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Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

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Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby oleander » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:25 pm

Hi,

I'll be leading a group of friends, newbies to backpacking, to a Sierras lake in July 2012. I have a few lakes picked out that fit my criteria: Within 4-5 miles of the trailhead; trail not absurdly rugged; not a crazy amount of climbing; low enough to be accessible if the snowmelt is late but high enough to have some alpine/granite qualities (so 8000-10,000 feet); trailhead no longer than 6 hours drive from Bay Area.

The problem I'm encountering is that I've never hiked with such a big group (8!), and I have no idea which lakes actually have enough *space* to put up 4x 2-person tents. It's so goddanged rocky everywhere, often it's hard to find a space for just one tent!

So I'm wondering if anyone here has recon on any of the following, regarding the likelihood of finding 4 good tent sites near each other:

1. Chewing Gum Lake (out of Gianelli Cabin in Emigrant Wilderness)
2. Middle Velma Lake, or some other not more than 5 mi. from Eagle Creek or Bayview trailhead (Desolation Wilderness)
3. Gertrude Lake (Desolation Wilderness)
4. Some lake on the trail towards Duck Pass, out of Lake Mary (Mammoth area)
5. Barney Lake (the one out of Twin Lakes in Hoover Wilderness). I did not look closely but it appeared there may have been only one limited camping area there, so we'd be screwed if we got there after another group claimed it.
6. Pear Lake Trail to Heather, Emerald, or Pear Lake
7. Some other lake you might suggest. Not interested in Yosemite craziness. Dinky Lakes?

I have been to all of these places (except Dinky Lakes). The rub is I've never had to look for 4 tent sites in any of those places :)

- Elizabeth



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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby rlown » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:36 pm

it's not like the tents have to be organized in army-like fashion..

doesn't matter where you go.. show them maps and let them pick and get a permit already... :D
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:42 pm

If I recall correctly, you should be alble to get 4 tents in at the near to Barney camp. That said, some clarifications are in order.

1) You actually have to camp several hundred feet off of Barney. Check with Inyo NF for specifics. There is a camp spot downstream of the outlet, that is nicely shaded and probably buggy. There are also some spots above the upper end of the lake in a very sunny area.
2) No solitude whatsoever. Barney is a very popular day hike from the twin lakes. There will be people going by continuously.

Here's a photo of Barney Lake
Image
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby oleander » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:56 pm

Just thought of three more lakes!

8. Eagle Lake or Mosquito Lakes (Mineral King)

...and these two are in the Rock Creek area:

9. Hilton Creek Lakes. Can't get much info online; does nobody ever go there?
10. Little Lakes Valley - Chicken Foot Lake or Gem Lake would be about the right distance in. I heard they are overused; is it so bad that they are not worth going to?

This is a July trip. Thus we'd want to avoid marshy lakes full of skeeters.

That west end of Barney Lake is pure marsh, and I didn't detect any campsites there anyway when I went there last year.

We don't mind a stream of day-hikers. I normally prefer off-trail hiking to some site at 11k+ with no people; but am deliberately setting aside my usual preferences so as to make this trip accessible to newbies :) Thus, the no-more-than-5-miles rule.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:39 pm

If you are willing to do Pear Lake, consider Ostrander Lake or Polly Dome Lake in Yosemite. Both are easier hikes than Pear, and shorter driving. Ostrander is not one of the heaviest used areas in the park - it gets some day hikers, but not in huge numbers like Pear does. The fish bite well and there are some short day hikes to explore the area for the more adventurous.

A great beginner backpack too - the loop out of the north end of Saddlebag Lake, over Tioga Pass. Absolutely gorgeous alpine area 10,000+ feet but hardly any climbing at all, and a ferry if they don't want to hike the rest of the way around the lake on the way out.
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby balzaccom » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:05 pm

Yeah--I would avoid Barney just because it is so busy===and the only legal campsites are far from the lake. Please don't camp right at the lake. That area is already heavily abused and doesn't need any more damage.

I wouild also vote for Polly Dome Lakes, or Chewing Gum--although that trail is a tough climb.

VElma Lakes is also a day-hike destination that might have a lot of people.

