Linking the lakes
Overview: This is a long day hike through Great Basin National Park that will take you pass two beautiful Alpine Lakes, Baker Lake and Johnson Lake. It will also take you past some historic cabins in the Johnson Mill historic district, through beautiful aspen groves, and picturesque meadows where you are likely to see deer grazing. Make sure to take your time at the park, as there are over 60 miles of hiking trails and this is one of the least visited National Parks in the country, making this a great place to have a real wilderness experience.
Starting from the Baker Creek Trailhead take the Baker Lake trail out of the parking area. This trail initially cuts away from Baker Creek and climbs gently for the first mile, you will go through forest, and then will be exposed for a good part of the first mile. However, just when you are hoping to get back into the forest the trail cuts back towards Baker Creek and takes you through a beautiful aspen grove. A few minutes later and you will find yourself at a trail junction, turn right and stay on the Baker Lake trail. The trail climbs steadily for the next 4.5 miles until you reach Baker Lake. About a mile before the lake you make your final creek crossing (all significant crossings are bridged). In this area you may encounter snow up until mid to late June. When I hiked through there were several downed trees as well, evidence of an avalanche a few years back that also completely destroyed the Dieshman Cabin (most maps still show the Dieshman cabin, but there is nothing left). Continue up and on into the bautiful cirque that contains Baker Lake. Cliffs and tall pines tower above the lake, and make for a great place to stop and eat lunch and just enjoy the scenic wonder. Baker lake is also the only lake in the park with fish in it, so if you are a fishermen this lake is for you. If you are not feeling to well at this point, or if it is really early in the season and you have already encountered alot of snow, then it is probably best to turn around at this point instead of trying the loop.
To get to Johnson Lake look for the cairns on the north side of Baker Lake, these cairns are big, and the route is well marked in most places. Follow the cairns up a small canyon and towards the ridge separating Baker Lake from Johnson Lake. This climb should get your heart racing, as you are up above treeline, over 11,000 feet in elevation. You will top out at a ridge and will have good views of Johnson Lake, and Pyramid Peak to your left. Johnson Lake looks alot closer then it actually is, you still have a significant climb down to the lake. When I came through here, snow was blocking the route, and I made my way down to Johnson Lake carefully and SLOWLY. It took almost an hour to come down from the ridge to the lake, a distance of less than a quarter mile. Looking back probably not the safest thing to try alone. If you are here later in the season, steep snow fields shouldn't be a problem.
Once down at Johnson contine on the well marked trail, which is an old jeep road. The trail takes you past some old cabins. The area around Johnson lake is a historic mine district, these cabins are remnants of the mining days. The trail down from Johnson Lake is steep, and will go by quickly. Eventually you find yourself at a trail junction, turn left and get on the South Fork Baker Creek trail. This trail climbs through one of the prettiest aspen stands I've seen, and then tops out at the Snake Creek Divide. From the divide the trail continues through a forest and into a picturesque meadow. In the meadow you will come to another trail junction, turn left and stay on the South Fork Baker Lake trail, this trail follows the creek and before too long dumps you into another scenic meadow. From this meadow it is about 1.5 miles back to the Baker Creek Trailhead. Often there are beautiful wildflowers and lush greenery along this last section of trail. Right before the trail head there is one last junction, stay left on S. Fork Baker Creek and then you will cross a few bridges and return to the trailhead. Enjoy the rest of the park!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.