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Cottonwood Lakes Trail is a 16.1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Lone Pine, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 16.1 mi Elevation gain 2,673 ft Route type Loop

Dogs on leash

Backpacking

Camping

Hiking

Horseback riding

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Bugs

Rocky

Scramble

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities
Contact
Getting There

Please note that the gate leading to this trailhead is currently closed (06/04/2020). Cottonwood Lakes Loop starts from Horseshoe Meadow and travels from the Golden Trout Wilderness into John Muir Wilderness. The trip begins on a mostly sandy trail leading you North into the Golden trout Wilderness. After a mile there is reliable water in the form of a creek. Pass over the log bridge or rock hop, and proceed on the flat trail skirting a meadow that holds Cottonwood Creek. The trail begins to gain elevation and you will want to avoid a turn off toward Golden Trout Camp. Head up the trail across a well made log bridge, rock hop one more creek and come to a junction. You can chose to complete the loop section anyway you like. There are trails that shoot off from this loop that head to Muir Lake, South Fork Lake and New Army Pass.

Parking is ample and paved. There are bathrooms, bear bins, garbage, informative displays, and potable water.

Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center Phone: 760-876-6222 TDD: 760-876-6228 Located 1 mile south of Lone Pine, at the junction of Highways 395 and State Route 136. Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Head to Lone Pine, CA. Turn toward the mountains on Whitney Portal RD. Make a Left on Horseshoe Meadow Rd. Follow this road through incredible rock formations before heading up the mountain gaining thousands of feet over a few miles. +++Watch for Rocks in the road+++++ Follow signs for hiking or horses depending on your pleasure.

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Reviews (218)
Photos (1314)
Recordings (182)
Completed (472)
Richard Chapman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 11 2020
Hiking

Hiked the trail yesterday and my buddy found a pair of binoculars. If they are yours please identify and there yours

Diane Eldridge
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 08 2020

Great hike, we camped in the boulders at lake #3 so cool felt like a marmot! Views of the waterfall and Langley were amazing. Hiked up to #5 on 7/4 free fishing day and our group caught 6 nice Golden trout kept a couple to taste- amazing! Hiked out through #1 and #2 what a beautiful valley, cut over to Muir lake for lunch, another great place. Saw a fox on the long drive down the hill-crossed in front of us and climbed a shear cliff . Season opener for us, I’m ready to go again! Make sure your barbs are pinched!!

Mike Y
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 08 2020
Backpacking

Backpacked 4 nights on Lake 3. The conditions were great, sunny days. Occasional high wind gusts. Quite buggy at dusk and dawn. Fishing was relatively slow. Lake 4 and 5 had quality fish. Fairly easy hike in from the trailhead, minimal elevation gain over 6 miles.

Dan Mackechnie
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jul 07 2020
BackpackingBugsGreat!Snow

Spectacular loop with tough climb over Old Army Pass. I took three 13 year old girls on this hike and it was more difficult than expected. We knocked off a few miles the first afternoon and camped short of the fork in the trail. The hike to Lake #4 is extraordinary. Old Army Pass was a bear. It was easy to lose the path traversing left at the end of the lake. It's important to keep on it so if you aren't sure, go back and make sure. As stated in recent review, there was still snow at the top as of 7/7 and this made for a dicey traverse. Poles still a necessity and not for faint of heart but hopefully gone in a few days. The descent down New Army was fine after a little scrambling at the top. We stayed below High Lake since everyone was gassed. The six mile walk out the final day was again beautiful! The mosquito situation was manageable. Deet worked perfectly so lather up and they leave you alone. Rewarding and beautiful hike.

Tracy Lynn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jul 05 2020
HikingSnow

Gate to trailhead was open this day. Really great trail! Highly recommend. However, going up Old Army Pass was VERY sketchy as the trail was still covered in snow, the reroutes are slippery because it’s melting. I don’t recommend that at this time. An older gentleman at the top (who looked like a well versed hiker) said it should be ok by next week. If there’s snow in the shoot, avoid this area. Otherwise, perfect hike!!! Also, my garmin GPS clocked it at about 17 miles total from the trailhead.

