I absolutely adore living in Los Angeles, but this definitely comes at a price (both figuratively and literally). Though “endless summer” is quite pleasant, I sometimes find myself longing for fall. So this past month (back in October), I decided to pack by bags and find fall in California.
The Muir Wilderness sits east north of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park and is vastly underrated. For this trip, I travelled to the Inyo National Forest for the Big Pines Lakes North Fork Trail. This is actually a pretty intense 16 mile hike that includes about 3,000 ft of elevation gain. I unfortunately ended up only doing the first 2 lakes (which is about 12 miles) and was forced to make the trek back down due to snow. I look forward to coming back here in the warmer months for all 7 lakes!
Found fall at the start of our trail, this counts right? The base of the trail was beautiful, but it definitely got better as we climbed. I believe the weather at the base of the mountain was 75°F, so we made the unfortunate choice of dressing lightly…
The hike takes up a good 6-8 hours depending on how quickly you are able to climb/adjust to the elevation. We overpacked food and water so our backs were breaking by the end of the trip.
The start of the hike is quite desert-y (yes I realize that is not a real word), and you will notice a change in terrain as you make your way up. The photo on the right is actually quite deceiving. The landscape appears fairly flat in photos, but the first mile or so consists of extremely steep switchbacks.
The “halfway” point is supposedly this abandoned ranger’s station. This cabin originally belonged to actor Lon Chaney and was then converted into a ranger station. Not sure why it’s abandoned now, but it makes for a perfect rest stop!
Unfortunately all the windows and doors are boarded up, but the porch is fair game! The cabin also overlooks a stream so I highly recommend stoping here to enjoy the scene.
I have tons of shots of Connie in front of me with her massive backpacking bag. Her bag was completely full of snacks, drinks and extra clothes. (I carried my own very full backpack as well!) We unfortunately didn’t plan this to be a backpacking trip (too cold), but you can definitely camp along this trail! Just be sure to do some research and to get a wilderness pass. There are also no fires allowed anywhere along this trail so nights can be quite chilly.
Not sure if anyone will believe that this was candid, but it genuinely was. Thanks Connie for taking 100+ breaks with me! I was constantly out of breath and was worried about elevation sickness. I would recommend hitting the gym before this particular hike if you’re out of shape like I am.
There was snow about 15-20 minutes away from the first lake! I found out later that this was the first snow of the year. This trip was towards the end of October, so plan accordingly and check the weather forecast for the top of the mountain. It was actually 30°F by the time we reached the top! I had a few friends who went at the beginning of the month and they said the weather was comfortable all the way through.
Finally reached the first lake! You can’t tell, but I’m secretly freezing to death while taking this selfie…
I present to you Lake 1! They’re actually just named in chronological order… So creative right?! The lake is this really beautiful turquoise blue due to glacier run off. Some scientists will argue that this is not true, so don’t quote me on that! There are plenty of places to rest along the lake, but we were too cold to sit still.
Made our way up to Lake 2 which is about a 10 minute walk from Lake 1. The water is just as blue, but this lake has a fantastic view of Temple Crag (the large “rock” in the center of the photo). It got really windy and started to snow at this point, so we only stayed for a little while.
Busted out all the layers we had! Definitely a drastic change from the beginning of our trip. Glad we ended up lugging extra clothes with us. We were warm enough, but we could have been better prepared. My excuse is: “I’m from LA and I don’t know any better!”
Only got a few shots in on the way down. I was too cold at that point and we wanted to make it to the base before sundown. The hike took us around 6 hours in total, so be sure to start early. I believe we started closer to 11am so we were definitely pressed for time.
I apologize for posting this nearly a month later! I realize fall is nearly over and this is not an ideal day hike in the colder months. I was actually very surprised to find such a hidden gem in California. Beaches are fun, but this beautiful state has way more to offer! I hope this motivates you guys to drive out to our national parks/forests! As stated by John Muir:
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”
As always, thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more adventures!