Bear Lakes

18-20 July 1989

by Bill Finch

This 47 mile hike is Trip 9 in Sierra South, in which it is listed as a strenuous trip requiring five days of hiking. If you are in good shape you can do the trip in three days and have a little time left over for fishing and exploration. I walked 20 miles the first and last days and seven on the easy day. A map shows the approximate location of the route.

A "jeep" road branches off the pavement up Bear Creek Valley to the trailhead which is next to the dam. If you do not have a four wheel drive but you are a skillful and careful driver you can make it to the dam in a conventional vehicle.

I was on the trail at 9:45 and hiked next to the enchanting green pools of Bear Creek until around 1:00 when I stopped for lunch. pool
A pool on Bear Creek - If I had not been focused on getting up the trail, it would have been tempting to stop and enjoy fishing or lounging by one of the many pools on Bear Creek.

At around 2:00, I had made the John Muir Trail (JMT) and stayed on it until reaching the Sandpiper Lake trail at 4:40. I arrived at my campsite on Medley Lakes at 6:20. Medley Lks
One of the Medley Lakes - This little basin is filled with small lakes, some of which contain large golden trout. I had to satisfy myself with soaking in the lovely surroundings since the fish were not interested in what I had to offer.

I tried my luck fishing but caught only smallfry which I threw back.

I took an early morning side trip to Three Island Lake and I was ready to continue on the hike, now off trail, at a little before 8:00. I made the pass to Seven Gables Lake at about 10:00 where I met a group from the bay area. pass
Unnamed pass that leads from Medley Lakes to Seven Gables Lake - I took this photo on the way to Vee Lake (from the east). The pass does not look like much from the west, so I have no photo of it from that direction.

We decended in to the valley together then went our separate ways after spending lunch together. descending ps
Descending the first cross-country pass - I was surprised to meet a fairly large group of hikers at the top of the pass. We chatted for a while then descended to the valley below.

I fished Seven Gables Lake a little without luck Seven Gables Lk
Seven Gables Lake - A nice lunch spot, but the fishing left a lot to be desired. I don't know what I expected. After all it was mid-day.

then ascended the use trail to Vee Lake where I fished until my reel broke. Vee Lk
Vee Lake - Since Vee is one of the largest lakes in the area, I figured it might have large fish in it. My reel broke before I could find out.

I continued deeper into the basin past Black Bear Lake and up to White Bear Lake. Black Bear Lk
Black Bear Lake - The view of this lake appealed to me for some reason. I camped upslope from it and downslope from White Bear Lake.

The area around White Bear was too exposed for camping, so I returned to a creek I had passed on the way up. After dinner, I hiked out to a point overlooking Big Bear Lake and saw three large groups camped around it and I was glad I hadn't stopped there. There was a nice view of the Seven Gables. Seven Gables
The Seven Gables were named by Theodore Solomons on one of his quests to find a route connecting Yosemite with Kings Canyon. Solomons sure had a knack for coining a name that would stick. Where did he see these "Seven Gables", anyway? Has anyone else wondered the same thing?

The final day, I was on the trail around 7:30. At 8:00, I began an ascent of Peak 12,756 and arrived at the top a half hour later. Pk 12,756
Peak 12,756 - I had time to ascend this peak from the pass. The sandy slope is an easy walk up. The view of the summit from the pass is so unimpressive that I did not photograph it.

Views of the area, including Lake Italy, were marvelous. Lk Italy
Lake Italy - The view of the surroundings, including nearby Lake Italy, was superb. As you can see from the photos, there is not a whole lot of vegetation to block views in these desolate basins.

It may have been the high point of the trip (no pun intended.) I decended to Jumble Lake (nice fish), rock hopped by some lovely columbines, columbines
Columbines near Jumble Lake - They were so pretty, I just had to include them.

and by 10:30, I had made Lake Italy. I was now back on trail which followed the Hilgard Branch of Bear Creek down to the main branch of Bear Creek. falls
Falls on the Hilgard Branch of Bear Creek - I steamed down the trail next to this stream at a pretty good clip. But, I had to stop at this lovely little water fall and enjoy the view for a few moments.

I retraced the trail, passing emerald pools pool
Another pool on Bear Creek - If I had not been focused on getting down the trail, it would have been tempting to stop and enjoy fishing or lounging by one of the many pools on Bear Creek.

and cascades and made the trail head at Bear Dam at 6:40. cascades
One of many cascades on Bear Creek

One Page version 29 January 2013