I'd suggest a couple of others in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness: Boulder Lake or Sword/Lost Lake. Those last two are a particularly easy hike...and there are lots of places to camp between both lakes.
And you might look at Lyons Lake in Desolation, or Spider Lake out of Loon Lake.

All of these are on our website.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:01 pm

Here are some notes on some the lakes you've mentioned and those mentioned by others:
1. Middle Velma. There is plenty of room around the very large perimeter of this lake with tons of campsites.
2. Gertrude L. I don't recall this as being a really attractive destination to accommodate a large group. Out of the same trailhead, I'd say the Twin Lakes are a much better destination. There is a lot of room to camp there.
3. Pear Lake. This doesn't have a huge amount of room, nor do the other lakes along the way. Whereas the Desolation Wilderness destinations above attract a lot of people there is lots of room to spread out. The Pear Lake trail destinations are a bit more closed in. Regarding Ostrander vs Pear Lake, Ostrander is about the same distance from the trailhead than Pear (by a few tenths of a mile) and it doesn't have a lot of room to spread out. The Polly Dome Lakes don't have many people, but they are not a place to go if anyone in the party wants to fish (no fish there).
4. Chickenfoot Lake. There is a lot of room to spread out here. Although popular, elbow room can be obtained. Gem Lakes are a bit more limited in terms of room, as I recall, but I haven't been there since 1981, so my memory is a bit stretched.
5. Hilton Lakes. Lots of room to spread out here. They are moderately popular although not as much as the main trunk Little Lakes Valley destinations. The almost limitless number of campsites and huge lake perimeters along the two lowest lakes (the lowest Hilton Lake is officially named Davis Lake) can get you plenty of elbow room.
6. Dinkey Lakes. A fine choice for easy backpacking with plenty of room at a number of different destinations. The scenery is not as spectacularly rugged as at east side Sierra destinations (but the same is true of the Desolation Wilderness options, too).
I'd say there are plenty of other lakes that would work as well for you as those that you mentioned. Here are but a few:
1. Green Lake, West Lake, or East Lake out of the Green Creek trailhead from Bridgeport. Less impacted than Barney. Green is the closest and probably has the least room to stretch out, West doesn't have much more room but sees far fewer people. East has an amazing amount of room around its enormous perimeter.
2. Frog/Cooney Lakes and vicinity, out of Virginia Lakes (also out of Bridgeport). Again, lots of room to maneuver in nice scenery as above
3. Oneida Lake and vicinity out of Lundy Lake. (from 395 just north of Lee Vining). Off the beaten path, plenty of room.
4. Agnew Lake or Gem Lake, June Lakes loop. fairly popular but lots of room, particularly around the enormous Gem L.
5. a few Bishop Creek destinations with abundant space: a. Lower Horton L. b. Tyee Lakes, c. Green Lake, d. Long Lake.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby tim » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:20 pm

Pear and Emerald Lakes have plenty of sites but can't be booked in advance so probably a bad idea for July.

I think Pika Lake over Duck Pass would work (keep going to the far end of the lake for the biggest open area). Decent quotas for that trail so should be OK if you book soon. That would be a beautiful place to stay - in fact we're hoping to go there Labor Day weekend (two families) so have the same considerations as you. I took the kids in 2010 as part of a longer trip to Iva Bell hot springs.

Lots of room at the south end of Lake Aloha also (that's our go to place for beginners using the boat across Echo Lake - I've done three trips there with young kids).

Chain Lakes in southern Yosemite would be another option definitely worth considering (way quieter than the obvious places in Yosemite). Rumor has it that Chain Lakes can accommodate quite a few people for a get-together, though others on this board could provide more details.
Last edited by tim on Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:40 pm

giantbrookie wrote: Regarding Ostrander vs Pear Lake, Ostrander is about the same distance from the trailhead than Pear (by a few tenths of a mile) and it doesn't have a lot of room to spread out. The Polly Dome Lakes don't have many people, but they are not a place to go if anyone in the party wants to fish (no fish there).


