Hiking Big Pine Lakes | Temple Crag

March 25, 2016

October 17th - 19th, 2015 
37° 7' 33.6648'' N  
118° 29' 19.8096'' W
For the first trip of the year up highway 395, we entered the Eastern Sierras via Big Pine. The 395 is an amazing highway, offering up close and imposing views of the eastern slope of this mountain range for many miles. The thought of entering these mountains is foreboding, as we watch the clouds swirl above their peaks. The rangers had let us know that snow was up to waist deep only two weeks earlier. I was traveling with my sister, as we met for the first time our fellow adventurers, friends we had made via the internet and common interests in hiking and mountaineering. 
As we approached the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail head, we reviewed our camping gear in our minds, hoping we had the proper supplies for the early fall weather we would likely experience. Excited for the hike ahead, we all hopped out of the car to prepare our packs for the journey. 
big pine lakes 1

Day 1 - Hiking Big Pine Creek

The hike in was beautiful. We were immediately immersed in an array of fall colors, which coming from Los Angeles, seems extra special. The mountains were gently dusted with snow from last nights showers. We couldn't have felt happier to be on the trail, enjoying this amazing fall day. We stopped for lunch on the switch backs next to the waterfall. The crew gathered our energy and enjoyed some photo opportunities before we gathered our gear and continued up the trail.

The hike ended up taking a while longer than we had planned. The total length of the hike to Big Pine Lake #2 was about 4.75 miles. With the included elevation gain, we were fairly exhausted from the climb. As we approached the lake, the weather was turning to thick clouds and sprinkling rain. We needed to pitch our shelter quickly to avoid getting our packs soaked through. We spent the next few hours getting our camp set up and preparing for dinner. The rain would start and stop throughout the evening, forcing us to have dinner in our shelters next to all of our gear. 

Dinner in Hammock Shelter

Our shelters for this trip were our go-to tarp and hammock set up. You can find how we build our favorite set up in our hammock camping blog post. Our hammock set up on this particular trip ended up being perfect for the location. Lake #2 at Big Pine Lakes has a very steep slope on all sides with few places for flat ground to sleep on. We were able to take advantage of the sloping terrain by pitching our tents in a nice thicket of trees close to the waters edge.

Day 2 - Hike to Lakes #3, #4, and #5

The next morning we woke up to snow. The sound of snow lightly touching down around you is an amazing experience. I took some time to lay in my hammock and enjoy the light falling snow. But coffee was calling my name, so I had to get up. 

We decided to spend the day hiking further up the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail to lakes #3, 4, and 5. The night we had spent at Lake #2 was beautiful, and we thought it would only get better from there. The snow accumulation at our campsite was only about 1/4 inch. But we were very surprised to find that only a few hundred yards up the trail, the snow was significantly deeper.

The hike we took to Lake #5 was only about 2 miles, a perfect day hike from our campsite. The hike past Lake #3 was beautiful, and I realized how amazing (and potentially busy) the summer must be in this area. All of these lakes were begging me to take a swim. Lake #2 and #3 are quite large, and have numerous alcoves and rocky formations along the shorelines to explore.

As we continued along, we enjoyed a gorgeous hike through the woods, taking lots of twists and turns through the forest, up rocky walls and switch backs. After reaching lake #4 we were somewhat disappointed to find something resembling more of a pond. We realized that the trek to Lake #5 would potentially have the same reveal at the end. But we did not mind, as we enjoyed the trail covered lightly in freshly fallen snow. After reaching Lake #5 we enjoyed our typical backpacking lunch of cheese and salami, then took an opportunity to nap as the sun broke through the clouds.

Napping at Lake #5 | Big Pine Lakes

Day 3 - Hike Out

Also in Trail Log

The Perfect Hammock Camping Shelter

May 03, 2016

Read More