Explore the most popular lake trails in Golden Trout Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

3 days ago

Went in May and all the lakes were frozen over. Beautiful place, will definitely be going in July to fish.

3 months ago


4 months ago

This was my first experience overnight backing packing and I absolutely loved it. Beautiful location and quite. This place made me fall in love with the back country.

6 months ago

Stunning area to see. Easy to navigate area. Great for acclimatizing.

Other than the gusty wind it’s a great trip.
Fly fishing was tough windy but the Golden’s were there.

6 months ago

This was a pretty easy hike with beautiful scenery the entire time!

World class. Spectacular. Relatively easy day hike.

8 months ago

Probably my favorite trailhead in the sierras!

What a great hike! The trailhead starts just west of the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead, and they do NOT share the same parking area. The first 2 miles are very flat, and you'll cover ground quickly. Small wildlife is present, and you'll see some cows to the south in the open valley. The climb up the pass is steady, and moderate intensity. Nothing technical. Take a moment to soak in the views once you reach the top. From the pass, the lake isn't far along toward the northwest. Follow the trail until you get to a creek crossing. From there, just go upstream, which takes you to the outlet of the lake. You can't fully visualize Cirque Peak from the lake, but an impressive false summit is visible. The fishing was sparse, but the lake was still wonderful, relaxing, and well worth the hike.

10 months ago

Did this in 2009 and it was great! Had a minor detour as we got to the farthest point of the loop where signage was scarce. Spent about an hour trying to find the trail through the middle of a bog.

10 months ago

Backpacked for 4 days in Mid June plenty of snow above 11000 feet, Took my two teenage daughters on our second trip to the cottonwood lakes, they were still amazed by the beauty of nature. We saw many deer and a coyote so they thought it was amazing.

Just finished hiking up to Lake 3 and 4. Beautiful!!! The snow on the ground made it even better!

The hike to the lake and back was about 9 miles. There were two small patches of snow just below the pass, but both were easy to cross. The meadow is beautifully green and the lake was a nice reward after the switchbacks. The trail was a little buggy, so bug spray is recommended.

Didn't make it all the way up (hit just shy of 11k ft) . Still too much snow from this year's record snowfall and didn't have crampons or picks. No wonder we didn't see another soul on the trail. In a month or two, should be beautiful, albeit strenuous in parts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Backpacked up to Lake 5 (10/21/16) for an overnighter. Well marked trail. Windy Sat. night. Beautiful area.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Good five hour hike today! Enjoyed the view, unfortunately didn't get to explore everything because it got super windy and the clouds set in. But all in all a great hike!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Took the unmaintained trail that branched off the trail ~1.2 miles from the trailhead. Turned out to be around 5 miles to South Forks Lake. When you're walking along the meadow, make sure to stay right along the creek. Beautiful lake, with golden meadows. Windy and VERY cold at night. Definitely end of Sierra season. Beautiful hike with lots of water available. Nice day hike over the hill to Cirque lake-has potential for amazing waterfront camping (100 feet from water!).

Thursday, September 08, 2016

the trails are well marked and maintained. It was very windy, which made it bad for fishing. I saw a bird of prey dive bomb a fish out of the south fork lake, awesome.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hiked up with my two daughters spent the night, what an awesome trail and view. My daughters were in awe of the views, will do this hike again for sure.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Great Trail. Took New Army Trail to Cottonwood Lakes, make sure to check the weather going up there, the wind can get pretty crazy.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Good steady accent after nice relatively flat hike through the Meadow. The lake was real nice reward after the hike over Cottonwood Pass.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Difficulty 4/5

I went in June of 2014. The lake was beautiful and worth the ascent. Be prepared for many tiring switch-backs.

