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Leaf Peeping at Convict Lake

There is no need to travel far to see fall colors, just a drive or walk where you live will deliver. But I put in some extra miles because I just couldn’t resist heading over to the Sierra’s eastside to do some leaf peeping at Convict Lake, even more beautiful with a dusting of snow up high on those rugged mountains that surround it.

Where: Inyo National Forest
Distance: 2.58 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 7,586’ – 7,667’
Elevation Gain: 109′
Date: October 15, 2021
CALTOPO: Hiking Around Convict Lake
Dog Hike? Yes

I knew I wanted to head over to the east side of the Sierra to check out the fall colors but I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go. I had heard that the popular areas were pretty peoplely and that just did not sound fun to me.

As I drove up the Merced River Canyon, poison oak leaves had starting turning oranges and red. Driving across Big Oak Flat Road, the dogwood leaves had about half turned, some of them beautiful red and some still green.

I pondered whether I should go to a popular fall color location or somewhere more remote. The more I thought about it, I figured that if I got there, wherever there was, early enough, I could beat the crowd and have some lovely morning light on the trees. So that is what I did.

On the drive over Tioga Road, I thought of the pluses and minuses of various locations, along with the intel that I had seen on color reports . . . and crowds. It all came down to the fact that I hadn’t been to Convict Lake in a couple of years and I love the contrast of those colorful mountains with the lake and trees. So once I reached the junction of Hwy 395, I headed south on Hwy 395 about 35 miles to Convict Lake Rd.

Here is some interesting history related to how Convict Lake got its name from Convict Lake Resort’s 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.”

I took a walk around the lake with ever-changing views, hiking clockwise. There are a couple of ways to view the pictures. You can just scroll down the page, clicking on one that you wish to view larger. Or you can click on the first picture and as in a slideshow, click on the right hand arrow to take you to the next pictures.

Tioga Road is currently closed so that access to the eastside isn’t so easy but fall color is showing up all around us. I have seen beautiful colors in Yosemite Valley, along Big Oak Flat Road, Fish Camp and Bass Lake area. Driving through Ahwahnee and Oakhurst, there also some gorgeous trees ablaze in landscaping. With stormy weather heading our way, it will be interesting to see how much of that color will be left after the weather clears. Surely, some will be there to admire.

Dog Hike?

You will probably meet other people with their dogs on this hike and keeping your dog on leash will ensure that your hike is fun one for everyone. 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. There is a great link from the Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules: Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Hiking Around Convict Lake Topographic Map

Hiking Around Convict Lake Profile


Convict Lake Campground Reserve America

Convict Lake Resort

Inyo National Forest Dog Rules

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Leaf Peeping on the East Side of the Sierra October 28, 2018

Hiking with Sally from Convict Lake to Mildred Lake (Almost) October 4, 2017

Leaf Peeping with Sally at Convict Lake October 3, 2017

Escape with Sally to Convict Lake June 2, 2017

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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