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Scrambling Up To Finger Lake

Climbing up a loose and rocky chute, hopping boulder to boulder, sometimes with a surprise of a wobbly rock, pushing our way through knarly willows, and pulling ourselves up and over boulders the size of a small house were the tougher parts on this hike. The easy part was admiring the wonderful view of some of the high lakes in the Tioga Pass area.

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 6.3 Miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation Range: 9,708′ – 10,699′
Date: August 24, 2016
Maps: Falls Ridge Topographic Quad
Dog Hike?  No

We headed east on the Tioga Road about 2.2 miles east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite to Saddlebag Rd., then drove up to the Sawmill Walk-In Campground. We parked along side the road, then followed the trail that went through the campground. This trail is not shown on most maps but it is the one used by backpackers, day hikers and climbers that tackle Mount Conness from this side.


A week ago, we had hiked from Bennettville to beyond Green Treble Lake and I had my eye on a lake just above Green Treble Lake called Finger Lake. I had seen it on the topog and it looked do-able. The topog map made me feel that this was something that we could accomplish but the Google Earth image had been taken when the area was covered under snow. That makes it dificult to see if there were big willow patches in an area that you may be thinking of going up, or giant boulders. There was really only one way to figure it out and we skirted the side of the mountain last week to get a feel for the best way to get up there. We discovered a giant willow patch that made the approach that we were considering a no go and ran out of time. This week, we had a game plan to head up through a chute that we saw, then tackle the giant boulders the best we could, avoiding the willow fields. This hike was a difficult one and this would not be something that most people would want to tackle.

We continued following the trail, crossing a couple of small creeks.


As we walked along the trail, we noticed that those very short, small plants that you hardly notice in the summer had turned their fall color of a vibrant red color. If you have the right light, they are a brilliant reddish orange and we hit the conditions just right to see these early signs of fall. I have heard these plants referred to as dwarf bilberry but am not sure.

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We headed off trail after about 2 miles, skirting the north side of the unnamed lake north of Green Treble Lake where we had lunch last week. Our planned approach was to head up the chute on the left of this picture. It didn’t look so bad from this angle. . .


We headed up the chute, which had loose rock and dirt, zigzagging our way up to the top of the chute. Larger boulders resulted in my going sidehill above the willows for a while, plus this would take us more directly to the lake. The view of Green Treble and Maul Lakes below us was amazing.

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Did I mention that we had plenty of boulders to navigate across? And these were the smaller ones.

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We ran into another willow patch, so needed to move sideways a bit. We were almost at the top of the hill we were on, so we headed to a high point to see which might be the better way down into Finger Lake. It was very easy to see the small lake before Finger Lake and Finger Lake below us. We had a nice easy walk to it from that point on.

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We arrived at our destination of Finger Lake (elevation 10,640′) with White Mountain (elevation 12,054′) behind it. It was a dandy lunch spot!

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Finger Lake (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

Finger Lake Pano


I was looking at the topog map during lunch, wondering if there might be an easier way down. I could see another little lake really close to us and we headed over to it. It was a very pretty little lake, well worth the walk over to it. Don’t tell Gail but I was eyeing Big Horn Lake, another 240′ elevation gain above us, to see how we might get up there. It definitely isn’t from the chute at Finger Lake, maybe to the north . . .

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But there wasn’t an easier way down than basically the way we had come. We didn’t need to head up to that high point where we had first seen Finger Lake, so we headed down in a way that we could intersect our track through the boulders that we came up then we headed cross country to intersect with the trail. What a view, and we could even see Saddlebag Lake.

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Me, Heading Down Through the Boulders (Photo by Gail Gilbert)

This hike is not for most people. Those wobbly boulders and rocks can twist, turn and slide unexpectedly. Excellent balance is a must have to negotiate these rocks. If you do decide to venture up in this country, I would not recommend doing it alone. In case you get pinned in the rocks, you will need some help or at least someone to go get help. You cannot count on cell phones to get out in this area. My recommendation is that you view this hike from the comfort of this blog.

Map and Profile

Finger Lake Topog

Finger Lake Topographic Map

Finger Lake Profile

Finger Lake Profile

Dog Hike?

The heavy rocks, loose soils and large boulders are not a good fit for a dog. If you want to take an easy stroll with your dog though, you can walk along the trail from the Sawmill Campground to the unnamed lake. Below are the dog rules for the Hoover Wilderness:

  • Dogs are allowed in the Hoover Wilderness, but are not allowed in wilderness areas in adjacent national parks.
  • Pet food must be stored to the same standard as people food. In areas where use of a bear resistant food storage container is required, pet food must be stored in your container.
  • Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from wilderness hazards such as porcupines, mountain lions, and sick, injured or rabid animals.
  • Unleashed dogs may intimidate other hikers and their dogs, depriving them of a peaceful wilderness experience.
  • Unleashed dogs may harass, injure and sometimes kill wildlife.
  • A leashed dog’s keen senses can enhance your awareness of nearby wildlife or other visitors.

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Hiking with Sally From Bennettville to Green Treble Lake August 18, 2016


Hoover Wilderness Rules

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