I contest that there is not enough room to spread out at Ostrander. I take 15-20 people, most of them in solo tents, every fourth of July, and there is a ton of space left over. There are campsites along the ridge north of the lake (with views to the north) that will easily host large groups, and there are multiple sites along the west shore 50 ft back from the water. Also sites further down the lake on the southwestern end.
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby rlown » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:49 pm

AT.. you should reread what you wrote.. 50' isn't good enough away from the water..
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby oleander » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:58 pm

Wow, you guys are FULL of superb information.

On the possible locations,

Yosemite: We deliberately want to take this group to somewhere other than Yosemite. Most of them have been to Yosemite and Tahoe but not yet to other parts of the Sierra.

That said, the Hoover Wilderness entries east of Yosemite are in contention. Point taken on Barney Lake being overburdened, so I have crossed that one off. Does anyone remember how permitting works at Hoover? I would love to take them to Saddlebag but if the snow is slow to melt, there's some chance our mid-July dates might be too early to start a hike at 10k and go uphill from there. I will check out East Lake, and the Virginia and Lundy entries. (Anyone have an opinion which is the prettiest?) I vaguely remember one of these entries is hard to access if you don't have a 4wd.

Trail to Chewing Gum - hmmmm, I don't remember that as a tough climb. But will check out my topo maps. I do want to make this easy for my people.

Carson-Iceberg: Not sure I have been to those lakes, I'll check them out.

Middle Velma: Funny, I've camped there once and my recollection is that it was moderately tricky to find campsites. It's a big lake, so maybe we were on the wrong side. (We camped about midway along the south shore.) There must be a section of Middle Velma with better camping?

Twin Lakes (Desolation): Roomy but really rocky with sharp rocks? That's how I remember it. What's the best part of that basin to camp in?

Pear Lake area: Will skip. I'd like to save my next trip there for another trek into Tablelands. Not for a beginner group.

Chickenfoot (Little Lakes Basin): sounds good. However, this is the highest-elevation of all the lakes we're looking at, so we're a little concerned that if we pop $40 for our permit 6 months in advance, we're taking our chances that a lakes basin at 10,700 feet is (not) melted out by July 13. What are our chances?

Hilton Lakes - same area - I like that they are slightly lower in elevation. Are they as pretty?

June Lakes loop/Agnew & Gem Lakes, I recall not much caring for that trail, but not sure why.

Duck Pass: Haven't camped on the shores of Pika Lake and I hear it's stunning. Unfortunately that is farther than we want to hike in a day. We don't want to cross to the other side of Duck Pass. I'm thinking of starting at George Lake, hiking to some lake near the head of (but BEFORE) Duck Pass, then going to Deer Lake on day 2. Heard the cross-country to Deer Lake is not hard. But I don't remember what the camping situation looked like on the north side of Duck Pass for our first night. I have a sinking feeling these lakes are overused.

Lake Aloha, thought of that too, how much does that boat shuttle cost nowadays?

Chain Lakes (south of Yosemite), nice idea. I forgot entirely about those trailheads down there. Could work.

Bishop Creek is too far to drive for us, 7-8 hours.

Mineral King: Eagle Lake or Mosquito Lakes: Nobody has a comment? I sure think that area is gorgeous...

Thanks again, keep 'em coming!

- Elizabeth
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Re: Lakes good for 8 people (4 tents) camping

Postby tim » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:26 am

I thought about Hilton Lakes also, but quotas are too low for our group (we have 10 in total).

The Echo Lake boat is $10 pp each way. The extra hiking distance if you dont want to pay both ways isn't too bad, especially once acclimatized on the way out. Parking on weekends can be tough.

My recollection of the Skelton Lake basin (Duck Pass) was that there was enough room around the lake to find decent camping on the far side, but I haven't investigated in detail - I'd also appreciate input on that from anyone who has tried it. If I'm remembering correctly, that lake has nice sandy beaches also. We'd plan to go there on Day 1 from Coldwater campground then cross Duck Pass to Pika Lake on Day 2. The walk back (5 miles downhill) would be easy (even with a 5 yr old & 7 yr old in our case).

Pika Lake.jpg
Pika Lake

Note that with the new Inyo NF booking system you only lose the booking fee not the whole reservation cost if you cancel - good option for early season/large group bookings.
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