Wheeler Lake is a 6.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Markleeville, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 6.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1,873 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

rock climbing

walking

running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

snow

This easy to moderate hike begins at Woodchuck Basin parking area (elev. ~7800ft.) and climbs ~900ft. to the top of the divide between the Stanislaus and Mokulemne River basins. Total one-way distance to the ridge is less than 2mi. First half of the hike is mostly forested. Second part is above the tree line with panoramic views of the Lake Alpine area and views further south toward Yosemite. At the crest there is a spectacular view of Underwood Valley and the Mokulemne basin to the north. For a more ambitious hiker, the trail continues on to Wheeler Lake which a couple miles further but still a manageable day hike from the parking lot. Those who enjoy wildflower viewing will want to take this hike in early Summer.

hiking
no shade
rocky
6 months ago

A great short hike. Its all uphill to the ridge. The hike has great panoramic views.

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful views on either side of the ridge! The lake was lovely. The uphill wasn’t so bad starting out, but the return uphill was a little more invigorating. There was a large tree down as you came off the hill near the lake which obscured the path a little.

hiking
9 months ago

a very beautiful trail. once on top of ridge, you will be able to see many different views since the top of the ridge is very wide open. I didn't go to the lake since going down seemed to look a little risky to do by myself.

hiking
snow
9 months ago

Really incredible views So worth it !! Flowers, the grasshopper sounds, snow, parking, dog friendly- The Best! We started at 9 am got a little off trail on the top with snow but this awesome app alerted us so we got back on - we made it to the lake but a few annoying mosquitos so we decided to keep looking we sat by a beautiful creek with several little falls and had lunch and filtered water - went thru 4 bottles with 2 of us and the pup - than made the uphill - arghh hike back up - 7.7 miles total 1936 climbing and in under 5 hours with lunch and tons of pics stops - highly recommend ❣️❣️

hiking
bugs
snow
10 months ago

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

Watch our for Ticks I killed several and bring spray for the mosquitos, although they weren't overwhelming. Incredibly beautiful locale, be ready for a strenuous hike up-down-up-down, coming back up from the lake is rough so dont go down to the lake if you are already tired at the top. Amazing views. Very little snow on the trail, only one section, easy to pass.

hiking
10 months ago

Gorgeous trail, amazing views! Hiked 7/20/19 and it was spring in the alpine mountain- a beautiful display of so many different wildflowers. Combined with incredible vistas. We made it 2.2 miles before we hit snow, at which point we did some small ridge trails; never made it to the lake. Another couple said they made it thru the first section of snow but further along there was more snow in the first section and they could not make it thru, so quit. But the trail was worth it even though we didn’t make it all the way to the lake; I’d come again in late July just for the wildflowers plus vistas in all directions! By August I’m sure the snow will all be melted and easier to make the whole trail.

hiking
10 months ago

I’ve hiked this trail many times. The water in the big creek in avalanche meadow is ok to drink unfiltered, us and our friends have drank it thousands of times. So is the water in the little seep spring by the corner of Wheeler lake, in the opining just after the trail cuts into the trees, you can see where it comes out of the ground just up stream. You can see a place to place a pvc pipe to make a nice faucet, half way down. There used to be brook trout in the lake and below the dam but the last couple years they seem to now be extinct, I hope they bring them back. Deer/Bear season starts the 4th Sat in Sept, hikers should stay on trails after this time or run the risk of encountering armed hunters. The trip out gets steeper and steeper, and might make novice packers reconsider returning. It’s a gut busting, slippery, zig zagging pull near the top, that’s for sure! You’ll be happier with a lighter pack at that moment.

hiking
muddy
off trail
snow
10 months ago

We had a great hike to the ridge. It was a bit tuff in the trees - first 0.3 mi? There was a lot of snow and the trail was pretty buried. But once to the marker the trail was easier to find. At tree the wildflowers were spectacular and the views stunning. We sat on the ridge, not sure you could get to the lake. There was a large cornice and lots more snow. It was an easy hike except for crossing the snow and finding the trail. It should be better in another week, tho probably muddy. Great hike! Glad we saw the flowers and snow capped peaks.

