North Fork of Big Pine Creek: Lakes 1-3, Sam Mack Meadow & Beyond, October 3, 2015

Earlier this year, I made a mental list of the alpine lakes, mountain passes and peaks that I wanted to visit before leaving California. With a busy schedule, I’ve had to do some crazy things to see all that I have over the last few weeks. This trip to the North Fork of Big Pine Creek was no exception.

If planning this trip under ideal circumstances, I’d want a block of time that was at least 36 hours long. With the busy schedules of everyone in the group, this wasn’t possible:

  • 8:30 PM – Leave home
  • 9:15 PM – Dinner in Victorville
  • 12:30 AM – Setup camp in the Alabama Hills
  • 3:00 AM – Tear down camp, drive to the trailhead
  • 5:15 AM – On the trail
  • 10:15 AM – Time to turn around (made it to ~11,200)
  • 2:15 PM – Back @ car, start the drive home
  • 6:30 PM – Arrive @ home

The hike was reminiscent of a cool New England morning in many ways – cold, crisp air, ice on the trail and aspens showing their fall colors. Since this was my first long hike with this group, as well as the first time that many of them would hike above 9,000 feet, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of how much territory we would be able to cover. With this in mind, I mapped out several potential routes and planned to make a final decision while we were on the trail.

The hike to Lakes 1-3 went quickly. After we arrived at the junction for the glacier trail, we decided to hike towards Sam Mack Meadow. We were about 20 minutes from our turnaround time when we arrived at the meadow, so we dropped our packs to see how much further we could make it. We hiked until we had a nice view of Lakes 1-3, took some photos, then started our descent. With the photo ops along the way, the descent took longer than I had expected and we started our drive home about 45 minutes later than planned.

Geek Stats

North Fork of Big Pine Creek (Lakes 1-3, Sam Mack Meadow and Beyond)  || Distance: 15.5 mi || Duration: ~9 hours || Gain/Loss: ±4,300′ || Net Elevation Gain (at Max Elevation): +3,400′ || Max Elevation: 11,200′ || Difficulty: Moderate

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3 Responses

    • TheHikingGeek

      Thanks! I think it’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever hiked.

  1. Ninjafly

    This is such a serene place; it’s been a trail that I’ve been wanting to hike for a long time. Thank you for the beautiful photos and the description. Could you please tell me if the trail signs are up and if the trail is easy to spot. Did you have any trouble following the trail? I checked it out on Google map and I could trace it well. Would you also have any idea whether it’ll be too hot out there for a day hike of the loop in July? Sorry about the many questions – thought I’d get the right answers from someone who’s been there 🙂 I read that you don’t need permit for a dayhike.