Hiking Lake

Guide to Hiking Lakes in California

lakes Southern California

This is California – the beautiful, where millions flock on vacation. California is crowded: the population & tourists are only increasing each year. Thousands of people are looking for hiking mountains or better, a hiking lake – each weekend. Many are using the web for destinations, like the research you are doing right now. All folks seeking nature, water, cooler temps, fresh air & views. High Sierra, NorCal, SoCal Reservoirs, we list the best of these hiking lakes below.

Some of the lakes have mountaineering routes nearby; equestrian trails, regular hiking trails, campgrounds, some even have sorta level paved (granny) trails for biking, hiking & skating around.

High elevation or alpine lakes can be accessed best in summer months. Mountain bike, backpack, horseback into these hidden treasures. With any Sierra Nevada destination, snow pack deep can be in certain seasons. Major Highways (Sierra Passes) can be closed into June or July, due to rock slides and late snow melt. Snow shoes, snowmobile or 4×4 vehicles may be needed to reach such lakes, any months OCT-MAY (fall to spring). Winter can come early & stay late at these higher elevations of California; Be prepared for true Wilderness experience.

But maybe you are just looking for some easy hiking, loop trails & picnic spots; Or perhaps an overnight stay near a lakeside camp w/ kayak rentals. California reservoirs to alpine lakes, we have a wide variety listed below.

This page contains links to some favorite lakes with hiking trails around the lake, along the shoreline or routes on ridge lines overlooking the lake. If no good lake page could be found, we’ve linked to some photos of the lake on Flickr.

Baja California:

SoCal:

Central California / Sierra Nevada:

NorCal:

Blackrock Reservoir in Sierra Nevada

Blackrock Reservoir in Sierra Nevada

Lakes California Map: check out all the maps we have for lakes in Cali

Green Creek Road

Mono County Wildlife Area

Mono County Wildlife Area, Green Creek Road- off Hwy 395, near Bodie

Green Creek California

Eastern Sierra

S of Bridgeport, CA
MONO – Road #142NFS

Toiyabe National Forest
Bridgeport Ranger District

If you are thinking about fishing or camping the Eastern Sierra, North of Bishop & you are not up for the crowds at Mammoth or June Lakes, then try the Bridgeport area, north on Hwy 395. Rural ranch lands along main road, Bodie ghost town turn off across the highway and Virginia Creek Settlement are also nearby

Green Creek is a 11 mile long dirt road in the lush Eastern Sierra the northern portion. The wide, graded dirt road is signed and dead ends at a Toiyabe National Forest campground called Green Creek Campground. The drive up can be washboard bumpy in some parts, but that doesn’t stop the hundreds of adventurous motorhomes that make this trek annually. This place features some of the best prime Sierra back roads camping options for RVs.

Another dirt route, Dunderberg Meadow Road peels off to the left. Dunderberg departs  off Green Creek a couple of miles from the highway and well maintained. This route leads to meadows, aspens, picture perfect scenery and much more seclusion. Passenger car accessible, wide graded dirt roads to wilderness edges. Two-track one lane trails lead to meadow edges and more creeks. Very impressive views of the Sierra peaks over here on this side. Meadows are sensitive areas, wonderful for picnics and you should always minimize impact.

State Park California

Green Creek Wildlife Area
Mono County, California

Aspen Grove Camping for RVs

  • alpine lakes
  • backpacking
  • bird watching
  • camping
  • creeks
  • day hikes
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • hunting
  • mountain biking
  • wildlife
  • wilderness

Plain old passenger cars can easily make this route deep into the Eastern Sierra aspen canyon. Graded dirt and4x4 could be needed winter months. Backpackers can enjoy easy access to the Hoover Wilderness trailheads. There is plenty semi-primitive camping spots along the way, right on the creek, for free…. so no need to sleep in your vehicle upon arrival.

