Lemme tell you whhhhhat (stress the h), this little 6.9 mile loop is the the most beautiful, easy-going little loop ever. First of all, the views are amaze-balls. Secondly, the trail itself is decently easy. Thirdly, you don’t even need to carry that much water because you hit a lake every 2-3 miles (if you take the loop counter-clockwise in the direction of Mystery Lake once the trail splits off into a loop)…which also means viewsss every 2-3 miles. It’s pretty awesome. Also, the fishing is good at these lakes, if that’s what you’re into.
Honestly, I’m not even sure which lake this one is but it was so breathtaking, there was no wifi or cell service (cue “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt) and plenty of camping spots. The best part of this loop: it’s dog friendly!!! My dog absolutely loved the lakes and the marshes..plus, I NEVER hike without him.
He is my cock block and protector. (But really, he has been known to nip and pee on a few guys before. Oops. #sorrynotsorry). Here he is, pictured above on the loop with me in Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Anyways, I digress. Here are a few tips and tricks for this trail:
Best time to go:
I have found that September is extremely ideal, in terms of weather and mosquitoes. I’ve read on the trail reviews that the mosquitoes in this area can be extremely brutal and unpleasant, making the trip miserable. Going in September avoids the mosquitoes and gives you better weather. Although the evenings can be a bit chilly (seeing as it’s at about 9,000 ft elevation), it makes for pleasantly cool hiking days. There are lots of marsh-like areas, hence the reason I can see why mosquitoes would be an issue.
Do yourself a HUGE favor and stop in at the High Sierra Ranger Station in Prather, CA before you try to get yourself lost & frustrated getting to this trailhead. Really. You can pick up your backpacking permit there and swoop up a free little map print-out with the fire roads highlighted that are necessary to get there. The bridge is out via the usual route to get to the trailhead with no estimates on when it will be fixed. The last group of backpackers I ran into had to hike in an additional 6 miles from the bridge and I ended up driving them back to their car. Also, if I were you, I’d take a 4WD car. It’s a really, really rough and slow 10 mile drive from Hwy 168 to the Willow Meadow Trailhead.
Here, I’ll even give you their address & number. You’re welcome.
High Sierra Ranger Station
29688 Auberry Rd.
Prather, CA 93651