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Escape with Sally to Convict Lake

Tioga Pass hadn’t opened up from its winter’s sleep yet, but I really wanted to get over to the east side of the Sierra. Sally was up for the adventure and we drove along those brightly colored, snowcapped mountains to Convict Lake for a few days.

Where: Inyo National Forest, John Muir Wilderness
Distance: 2.77 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 7,582’ – 7,691’
Date: June 1, 2017
Map: Bloody Mountain
Dog Hike? Yes

Sally and I drove the long away around to get to the east side, down through Bakersfield, across Tehachapi on Hwy 58, then up Hwy 395 to Convict Lake. We stayed in the USFS Campground at the lake and it is a nice one. It sits at the 7,500′ elevation, has 48 sites spread up and down about a mile of paved road, both reservable and first-come, first-served campsites. I made my reservations through Reserve American (link below) about 3 weeks in advance and there was only 1 non-handicapped site available so it probably pays to make your reservations early. Convict Creek runs through the campground but the water was running fast and high so I didn’t try my hand at fishing it. But I did head down to Convict Lake as soon as I could to try my luck there. I didn’t catch any fish but I lucked out with the amazing view.

In addition to the campground, there is also a resort located at Convict Lake. I have stayed at Convict Lake Resort and they have some interesting history on their Home Page.

“In 1929 the resort was officially established as Convict Lake Camp and owned by Bill Garner. Prior to that, the resort area was referred to as Raymer’s Camp.

Convict Lake and Creek are so named as the result of an AMBUSH encounter here September 17, 1871, where a group of inmates escaped from prison in Carson City. Sheriff George Hightower eventually caught up with the convicts and a shootout took place. Robert Morrison a Benton Merchant, Mono Jim and other posse members encountered the convicts on the present Convict Creek, then known as Monte Diablo Creek. In the encounter, Morrison and Mono Jim were killed and the convicts escaped to be captured later in Round Valley. The towering peak above the lake was re-named Mt. Morrison and the smaller one below it Mono Jim.

The Indians are said to have called Convict Lake Wit-sa-nap bearing this legend. “The streams which flowed from the mountains were supposed to be filled with Pot-sa-wa-gees, water babies, who lived in spirit, but were visible to the eye, having the face of an Indian child and the body of a fish. Hi-na-nu was a wise and good man, whose spirit the Indians reverenced, and to whom they looked for guidance in earthly matters. However, he was endeavoring to capture the Pot-sa-wa-gees as they traveled up stream.  When the sources of the streams were reached the water became so shallow that the water babies were in great danger of being taken by their pursuer. They prayed to the Great Spirit for aid, and in answer he caused the waters to flow up hill and to join the waters flowing down from the mountains, uniting in one large, deep lake, wherein the little spirits found safety —Wit-sa-nap, the Convict Lake of to-day.” Sierra Club Bulletin Vol. IX, San Francisco, CA, 1915, Mrs. A.A. Forbes.”

Meanwhile, Sally and I tried our hardest at fishing and right next to my fishing spot mule ears were blooming, which are the name for this big and showy flower.

I knew a little storm was coming in and the first afternoon, evening and next day, the wind picked up something fierce.
The lake was rolling with whitecaps. I hunkered down and read while Sally rested up with many naps.
It rained for a couple of hours, making the air smell like sagebrush and many other wonderful fresh, smells. The storm moved through quickly, leaving very few clouds to make a fancy sunset but it was still very beautiful.

Looking Toward Laurel Mountain

Looking Toward Mono Jim Peak and Mount Morrison

The next morning was calm and I was ready to give the fishing another try. We fished the morning and again, no fish.
After lunch, I decided to take the short hike around the lake. Descriptions of this hike give the distance as 3.7 miles but my GPS said otherwise, calling it 2.77 miles.
Sally led the way but not too far ahead. I would periodically put her back on leash as I moved toward people or people fishing.
Sally found a little snow across the trail, which she loves!
Then she found a little more.
At the west side of the lake, multiple small creeks are spread out as they run into the lake. At one point I had the choice of crossing one of them on a log or the rocks. I chose the log. Sally chose the creek.
Then the trail is on a wooden planked walkway above the creek and wet spots.
There were quite a few folks fishing the inlet from boats, probably 10 or so. I didn’t see anyone catching anything but I would assume they were.
As Sally and I headed around the north side of the lake, stripey reflections from Mono Jim Peak and Mount Morrison reflected in the lake. Beautiful!
The next morning, Sally and I were planning on heading north and we reached the lake early to check out the morning reflections.
We said goodbye to Convict Lake and drove north, continuing along the east side of the Sierra. I made a stop at the Mobile station in Lee Vining but was a little early in the day for a Whoa Nellie Deli lunch but I did check out all of that snow in the Tioga Pass area that Yosemite National Park, CalTrans and Mono County are working hard to clear so they can get it opened for me. They say the sun always wins . . . eventually.
Sally and I continued up Hwy 395 and wow, that Walker River was really moving high and fast. I had never seen it so high. We headed back over the Sierra on Hwy 88, then home. We didn’t catch any fish on this trip but we caught a ton of beautiful views.

Dog Hike?

Inyo National Forest shares the following rules for dogs within the forest: Traditionally, National Forests have welcomed dogs. However there are a few rules that apply to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience. If you are camping with your pet, please practice the following:

  • Leave vicious or unusually noisy dogs at home.
  • During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will.
  • At night keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle or in a tent.
  • Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pet to any one campsite.

Map and Profile:

Convict Lake Hike Doarama Link

Convict Lake Map

Convict Lake Hike Topographic Map

Convict Lake Hike Topographic Map


Convict Lake Campground Reserve America

Convict Lake Resort

Inyo National Forest Dog Rules

Whoa Nellie Deli

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Leaf Peeping on the East Side: Convict Lake, June Lake Loop, Lundy Canyon October 13, 2015

Adventure to Convict Lake with Mom and a Horseback Ride up McGee Canyon July 16, 2015

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