Saturday, July 25, 2015

Big Pine Lakes Basin

Dale Matson


This area near Bishop California, west of Glacier Lodge Road is a basin but is not named as such on topographical maps. Of all the hikes and backpacking I have done, this area (which could also be called “Glacier Basin”) has the highest “Wow!” factor overall. Our route was about 18 miles total.

My wife and I did a late start day hike a month ago and we decided to extend the hike to an overnight. The first four miles from the trailhead with additional information is here:

Sharon and Me

We picked up our wilderness permit and stayed overnight in Bishop. We were at the trailhead by 7am and began the exposed climb from the backpackers’ parking area. A group of folks passed us on horseback on their way to Third Lake. They were already headed back from Third Lake when they passed us again as we approached Second Lake! Not far into the hike we could see the Middle Palisade and Norman Clyde Glaciers as we looked up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. We continued around the bend following the North Fork of Big Pine Creek. It had stormed each of the three previous days which made the air crystal clear with only a few lingering clouds. Big Pine Creek had lots of water from the storms.

We hiked to the area above first lake, left our packs above and descended on a use trail to the lake. What a view with silted green water and Temple Crag (12,982’). Temple Crag dominates the view from each of the first three lakes. The lakes look their most green with midday sun from above. Unfortunately this tends to bleach out the surrounding mountains, which photograph better during the golden hours.

We put on our packs and headed to Lake Two. We picked out an established campsite, set up our tent and stowed most of our gear. We then hiked to Third, Fourth and Fifth Lakes. Lakes One through Three are below the trail. Fourth lake seemed different than the others and did not have the green tint. It didn't seem to have the same stream source. It did have lots of mosquitoes though. Fifth Lake was also magnificent and was at the same elevation as the trail. We met a climber from Colorado who was with a group planning on climbing Mt. Sill on Friday.

Our night was uneventful and I took some morning photographs that had great lighting for the mountains and reflection but poor light for showing the green water of Second Lake. Maybe it's the difference between sunlight on horizontal and vertical objects. We had breakfast, packed up and headed back to the trailhead. There was a crush of folks on our inbound journey because it was a Friday.   

 2nd Falls
 North Fork Big Pine Creek

 Lake One

 Sierra Cowboy
 Lake Two

 Lake Three

 Fourth Lake

 Fifth Lake

Above Second Lake

There is a YouTube video with more graphics here:

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