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Granite Lake

Mokelumne Wilderness

Mokelumne Wilderness Links:

July 29th, 2000

4.4 miles
685 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:49

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 89 south. At the T-intersection in Hope Valley, turn right onto Highway 88 (toward Kirkwood). After about 2.5 miles, turn left onto Blue Lakes Road. Follow it as it turns into Forestdale Divide Road. Follow the signs toward the Lower Blue Lake campground. The last 5 miles toward the camp are unpaved. Follow the road through the campground toward Upper Blue Lake. The trailhead is on the left, between Upper Blue Lake and Lower Blue Lake. Alternate directions: It may also be possible to take Highway 88 to Forestdale Divide Road (near Red Lake) and follow it to the trailhead. This is a shorter route, but entirely unpaved; I haven't been on this stretch of road so I can't comment on how difficult it is to drive.  View Driving Map

The trailhead for Granite Lake is also the trailhead for Grouse Lake, 6 miles in. The trail starts off flat and very shortly crosses a creek. I got a bit sidetracked here for a few steps as there are a myriad of use trails along the creek here. Just stick toward the left and you'll be fine. If you go right you'll quickly hit a dead end and realize you've gone the wrong way (like I did).

After the creek crossing, the trail continues through the typical Sierra forest, beginning a relatively steep climb. Being my first day up on this trip, I wasn't yet acclimatized and took my time on the way up. I ran into a couple large groups of hikers coming the opposite direction, but other than that it was pretty peaceful.

As the trail climbs, the views increase. To the east a range of mountains is visible with the easily spotted peak named "The Nipple" rising up to 9340 feet. The trail continues climbing before flattening out before the 1 mile mark, where you'll find a sign marking the boundary of the Mokelumne Wilderness.

The trail is easily followed and there aren't even any sections over granite, which are so common in the Sierra. There are a few scattered wildflowers, but nothing really worth noting until later. After climbing again, the trail reaches a pond which I actually found, in some ways, more likable than Granite Lake itself. It's a peaceful little place sheltered all around by tall trees with lots of granite reflecting in the water.


Rock in pond

But the pond is not your ultimate destination. After another short climb (sounds like a lot of climbing, but the total climbing isn't that bad), the trail reaches the outlet stream for the lake, which is surrounded by lush green grasses and an abundance of bright colorful wildflowers. Indian paintbrush, lupine, and others dot the area with blues, violets, reds, oranges, and yellows.

Wildflowers near Granite Lake outlet stream

The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, and I was hoping for better light later, so I skipped taking photographs and continued a few yards up the trail to Granite Lake itself. Unlike the pond, the lake is set in an open granite bowl with not much vegetation. There are a few scattered trees, bushes, and wildflowers. There were a couple other people there, including a man playing fetch with his dog in the water. One person had set up a camp site on the far end of the lake. Looked like a peaceful place to camp.

Granite Lake

Granite Lake

The trail reaches the lake on the eastern side. The western lip of the bowl quickly drops down and the trail continues on toward Grouse Lake. I was hoping for some good views from the top of the western lip, but they were mediocre.

Lupine in front of Granite Lake

Coincidentally, while I was there taking photographs of the lake, our campground neighbors showed up carrying fishing rods. I don't know if they caught anything.

Unfortunately, I guessed wrong with the sun. The light didn't get any better. It's quite hard taking hand-held macro photographs of wildflowers in relatively low light and the wind's blowing. Still, I tried anyway, taking several photographs of the wildflowers at the outlet stream.

Wildflowers near outlet stream

Wildflowers near outlet stream

Wildflowers near outlet stream

Wildflowers near outlet stream

The return trip was quick and uneventful, except for the brief moment I spent near the first creek crossing. It was getting later in the day, and the mosquitoes were out in full force. I walked away as fast as I could so I could get to the safety of my car. Many of them followed me all the way.

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