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PCT 2019 JMT 2018 Hiking Camping Contact

Lake Sabrina Basin

December 16, 2019

Considering the steep nature of trails entering the Eastern Sierra and Inyo National Forest, this hike into the Lake Sabrina Basin is on the easier end of moderate. My plan was to turn around at Blue Lake, but the excellent fall weather provided perfect hiking conditions to continue on to Donkey Lake.

I went on an overnight trip to Hungry Packer Lake a few years back, where I spent the night in the backcountry with beautiful views of Picture Peak. It was around the same time of year, with great hiking conditions during the day and chilly temperatures after dark.

Lake Sabrina
Lake Sabrina

The air was crisp on this fall morning as I arrived at the trailhead at Lake Sabrina. My plans to get to Blue Lake quickly were foiled after I started ascending past Lake Sabrina. With all the fall colors surrounding the lake, I couldn’t help but stop every few minutes to take pictures.

Lake Sabrina
Lake Sabrina Lake Sabrina
Lake Sabrina

Once past the outlet of the lake – and two obnoxious hikers with bells hanging from their backpacks – I felt like I was finally inside the Sierra. This feeling usually hits me once I can no longer look to the east and see the Owens Valley.

Trail to Blue Lake
Trail to Blue Lake

The trail from Lake Sabrina to Blue Lake alternates between exposed and covered, creating potentially tricky conditions in the early and later parts of the hiking season. Luckily for me there was no snow this day, and only a little bit of ice following a freeze from the night before.

Trail to Blue Lake
Trail to Blue Lake

This group of about 10 switchbacks marks the final ascent before reaching Blue Lake. Relatively speaking, they’re pretty easy to handle just slightly past the two mile point of the hike.

Final ascent to Blue Lake
Final ascent to Blue Lake

Walking up to Blue Lake is a memorable experience. Not only are you approaching the lake along Bishop Creek, but upon arrival you are treated to picturesque views of towering granite peaks in the background.

Blue Lake
Blue Lake Blue Lake
Blue Lake

The trail immediately crosses the creek outlet. To cross, you either wade through the cold snow runoff or hop along strategically placed boulders. From here it was relatively flat for the next quarter mile. However, this stretch along huge slabs of granite can make it easy to lose the trail if you’re not careful.

Soon thereafter, the trail forks towards either Donkey Lake or Dingleberry Lake. Having already explored the other part of the Lake Sabrina Basin, I decided to continue on to Donkey Lake for my lunch break.

Donkey Lake
Donkey Lake

Donkey Lake was extremely windy, but the Lake was beautiful. It varried in color between a deep blue and a dark green, depending on which angle the sun hit.

Donkey Lake
Donkey Lake

With an earlier start I would have continued on to Baboon Lakes, but after a short break for food it was about time to turn around. This way I could get more pictures of the fall colors around Lake Sabrina as the sun set.

Lake Sabrina
Lake Sabrina

This hike into the Lake Sabrina Basin has less incline over shorter distance. That makes it an excellent option for those with less altitude acclimation or lower fitness levels. The area is home to many alpine lakes worth visiting and is easily accessible from the town of Bishop.