The Chain Lakes in the southwestern area of Yosemite National Park is an easy place to achieve some solitude in one of America’s busiest parks.
Mileage: 12 Miles Round Trip
Elevation Gain: 1200 Feet
Day(s) Hiked: 8/21/10 > 8/22/10
Dog Friendly: No
In the foothills east of Oakhurst, CA, there is a network of dirt roads that access a multitude of remote Sierra Nevada trailheads. Getting a 2WD car up to these trailheads would be difficult, but probably doable. Our Subaru Outback made it up without any issue.
From the Quartz Mountain trailhead, the Chain Lakes are an easy 6 mile hike with about a thousand feet of elevation gain.
Despite the easy hiking, this area is fairly empty due to how difficult the trailhead is to access, which makes it a perfect place to show some newbies the Sierra Nevada backcountry.
Once you get up to the second Chain Lake, the scenery opens up in all directions.
There are a few choice campsites, and thankfully you can have campfires since you are right below the 9,600 foot elevation line. From here, you can easily access the rest of the beautiful lakes and surrounding area.
During our visit in August, a stream flowing out of the third lake was surrounded by a brilliant wildflower display.
The trip was highlighted by one of the most remarkable sunsets we’ve ever seen. Gale Peak glowed so much that it looked fake. Looking the opposite direction towards camp, the sky was striped with the most saturated colors imaginable over a seemingly endless expanse of granite beauty. This is what backpacking in the Sierra is all about.