North Lake to Lower Lamarck and Wonder Lakes

The Wonder Lakes near Bishop lie in a bucolic offtrail Sierra basin with easy weekend access. Quite wonderful indeed.

Trail Details

Mileage: 10 miles Round Trip
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2000 feet
Day(s) Hiked: 7/5/13 > 7/7/13
Trailhead Location
Dog Friendly: Yes

Trail Guide

The route to the Wonder Lakes starts with the Lamarck Lakes trail. It begins as a flat walk through a lush aspen grove and then ascends gently up through a pine forest. This stretch is a piece of cake, and you might forget that you are in the steep Eastern Sierra for a moment.

After about a mile, the trail reaches an intersection to Grass Lake. From here, the trail to the Lamarck Lakes becomes significantly steeper. The payoff for the aggressive ascent is a great view of the green meadow surrounding Grass Lake and a glimpse into the Sabrina Basin.

A couple miles from the trailhead, the trail reaches Lower Lamarck Lake. This is a gorgeous place worthy of an extended stay.

The easiest place to enjoy this lake is from the eastern side.

There are some outcroppings that provide fantastic views of Grass Lake and the ridge lines to the south.

If you are around in the morning, you can catch some alpenglow on the lake. It was partially blocked by some clouds on our visit.

Once you reach Lower Lamarck Lake, the rest of the route through the Wonder Lakes is essentially offtrail. The occasional use trail and cairns will show up, but it’s easiest to just choose your own path. The route starts along the northern side of Lower Lamarck Lake, which is a steep loose slope that requires a bit of caution with a heavy pack.

On the other side of the lake, the path ascends back up the steep slope.

Callie glided up and down the slope wondering why we took so long. Your dog may vary.

Soon, the entire Wonder Lakes basin comes into view. Your own slice of paradise.

This area has it all: plenty of trees, wildflowers, grassy meadows alongside streams and lakes, flowing waterfalls, all kept together in a carved granite bowl. The only thing it is lacking is people and evidence of them. We hardly saw any established campsites in the area. It felt much more pristine than a convenient location like this normally does. Editor’s Note: If you visit, please keep it that way! The couple bits of trash we saw were packed out.

Offtrail travel continues to be slightly steep, but completely manageable, up to the second and third Wonder Lake.

The nice thing about steep hills is that there is usually a pretty nice reward at the end. The view back towards Lower Lamarck Lake is stunning.

The third Wonder Lake has a beautiful inlet stream with a waterfall flowing down from the cliffs above. The sound of rushing water is ever present.

The Wonder Lakes basin is filled with these types of cascades, and they are the clear highlight of the area.

Above the third Wonder Lake, the trees thin out a bit and offtrail travel becomes simpler. Just hike up the granite wherever looks best.

We did not make it to the highest lakes in the basin. Once we reached the fifth lake, we were so impressed that going any higher seemed pointless. The lake has yet another waterfall tumbling down into its western end, and the tall granite cliffs on each side make it the most dramatic of the Wonder Lakes we saw.

On the hill to the south of the lake, there is an exquisite view of the outlet waterfalls and stream flowing into the fourth Wonder Lake.

Heading back down is always bittersweet, but the views looking down the Wonder Lakes basin are sublime and different enough to keep things interesting.

Before you know it, you’ll be back at Lower Lamarck Lake with a nicely groomed trail awaiting you.

From there, it’s smooth sailing down a couple of miles to North Lake. Heading down, you can even see the lake trailhead and maybe even your car.

This was a great hike. If you are clamoring for some High Sierra solitude, but don’t have the ability to get into the deep backcountry, then this might be the next best thing.

Categories: Trail Guide | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “North Lake to Lower Lamarck and Wonder Lakes

  1. Loved it! Another great journey. Great pix.

  2. JDB

    Great photos! Love the shot of the falls with the slower shutter. That area looks amazing, great reward for only a few days. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kyle

    See any trout by chance? Great post, great pictures thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Wylie

    Gorgeous; inspired me to book permits for it in September. One question, how were the bugs?

    Thanks for the post.

    • Bugs were moderate. Fierce winds kept them at bay for the first half of the trip, but once that calmed down, mosquitoes were a slight annoyance. It was nowhere near as bad as the Brainerd Lake trip a few weeks ago, but not quite bug free yet.

      • Wylie

        Great to know, thanks for such a prompt answer.

  5. Wow! GREAT pictures! You have really inspired me to include more and larger pictures in my own hiking blog! Working on my next trail write up…I have over 100 pictures to choose from. None are as spectacular as yours…we’ll see how it goes!


  6. outdoorcanvas

    Good God that’s beautiful!! Got to get out to the Sierra’s someday! TFS!

  7. Help! Was planning to do this trip over the 4th of July weekend with my wife and 2 dogs. I just went to and it says overnight permits are not available for “Lamarck Lakes, North Lake”. I don’t see a permit for “Wonder Lakes”. Am I out of luck? Do they set aside any permits for walk ups?

  8. Okay…I figured it out. 60% of permits are reservable in advance. 40% are set aside for walk up permits. There are 10 permits per day issued for Lamarck Lakes – North Lake which I presume is the permit needed to overnight at wonder lakes. So there will be 4 available for walk ups. I guess we will just hope for the best.

    Question: Looking back, which of the wonder lakes would you probably choose as a base camp, in terms of scenery, etc. First? Second?


    • Second Lake was a great place to set up a base camp. Good luck getting the permit, make sure you have a few backup trips in mind. There is no shortage of amazing trails around there.

  9. I’m reading this during the winter dulldrums and your photos made my day! I appreciate your detailed description of the Wonder Lakes area. I have hiked past them a few times on the way over the Crest but they will make a ‘wonderful’ weekend destination next summer. Thanks!

  10. Thanks so much for posting this. I had this trip planned since a year ago, after finding this post. I scouted it the last weekend in July just to check it out before I brought more people there over Sept 10-13 weekend. Everyone loved the area and the hike. We were blessed with warmer than expected temps (50’s at night!) but some smoke from the Rough and Butte forest fires came overhead on our last night so we breathed some unclean air 😦 My boxer Hazel had a great time on both of our trips, and she thanks you for showing us this area, too. Cheers!


  11. Thank you so much for this beautiful post! I am going to be doing this hike next week. It is supposed to be 35 at night and 55 during the day. :^)
    Your posts give me a lot of inspiration. Thank you again!

  12. Your trail reports are fantastic and have some great insights especially for shorter weekend treks. I finished the JMT in June and itching to find some quicker routes into the backcountry for next summer. Cheers!


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