Cottonwood Lakes

This was to be the trip of the summer and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The Cottonwood Lakes are a series of 5 lakes clustered in the shadow of Mount Langley and Cirque Peak.  Located in the southern tip of the John Muir Wilderness the trail head shares an inroad with the Mount Whitney Portal in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine.  The trail starts at Horseshoe Meadow where you can choose to acclimate to the 10,000 feet of elevation overnight.

The trailhead – about to enter Golden Trout wilderness.  The Golden trout is only found in California and happens to be her official state fish.

Before the trip I had outfitted our dog Bullwinkle with a pack of his own. He didn’t seem to mind the extra weight.

The trail passes through some easy terrain  for the first 3.5 miles.  There are a few stream crossings which are a welcome break.

From there it climbs steeply up to the Cottonwood Lakes basin for a mile gaining the most elevation. Here I am enjoying the climb.

Once you reach the basin the view of Lakes #1 and #2 take your breath away if the climb didn’t do it already. The bear canister on my back is available for rent at the Ranger Station (where you get the wilderness permits anyway).

Bullwinkle celebrates with a romp and roll. It may look like he’s eating it, but he was just enjoying the day.

The group loaded up on water and proceeded to find a nice campsite above Lake #3 ( the largest) in the trees to shelter us from the wind. I also happened to need trees because of my Hennessy Hammock setup I was using. The camp quickly dozed off into an afternoon siesta.

After exploring the area dinner was on our minds. I was trying a bag of MREs, Adam was on a steady diet of tuna and crackers, while my buddy Trung had a spam and rice plate.

After tucking in and feeling the altitude we were greeted with a Southern Sierra night sky, one of the best views of the trip.

We awoke refreshed and shook off the frost to greet the rising sun. Sleeping bags that transform into ponchos or a convertible sleeping bag from Poler or Alite is a great solution for those cold early mornings.

Once we were warm enough we got to fishing. Mid morning through mid afternoon we were catching rainbows and goldens on rooster tail hooks and Thomas Bouyants spoon lures.

Lake #3 was very active with plenty of shoreline to spot cruising fish.

By the afternoon towards sunset the lake was bubbling with action. The surface of the lake looked like it was boiling with fish jumping out to snatch flies. Bullwinkle had by then finished his swim and was busy sunbathing.



We spent another night above Lake #3 and fished the morning.  After a 6.5 mile hike out (much easier down hill) we all agreed for some hot food in town.  The plan was to get a table at the Alabama Hills Cafe (highly recommended breakfast/lunch spot @ 111 W Post St, Lone Pine, CA) but we were turned away by weekend crowds. We were set on large hot plates of breakfast fare and french toast at the ‘Bama Cafe but settled for McDonalds and enjoyed the running hot water and flushing sit down toilets.  I had two Big Macs with fries, a shake, and an apple pie thing all to myself. It was heaven.

Gear Used:



Ultralight Med Kit


Dog Med Kit


ExOfficio Nioclime shirt


ExOfficio Amphi convertible pants


ExOfficio Give N Go Boxer Brief


Alite Cloverware utensils



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