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Cottonwood Lakes Trail

MODERATE 179 reviews
#1 of 27 trails in

Cottonwood Lakes Trail is a 16.2 mile moderately 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 March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 16.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,755 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

road biking

rock climbing

bike touring

bird watching

running

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

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.

hiking
2 months ago

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

hiking
2 months ago

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.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

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.

hiking
4 months ago

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.

horseback riding
off trail
4 months ago

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

hiking
4 months ago

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!

hiking
4 months ago

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

hiking
4 months ago

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

hiking
4 months ago

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

hiking
4 months ago

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.

hiking
5 months ago

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.

hiking
bugs
off trail
snow
washed out
5 months ago

Went on the trail July 26 stayed overnight and the trout fishing was great, I had the perfect fly and had them jumping all day. Rained for 4 hours straight so I Recommend being very prepared on this trip. It is not a joke. The elevetion is a huge factor but the off trail search for fishing the trail again because of flooding and overflown creeks and streams made the hike harder and not fun to get wet when you’ll be freezing at night. Be careful pack smart and don’t think nature can’t take its course on you. Cheers and have fun this trail is worth it!

hiking
rocky
washed out
5 months ago

Attempted this trail, unable to close the loop, as the old army pass above the lakes is impassable. Trail not maintained.

hiking
bugs
5 months ago

hiking
no shade
off trail
rocky
scramble
snow
6 months ago

Just did this loop counterclockwise along Cottonwood Lakes Trail to Old Army Pass over the July 19-21 weekend. Great conditions and easy trail until summiting via Old Army Pass from Cottonwood Lakes 4-5 (from north to south). We were backpacking with 30 pound packs and had no ice axe or crampons, so conditions were treacherous halfway up the mountain. Required scrambling up loose gravel and boulders to bypass snow and reach the peak. Thankful we made it but would definitely recommend being prepared for snow and steep - potentially life threatening - conditions. Otherwise, great trout fishing in Lakes 4-5 and in the stream, and plenty of places to camp around lakes. Rather than following the exact red line marked on the AllTrails map for our return trip, we took New Army Pass trail until it connected with the marked route on this map; I think it may have shortened our return trip slightly.

hiking
snow
6 months ago

I loved this trail until it was completely covered in snow. we only made it to about midpoint of the first big lake on the right. We hiked "lost" with the trail covered in snow for about an hour then decided to turn back. Camped at the top of a snowy mountain, not really near the trail, by an amazing 1/2 frozen lake. We finally found the trail in the morning and cut our trip short and headed back. The streams along the way were beautiful! We were a little dissapointed we couldn't go further, I was eaten by mosquitos and sun burnt from snow glare, but the amazing views made up for all that. We did ask the ranger when we got our permit if the trail was clear and he said there were a couple snow patches but other than that it was clear. We also had a terrible experience at the walk in campground. A large group that was riding horses the next day stayed up loudly until 1:30am

Sat Jan 12 2019

Road closed for THREAT of snow 01/12/19

Sat Oct 13 2018

Great way to get up high into the Sierra Nevada without having to climb far. Trailhead begins about 10,000 ft, next to good campground facilities. We did full-on steak, wine, the works, at the trailhead, then left non-hike gear behind...all "smellables" in the roomy bear-boxes. Plenty of water on the trail. Everything beyond the trailhead rises to "no open fires" altitude. So, bring warm camp clothing, and enjoy the stars.

Tue Sep 04 2018

Loved it. Nice easy day trip or overnight.

backpacking
Tue Sep 04 2018

We went in early June. The meadows were green and the lakes were gorgeous. There are plenty of good camping spots around the lakes. The hike cuts through various types of alpine scenery and is capped off by a killer view of New Army Pass.

backpacking
Sat Aug 18 2018

Completed the Cottonwood Loop yesterday (8-17-18). The Old Army Pass was a bit scary. Coming down New Army Pass was in much better condition. Breathtaking scenery! The weather was good. Did have some rain, which made the trip even more enjoyable. This trail is a must and will definitely expand our trip in to the Sequoia National Forest on our next trip!

Sat May 19 2018

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

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