Autumn Aspen Groves: fall colors peak in October, which is usually when the first snows for the winter season start. November – usually the freeze gets them and lifeless brown leaves dangle, until the Sierra Nevada wind gust blow real good.

camp

Green Creek Camping

DIRT ROAD CAMPING

  • alpine lakes
  • backpacking
  • car camping
  • day hikes
  • fishing camping
  • meadows
  • RV camping
  • tent camping

Hoover Wilderness

Dispersed, primitive camp spots along this main dirt road are on a first come basis. You’ll need a fire permit. Many flat camps are set along the creek in aspen groves, some pines, others have  cubby hole privacy. Large granite valley, big creek, bird, scenery and nature everywhere.  Some folks spend weeks camping out here in the warm weather months. Fishing is a big attraction.

Old Cabin in autumn leaves, up near the top of the dirt road deep in the aspen grovesNFS

Green Creek Campground USFS
7500 elevation
11 camp sites
fee, open May – October
trailhead parking nearby

hiking trails lead to

hikes

TOPOGRAPHIC MAPS:

Aspen Camp

6S05 – Inyo NF

6S05bridge

Paved, one-lane extension of #4S12, Rock Creek Road.
Up above Rock Creek Lake, East Sierra Nevada, California

High elevation 10,272′ at roads end and parking lot

Little Lakes Valley Trailhead
Mono Pass
Morgan Pass
John Muir Trail (JMT)
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Mosquito Flat Picnic Area

Restrooms, paved parking lot, nature trails, fishing creeks, horseback, wilderness trails.

hikes NFS camp horse camp

Mosquito Flat Walk-In Campground is intended for backpackers departing overnight into the backcountry the following day. Single night stay ONLY. Please camp down canyon if you plan to stay for more than one night. Bear lockers are provided at campgrounds for proper storage of food items, so use them!

No campfires are allowed outside of developed campgrounds. Day use does not require a permit. Wilderness permits are required for overnight trips into the John Muir Wilderness. Bear containers are required for backpackers. Permits for these trails are issued at Inyo National Forest ranger station in Mammoth, or the Eastern Sierra Visitors Center (ESIA) near Olancha.

littlelakesvalley

John Muir Wilderness (JMT) trails, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), epic scenery, alpine lakes, high elevation. Eastern Sierra

Rock Creek NFS Hiking Trailheads (download PDF)

Rock Creek Pack Station provides wilderness pack trips on horseback, and day rides too.

Road and canyon is CLOSED for winter snow approx. NOV-MAY

snowlane

Peaks and passes surrounding Rock Creek Canyon, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains –

Red Mountain 11,472′ (elevation)
Mount Morgan 13,748′
Morgan Pass
Mt Huntington 12,405′
Mono Rock 11,554′
Mono Pass
Mt Starr 12,835′
Mt Mills 13,451′
Mt Abbott 13,704′
Round Valley Peak 11,943′

Hike or horseback ride to these alpine lakes from Rock Creek Rd trailheads –

Davis Lake
Hilton Creek Lakes
Patricia Lake
Golden Lake
Pioneer Basin Lakes
Trail Lakes
Summit Lake
Ruby Lake
Mills Lake
Gem Lakes
Treasure Lakes
Dade Lake
Upper Morgan Lake
Lower Morgan Lake
Chickenfoot Lake
Little Lakes
Box Lake
Heart Lake
Marsh Lake
Serene Lake
Eastern Brook Lakes
Tamarack Lake
Buck Lake
Francis Lake
Dorothy Lake
Kenneth Lake

Frazier Park Camping

Mount Pinos Camping & Frazier Park Campgrounds
frazier park camping


Frazier Park and neighboring towns, like freeway-close Lebec and Gorman, is where the Los Angeles hills meet the Kern County mountains, next to the Mojave desert and the Antelope Valley. EXIT I-5 @ Tejon Pass (elev 4144′)

Wildflower hills, seasonal creeks, forested peaks, high desert canyons. Bike trails, hike trails, off road routes. High elevation backpacking, hang gliding, mountain biking and camping in every direction.

High desert washes, oak creeks, pinyon pine forests, mountain meadows and numerous peaks – Frazier Peak, Reyes Peak, Alamo Mountain, Mount Pinos, Mount Abel (Cerro Noroeste) and north facing San Emigdio ridge.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

blue links lead to camp reservation services.

