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Hiking up to Jackass and Burro Lakes

We headed cross country up to beautiful little lake, still partially covered with snow and ice, named Burro Lake. Along the way, our route took us by a creek with wildflowers of every color and incredible reflections in high lakes bordered by granite mountains.

Where: Sierra National Forest, Ansel Adams Wilderness
Distance: 9.57 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 7,506’ – 9,677’
Date: July 21, 2017
Maps: Merced Peak Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Maybe

We drove up Beasore Road, which was in pretty good shape this year. Some years, not so much, as it can have more than its share of potholes. I didn’t clock the exact mileage but it was about 40 miles up Beasore Rd. where we saw the marked junction to the dirt road on the left that took us to the Norris Trailhead and another 2 miles or so up that dirt road, which had many ruts and potholes on it. In a couple of parts on that dirt road, I don’t think a really low clearance car could make it. We parked at the end of the road in the Norris Creek Trailhead parking area.

You can also take this hike off of the Jackass Lakes Trailhead, which we passed a few miles before we headed up the dirt road to the Norris Trailhead. The Jackass Trailhead starts at about 6,641′ elevation gaining about 1,600′ in the first mile and a half and a total elevational gain of about 3,000′. The Norris Trailhead starts at about 7,250′ elevation and you have about 2,400′ elevational gain. There isn’t a whole lot of difference in the distance. It just depends on what type of workout you are aiming for!


We stashed our goodies for after the hike in the bear boxes, sprayed down with mosquito repellent (and sure glad we did), then headed up the trail which crossed Norris Creek, then headed upstream along its path for a while.





We started seeing wildflowers at the beginning.




We continued on up the trail, following the signs to Jackass Lakes.








The trail started following up along Norris Creek and we would soon be in for an unexpected treat.




There were loads and loads of wildflowers along that creek.  They were in their prime, tall, healthy and had such vibrant colors.

Leopard Lily












And others.



Photo by Gail Gilbert










There was a price to be paid for taking a closer look at these wildflowers down by the creek and skeeters were waiting for us. We reapplied our repellent then we saw those splashes of color and those hovering bloodsuckers were soon forgotten.

The first lake that we reached was a small lake named Norris Lake (8,400′ elevation), full of morning reflections.

We continued along the trail until we reached Lower Jackass Lake (8,616′ elevation), the largest of the lakes on our hike.

Lower Jackass Lake


As we walked along the lake, we started seeing snow patches on the trail.





The next lake was Middle Jackass Lake (8,934′ elevation).

Middle Jackass Lake

From this point, the winter had not been kind to what used to be the trail to Upper Jackass Lake. In most places, there wasn’t even a snaketrack or suggestion of a trail, so we checked out our GPS frequently and saw many ducks or cairns that people had placed adjacent to where the trail used to be. You can’t always rely on these ducks because sometimes people place them for other purposes but the ones we saw were correct for our trail. When we reached Upper Jackass Lake (9,153′ elevation), those reflections were magnificent.

Upper Jackass Lake

From Upper Jackass Lake, there is no trail to Burro Lake. I had placed a couple of waypoints to help guide me up the easiest chute or ramp to Burro Lake, but the snow fields laying over the creeks prevented me from taking the most direct route, but our approach was pretty close to that. As we headed up the last stretch of snow, I looked back at that beautiful view.


We topped over that snowpatch to see Burro Lake (9,608′ elevation) with a few “icebergs” still floating in it and the upper Burro Lake was still completely covered in snow.

Burro Lake

Burro Lake

Burro Lake is a small, skinny lake and as it dries up a little in the summer, is divided into a half, fed by a small stream. We continued on up past the snow covered upper lake to an overlook that made a dandy lunch spot with a view looking straight down at Madera and Lady Lakes.

What a View From our Lunchspot of Madera and Lady Lakes

When it was time for us to head down, we wandered down along the edge of Burro Lake.

Burro Lake

Then back down through that upper snowfield.


Photo of Me by Gail Gilbert

We pretty much headed down the same way we came up but with a more direct cross country manner. I don’t think we stopped much on the way back but couldn’t help but take in the view from the outlet of Jackass Lake. How beautiful!

I categorized this hike as Moderate to Strenuous, but if you don’t want to go all the way up to Burro Lake, you can do a much easier portion of the lower part of the trail along Norris Creek where all of those beautiful wildflowers were located as an Easy hike. Hiking up to Lower Jackass Lake is a beautiful day hike or backpacking trip. Going up to Upper Jackass Lake will require some good route finding skills because that trail is no longer. Going up to Burro Lake definitely takes some good route finding skills.

Dog Hike?

I think this could be a good dog hike for the right dog but you may need to provide dog drinking water in the summer for some of those long dry stretches.  Also, be aware of the critters in this area such as rattlesnakes, bear, deer, coyotes and others that a dog could tangle with.

The Sierra National Forest has a short article called Canine Camper that you can access here. Even though this is not classified as a wilderness area, here is what they have on their website:

Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.

We ask the public to remember these rules when taking pets into the wilderness.

  • Bury feces.
  • Do not tie up dogs and leave them unattended.
  • Do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
  • Leave unfriendly or loud dogs at home.

Maps and Profile:
Jackass Burro Lakes Doarama

Jackass and Burro Lakes Topographic Map

Jackass and Burro Lakes Topographic Profile

Prior Blogs in This Area:

Hike to Upper Jackass, Burro Lakes and Beyond August 26 2015





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