Monday, June 20, 2022

North Lake to Upper Lamarck Lake, Inyo National Forest, CA

Hiked July 4, 2021. Rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of a couple of hikes I took in the eastern Sierra, last year. Figured I better post them, soon. I don't think all the photos in chronological order, but they'll still give you a pretty good idea of what I saw.

Although I grew up in southern California and used to hike annually in the Sierra Nevada, I spent quite a bit of time away from "home," working in other states. In particular, the time I spent living in along Utah's Wasatch Front and in southern Nevada really shifted my recreational focus to points up I-15, and away from California. Also, it used to be those Utah and Nevada trips were to "empty" places, so much easier to go to on the spur of the moment. By contrast, even back in the 1980s, going to Yosemite was a crapshoot. Just easier for planning purposes to go northeast, rather than north.

About three or four years ago it occurred to me that that I hadn't been hiking in the eastern Sierra for years, and I should really go back. Couldn't always follow through on my desire to return, due to recent fire closures, which would completely shut down California national forests for most of the summer. Nuts!

At the same time, visits to Utah have become harder to pull off on the spur of the moment, due to growing popularity of those parks. In recent years, for example, Zion has substantially outdrawn the much larger (by area) Yosemite, and there are a lot fewer campsites in tiny Zion than there are in Yosemite and the surrounding Sierra Nevada.

At any rate, I got it in my head that I wanted to repeat an eastern Sierra hike from about thirty (!) years ago (probably my next blog). But that one's a tough one, so I wanted to give myself a day to acclimatize to the altitude.

So my first hike after driving up from the lowlands was this shorter hike, out of North Lake. North Lake is one of three major jumping-off points at the head of Bishop Canyon: South Lake, Lake Sabrina, or North Lake. To get to North Lake, you drove up Bishop Canyon towards Lake Sabrina, then turned off on a mostly-dirt road just before getting to Sabrina.

It's a pretty exposed drive, but easily doable with a Prius, so not rough. Winds quickly up to near North Lake. But you can't actually park at the end, because that's a campground. I discovered on this trip that the campground didn't fill, even on Fourth of July weekend. But I already had my room down in Bishop. Just filed the information away for future reference.

I parked about 3/4 of a mile from the end, at a widespot in the road, where other cars were parked. On my walk along that road, I noticed it was lined with aspen, and also filed away for future reference that this might be a really nice fall hike. In fact, I did return here in the fall, and the colors were spectacular.

I planned this trip just by looking at USFS publications and what not. They had a flyer like this, but with information about hiking distances, but I can't find it, any more.

Lots of green meadows and wildflowers as I made my way past North Lake. Nice leopard lily, I think.

That one was right on that first climb after the campground. Many more varieties of flowers on this hike. This was early season, after all.

The approaches to each of the Lamarck Lakes passed by their outlets, with cascading water and more water-loving plants. Meanwhile, with the steep climb, there were amazing views of the surrounding mountains too.

I think I lost the trail just before reaching Upper Lamarck, or maybe I just didn't care, at that point. I just wanted to get a good view of the lake before I turned around. So I wound up on a rock outcropping, with the lake to my front and left. It was a nice view, but it was clearly not the actual trail.

This picture here was my turnaround point.

I think the next two shots were well-back, on the return, while the last few were below lower Lamarck Lake. I spent quite a lot of time on the way up trying to get shots of the flowers with a watery backdrop.

AllTrails gives a distance of two miles each way for this hike, and 1,600 feet of altitude gain, but I'm pretty sure that assumes you start at the actual trailhead, which you can't do, unless you're camping in the North Lake campground. Add 1 to 2 miles roundtrip, depending on where you park, and a bit more altitude, also depending on where you park. It's a pretty good distance for a just-arrived hike, as it's at significant altitude. North Lake is at about 9,100 feet, and you go up, from there.

It was a good start to the trip. Just right for the time had. In fact, it was getting pretty dark by the time I got back to my car.

Very dark by the time I made the drive down. Fourth of July fireworks was going off down in Bishop.
No permit required for dayhikes. Obviously, hiking too much after dark is not necessarily a good idea, due to the presence of human-acclimatized bears. So, if you are hiking much after dark, try not to smell like food.


  1. Thanks for the photos - reminds me when I used to be up in this area most weekends.

    1. Happy to share! Glad you liked them. I missed the Sierra, too. Made two trips last year, for the first time in forever. Heading back again this year, maybe once or twice. We'll see!