Thu Jul 19 2018

From the Woodchuck trailhead it’s a steady up hill climb to the top and the views are spectacular. From the top of the ridge to Wheeler Lake it’s a tough downhill at the top starting with switch backs on loose stones than a semi steep grade for maybe 200 yards through the forest. Then it mellows out still downhill with a box canyon on the right. The trail eventually comes to some boulders and roots to climb down than it an easy hike to the lake. You’ll hear the bells ringing which are the range cows, I’ve never had any problems with them but someone told me they chased him one time.

backpacking
Tue Jun 19 2018

Beautiful hike out to Wheeler Lake this weekend. The trail gets lost under a snow at the ridge, but after that it's pretty clear and navigable down to Wheeler Lake, though streams run down it pretty frequently as the snow melts. I lost the trail on my way out thinking I had to stay on the ridge longer, but you really just crest it, wrap around the Mokelumne-side of a small hill, and descend. Lake was beautiful and quiet, and the pup loved the hike too. Plenty of water from streams the whole trek.

Mon Sep 25 2017

Hike the trail all the time got some great views. I go back almost every year

hiking
Mon Sep 04 2017

Great hike! While there are moments where the trail is faint, it was very easy to follow. Gorgeous vistas, lovely wild flowers right now, and the odd patch of snow. Nice amounts of streams with at least a little water for our black dog when she got hot. Even with a couple rain/storm bursts, it was well worth all the uphill (and downhill). Lake was a lovely destination, a little marshy around the edges closest to where the trail meets the lake. Thinking about a future backpacking trip to spend a weekend on the lake and exploring some more.

Sun Aug 20 2017

Gorgeous views, lovely lake, very lovely springy forest path for a while, has clearly been affected by heavy snow this past winter so lost the trail twice but was able to find it again looking at the topo

backpacking
Thu Aug 10 2017

We took the 4 mile sandy meadows trail to wheeler lake. Fantastic trail, beautiful meadows of wild flowers and pristine alpine forests in the horseshoe basin in which the lake resides. Only saw a few people during our four days and we found a nice campsite next to the lake. Although it was cold, we swam out to the islands - very refreshing and rewarding. Also saw grazing cows nearby

backpacking
Mon Jul 31 2017

We made it to the lake! Thanks to the good advice of other hikers, we were able to navigate around the snow and find the trail again. The views and the wildflowers are amazing, indeed. For the most part - a gentle slope, with very few tough areas. We had heavy-ish packs with us, took us 3.5 hours in each direction (with plenty of breaks). The area around the lake is beautiful, too, and remote - several other groups were spending the night, but we didn't see or hear them, as we were all pretty spread out. The lake was too cold to swim, unfortunately. Bring bugspray!!

hiking
Mon Jul 10 2017

We did this hike a couple days ago and unfortunately there was too much snow to go down to Wheeler lake from the top of the ridge, but the views were well worth the shorter hike (~4 mi total to top of ridge and back). You can see Lake Alpine, Spicer, Utica, and Union Reservoirs looking South, and a good view of Wheeler Lake looking north from the ridge. There is still snow in spots on the trail, but it was easy to navigate.

hiking
Sat Jun 22 2013

Did this hike in on a thursday in mid June. It took us about 4 hours of aggressive hiking to complete this out and back with mid weight packs. There is some climbing on the way back to the trailhead but nothing too dramatic. Longer but much easier than hiking from woodchuck basin however the woodchuck basin to wheeler lake route is little more picturesque We saw lots of horse tracks but no horses. The only people we met was 3 forest service rangers clearing trees. Bring lots of bug spray and keep moving to keep the skeeters at bay. Trail is very easy to follow and For the most part the trail is shaded, 4-5 creek crossings this time of year. Great trail but not one of my favorites.

hiking
Thu May 26 2011

Wheeler Lake is a gem in Bear Valley... Due to Fish and Game Studies, the fish were removed from the lake. Frog Lake (a difficult 4 miles) is the closest lake for fishing. Wheeler Lake is stunning back country almost completely framed by snow covered peaks. Fire is permitted with a permit.

hiking
6 days ago

backpacking
7 months ago

backpacking
7 months ago

recorded Wheeler Lake

hiking
8 months ago

recorded Wheeler Lake

hiking
8 months ago

recorded Wheeler Lake

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

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