John Guilford's Hikes
Pinnacle Lake on 2001-05-26
People: (including myself): Pam
Real Alt. Miles
Start: 3:05 2660 0
Bear Lake: 3:15 2776 0.3
Pinnacle Lake: 5:00 3790 1.9
Bear Lake: 6:40 3.5
Out: 6:45 3.8
We were looking for a relatively short, early season hike, and Pinnacle and
Bear lakes seemed to fit the bill, especially as Pam hadn't been there
before. With it being Memorial Day weekend, we also figured that Pinnacle
lake would be much less crowded than something like Lake 22 or Heather
The six mile dirt road into the Bear Lake trailhead is somewhat tedious,
and was in relatively good shape with sections of washboard and potholes.
The day was warm and Pam opted to wear shorts while I wore my long,
lightweight pants. We weren't sure if we'd hit snow, but if not there
would surely be mud, so we wore gaiters over our waterproof boots.
The hike in from the trail head to Bear Lake is very short and quick. If
you are heading straight for Pinnacle Lake, you turn just before Bear Lake
itself. We opted to take the quick side trip to Bear Lake. There we saw a
group or two of people who apparently came for the fishing. They brought
inflatable boats and had one on the lake and other still on shore.
Standing on the shore, I saw what I first thought was a fish in the
shallows. A close look showed little feet instead of fins, so it was a
salamander of some kind, about six inches long. We then found several more
moving about just above the bottom of the lake. I'm not sure how they
breath, but I was surprised to just see them hanging out underwater,
apparently as content as could be. The lake was ice free.
After Bear Lake, the trail switchbacks and gains altitude before emerging
onto the ridge line above Bear Lake which the trail follows to Pinnacle
Lake. The day was warm and we were both soon sweating as we climbed the
hillside. We started getting into patchy snow and mud. At the bottom of
the switchbacks, Pam tried crossing a patch of snow to avoid the mud on the
trail and punched through into the mud under the snow bridge. Fortunately
her gaiters prevented more than just a little bit of snow from getting in.
If she hadn't been wearing gaiters, she would have gotten a boot full of
gunk when she tried to extricate her boot.
Shortly after reaching the ridge line, one gets a good overview of Bear
Lake on your right. It makes a good visual indicator of how much altitude
you just gained. By this time the trail had become mixed snow and dirt
with much of the trail overlaid with well consolidated snow. The snow made
the going relatively easy, though I was glad for my waterproof boots and
gaiters. I wouldn't have liked to hike this with tennis shoes, as I saw a
number of people doing. They must have had pretty wet feet by the end!
After the climb up to the ridge, an apple sure tasted good and provided a
sugar boost. About here we met the first people we'd seen since Bear Lake
coming down. We succeeded in finding a trail that was uncrowded and
peaceful (unlike the more popular trails). Pam thought the terrain and
forest were nicer than Lake 22 and Heather Lake. I guess the six miles of
dirt road scare off many casual hikers - either that or many people aren't
as aware of Pinnacle Lake as they are of Lake 22 and Heather Lake.
With the trail almost entirely under snow, we for the most part followed
the existing foot prints, trusting that they knew where they were going.
This worked well till just before Pinnacle Lake. Maybe a tenth of a mile
from the lake, the real path went to the right. Some people in front of us
missed the turn and headed towards the left. When we got to the junction,
the path to the left was more obvious and we followed that. When the path
started heading down hill towards the creek/canyon that flows out of
Pinnacle Lake, I figured that we'd missed the real trail some distance
back. However, I was sure that following the creek upstream would lead us
to the lake, which it did in short order. At the outflow of the lake, the
normal route away from the lake was perfectly obvious. Our detour was
longer and tad more difficult than the correct path, but we didn't lose all
that much time. The lake was mostly ice covered, except near the edges and
the outflow. The snow on the left side of the lake, which one would have
to take to get to the gully that leads up to the Bathtub Lakes area was
unmarked - apparently no one had been through there in a while. If we had
started earlier, we thought we might like to go up to the Bathtub Lakes
area, but with our late start, that wasn't really an option.
The sun was still out, though high clouds were building. We settled onto
the snow next to the lake for a snack of bagels and some pictures before
heading back down. A few minutes after leaving (using the correct route),
we came across the junction where we took the wrong turn. Looking at the
layout of the terrain and the shape of the snow, it was easy to see how
we'd not seen the real path, it was easy to miss.
The way back passed a bit quicker than the way up, since we were going down
hill. At one point near the beginning of the descent from the ridge down
towards Bear Lake, we lost the trail. This was a section where the trail
was half snow and half ground. The foot steps in the snow petered out. In
places we'd see what looked like parts of the trail on the ground and tried
following that a ways, but they all disappeared into nothing. So we back
tracked a hundred yards and found the switchback that we'd missed. Judging
from the steps in the snow, we weren't the first people to miss that turn.
Then I noticed a number of branches across the wrong turn, to let hikers
know not to go there. Apparently they weren't obvious enough for us, so
Pam added some more branches to make it more clear.
The bugs weren't bad on the hike, though a couple times when Pam stopped to
adjust her boot laces a cloud of gnats would form. We didn't find any bugs
at Pinnacle Lake, though there were more at Bear Lake. Back at the truck,
as were changing into clean clothes, a bunch of mosquitoes and other flying
bugs formed. They weren't that aggressive, but they were annoying, so we
got our changing down, and took off in the truck. The breeze through the
cab quickly got rid of any remaining bugs.
Pinnacle Lake makes a good shorter length hike, particularly when one wants
to avoid some of the crowding one finds at some of the other trails on
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015