Thursday, September 26, 2013

Treasure Lakes Trail, Bishop, CA



It had been a few days since we hiked in the mountains, and low 80s were in the Bishop forecast, so we took a scenic drive up Hwy 168 west of town to the South Fork Bishop Creek Canyon. The road climbs from about 4,000’ to 9,800’ at the trailhead at South Lake, quite a steep drive over 20 miles, passing several forest service campgrounds. It was in the low 60s by the time we got to the large parking area, which wasn’t even a quarter full. Perfect.

When we visited with friends Rick, Annie and Steve at June Lake, Annie loaned us a book called “Exploring Eastern Sierra Canyons, Bishop to Lone Pine”. It is full of excellent information about the canyon’s history, hiking, scenic drives, camping, etc. From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like most of the hiking trails in this area involve a lot more elevation gain than we care for, but I chose one that wasn’t too long (3 miles to Treasure Lakes), and was rated as moderate.

The trail begins at South Lake, where the aspens looked to be at peak colors.


The lake was quite low at this time of year.


The climbing started almost immediately, and perhaps because we’d spent a couple days below 5,000 feet, or maybe we were both just having a bad day, this was one of the toughest trails we’ve done lately. Many times we stopped to catch our breath and Jim would check to see how far we’d walked, always a disappointment. We really weren’t sure we would make it the 3 miles to the first lake. But after resting and eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we slowly continued on up the steep rocky switchbacks.

At just under a mile the trail forks off to Bishop Pass, which must be where most everyone else was headed, as we didn’t see another hiker until we were almost at the first Treasure Lake. This truly felt like a wilderness hike.


High above South Lake.


We crossed several creeks.



And saw quite a bit of snow left over from the storm last week.



There was one more big climb just before the lake, but as usual, we were glad we pushed on. Impressive 13,000’ peaks surround the lakes at 10,600’




There was a man camping near the lake, and we had a nice long chat with him. He’s from Marin and lives on a 36’ sailboat, an interesting guy. What a great campsite he had all to himself.


As we were exploring the second lake a little farther down the trail, I wasn’t paying attention to the ground and my left foot went into a hole. I felt my ankle turn, and went down on my right knee. Fortunately we were by the shore and the ground was spongy grass. I could tell it wasn’t badly sprained, so I cinched the laces on my hiking boots a little tighter and had no trouble walking back, and it was so much easier being downhill most of the way. I told Jim I would crawl the 3 miles back to the car before I was airlifted on a helicopter. I think I would have to be unconscious before that happened!

It did make us wonder if we should get one of those Delorme inReach devices that track your location so you can get help out of cell range. We don’t know anyone who uses one, but it might be a worthwhile investment for as much hiking as we do.

That evening the winds picked up, and we spent a sleepless night rocking and listening to things rattle and whistle that we have never heard before. And we’ve been in some pretty strong winds in New Mexico, but instead of coming from one direction it just seemed to swirl around us. Yesterday was a wasted one as we felt like zombies, and the wind continued much of the day. Today is much cooler and the clouds have dropped more snow on the mountain tops.

After an interesting sunrise this morning,


these ominous looking clouds dropped more snow on the higher peaks. I kind of like never knowing what to expect!



  1. Beautiful pictures!! I hope your ankle is ok.

  2. Wow! That is some beautiful country! I hope your ankle is ok. :(

  3. Another beautiful hike! I especially enjoyed the fall colors on the Aspens. We are only seeing small hints of that in our travels.

  4. Those Aspens are gorgeous. One thing I do miss about traveling is not being in Ohio during the fall. I love the colors.

    What awesome photos. The last one looks like a water color. Excellent!

  5. Lovely photos as usual. What device do you us to measure your hiking distance?

    Chris H

  6. The Aspens look awesome.

    Glad the ankle wasn't sprained too badly. I always joke with Marsha about her having to drag me home from a hike. Hope that never happens. Being air rescued costs a fortune.

    Can you imagine the snow around that lake in a month or so.............brrrrrrr!

  7. I am living vicariously through your blog, since we won't make it up to the Sierra this autumn! Thank you for sharing your trails and trials!
    ~~Cheryl Ann~~ Beautiful scenery. Hubby and I should hike more, but we'd be stopping to rest every 100 feet. I've had pneumonia 4x and my lungs are shot.

  8. What gorgeous scenery you had for that hike.

  9. What a stunning hike...looks like well worth the effort (except for the ankle scare). After all your gorgeous posts and photos I know we have got to get the Eastern Sierra corridor on our fall schedule next year!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  10. You are mining California's Gold, for sure...a series of great hikes in rugged country. The wind, as you know, I hate. After a while it grates on the nerves and makes one edgy :(
    Box Canyon Mark

  11. Gayle, I don't even know how to describe the beauty in this hike. Between the snow, fall colors, water, and rocks, this was amazing! I can't wait to make this trip! You were definitely rewarded for your struggle...great job!

    Sorry to hear about the ankle twist. I have done that so many times. But I think keeping the boot tight on it and continue to move actual helped most of the time. We thought about the need for getting help, also, when we were in Anzo Barrego State Park. One day we were fifteen miles out with the Jeep and then did a five mile climb. We never saw a sole. That's when we started emailing our exact trip plan to our daughter. But, when we head out this summer we are looking at getting the below device. We have had it recommended by two different couples that have one. I would feel much better having a rescue device that I hope to never use.

    Go to
    You turn it on and you can trace yourself. You have a "it's an emergency I need you" button, and "we're okay but certain people need to help us" or an "all is well" button. It's works off satellite instead of cell phone so it works everywhere except deep canyons.

    Hope the wind settles for you!

  12. Yes, I usually hike alone and pack along my DeLorme inReach. I would highly recommend it for any individual, or even member of a group, venturing deep into the backcountry. Not only can you send an emergency signal in the event of a serious injury, you can email or text a message with your position to anyone from anywhere on the planet. Good insurance for hikers!