Shimmering panes of glass reflecting giant peaks. The brisk feel of coolness as you take a dip on a hot summer’s day. Nothing is more energizing than an alpine lake. While there are many that take hours or even days by foot to experience, here are five lakes you can drive to.
At a hefty 9,750 feet above sea level, this lake is where locals and visitors head when temperatures in Owens Valley hit triple digits. And not just for its easy access. You’ll find a dozen lakes within a few hours of hiking just to get away from it all. For those peak baggers out there, this is also the easiest way to climb Mount Agassiz, one of the tallest peaks in the Sierra at a hulking 13,891’.
Depending on time of year, North Lake provides seasonal variety. In the autumn, leaf peepers head here to take in the bounty that lines Bishop Creek and this body of water. The area is so beautiful that if you know the Mac’s “High Sierra” operating system image, it’s from North Lake in autumn! In the summer, this is a good jumping off point for backpackers venturing into the John Muir Wilderness. For day hikers, there are less strenuous options including one to Lamarck Lakes that still climbs 1,500′ along its four mile out-back route. The trails from here even connect you to Lake Sabrina OR South Lake if you have the gusto to do it.
Pronounced “Sah-BRINE-ah”, this is perfect for those wanting to cast a lure off a boat. You can rent a pontoon from Parchers Resort and Sabrina Boat Landing located right on the lake. This spot is also very high, situated at 9,138 feet above sea level. Besides the lake itself, the Lake Sabrina trailhead is a good hopping point to explore the high country and take in the glaciated topography. For day hikers, the “hot spot” is Blue Lake. A five-mile endeavor climbing over 1,600 feet and giving you a peak at the Sierra crest as well.
Just before you get to Lake Sabrina, you’ll see another gem of the High Sierra lakes – Intake Two. This lake is known for its fishing, located just past the South Lake turn off. The US Department of Wildlife stocks it annually with rainbow trout that coexist with a healthy population of wild brown trout.
Rock Creek Lake
This list contains several high elevation lakes to give you respite from the heat of the valley. And one of the highest lakes you can drive to is Rock Creek. A dozen miles and nearly 3,000 feet above Tom’s Place, you’ll find this loch at a whopping 10,320 feet above sea level. You’ll also discover gorgeous views of sky-scraping peaks and some pretty darn good fishing. It’s a great launching point for dozens of other high-country lakes and countless streams. Check out Rock Creek Lodge.
And once you’re done hiking or taking in the shimmering lakes, head over to Cardinal Village Resort for coffee or a glass of vino. If you’re fortunate enough to be there on a Friday or Saturday night during summer, be sure to reserve a spot for their Pizza night. Their wood-fire pizza is so good that it sells out in advance. So be sure to book ahead!
Make this your best summer by fishing, swimming, or just taking in the serenity at these five lakes you can drive to.