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Heiser and Bull Run Lakes

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

August 22nd - August 24th, 2009

7.8 miles
2120 vertical feet
10 hours, 24 minutes
Rating: 8/10

Directions: From Angels Camp, take Highwy 4 east past Bear Valley. Just past Bear Valley the road passes through a gate (closed in winter) and becomes a winding narrow road with no dividing line, although still paved and in good condition. Follow the road past Alpine Lake, past Stanislaus Meadows, to the Heiser Lake trailhead at Mosquito Lake on the right. The lot has enough space for about 5 cars.   View Driving Map


It's hard to find 3-day backpacking trips appropriate for kids, but I eventually found what looked to be a pretty good route over what most people would do as a 2-day trip in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. I called the ranger station 2 weeks in advance to find out about permits, but they said that there weren't any quotas and I couldn't get a permit in advance even if I wanted to. I called again the day before our hike just to confirm that this was the case, and that they'd be open on Saturday so that I could pick up the permit.

Another thing I did was check the weather. It looked decent, with a 20% chance of thunderstorms on Saturday, then relatively clear on Sunday and Monday. In the meantime, I started packing on Wednesday. It had been over 7 years since my last 3-day backpacking trip. Despite a few 2-day trips since then, I think I'd forgotten how much more difficult it is to pack for a 3-day trip, especially in the Sierra. The necessity of a bear canister adds almost 3 pounds, and the extra food adds more weight as well. Because of this, and the fact that we still carry almost everything for the kids, meant that our packs were heavy and we had to be more meticulous about what we brought. On a 2-day trip, you can be pretty casual about packing the food, but not so on longer trips.

It was so much effort trying to pack everything that I threw a bunch of stuff in the car to decide later, and we finally left the Bay Area around 9pm. We made two short stops along the way, reaching our motel in Angels Camp around 11:30pm where it was still quite warm. I had chosen to stay in Angels Camp instead of driving up to the trailhead on Saturday morning because we're terrible about waking up early and I wanted to make sure we started the trail at a decent time. Another option would have been to stay in Murphys, 15 minutes further up the road, or perhaps Arnold another 15 minutes beyond that, but I'm not familiar with the lodging choices in those places.

DayDescriptionMilesAscentDescent
1Mosquito Lake to Heiser Lake 2.0680390
2Heiser Lake to Bull Run Lake 2.4640610
3Bull Run Lake to Mosquito Lake 3.48001070


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