Explore the most popular wildlife 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.

beautiful in the spring

6 months ago

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

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!

Took my Boy Scout troop there this weekend. Awesome sites, beautiful meadows, streams, wild flowers, hiking under a canopy the whole time kept us cool. We went all the way back by Mike's cabin, about a 5 mile hike and camped at the fire pit. Very cool hike, would do it again. Best fishing was at Casa Vieja, so stop there and fish. The other streams were flowing too fast.

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!

Good hike definitely harder on the way back. Great signage initially but sparse indicators once you reach trout meadow, big thanks to those who maintain it. This is a well maintained trail. We found heading left at unmarked forks got us to trout meadow. We did find a water source next to the rustic federal building in the meadow, although a barbed wire live stalk fence prevents access to creek that runs parallel to the meadow.

This is a great hike for beginners and the experienced. It's a slight downhill path all the way to Casa Vieja once you reach the Golden Trout Wilderness sign from the parking lot. From the sign for about 100yds it is the steepest decline of the entire trail. Bring your camera and take plenty of pictures. There is an old Forest Service Cabin on the other side of the meadow that is worth seeing. They still use it in the summer, so make sure you announce yourself. The views are out of a postcard. If you have the time walk around the meadow - don't walk through it, you'll get a crash course in why it's a meadow (Swamp!). There are golden trout in the stream and springs all around.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Fantastic trail. Did this back in 2014....twice. Only negative was the recent burn area from the Angola Mountain Fire. That area can be easily bypassed though. Water at Trout Meadow from a spring box, and also at Willow spring. Continue on for an easy drop down to the Kern. Camp at Grasshopper Flat. We were trying for Kern Lakes but didn't make it.

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, October 22, 2015

Good trail easy hike in from Lewis trailhead nice climb out.

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 :)

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.

Easy navigation - well marked at the trailhead, and a very well maintained trail. At the top there is plenty of parking, a horse area & a campground. There are two small picturesque meadows on the descent and most of the trail is shaded by trees. The burned trees from a large fire are predominantly below at the Jordan Hot Springs area another several miles past Casa Vieja. The meadow itself has a very neat meandering stream that the trail crosses at the lower end of the meadow. Good day hike or easy pack hike for novice/younger hikers. The stream is full of small golden trout which while fun to fish for are not for keeping! Handle with care...

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, September 19, 2013

Great trail and camping at Casa Vieja Meadow for kids. Small size trout in meadow creek.

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.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

This trail had just been maintained last year ( Summer 2011 ), I know because when I backpacked Willow Mdws I met a trail maintence crew doing some brush clearing. I would do this hike in late June til the middle of July as both Trout and Willow Mdws are real green that time of year. Also there are some really good campsites at both of the meadows.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

this hike is awsome in the early summer when the meadow is real green and its a fun family hike and its down hill when you start out and its like that all the way to the meadow but hiking back out is up hill.

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