I have hiked around the Blues Lakes region in Alpine County northwest of Raymond peak for a good part of 10 years. I love to spend the day or evening at Twin or Tamarack lake, which are seldom visited, versus the camping and use areas of Blue lakes. But until this last weekend, I had never explored the Granite lake area west of the lakes in the Mokelumne wilderness.
Lower Blue Lake Campground is a beautiful high country campground at a popular trout angler location in Northern California. Lower Blue Lake Campground is a lovely high country campground at a popular trout angler location in Northern California.
The Blue Lakes are part of a cluster of lakes near Hope Valley and are a premier destination for paddle boaters.
Just as you reach the camping area and dam region of upper blue lake, there is a parking area for Grouse Lake trailhead. Parking here, hikers will cross over the dam before circling back 100 years along the dam’s base as the trail will follow the creek for a bit. You will enter Mokelumne Wilderness after the first mile and start to leave the heavily treed section of this hike. From here, the trail climbs a little more, but the route is still pretty easy to travel.
While climbing up to granite lake, Views of Upper Blue lake can be seen to the North, and the trees start to take on the wild look of doing battle with eh snow for centuries. After a mile in the wilderness, you will get your first look at granite lake. The lake is tranquil blue and teal as the water depth increases quickly from most of the shoreline. The shore is lined with granite on the north shores and grass/shrubs on the Southwest shores.
I brought my pup Dakota and my good friend Tom on this trip. My first hike since I broke my big toe in Yosemite 4th of July weekend. As we came up to the lake, we noticed a local who had passed us early on the trail was already fishing the shoreline. So we stopped and spoke with Michael and he said that fishing was quiet so far, but he was only taking a break before heading out to Grouse lake for the afternoon. Grouse Lake is another 4 miles, so with my toe strength, we wished him well and proceeded further down the shore so Dakota could take a swim.
Dakota was all about playing fetch and going for a swim, so we found space on the South shoreline to play.
Granite Lake is a popular backpacking destination for weekend adventurers. In a short while, we would see four different tent sites set up, and several other individuals were climbing on the rocks behind the lake.
Early in the day still, we cruised the map for an off-trail location to explore while in the wilderness. Discovering Evergreen Lake was about a mile away to the South. We decided not to swim at this time and instead headed off trail for Evergreen Lake for lunch and would return to granite lake later for a swim before we headed home.
Evergreen Lake Excursion
A short climb from Granite Lake to the South brought us onto a ridge that overlooked the ranges to the South of Mokelumne Wilderness. Reading the map, we hurried along the ridge for a little bit before catching our first glimpse of Evergreen Lake below. It looks like a moderate 250 decent that would include some rock scrambling, a meadow crossing and little bit of discovering the most straightforward route around this ragged-looking hill that sat between us and the lake.
The toe was doing pretty well, and we could travel safely down the drainage to a small meadow and then cross down over a couple of rock fall sections before entering the woods again just before the lake. ( A quick note on navigation here. I am good with site navigation in the wilderness, but even I was a bit surprised when I came through the forest to see the lake on my left. I was confident it would be on the right, and if I had gone slightly more right in my direction, I would have walked right past the lake. The moral of the story, bring a map, or pay attention to details on this excursion.)
Reaching Evergreen Lake, I knew that if I were to backpack in this region, I would come to Evergreen every time. Evergreen Lake is a green water lake that only has an outlet when the water is high enough. Its shoreline is Forest and rock covered, and the lake bottom is covered with old fallen trees and forest debris. The fish were jumping all over the place as a new hatch had recently broken out over the water.
We spotted a rock outcropping on the far shore and headed around the lake for a chance to eat lunch, go for a swim and possibly hang a hammock for the afternoon, as we were the only visitors today at Evergreen.
The swimming at Evergreen reminded me of swimming below at Twin lake, a little warmer than some of the high sierra lakes I am used to in the summer. However, Dakota, Tom, and I enjoyed the swim and the peace of having the place to ourselves.
After a good swim and lunch on the shore, Dakota was ready to explore the sounds and smells on this ridge. Walking a few hundred yards south, I discovered we were located up on the ridge between Twin Lake and Meadow Lake, giving us an exceptional image of Twin Lake with Raymond Peak in the backdrop.
We enjoyed Evergreen Lake for a couple of hours, wishing I had brought a pole because the fish never stopped jumping, even in the heat of the day. We discussed walking down to twin lake here and looping back around to the car via the road, but I wanted to test the waters at Granite lake, so we began our trek back up the mountain to Granite Lake.
Reaching the top we discovered another two tent sites and proceeded down to the shore for a swim. Michael was back and fishing again. However, the trail to Grouse Lake was not to his liking, and he turned back.
The swim at granite lake was a little cooler and definitely worth the effort of climbing back up from Evergreen. We swam and played fetch in the water with Dakota for about an hour. Then we headed back down the mountain to our car.
On our way, we passed several families bringing their kids up for the evening. I noted that this would be an excellent first backpack experience for kids.