the Island Lake area except that it was our final trip last year, so I'd like to do something different. We only had a brief trip into the Crooked Lakes there, and I wanted to see more so we'll be back there soon.
We're doing 4th of July at DL Bliss, so we'll get to explore that area then. It'll be crazy crowded, but that's OK once and a while, and there's always a chance to make some friends.
Sword Lake is definitely on my list. It was my alternate to Island Lake last season.

Some other ideas I came up with after poking around, any comments?
- There are some fun looking spots on the Bear River, north and east of Devil's Lake
- Jamison Lake
- Gold Lake and Rock Lake in the Buck's Lake Wilderness
- Wandering up the Silver Fork of the American River from Silver Lake West Campground on 88
- Area between Fordyce Creek and South Yuba east of Lake Spaulding. This would be an amazingly short drive.
- West Fork Cherry Creek

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by wildhiker » Thu May 19, 2016 11:50 pm

Hi Nighthawk,
You asked about
- Area between Fordyce Creek and South Yuba east of Lake Spaulding. This would be an amazingly short drive.
Not a good choice. This area is a big jeep playground, the kind where they love to winch themselves up the boulder fields. The only trail is their jeep trail. In early season it is a total muddy mess, where it's not eroded boulders. I walked the trail once to Eagle Lakes. Never again.

If you are interested in Lake Spaulding, however, you can make a very short backpack to the northern lakeshore and camp, and then continue day hiking up the trail along Fordyce Creek, which has impressive cascades and some pockets of large old-growth pines. In early season, when the lake is full, it is actually quite attractive, totally surrounded by granite, and with some views of the mountains in the Grouse Lakes area, particularly Old Man Mountain. And it gets surprisingly little motorboat use - we find it a good spot to canoe (in the morning, before the stiff afternoon winds). This area is actually fairly low elevation - under 6000 feet - and it melts off early in the season, so it should be quite dry (and hopefully not buggy) by mid-June. The wind off the lake would also help to keep down the bugs.

You start from Fuller Lake, on the paved part of the Bowman Lake Road, 4 miles from Highway 20. You cross the dam and then walk on the closed service road paralleling the canal coming from the lake. In less than 1/2 mile, the canal disappears into a tunnel, and you cross the canal on a bridge and stay on the dirt road heading east into an area used for occasional logging, ignoring side roads to the right and left, for another 1/2 mile until you drop down along a little valley just below a very green meadow. Where the road heads up the hill to the left (east), you start a trail that passes underneath a large penstock pipe (that's where the canal water went) and then contours east through the forest along an old ditch another 1/2 mile or so until it reaches a possible watercourse. I say possible, because the natural flow is a trickle, but it is used as an overflow to dump flow from the penstock when they are working on the powerhouse below. If that happens, there is a magnificent but impassable waterfall in front of you. I've seen it only once in many years of hiking this trail, so it's a rare event, but if they are working on the powerhouse when you go, you won't get any farther than this stream, especially with children. And there is really no camping or any views before this point, so this is a slightly iffy backpack choice. Maybe the PG&E maintenance station in Alta could reassure you that they are not dumping penstock water here before you go - you can find their contact info online. In the normal trickle state, you hop across the rocks and continue on the trail until it crosses under the penstock pipe again and then heads gradually down to the shore of Lake Spaulding. Walk east more or less along the shoreline until you find a suitable camp spot - the trail is little used and may be dim in places, but it is obvious where it is going. You will likely have no company except for the occasional boater going by. Some folks do boat-in to an informal camping area at the very east end of the lake, where you start to see the cascades on Fordyce Creek.

-Phil

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by Nighthawk » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:19 am

I wanted to post a followup on this thread in case others had this question. The year I asked this, 2016, our calendar changed and we ended up not being able to do a backpacking trip. We did do a short off-trail hike from Shot Rock Vista but not all the way down to the Bear River. This spot still looks promising.
In 2017, we went back to Loch Leven Lakes because we joined the Sierra Club family backpacking trip.
This year, we took SSSdave's suggestion and went to Waterhouse Lake. We didn't make it up to Adele Lake or the viewpoint, but we did hike down to the Stanislaus river on the second day. The scenery was spectacular, and Waterhouse was just warm enough to swim in. The Stanislaus was too cold for more than a plunge after a hot hike. The hike was more difficult than anything we've done with the kid, but he enjoys rock scrambling so it was great. Except for a group of day hikers each day, we had the lake to ourselves which I found pretty surprising.

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Re: Short and sweet suggestions for mid-June

Post by Nighthawk » Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:35 am

Another followup: In 2019, we visited Shaelor Lakes in mid-June. The ridge you cross to get to the lake was covered in snow, but that was just a bit of added fun, not difficult. The lake itself still had a lot of ice in it, so no swimming for the kiddo, but we also didn't see anyone else there and no mosquitoes. We enjoyed a nice dayhike following the outflow of the lake.

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