The Sierra Nevada range has so many beautiful little gems hidden within it, it’s really hard to choose where to spend your time. Here is one trip that begins in the Sequoia National Forest and you hike into the Golden Trout Wilderness. This trip has a great variety of terrain and amazing views. If you have time constraints (as I did) the nearly 20 mile round trip route is definitely do-able as a fairly strenuous but extremely enjoyable overnighter just don’t overload your pack. There are quite a few sections where the trail is very rocky which requires you to pay attention to your steps and really only one major elevational gain climb that fortunately does not last very long. Those elements make this a good overnight trip for someone looking for a good challenge. If your looking for a much more enjoyable or leisurely trip, break it into a few days.
To get to the trail head type into Google maps ”Quaking Aspen Campground, Springville CA” you will see the road “Forest Route 21S50″ off of Hwy 190. That’s the forest road you need to take to get to the trail head parking lot.
If your coming from Southern California, and the drive to Porterville on Highway 65 is quite enjoyable and scenic.
Continue on Hwy 190 after passing through Springville and you cross into the Sequoia National Forest.
About 20 miles past Springville, be on the lookout for the 21S50 Forest Road turn off on Hwy 190. The forest road begins as a fairly wide and well maintained paved road but eventually becomes narrower and gravel with a few larger rocks. The drive to the trailhead parking lot in itself is beautiful. I rolled my windows down and took in the amazing smells and sights of the mountains.
You need to follow the forest road nearly 10 miles before you come to the small trail head parking lot. This is where the hike and real fun begins. The path begins in widely spaced Pines and is soft and smooth. Pretty quickly, you will see the sign telling you you are entering the Golden Trout Wilderness.
In the beginning the trail is easy to follow but the entire trail is not marked with signs along the way, so have a good map or GPS. It get’s difficult to locate the route at times because of all of the rocks, but I was lucky… A group on horses had gone in a few days before me and since there was no rain, it was fairly easy to follow the hoof prints that were left in the dry dirt that accumulated between the large rocks. There were quite a few sections that were very rocky. In some of these parts you definitely have to bee on your toes, watch your steps and be careful not to roll an ankle.
Although there are several small streams located on the mapped route, due to the dry weather, I found water sources for drinking to be very unreliable. This is one of only two water sources I came across until right before the lakes and this one was within the first 2 miles. If it is a dry year, there are not many options until you get to the lakes, so take plenty of water with you. This route has such a great variety of terrain and views. The dry Fir tree, rocky mountainside traverses are nicely contrasted with the lush, smooth and aromatic alpine meadows. There are opportunities where it opens up into amazing vistas and other areas where the views are confined. It is truly a beautiful and amazing place to visit.
This is the extremely rocky path down to the lakes… It was one of the last photos I was able to take before my camera’s battery died.
Once your at Lower Maggie Lakes, there are some good campsites with views across the lake. I did not fish, but heard from others that the fishing was pretty good. I think next time I will be sure to bring my rod and reel. There are also some pretty good campsites at Upper Maggie Lakes, but I am glad that I chose to stay at one of the lower lake sites.
Unfortunately I do not have any photos of either the Upper or Lower Maggie Lakes, but that’s ok …It just means I need to do the trip again and take a few less photos along the way. This was a fantastic trip and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking to explore the Southern Sierra Mountains.