Distance (round-trip)

5.3 mi

Time

3.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

1465 ft

Season

Summer
Fall

Weather

The Bishop Creek area just west of Bishop, California is an incredibly picturesque alpine canyon filled with cabins, tiny villages, and aspen groves that absolutely explode with color at the beginning of the foliage season.

Even without the golden tinge of aspen, it’s a beautiful area to visit – filled with beautiful trails and lots of room to stretch out in the John Muir Wilderness. This particular route starts at the popular Bishop Pass Trail but takes a side trip to less visited Treasure Lakes, a series of small alpine pools in the shadow of Mount Johnson.

The trail begins at a small picnic area on the north shore of South Lake (which, depending on the type of year we’re having, may look more like a big hole in the ground than a lake).

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The first 0.8 miles gains about 376 feet in elevation while trekking through some beautiful aspen groves and rather idyllic woodland landscapes that look like they could be pulled from the pages of an outdoor adventure magazine.

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The trail starts off on moderately exposed granite but eventually finds some nice tree cover as it progresses. The trail is still pretty rocky, though, so if you’ve got cranky knees you may want to put some extra cushioning in your insoles or bring your trekking poles along for the hike.

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At the 0.8 mile mark, you’ll reach a junction with the Bishop Pass Trail, an epic route that will take you past several alpine lakes and through Bishop Pass into Kings Canyon National Park. For this trip, however, stay to your right to continue on the Treasure Lakes Trail.

This section of the hike is exceedingly lovely – as it climbs the cliffs on the southeast shore of South Lake, you’ll be able to hear distant waterfalls cascading into the Lake itself, cross some beautiful babbling brooks, and generally be surrounded by exquisite Eastern Sierra scenery.

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At just past the mile mark, the trail makes a sudden switch from incline to decline mode. For the next 0.6 miles, you’ll be on a steady descent, leaving the granite of the mountainside for more sorrel-covered forest floors and mountain streams.

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Enjoy the scenery and the decline – because at that 1.7 mile mark you’re going to regain all of that elevation and then some.

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The trail gains 632 feet in the next 0.9 miles, mostly on hard granite staircases and slabs marked with cairns. As you head toward the towering spires of Mount Goode and Mount Johnson before you, you can at least take solace in knowing that you’re not scaling quite that high on this trip.

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As you approach the Treasure Lakes, you’ll also pass by a few small lower pools and the cascading streams that feed them. Be sure to stop to soak in some of the scenery on the way.

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On its last push to the Lakes, the trail hugs a long granite ridge and makes a few switchbacks before revealing the Treasure Lakes in all their glory.

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If it’s summer, you may be tempted to take a quick plunge in the clear, icy water. If it’s fall, you may not be so excited to do that – and you might want to instead focus on soaking in the foliage surrounding South Lake on your way back to the trailhead.

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





Camping

Dog-Friendly

Multi-Use Trail

Views / Vista

Water Features

Trail Map

7 Comments

Scott Turner

Scott Turner Sep 14, 2016 18:09In reply to: Jeremiah Owen

You can pick permits up directly from the ranger station (either White Mountain or the Lone Pine visitor center). Those are walk-up permits, and the forest generally sets a handful of permits aside for people who get there early and wait in line. There's no guarantee that you will actually get a permit that way, as you'd be in competition. This is why I always recommend that people book in advance wherever possible. Permits get snatched up pretty quickly. Recreation.gov is definitely the best way to go.

The good news is that Treasure Lakes are not a particularly busy destination. I've seen permits available at times when the surrounding trailheads (Bishop Pass, Piute Pass, Sabrina Basin) are all booked solid through the entire week.

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Jeremiah Owen Sep 14, 2016 09:09In reply to: Scott Turner

So... I am new to this.. do I get the permit then from Recreation.gov or the White Mountain Ranger station? Thanks in advance for the help!

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Scott Turner

Scott Turner Sep 14, 2016 08:09In reply to: Jeremiah Owen

When I've looked on Recreation.gov, it says there's a specific permit for the Treasure Lakes trailhead, which the NFS considers separate from the South Lake Trailhead for Bishop Pass/Dusy Basin.

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Jeremiah Owen Sep 13, 2016 14:09

For the wilderness permit for overnighting.... what would I put as the starting trailhead name and the trail name?

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High Sierra suggestions « Coert Vonk Sep 3, 2015 16:09

[…] modern hiker, 5.3 mi, 1465 ft gain […]

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Treasure Lakes Trail near Bishop | Erica's Coffee House May 27, 2015 07:05

[…] and moderately strenuous (if at all). We found the hike’s description and directions using Modern Hiker. Awesome website but limited to Southern […]

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Photo Friday – September 26, 2014 | Modern Hiker Sep 26, 2014 16:09

[…] in full swing and the first areas of California hitting peak foliage this weekend (we’ve got three trails for you in Bishop Creek Canyon, by the way), I’m hoping to see some more colorful […]

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