Thr hike took me seven hours.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

We day hiked part of the trail in and out and really enjoyed it. Parking at the trailhead can be a problem due to the traffic. Really nice hike but the drive up into the mountains can be tricky.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Relatively easy hike in and out, we camped near old army pass. A overnight permit is required, be at the ranger station by 11am for same day (free) walk in permit. They go quick! This is a very popular backpacking trail...be advised. Or you can reserve before hand and pick up your permit on your way there. The station also rents bear cans, I believe it was 5$ a night. It was extremely windy, and cold for July. Be prepared for a cold windy night if backpacking out! We did bring our dog, so we were only allowed in the cottonwood lakes loop. Really beautiful scenery, you will enjoy it :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Did this hike in the middle of September as part of my acclimation program for a Whitney day hike. A couple miles of strolling through the forest leads to the start of a steady climb to Cottonwood Pass. Being I was just using it as a warmup, it was nice to start late and to enjoy the gradual climb out of Horseshoe Meadows. There was nobody at the lake when I arrived just before noon which made it extremely pleasant to just sit, watch, and listen.

Minimal elev. gain and big rewards on views and tranquility make this a great option for any level of hiker.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I left my house at 5am and got to the Ranger Station in Lone Pine by 915am. I had to be there by 10am to pick up my permit. They had a lot of black Garcia bear cannister's there to rent (next time). The ranger told me the weather would be great, no thunderstorms predicted. He also said there was trail maintenance being done on Old Army Pass. You then get back onto the 395, turn left on Whitney Portal Rd, pretty quickly turn left onto Horseshoe Meadow Rd and take that a ways into Cottonwood Lakes trailhead. There is a campground here, restrooms, water, and bear boxes. We camped 6.8 miles (1190 elevation gain) in on the northern side of Lake 4. Lake 4 and 5 are very exposed to wind, they are located up above lake 3, up a small ridge. They are not visible from Lake 3. Lake 3 seems to be the most popular place for camping. We found a site with a tree that helped block the wind. There were a few marmots patrolling this area. Our campsite was super close to Old Army Pass, it was fun watching people go up it. The first night was super windy and I did not get any sleep at all, it was quite horrible. The next day the wind was gone and the water was glassy. It was beautiful! Dave took Old Army Pass up to Mt. Langley. I knew I wasn't in good enough shape to do it so I decided to head home one night early because of the awful night before. On my hike out I took a different trail right along side Lake 3 and then between Lake 1 + 2 to New Army pass and then connected back up to Cottonwood Lakes trail. This was a beautiful loop, I'm really glad I took a different way out to see more of the lakes. Lake 2 was small, but Lake 1 was gorgeous. I wouldn't stay at it though because it had reed grass all around it, good bug place. If I go again I would stay at lake 3, and/or look at Long and High lake. Also South Lakes are an option too. I probably should have stayed the 2nd night and done more exploring but that first night of no sleep threw me off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I just got done hiking cottonwood lakes loop this weekend in late June and believe-you-me, those mosquitoes were HUGE at lake 3. Don't forget the repellent. Other than that, the hike and views of multiple nearby lakes was spectacular. The hike is a great beginner trail for backpackers to do on a three day weekend. The trail doesn't have any steep inclines except for one area where the trail splits and you have the option of doing switchback or a stair climb.

Dogs allowed through the loop (only).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Went in November. 4-stars for difficulty.

Drove solo from LA. Over-nighted at the walk-in camp at Horseshoe Meadows. Water was already turned off for winter. Must bring your own wood for fires. Stepped off next morning. Moody weather. Highs in the upper 60's, lows in the teens. Able to filter water, but creeks were frozen. Easy enough to break through the ice.

Cottonwood Pass kicked my ass with winter gear weight + bear canister. Camped 2nd night below the pass. Next morning crested. Simply beautiful. Continued on section of PCT. At the creek crossing, you'll see foot prints heading right, off the trail. That takes you to Chicken Spring.

No fires above 10,400 ft. Chicken Spring Lake is at 11,242. There's a huge fire pit set up. Let your conscience dictate. Beautiful spot. Had it all to myself.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The 1st mile was like walking in the park. After that it was all up hill. Crazy switchback. Well worth it though. Beautiful spot for over night. Bad thing was the lake is right i the middle of military flight path so it can be noisy. The lake is dead though. There are no fish. So don't plan on catching any.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is a great hike the Cottonwood Lakes are some of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierras, its real quiet and real nice when you go on a weekday-less people. The hike up to New Army Pass then down to ( Old ) Army Pass was a real good all day hike but get an early start, it will take you ALL day to do this.

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