Hiking South Lake to Treasure Lakes

We concluded our family weekend in the Sierra with a day hike to the Treasure Lakes near Bishop. This is another short trail that gives hikers a great taste of the High Sierra without too much effort.

Trail Details

Mileage: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1050 feet
Day(s) Hiked: 6/01/14
Trailhead Location
Dog Friendly: Yes

Trip Report

This hike was a new one for all of us. We’ve hiked the South Lake trail a few times, including my trip to Dusy Basin a couple of years ago. Back then, South Lake was still full despite a very dry winter. I had seen pictures of how low it has become since then, but seeing it firsthand was a sad reminder of how dry California currently is.

After about a half mile of hiking alongside the lake, the drab view of its shrinking shoreline is replaced by your typical Sierra pine forest. The trail slowly gains altitude until it reaches a trail junction to Treasure Lakes about a mile from the trailhead.

After the junction, the trail to Treasure Lakes dips back down a few hundred feet to the South Fork of Bishop Creek along with a creek that runs out of the Treasure Lakes basin. Here, we were granted some closer views into the basin that we were about to explore.

Once the trail flattens out at the bottom of the canyon, it runs adjacent to a stream for awhile in a peaceful stretch of forest.

The trail then begins its climb of 600 feet to Treasure Lakes, and views of the surrounding ridgelines come into view once again. Despite only being a couple miles from the trailhead, this is some beautiful, pristine land that feels a lot more like the backcountry than your typical short day hike. Although, we did find a discarded piece of fishing pole and line at the lake, which we chose to pack out so that the next person to visit would not have their suspension of disbelief broken.

A couple hundred feet below the first lake, we began to run into some substantial snowfields that covered the trail. Initially, we were able to bypass them by detouring around them on some rocks, but eventually they overtook the majority of the slope and we had no choice but to traverse across them. Fortunately, the snow was soft and not too deep, and the slope was gentle enough to ease any fear of sliding down the mountain.

We arrived at Treasure Lakes and were greeted to a typically stunning mountain landscape. The front part of the lake was covered with a smattering of ice that was on the verge of giving in to summer.

We had been worried that the lake would be surrounded by snow and not very conducive to lounging by the shoreline.  To our surprise, the majority of the land around the lake had melted and dried out. Basking in the alpine sun with our own little slice of heaven, it was easy to forget about any concerns.

There are a few other Treasure Lakes that you can reach as you ascend the basin, but we were low on time and there was enough snow to deter us from wanting to go any further. So, we headed back down the snowy trail to the trailhead.

Along the way, the creek flowing out of the Treasure Lakes basin provided a number of great views that we had neglected to admire on our ascent.

After leaving the creeks, the trail ascends steeply up a few hundred feet back up to the Bishop Pass trail. This redundant elevation is what makes the hike slightly moderate as opposed to very easy like our hike in Little Lakes Valley on the previous day, which is an unusually flat trail for the high Sierra.

After you reach the main trail, the views for the rest of the hike consist mainly of South Lake, which is in pretty dire shape right now. Let’s hope that the predictions of an El Nino this winter turn out to be true.

Categories: Trip Report | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Hiking South Lake to Treasure Lakes

  1. scottg1178@yahoo.com

    Great post…. You always do some of my favorite hike. I’m supposed to do treasure this Tuesday. Im doing green lake Sunday which is right around the corner from treasure. I highly suggest that one in the future.



  2. great trip report and photos as always.
    just found your blog through HighSierraTopix and its a great resource.

    great job getting out early season and giving us some beta on conditions!

  3. Beautiful photos! Nice narrative and family shots. Very enjoyable!

  4. Nice post. We were fishing at Bishop Creek recently and drove up to take a look at South Lake and also noticed how low the water was, especially for this time of year. You’re right, fingers crossed for a strong El Niño.

  5. Nice post. Thank you. Heading up soon and your report was helpful re: conditions we can expect.

  6. Haley-Bear

    thank you Cali!!! We went to Big Pine lakes yesterday with our pup and here today. Great weekend as we we’re looking to escape the heat in So-Cal and you convinced us where to go both days. It was a bit of a drive, but so worth the time. It’s all about the puppy for us. She could be your sister. thank you!!!

    • We are happy to help! Callie was nearby at the Sabrina Basin trailhead at the same time. What a fantastic weekend to be in the Sierra.

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