Hiking to Parker Lake and Some Hot Water

Lee Vining, CA

On Wednesday morning we drove south of our RV park here in Lee Vining to explore the June Lake Scenic Loop,  a loop road about 15 miles long that passes by a number of beautiful lakes.  But first we needed to fill the Jeep’s tank with fuel, a painful experience in the mountains of California!


About twelve miles south of Lee Vining we turned west on to the loop road.  After about a mile the road crests a hill and June Lake comes into view.

June Lake

At the Boulder Lodge we stopped to get a close-up view of the lake.  No need to guess where the lodge gets its name.

A few miles further around the loop we spotted some water spilling over the rocks above us.  A little research revealed it to be Horseshoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls from a distance

A closer look reveals the waterfall.  The drought has taken a toll on the waterfall as a brochure we looked at had pictured it with a large volume of water flowing over the rocks.

A closer look at Horseshoe Falls

We drove a bit further before stopping for a view of Silver Lake.  Silver Lake is a beautiful little body of water and was completely full, in contrast to the next lake on our route.

A selfie at Silver Lake

Just a few miles further along the loop, we came over a rise in the road where a dirt parking area had a sign stating it was the Grant Lake viewing point.  But as you can see in the photo below, most of the lake is gone!  Friends, Dave and Sue, who are travelling with us, were here two years ago and picnicked along the shore of the lake right below the viewing area.  This year they had another picnic, but this time they were right in the middle of the dry lake bed at a point where they would have been submerged in about twenty feet of water or more in their previous visit.

South end of Grant Lake

Just past Grant Lake we turned off the June Lake Loop Road on to a dirt road leading west to the Parker Lake Trailhead.

The road to the trailhead

The Parker Lake Trail is about two miles one way, leading to Parker Lake, located right at the base of the mountains.

Parker Lake Trailhead

We give this trail a “moderate” difficulty rating due to some elevation gain in the first half of the hike.  But the beautiful view of snow covered mountains in front of us made the climb a bit easier.

The second half of the hike is fairly level and goes through stands of Aspens and tall pines.

The size of some of the Ponderosa Pines along the trail is pretty impressive.

The end of the trail provides one of those “Oh My!” moments, with the lake in the foreground and the mountains in the background.

Parker Lake

Lunch with a view

We returned back to the Jeep and headed south for 25 miles on US-395 to visit the Hot Creek Geological Site.  As we approached the site a beautiful range of snow-covered mountains appeared in the distance.

Mammoth Creek, which flows through the nearby town of Mammoth Lakes, changes its name to Hot Creek in Hot Creek Gorge.  There it intersects a series of faults that provide pathways to the surface for heated (geothermal) water flowing in an aquifer several hundred feet beneath the surface. Pools along the creek here contain water at temperatures just under 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Steaming vents near the banks of the creek

There are numerous “no swimming” signs along the creek and fences keeping people back.  The pictures below, taken from a USGA website on volcano hazards, explains why swimming in the creek at this spot is a bad idea.

Two images showing Hot Creek and Hot Creek with a geyser in it. The difference in temperature between the two images is over 100 degrees F in about 5 seconds.

After a long day hiking and exploring we were treated to a great meal by our friends, Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure).  It’s a tough life but, hey, somebody has to live it!

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27 Responses to Hiking to Parker Lake and Some Hot Water

  1. pmbweaver says:

    California is ridiculous with their gas prices!
    With their drought, I can’t believe there is any water falls.

    Grant Lake reminds me of the lakes in Texas a few years back. Hope that rain comes very soon to California.

    I think the lunch with a view is one of the best. I just love those mountains and the reflection in the water. What an awesome hike y’all had.

    Isn’t it amazing to see Hot Creek right in the middle of mountains and lakes. Hot springs just amaze me. I think of Yellowstone and wonder….how can all this diversity be in one place. Enjoy that lovely area. It is so beautiful.

  2. Debbie L says:

    Reblogged this on Follow the Tumble Lees! and commented:
    Two of our favorite hikers, who blog and post pictures beautifully! Join us in this fabulous journey!

