Another short hike in our exploration of the Mammoth Lakes area. This one featured a moderate climb which weeded out all the tourists and resulted in a serene and peaceful spot.
I had considered making a loop with the rim trail, to get a little bit more acclimated to climbing at elevation, add a few miles, and to get a great view of Mammoth Lakes from above, but despite the trail being marked on the map, there was no sign of it on the ground. The trail system here is extremely well signed, so it was odd that this trail doesn't exist. But we went a ways down the trail to Upper Crater Meadow in search of it and came up empty.
In the end, it just made it so that our trip to MBC would begin sooner!
After setting up camp we drove over to Horseshoe Lake with plans for hitting two lakes. We hoped to have time for one more hike after this.
We started off with Horseshoe Lake. The loop trail is in excellent condition and very easy to follow. We made the loop and took a variety of pics along the way. The lake was very low & but the views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. We really enjoyed this loop and then headed for McLead Lake.
Along the way we passed an info sign that showed a loop option utilizing a ridge. To make a long story short we couldn't find the turnoff for the loop. We hiked an extra quarter mile trying to find but no luck. On the way back we talked to a hiker who said the turnoff is unmarked and hard to see. He offered to show us the way but it was late in the day and we had our sights set on Lake George and TJ Lake.
Carolyn and I took this trail as part of a loop with the Crater Meadow, Reds Meadow and Mammoth Pass Trails. The climb up to McLeod Lake is steep and quick with a good reward as the lake sits just below the Mammoth Crest with some really stunning views. The hike around the lake and down to lower Crater Meadow is very sandy and dusty. We took the first right to lower Crater Meadow rather than go all the way down to Upper Crater Meadow which shortened the loop by roughly a mile. This trail came to another intersection with the left turn continuing down to Upper Crater Meadow and the PCT. The right turn going north eventually leads to Reds Meadow. We took the right and headed north. The trail quickly opened up into a sandy area with a lot of blown down trees that obscured the trail. In error, we headed up one of the side trails heading west to the top of the closest barren red cone. There are a couple of red cones nearby. This was a great mistake as it afforded us fantastic panoramic views of the valley below. There was another side trail heading west but we went north off of the cone down into the general area we had just come from and managed to get back on the correct trail. This area had lots of unmarked side trails and was a little confusing so I was glad I had my GPS with a reliable bearing line. We continued north to the intersection with the Mammoth Pass Trail and began the 700 foot climb up to the pass itself. This was a steep climb initially but then settled into a more gradual ascent. This leg on the Mammoth Pass Trail back to Horseshoe Lake took just over an hour. The entire loop came in at 7.1 miles in 3.5 hours with 1,400 feet of AEG.
average hiking speed 2.57 mph
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.