More snow than expected on a journey up Lundy Canyon
Lee Vining Ca, May 2, 2022 – Spring hikes and waterfall chasing are some of my favorite times in the Sierra. So with a great spring weekend in the forecast for Fishmas in Mono country, i made plans with my hiking buddy Tom to head down to Lundy Canyon for a great spring hike. Lundy canyon can be an excellent location for spring hiking as it features Waterfalls, spring flowers, and an excellent beaver dam/ habitat.
If you have never been to Lundy Canyon are really missing one of the great canyons on the Eastern Sierra. Easy access to Highway 395 just north of Lee Vining and Mono Lake. Paved roads for the first 5 miles and then a short 1.5 mile well, maintained dirt road to the trailhead parking area. There are no facilities at the trailhead, but there seems to be enough parking for a dozen cars or so in the area.
Spring Hikes in Lundy Canyon are about waterfalls and spring flowers. I knew we might be a little early for spring flowers this final day of April, but I was excited to see the runoff and waterfall activity after the storms that traveled through in April. Driving up to the lake from HWY 395, I was shocked at how low the lake was for the opening day of “Fishmas.” However, that didn’t stop the fisherman from lining the shores. And as the canyon came into view, I quickly knew that we were going to see plenty of snow today.
Beaver Activity in Lundy Canyon
One of my favorite things int he Lundy Canyon experience is seeing the Beaver activity up past the lake as you enter the canyon. Back in 2015 and 16 when I f
One of my favorite things about the Lundy Canyon experience is seeing the Beaver activity up past the lake as you enter the canyon. Back in 2015 and 16, when I first visited Lundy canyon, there was an amazing beaver dam built just 1/4 mile up the trail that had created this great pond and wildlife area in the canyon. However, in 2017/18, the massive snowfall and spring torrent of water that flowed down that canyon washed out that great dam and destroyed all the beavers had created.
Lucky for us, Beavers are determined little creatures, and all they have done for the past four years is recreate their strategies, change the patterns of the river, and build backups to backups in their home structures. So now the system in the canyon is similar but different, and the beavers once again seem to be prospering in the canyon wetlands they have created.
Trailhead to the first waterfall
Parking at the trailhead, I was shocked on this visit to only see two cars. I guess everyone already knew that snow was going to be an issue. Walking up the first little knoll on the trail, tom and I laughed at how exhausted we already felt. Something about getting out in spring at altitude always makes the first half mile the hardest. Signs of the 2018 floods and the mudflows that changed the landscape are prevalent in this stretch. In the fall, this is an excellent section for fall colors, but in spring, it provides little cover from the sun. Stopping at the beaver pond was exciting for me and the dog (Dakota got to come on today’s adventure). It was exciting to see the beaver dam almost entirely constructed again and know that they have created a second dam further downstream, and that section has already developed into a great deep pool of water.
Looking up the trail and the north slopes of the canyon, we wonder how bad the snow will be as it seems pretty straightforward until you get up top. So we proceed up and over the first climb section of this trail. If you have not hiked this trail, there is a rock outcropping that borders the beaver pond that you will have to climb over on the path to get to the first set of waterfalls and enter the Hoover wilderness.
Stopping on the top of the rock cropping to view the channels in the beaver pond gives you a great perspective of the work that these creatures do to create the habitat. Shortly on your descent from the top, you will enter the Hoover Wilderness. Then shortly after entering the wilderness, there is a faint trail that heads down the slope from the main trail, which will lead you to the base o the waterfalls. The waterfalls are clearly in your vision now and highly recommended traveling down to the fall on your visit. Unfortunately, the trail is not well maintained at this point in the year, and you will get your feet wet, as one of the streams ends up going down the trail toward the end. We bushwhacked our way through the trail to the base of the falls and as always, were taken back at how beautiful the scenery is at the base.
The Waterfalls this spring are looking more like mid-summer flow to me. Beautiful but not the biggest water year in the Sierra by any means. If you are coming to Lundy canyon, there is typically water all year round, but you might want to go early this year for the best waterfall action.
A Second Beaver Pond & Then Snow
We decided today that we would have lunch above the falls at a second little beaver pond that we know was above the falls. This is a great section that is spring-fed and looks like it has existed for a long time as there is a small forest of old trees that have died because they have been water-soaked for so many years. The water is always so clear and there is always a little alga growing along the shore. After a quick lunch with the dog eating most of my sandwich, we noticed a couple skiers coming down the trail. This area is a popular backcountry ski region, although I have to admit, I am astonished most of the time that they choose to climb these slopes for a single ride down. I didn’t ask them but wondered how the snow conditions were up above. We would soon find out.
Temptation of Burro Lake and Black Mountain
Leaving our lunch space, we discovered another waterfall cascading down the North slope of the canyon. This waterfall is seasonal and comes from Burro Lake up above, with the Black Mountain peak behind. I often say we should hike up to Burro Lake, but up to this point have always looked at the climb without a marked trail as a little more challenging than what I came for on this day. Maybe another spring day will provide the motivation.
On to the Upper waterfalls of Lundy Canyon and the old Cabin in the Aspen Forest
Shortly after leaving our lunch spot, we started seeing snow on the trail intermittently as we entered the old-growth aspen forest of this section of trail and by the old log cabin. This canyon has a rich mining history, and this old cabin is just a reminder of the activity and history that this canyon holds. Unfortunately, right after the cabin, the trail and the snow become a little tricky this early in the season.
Snow covered trail and few people before us made the next mile a bit tricky as we lost the trail then found it again. We proceeded to follow the valley floor t
Upper falls of Lundy canyon Spring 2022 – plenty of snow still to cross.
The snow-covered trail and few people before us made the next mile a bit tricky as we lost the trail and then found it again. We followed the valley floor through an avalanche zone that had debris all around and then across a snowfield with a bit of a slope, creating slick conditions to get to the final waterfall/cascade section of the day. At the base of the waterfall, I fell through a small snow bridge between boulders, reminding me quickly of the dangers of traveling across spring snow in the mountains.
The winds started to pick up, and the clouds began screaming across the peaks above, so Our day would be finished; now to get back safely and enjoy at tip to Mono cone as a reward.