  3. Debbie L says:

    Your posts and pictures just get better and better! I’ve reblogged….

  4. Those fuel prices are highway robbery…that’s more like two or three years ago!

    What a beautiful day along the 395 corridor! Can you believe Dave actually put his hand in one of the hot springs?????

  5. California is so beautiful! Thank you for this!!

  6. Jeff says:

    Hot creek used to be a great swimming destination, but no more. There are still some ‘hot tubs’ that are safe. Sure enjoy your blog of your adventure.

  7. We also read that the Parker Lake trail was easy, but had to disagree, at least in the first half.
    Don’t feel bad, we paid $5/gallon for propane in Lee Vining, and our tank was almost empty. They got you there!
    Look forward to seeing what other trails you hike in that area. There are so many to choose from.

  8. Gay says:

    What an absolutely wonderful day! The pictures of the lakes are amazing! And the colors of the Hot Creek are so vivid.

  9. Mary says:

    Good grief, those gas prices! But that is a beautiful little lake. So sad about the drought there, I hope they get rain and snow this winter.

  10. alicia says:

    I was just in Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes over July 4th, 2015. I didn’t even know about the hot spring that is nearby! Parker Lake looks gorgeous – guess I’ll have to make another trip out there. Oh, and it looks like gas prices dropped LOL. When I was there it was at $4.50/gal!

  11. heyduke50 says:

    yikes 199… we didn’t travel much thru Cali last year simply because I hate their roads and their exorbitant gas taxes…

  12. allisonmohr says:

    Beautiful pictures. We have not made it to June Lake yet. It’s now on the list of places to go.

  13. Maureen says:

    Hi. I just found your blog and I’m really enjoying it. I went back to the beginning and plan to read right through as time permits. DH and I plan to fulltime sometime in the future ( within a year or two) and I can see us doing a similar type of adventure. I’ve already retired from the school system but we still have a summer business that keeps us here. Your blog is awesome. Thanks for sharing your adventures. BTW, it was your title that drew me to choose your blog to read.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks so much, Maureen, for joining us! Glad to hear you are enjoying our blog. Our daughter, also a teacher, came up with the title. Good luck with your fulltiming planning. We are into our sixth year and don’t see an end in the future…still too much to see:)

  14. Jodee Gravel says:

    Same gas prices in Bridgeport so likely not much choice in the area. Love seeing there’s some water in the falls, and Silver Lake looks great!! Our park is next to what’s left of the reservoir and we’re loving our first sunset here 🙂

  15. That’s crazy about the water being so hot!

  16. Dave & Skruffy (GoingRvWay.com) says:

    Down in Sacramento you can get gas for under $2.50…but when you get to those isolated areas, it has always been ridiculously high. Great pics, as always.

  17. Debbie L says:

    I’ve been asked if you’re wearing Merrells? We wear Oboz.

  18. LuAnn says:

    You always know when you have arrived in CA due to the gas prices. Looking forward to seeing where your explorations take you on the 395.

  19. Laurel says:

    Parker Lake and Hot Creek are both in our near future (next week!!) so thanks for giving us a preview tour. Great photos! But those gas prices — that’s just ridiculous. We just paid half that in Ashland.

  20. Jeff says:

    Parker Lake and Lundy Canyon made the ‘Best Of’ list for fall colors. Thanks for taking.g us with, wish we could be there … but your blog is a great substitute..

  21. libertatemamo says:

    I’m so nostalgic seeing all these photos. Parker Lake is one of my fav “easy hikes” in that area. It’s a good prep hike for some of the higher elevations (Virginia Lakes, Mosquito Flats). Can’t wait to see more!

    • placestheygo says:

      Nina, I had your Virginia Lake to Summit Peak in my notes. I was all set to do it but just ran out of time! The ranger said there was a little snow on top that I wanted to hike to. Oh, well, there may have to be a next time. Too much to do in just six days for our first time, but we gave it our best try!

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