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