Mt. Pinos District:

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Aliso Park, Cuyama 3200′ 11 oak pit no Aliso Cyn Rd. (#10N04)
Ballinger OHV Camp 3000′ 20 pinyon vault no Rd# 9N10, Cuyama Valley
Camp-O Alto 8286′ 12 jefferey pit no ridge, Cerro Noroeste
Caballo Campground 5850′ 5 oaks pit no Rd# 9N27, Cerro Noroeste
Cherry Creek 4×4 5200′ 2 oak no spring 4WD trail, Cuddy Valley
Chuchapate Campgr 6000′ 30 pines vault piped Rd# 8N04, closed winter
Chula Vista Campgr 8300′ 12 pines vault no walk-in camps & RV lot
Cottonwood Campgr 4600′ 2 ctnwd no creek 4WD only trail, fish
Dome Springs Camp 4800′ 4 oak pit no Rd# 8N40, Lockwood
Dutchman Camp 6800′ 8 pines no no Rd# 7N01, 4WD trails
Half Moon Campgr 4700′ 10 pines pit no Rd #7N03, May-Oct
Kings Campground 4250′ 7 pinyon vault no near OHV & Piru Creek
Marian Campground 6600′ 5 pine pit no closed in winter
McGill Campground 7500′ 50+ pine vault seasonal mountain biking
Mount Pinos Campgr 7800′ 19 pine vault seasonal closed winter
Nettle Springs Camp 4400′ 9 pinyon vault no Rd# 8N06, Apache Cyn
Ozena Campground 3660′ 12 cottnwd vault no Lockwood Rd
Pine Springs Camp 5800′ 12 pinyon pit no Road #7N03
Pleito Campsite 5000′ 2 mixed no no dirt rd access, dispersed
Rancho Nuevo 3550′ 2 mixed no no river crossing
Reyes Creek 4000′ 30 oaks vault yes creek camping
Reyes Peak Pine Mt 5200′ 6 pines none no ridge camping
Salt Creek 4×4 3000′ 2 mixed no no 4WD only
Sunset Campground 4300′ 2 cottonwd no no Lockwood / Piru Creek
Thorn Meadows 5000′ 5 pine pit no Rd# 7N03C, horse corral
Tinta Campground 3600′ 3 scrub pit no river crossing
Toad Springs Camp 5700′ 5 pinyon pit no Rd# 9N09, Quatal Cyn
Twin Pines Camp 6600′ 5 pine vault no Dry weather only
Valle Vista Camp 4800′ 7 mixed pit no condors, new toilet

See Mount Pinos Recreation Campgrounds only

Group Camping Sites in Los Padres Forest

Map of Los Padres NF –

Los Padres mountain towns –

DSCN0043

Toad Springs Campground atop Quatal Canyon. Small camps located in Los Padres NF have no fees, and often no toilets – so bring the shovel

Wilderness Lakes

Lake Genevieve

lake in ca / calif lakes / lake elevation / geology lakes

hike in lakes

Wilderness lakes are as pure as it gets. No cattle, no roads nearby. Snow melt, cool days, good fishing, great mountain scenery, granite, fresh air & clean water. You have to really wanna reach them. You must physically WORK to get to these remote alpine wonderlands – hike, bike, or horseback. Most prefer to backpack in and stay a while. Why not? These puppies are ACCESSIBLE a few months outta the whole year. May as well enjoy them while you can. The rest of the time most of them are frozen solid or buried with serious snow. Wilderness areas do not allow dogs nor mountain bikes on trails, so plan accordingly.

California is lucky to have hundreds of lakes within protected wilderness areas. Almost all are gorgeous and have very limited access. While we haven’t yet been able to hike every Wilderness in Cali, we will leave you with the best links with could find & a way to buy some maps.

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Bucks Lake Wilderness

Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness

Granite Chief Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness

Hoover Wilderness

John Muir Wilderness

Lassen National Park

Mokelumne Wilderness

Monarch Wilderness (Kings Cyn)

Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Thousand Lakes Wilderness

Trinity Alps Wilderness

Yosemite National Park

wild California

Forget the hike!
If you are seeking a remote mountain lake that you can drive to, you will need to search for one that has the fewest people. A four wheel vehicle will help you exit the tourist traps, thru plenty of the back roads we feature. Always steer clear of crowded, holiday weekends.

California LAKE LIST – full list here

A few regions more with pristine lakes, but not dubbed Wilderness: