Lemme tell you whhhhhat (stress the h), this little 6.9 mile loop is the the most beautiful, easy-going little hike ever. First of all, the views are amaze-balls. Secondly, the trail itself is decently easy and shaded. Thirdly, you don’t even need to carry that much water because you hit a lake every 2-3 miles …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.
A great thing is that there was no wifi or cell service (cue “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt) and plenty of flat 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.
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 in Sept (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.
(The meadow between Swede & Mystery Lake)
You can pick up your backpacking permit at the Prather ranger station and receive any updated information about the trail. Also, if I were you, I’d take a higher clearance car. It’s a really, really rough and slow drive from Hwy 168 to the trailhead. However, I have seen Corollas and Civics make it lol.
(Glassy morning at South Lake)
Permits can be obtained via recreation.gov and the entry & exit point is at D5 “Willow Meadow/Dinkey Lake.” I usually prefer to set up camp at South Lake. I like taking the route clockwise from 1st Dinkey Lake once it splits, camping at South Lake, then continuing on the loop thru Mystery Lake trail back to the car.
For convenience, I am providing you with the corresponding ranger station info:
High Sierra Ranger Station
29688 Auberry Rd.
Prather, CA 93651