The hike to Chewing Gum Lake is a beautiful day trip, offering great views, easy trails, and several lakes. The trail is located near the mountain areas of Pinecrest and Mi-Wuk, and is on a popular backpack trail. Great way to see the Sierra Nevadas without dealing with the Yosemite crowds.
A gravel road takes you most of the way to the trailhead, so be prepared for some slow going. The parking area, however, is fairly large, though can become crowded during busy times of the season. While my group hiked in late summer, after a year of very poor rain, apparently the trail is usually mosquito-ridden, so bring some bug spray. The leg of the trail to the lake is never very steep and offers a nice mix of ups and downs that help make it more interesting.
The trailhead is easy to find on the northern end of the dirt parking area. It leads you up a shaded gradual slope to a ridge and Burst Rock. There are some pretty views here, but it's just getting started. The trail wanders back down a bit to Powell Lake (see separate trail description - 2 miles into the hike), which would be a lovely spot to sit, picnic, and swim. Continuing on, though, you will go up another rise (or two) and come to an outstanding viewpoint. Our guidebook suggested we bring some binoculars and a topographical map and sit here awhile. You have a great view of the volcanic ridges that make up the Sonora Pass (I think) to the north and the South Fork of the Stanislaus River.
From here, the trail seemed relatively level and continues to be mostly shaded in a not too thick forest. At one point there is an overlook down into Lakes Valley below and you can see your destination - Chewing Gum Lake. Continue down some switchbacks and on the valley floor you will reach a trail junction. Follow the sign to the right to Chewing Gum Lake. You'll follow this generally flat trail through several meadows before coming upon Chewing Gum Lake. Most years this will be marshy and buggy areas. The lake offers many beautiful camping and swimming spots.
Turn around the way you came. With a long stop for lunch at the trail and some of the viewpoints, it took my group about 4.5 hours to hike this at a moderate pace.
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.