Lake Sabrina to Midnight Lake (CA)

This strenuous trip lets you explore a large number of lovely lakes against a Sierra Crest backdrop, some 750 meters above. Those who can not get enough of it, may go and explore the many surrounding lakes during the afternoon.

Accumulated elevation gain

elevation ascend/day descend/day trail backpack
Lake Sabrina 2780 m
1. Midnight Lake 3350 m 920 m 330 m 9.0 km 5:00
2. Lake Sabrina 2780 m 390 m 985 m 9.7 km 4:00

Description from the trail guide “Sierra South” (page 21+22)

Go 18 miles south west from Bishop on highway 168 to the backpackers’ parking below the lake, at the North Lake turn off. Your route follows the road .5 mile to the trail head, on the left about 100 yards below the dam. From here we follow the trail markers to Blue Lake, to begin a long traverse of the slope above the blue expanses of Lake Sabrina. The route is initially through lush greenery and over small streams, but it soon strikes out across the dry, sunny hillside above the lake, where there is a sparse cover of aspen, pine and mountain mahogany. Where the dusty trail crosses talus, you encounter many aspen, indicating a plentiful underground water supply. View from here are excellent, expending all the way to the Sierra Crest.

From halfway the lake the trail switchbacks steeply through a moderate cover of lodgepole pine, crosses a small stream, climbs onto a ridge north of Blue lake and swings south. The remaining ascent to Blue Lake is a quiet ravine that heads just above the lake’s north shore. A short descend through over-used camp sites brings you to the outlet of picturesque Blue Lake (3166 m). This spot is a photographers delight, with weather beaten lodgepoles along the uneven shoreline and rugged Thompson Ridge towering above the clear waters of the lake.

From the rock-hop ford of the outlet, the trail winds through granite outcrops on the west side of the lake. About midway along this side is a trail junction, where going straight would head to Donkey Lake. Our route turns right towards Dingleberry Lake. The winding trail passes over a low saddle, down across a rocky slope and back up granite ledges into a grassy valley spotted with pines. Soon you reach the shade outlet of the lowest of the Emerald Lakes. Although these lakes are close in size to ponds, they are indeed little gems. The trail then curves toward the Sierra Crest. The trail ascends gently to a saddle, where you can look down on lovely Dingleberry Lake, to which the trail shortly descends. The south side of Dingleberry Lake is swampy and beloved by mosquitoes.

Your route continues south west on the main trail. Soon you pass an unsigned spur trail to the left that leads to Pee Wee and Topsy Turvy lakes. A few moderate switchbacks carry you up past the signed trail to Hungry Packer lake. Almost immediately you cross the outflow creek from Hell Diver Lakes, which are nestled about 200 m above you to the west. Soon you come to a small lake; from here you climb easily over granite shelves and quickly reach Midnight Lake (3350 m). The lake lies at tree line in a granite bowl with sheer sides stretching upward to the Sierra Crest. A 90 m waterfall courses down to its western shore. Excellent camping begins at the small lake and continues among the lodgepole pines that end at the lake’s outlet.

From a Midnight Lake camp site, you can follow the almost level trail to start Hungry Packer Lake. As you return, detour to Moonlight Lake – you will pass by waterfalls and pools to play in. A further relatively easy 175 m ascent cross-country brings you above timber line to Echo Lake. Or, if you prefer a more challenging ascent cross-country, Blue Heaven Lake and Hell Divers Lakes can be reached by a clamber up the west side of Midnight lake’s bowl.

On the second day, you back trace your steps, with a detour to Topsy Turvy Lake, a little cross-country to Pee-Wee Lake.


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