At the end of June Sally and I took our dogs on a backpacking trip to Green Lake. I was able to get a permit on Recreation.gov. Green Lake is in the Toyiabe/Humbolt Forest. Luckily, I was able to complete our permit online and print it out at home instead of stopping at one of the forest service offices.
Driving to Green Lake
We had a long drive to Green Lake from the Los Angeles area. It took us about 6 ½ hours. Green Lake is approximately 4 miles south of Bridgeport. Heading North on 395 the turn-off is just past the sign for Bodie and you need to make a left-hand turn across traffic onto a dirt road. From 395 it is 11 miles on Green Creek Road which is well maintained, but dirt. At the end of the dirt road there is a parking area, a vault toilet, and a water faucet, however, when we were there the water was turned off.
Hiking to Green Lake
After putting on our hiking shoes and backpacks, we started up the mountain. The trail is rated as moderate on Alltrails and it is approximately 3.2 miles each way. The first part of the trail is relatively flat and gradually gets steeper. A lot of the trail is parallel to the creek. My favorite part was when we passed by a pond that beavers had created. We saw some trees that had been recently gnawed on by beavers but we weren’t lucky enough to see any. In late June parts of the trail were wet with streams of water on it and we saw tons of wildflowers.
Trail Sign to Green Lake
After hiking for 2 ½ miles we came to sign for Green Lake. This is where there is a split in the trail we headed left for Green Lake and East Lake. Heading right takes you to West Lake. A quarter mile after the sign is when “choose your own adventure begins.” The only way to get to Green Lake is to cross Green Creek. We chose to cross by balancing on some fallen logs. This was a drought year so the crossing wasn’t as high as it could have been, but we needed to be extra careful. It’s always a good practice to unbuckle both your sternum and waist belts before crossing in case you fall off and end up in the water.
Camping at Green Lake
After maneuvering across the water it’s just a short walk to some campsites. We looked around for a good spot remembering to stay at least 100 feet from the water. There are a few signs nailed to the trees in spots where camping isn’t allowed. There were big thunder clouds looming and we decided we better pick a spot and set up our tents before it started to rain.
Setting up Camp
I had a hard time setting up my tent. The shock cords in my tent poles had stretched out and I couldn’t get my poles together. Finally, I used my Swiss Army Knife to stuff the extra cord into the poles. With our tents set up, we climbed inside and took a siesta, and waited for the storm to pass. There is no internet at Green Lake, but when I got home I looked up how to fix my poles, and luckily for me there are YouTube videos showing me how to do it. The first part of the storm was howling winds. At one point it stopped raining and I was able to quickly cook some Ramen, but the storm wasn’t over so I had to eat it inside my tent with a spoon.
The nice part of backpacking in the Sierras is the amount of water. We were easily able to filter water from Green Lake and Green Creek using my Sawyer Mini to filter.
Hiking to East Lake
The next day we woke up to a beautiful view of the lake and perfectly clear skies. After breakfast, we packed up our day packs with our lunches and headed to East Lake. The trail to East Lake starts at the beginning of Green Lake. The hike up is moderate and it’s a little over a mile each way. This trail also involves crossing the creek several times.
East Lake is gorgeous. The lake is rimmed by snow-capped mountains. I sat on the bank and took in the beauty. At one point I heard splashing that was so loud I thought there was someone swimming in the lake, but when I went to investigate it was huge Brook Trout jumping out of the water. I spent about 2 hours relaxing and exploring the lake, but I could see big thunder clouds building and I decided I should head to a lower elevation in case of lightning. On the way back down I talked to a man coming up to fish and he told me that the last time he fished East Lake he caught 62 fish and he returned most of them back to the lake.
Thunderstorm in the Sierras
Afternoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence in the Sierras. While we camped at Green Lake we had thunderstorms on two of the three days. Luckily we were back in camp before the storms hit and we waited them out in our tents.
Hiking to West Lake
On our third day, we hiked up to West Lake. This hike is a steep route and it’s a little over 1 mile each way. Parts of the trail are beautiful and we walked through shaded woods and parts of the trail were switchbacks in direct sun. When we got to West Lake I was disappointed. It’s a small lake that isn’t very scenic. If you have a choice between hiking to East or West Lake definitely choose East Lake. The best part of the hike was the patches of snow that we found because the dogs loved playing in it.
Hiking Back to the Car
We spent 3 nights at Green Lake and on the last morning after breakfast, we packed up our backpacks and headed back to the car. It took us a little less than 2 hours to hike down and we passed so many beautiful wildflowers on the way. Green Lake is a good backpacking destination for beginners and it is so much easier to get an overnight permit than in some of the other Eastern Sierra locations.