Celia H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 04 2020
Hiking

Beautiful area! The gate was open this past weekend (7/4). Pretty flat until some vigorous switchbacks, landing you in a pristine paradise of alpine meadows and lakes. We couldn't find where the trail continued in between lakes #4 and #5 (it just looked like a vertical wall of granite with ice), so we did this as an out & back. Would love to return for an overnight stay.

Analiese Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jun 29 2020
Hiking

Did this today, June 28. The gate to the campground remains closed, and it’s about a 1 mile (moderate) walk to the trailhead. Conditions up to the top of Old Army Pass are good with just a couple of small snow sections remaining, and we did not need any gear other than good boots and trekking poles to make it up and over to New Army. May have felt differently about it were we going down. Recent rockfall has obscured some of the trail on Old Army. High wind conditions also made this extra challenging. Other than this, a really nice and challenging day trip!

Michelle Van Meter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Jun 25 2020
Hiking

Don’t let the mileage deter you, this is a surprisingly manageable day hike. The trail is fairly level for most of the route and the views are top notch!

Priyo Majumdar
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 21 2020
HikingBugsFee

Hiked in Sunday 6/21, out on Monday 6/22. Gate to walk in campground still closed as of 6/22. We camped at Lake no. 5, roughly 7 miles one way counting the walk on pavement. Gorgeous scenery. Mild weather. Mid 40-s was the lowest. Plenty of mosquitoes. Bug spray and masks helped a lot. Some wind at night, none during the day. Our family of four range in age from 13 to 52. It took us 5 hrs to hike up and 3.5 hrs back down from/to trailhead. No snow on trail. Some of our shoes and socks got went in a couple of creek crossings, but they dried up within a few minutes while hiking because the weather is just so dry. Keeping hydrated was easy because of all the little creeks along the trail. The switchbacks right before turn off to Muir Lake were tough, and the last climb up from lake 3 to 4/5 was not fun. Bathrooms right at the trailhead were open on 6/22, and the water spigot was working as well. I didn't see anything written in our permit about having to pack out used toilet paper, but one person at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center told me over phone that we should, so we did. Plenty of people coming back down on Sunday, some going up, but we were the only ones camped at lake 5. We saw very few people up or down Monday. Some were doing Mt. Langley too. Gotta thank Mother Nature for this beautiful scenery, and the hard working folks at the Forest Service for trail upkeep and good trail signage.

Brian B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jun 19 2020
HikingBugsClosed
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Karla Nelson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jun 05 2020
Hiking

We hiked to Muir Lake which is beautiful as always. . The gate to the campgrounds is still due to covid 19 but you can park on the road at the gate and walk up. This is my favorite first day hike of the year to acclimate, the beauty of the lakes never gets old. The trail is in good shape and easy to follow.

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Chris Berry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jun 03 2020
Backpacking

As of 6/1 gate still closed before reaching the walk in campground and trailhead. Trails were in good condition and easy to follow using the app with exception of heading from Muir lake back towards cottonwood lakes, where I didn't follow any marked trail and had to scramble a little. There is a few Creek crossings that are easily crossed via rocks or downed trees. Still some patches of snow on the ground and some moderate winds during the day time. Overall it was a great hiking with awesome views, definitely worth doing an overnight trip to take everything in

Melanie Lorenzen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri May 22 2020
Hiking

Great trails .. gate is locked just below campground access for C19 but easy to park and walk in to trail head anyway .. can still drive ALL the way past Walts Point etc was there yesterday had a great day

Helen Ashton
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat May 02 2020
HikingClosed

Road to trailhead is closed due to Covid

Carolyn Shinsato
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Mar 22 2020
Hiking

This area is magical. Absolutely gorgeous. Easy to follow dirt trails through some rocky inclines but nothing too arduous. The views are stunning from lush meadows, to mountains, to pristine flowing waters that hold golden trout, etc. There is an abundance of nature. Highly recommend getting a permit to spend more than one day in the area and camp overnight.

