Lone Pine, CA
As you drive out of the Boulder Creek RV Park you can see a winding road making its way sharply up in a series of switchbacks. The road is called Horseshoe Meadows Road and it climbs up 6,000′ to Horseshoe Meadows, a vast 10,000 foot high meadow, surrounded by lodgepole pine forest. We drove up there two years ago but didn’t have time to hike any of the many trails that begin there. So during this visit a hike up there was high on our to-do list.
We drove up the winding road for 15 miles and turned north following signs to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead. Interestingly, we did not see another person or vehicle the entire drive up into the parking area. But when we arrived, the parking area looked like a Wal-Mart lot. Where did these people come from? And where did they go? Because we saw very few people on the trail and hike alone the whole time.
There are a couple of trails branching off from this trailhead. We selected a 5.8 mile route up to a series of lakes, creatively named Cottonwood Lake #1, Cottonwood Lake #2, etc. While the temperature was around 70 degrees at the RV park, the temperature at the trailhead (10,000′) was a crisp 45.
The trail slowly gains elevation during the first part of the hike and crosses Cottonwood Creek twice over narrow single log bridges.
At the 3.5 mile point we came to a split in the trail and have gained 400 ft of elevation. Go left and you head for New Army Pass, a trail that continues up through the mountains into Sequoia NP. We took the right fork heading to Cottonwood Lakes.
After another 1.5 miles up a fairly steep, rocky trail ( gaining 800 ft of elevation), we came to an open meadow surrounded by mountain peaks.
We passed Cottonwood Lake #1 far off to our left.
Just past Cottonwood Lake #1 the trail went along side to another larger lake on our right. Oddly, this lake is unnamed on the maps we looked at, although it is one of the most beautiful.
After hiking 5.8 miles we finally came to our destination, Cottonwood Lake #3.
We found a large, flat boulder to sit on and rest our weary feet while enjoying the spectacular views around us.
We waited patiently for a shuttle to go by and take us back to the trailhead but apparently they don’t stop along this route. So we finished lunch, enjoyed the view for a bit, and headed back down the trail.
Along the trail we spotted four deer enjoying a quiet lunch in the meadow.
The hike going down the steep section was much more pleasant than the hike going up!
As we approached the 12 mile mark of the hike we were very happy to see the front of the Jeep peeking through the trees at the end of the trail!
On the drive back down Horseshoe Meadow Road we enjoyed the great views looking down 6,000′ into the Owens Valley below.
That wraps up our short stay in Lone Pine. Next up is a visit to Boulder City, NV, just outside Las Vegas. It is too far for a one day drive so we’ll break up the trip with a two night stop in Barstow, CA.
More on that later . . .