Blue Lake Trail

This was the main hike we partook in when we were camping in the Inyo National Forest couple of weeks back. It was also happened to be part of our first camping experience. We tried to find a hike that would give us a nice reward at the end with beautiful views and waters so we went online to do our research. The first option ended up being Lake Sabrina itself and the surrounding trails, but looking some more we ended up actually not making a final decision. We thought perhaps just picking one when we’re there was more optimal since there will be signs provided to see the actual mileage.

On the third day of our camping trip we went up Sabrina Campground and found a parking spot early in the morning around 8:30AM. We had found a trail head when we went up to Sabrina campground the day prior and decided we should check it out. I would recommend coming early if you want to do this hike since from what I saw parking gets pretty full on the side of the mountain around noon time when we finished this trail.

We’ve seen this trail information online and the board posted right before the the hike started states the hike was only 5 miles roundtrip. Don’t let those numbers fool you, the trail is closed to 3.5 miles one way, so roundtrip was 7 miles with total elevation at finish being 10,500 feet. It’s backed up by other more advanced hikers as well who has tracked this trail on their own devices proving the trail was definitely more than 5 miles long. We didn’t know that and came unprepared. What we thought was 5 miles resulted in us not bringing enough water and snacks to keep fueled (I only brought 2.5 bottles of water and 3 granola bars), we were also bringing along a puppy to things more difficult. Although we ended managing quite well when we realized the trip was going to be much longer and farther than we expected. I rationed my water and granola bars down to moments when I really and absolutely needed it.

The morning we started the trail was still nice and cool since it was still in shade when we went up. It was also very wet from the melting snow so I’d definitely recommend wearing waterproof hiking shoes. It’ll also help with the waterfall crossings (I opted to take my shoes at those crossing points). Which brings me to this point: the water was freezing. I’m not sure how it feels now since it’s much warmer and from what I last heard most of the snow is mostly melted off already, but when we went a good chunk of the mountain was still covered in snow. The major waterfall river that we came to in the morning was gnarly difficult for me to cross because the water was so damn cold. We ended choosing to take off our shoes (from my personal experience hiking in wet socks and shoes is not comfortable) and I hated that intense stinging numb feeling. It wouldn’t have been too bad if it was a short distance and simple to cross, but this was a raging waterfall with heavy currents and a rocky bottom so you had to take your time to be cautious so you don’t slip and get washed away, a.k.a fall off the mountain. After some mental shouting in my head to get over the cold, I hauled myself across the icy waterfall river. But rest assured, when we came down at noon and crossed the river, it was much better since the sun was out and it got pretty hot in temperature that it helped placate the freezing waters.

It was because we didn’t know how much higher we were going that we didn’t expect there to be enough altitude change that we’d actually feel it, but we definitely did. About 75% way up I found myself getting more tired frequently and needing more breaks, it was harder to breathe as if air wasn’t getting to my lungs and blood stream as fast. After finding out that we re almost 10,500 feet up, I can see why. Safe reminder to keep yourself hydrated when those symptoms show, if you’re lightheaded or dizzy, take a breather. You’re not here to race anyone.

As mentioned earlier, when we were hiking this trail, the mountain was still semi covered in snow so about 85% up some parts of the trail ended up being covered in a layer of snow ice. I was a little hesitant since my hiking shoes weren’t exactly meant for ice hiking and wasn’t sure if the bottom of my shoes would hold enough. Thankfully, there were already previously stepped on foot holes from other hikers that helped with crossing the ice path safely. This was about 2 hours into our hike where we started seeing the ice paths, it was also the point where we were all hot, tired and hungry (also mad at myself for not bringing my lunch with me because my friend scoffed saying we’ll be done by lunch time– going on the fact that he thought it was only 5 miles) and we didn’t know how much longer until we arrived at our destination. We were all bickering amongst each other and I was ready to give up. We finally decided that we’ll hit past the rocks up ahead of us and if we still don’t see the lake, we’ll turn back. Thankfully a little bit farther up, the trail parted into a small lake, to be honest was disappointing. We asked if this was it, that we hiked all this way to see a tiny little lake? But don’t worry, all you need to do is scurry a little deeper and the trees will part into a gorgeous lake of clear water and snow capped mountain views. That second of finally seeing our goal and how beautiful it was made the whole thing so worth the trip.


I’d definitely say pack a simple lunch with you and eat it at Blue Lake to refuel for the hike down. I really wished I had done that myself. It ended up taking us 2 hours and 15 minutes going up and 1.5 hours to get down, totaling our trip to be roughly 3 hours and 45 minutes. Definitely a strenuous hike that I would note to bring 2L of water and 5-6 energy bars per person. It gets really hot coming down at noon time since there’s no more shade for the trail, the last mile and half or so is out in the open sun. You’ll definitely sweat more and lose more energy. Keep hydrated and refueled!

Also recommended:
• Sunblock
• Hat
• Sunglasses
• Bug/Mosquito Spray

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