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Dinkey Lakes Backpacking

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Dinkey Lakes Backpacking

Postby bleusol » Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:54 pm


My friend and I are planning a backpacking trip to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness area in early September. I haven't been camping (non-backpacking kind) in almost 4 years and my friend has never gone camping. So I suppose we can both be considered beginners.

We're planning to stay 3days/3nights. First day, hike out to the base camp, we're considering First Dinkey Lake, Second Dinkey Lake, and Island Lake (the latter two locations if we can make it out there). And the remaining two days hike out to Dogtooth Peak and the Three Sisters Peak.

I was also wondering what the road conditions are like on the way to the trailhead (Willow Meadows, based on the US Forest Site). Both our cars are very low, Mini Cooper and a Honda Fit, we have access to an SUV but we'd have to drive to SF first and coming from SD we would have to back track a bit before we would actually be on our way.

I read some of the threads about the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and the hike out to the lakes closest to the Willow Meadows trailhead sounds like it's pretty easy, but there wasn't much about the inner lakes. Any advice about these?

Thank you in advance for all your help!
Any bit of information is appreciated!


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Re: Dinkey Lakes Backpacking

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:23 am

I would take neither of those cars to the Willow Meadow trailhead. The road from where it turns off the main road is a haphazard mess of bathtub sized potholes - my Mazda 3 would be hopelessly stranded in one if I weren't good at dodging - then a gravel and dirt, then just dirt, and the last mile is a filthy dusty chuckhole-and-root ridden mess. I have seen older Toyota and Honda passenger cars up there but unless you are very good at dodging or just don't care if you mess up the suspension on your car, either consider the Cliff Lake trailhead out of courtright or take an SUV.

All the lakes are very close together. You don't hear about them because they are all pretty much subalpine lakes full of trout, 5-15 minutes of walking and you are at the next one. When going in from Willow Meadow we make it to Island lake well before dark - one time we didn't leave Fresno til 2, arrived at Willow Meadow at 3:30, got to Island Lake just as the sun set. First Dinkey is a 3 mile hike. Island is another 2-3 miles from there. Our hiking group has day hiked the entire loop before - it's only a 9 mile loop. From Courtright it's farther but the road is paved all the way to the dirt parking area at the trailhead - the first lake from that direction is at 5-6 miles, Cliff Lake, and from there you take switchbacks up over a ridge and drop into Rock Lake, five minutes from Rock (even a very tired hiker takes five minutes) is Second Dinkey, 1/4 mile up a rocky trail is Island, from which we took a cross country jaunt of 10-15 minutes to Fingerbowl, from which we followed the outlet down a steep hill to South Lake - you can do this all day.

The best campsites are at Island, also the best fishing. You get a good view of the whole wilderness from the top of the rock ridge there. Second best would be Rock or Second Dinkey. First Dinkey has some campsites but I would only camp there if you don't mind bugs, or if late in the season, you don't mind people walking trails five feet from camp - the shores of the lake 3/4 of the way around are green meadows and bogs, and you don't want to camp on grass, it's not leave-no-trace and it's asking for condensation inside your tent, big time.

We take newbie backpackers up there all the time; scouts and groups of kids frequently march through. It's a popular place here locally. Get your wilderness permits at the Prather Ranger Station on the way up - they open at 8 but you can reserve them for 5/person and the day before you want to arrive, call and ask them to drop it in the night drop. If you pick up the permit the day before, you can always car camp on the way in either in one of the pullouts along the long road out, or at Willow Meadow trailhead itself (Cliff Lake trailhead is near a car campground at Courtright, and people use pullouts there as well for free, but you don't camp at the trailhead there).

Get the Tom Harrision map for Dinkey Lakes. The trails on the older maps you get from the forest services are wrong.
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