“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed…Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”
On the trails of the eastern Sierra mountains, I feel that freedom and sense of practical immortality, where the only moment is now. It is a breathtaking landscape, both literally and figuratively. With trails starting at a minimum of 7500 feet, this is the realm of high altitude hiking.
I wouldn’t say that there are any truly easy trails in the Sierra Nevada mountains. But there are some that are easier than others. In our four days at June Lake, we chose three nearby trails that offered us a variety of experiences, from relatively easy to a bit more challenging.
This is the perfect warm-up hike to acclimatize to higher elevation hiking. The Parker Lake trailhead is close to 8,000 feet with a total elevation gain of 600 feet, primarily within the first half-mile. Other than that, the trail is mostly flat and easy. The beautiful four-mile round trip hike begins in sagebrush. Be sure to turn around to admire the spectacular views of Mono Lake and Mono Craters when you stop to catch your breath along that first section. The trail then winds along Parker Creek, through a stand of golden aspen, and opens to a magnificent view of Parker Lake. The lake is a pristine alpine gem, surrounded by tall mountain peaks reflected in the water.
Click on any photo for a larger view
Devils Postpile And Rainbow Falls
Rising 60-feet out of a rubble pile, Devils Postpile is a unique geological formation of hexagonal columns artfully stacked by an ancient lava flow. In the realm of geological wonders, it’s a rarity and is considered to be one of the finest examples in the world of columnar basalt. Even to a non-geologist, it’s a magnificent sight.
Devils Postpile is generally open from mid-June through mid-October, depending on the weather. An easy half-mile trail leads from the trailhead parking lot to view the grandeur of the Postpile. A steep climb then offers a look at the glacier-polished top of the columns, which looks like an artfully designed stone patio.
We combined the hike to Devils Postpile with Rainbow Falls, continuing on another 2.5 miles. The hike is a gradual descent through the Ansel Adams wilderness to the steep canyon that contains the beautiful 101-foot waterfall. The overlooks from the rim of the river canyon are good. Even better is hiking down the trail to the bottom of the falls for a closer look, but I swear, those are some of the steepest, widest steps I’ve ever climbed. Definitely not made for short people.
The 4-mile round trip Lundy Canyon Trail is reputed to be one of the best in the area, with vibrant high Sierra scenery packed into a relatively short, but relatively intense hike.
Beginning at 8100 feet, a narrow path winds past enormous terraced beaver ponds and through a large grove of aspens. The trail then climbs sharply up a rocky path to a view of beautiful lower Lundy Canyon Falls and the canyon below. The climbing continues on through groves of golden aspen, surrounded by views of craggy mountain peaks and waterfalls. Turn around when you get to the steep talus slope. Even on a chilly, misty day, it’s a beautiful hike.