Cris Hazzard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Nov 19 2019
Hiking

This version of the hke up Old Army Pass is challenging because the trail to the pass is in bad shape. Better to do the out and back to the lakes. Full guide on HikingGuy com

Amber Page
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 09 2019
Hiking

We didn’t do the entire trail mainly because we got a late start and because I’m 6 months pregnant but the 6 miles that we did do was beautiful. Some ice in the streams but it wasn’t too cold outside. Weather was 74 and there are some shady spots too. It was a combination of uphill and downhill but nothing drastic or difficult. There are some sandy parts so you get a nice workout. Passed quite a few people going up and also coming back down so it’s not a super isolated trail. Hopefully we can do the entire trail next time but this was a great hike.

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Justin Powell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 02 2019
HikingRocky

Beautiful scenery and awesome hike! Old Army Pass is not maintained anymore. It is rocky, steep and has loose gravel. I would only recommend to experienced hikers and not during snow or icy conditions.

James Calhoun
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 21 2019
Hiking

Went yesterday with the Boy Scouts Troop 119 as a day trip. It was amazing! 13.7 miles round trip. No bugs. Caught and released some Golden’s! Walking campsites were full so we stayed at the base - Tuttle Creek Campground which is nearby. Probably a better choice anyway as it was 27 degrees warmer at night and you can stay multiple days/nights.

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Dale Harker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Sep 19 2019
Horseback ridingOff trail

Moved 300 head of cattle 5.2 miles out of Horseshoe Meadow up a stringer for feed and water.

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Nathaniel Regier
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Sep 18 2019
Hiking

Wonderful and adventurous trail. Did it in 2-days, allowed ourselves to acclimate the first da and only did about 6.5 miles. Camped at Lake #5. Heavy winds (30-40mph gusts) made things really difficult but we managed. Old Army Pass (to New Army Pass) isn't marked on official maps anymore but the trail is still there by Lake #4. Only a couple spots where we had to avoid ice and go off trail. All around an beautiful hike with some incredible views and high-apline air. Would highly recommend!

Simon Guérard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarTue Sep 10 2019
Hiking

Honestly not that great - without doing langley, i'd say the first 5 miles are very boring and not worth it!

Brian B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 07 2019
Hiking

Beautiful hike. Now my favorite hike even though we didn't do the whole loop.

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Kevin Williams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Aug 31 2019
Hiking

If you can’t get the Wilderness permit you wanted, this day hike is a great plan B.

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Rick Claeys
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Aug 25 2019
Hiking

Beautiful hike, stunning lakes, and a few uphills to get the heart pumping a little. Overall I’d rate it mostly easy until you go up (or down) Old Army Pass then it gets more challenging . Mosquitos weren’t bad but I did it as a long day hike.

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AllTrails User
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Aug 20 2019
Hiking

My dog and I hiked from the trailhead to Long Lake on 8/19/19. Round trip, 13.5 miles and 6.5 hours. The first 2 miles of the trail are sandy and less scenic. Also, this part of the trail was littered with quite a bit of horse poop which was frustrating, especially on the return portion. The rest of the trail is beautiful, with meadows, a waterfall and gorgeous lakes. I took New Army Pass to the lakes and back. When you reach the “crest”, the view of Cottonwood Lake #1 is stunning. And the views get even better. Long Lake is a must see. The stream that flows into the far end is beautiful. We did not encounter many mosquitos (except near the Long Lake camp site), but I doused myself in DEET prior to starting, so maybe that was a deterrent. The trail is very well graded, so even though there is altitude, it is very doable as a day hike.

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