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1 Chicken Spring Lake
Place Total Distance Elevation Difficulty Level Type
Streamside stop 3 9960 E O&B
Cottonwood Pass 8 11,200 S O&B
Chicken Spring Lake 9 11,270 S O&B
Best Time: Early July–late August
Topo: Cirque Peak 7.5’
Where to Stay: A variety of lodgings are available in Lone Pine.
Highlights: The drive to the trailhead is very scenic and airy. You’re in the high country from the minute you step out of the car. The well-graded trail passes through a wonderfully varied alpine landscape up to superb views at Cottonwood Pass. Chicken Spring Lake, tucked right under Cirque Peak, is starkly beautiful.
How to Get to the Trailhead: From the traffic light in Lone Pine, at the intersection of Highway 395 and Whitney Portal Road, turn west on Whitney Portal Road and follow it 3.5 miles to Horseshoe Meadow Road. Turn left (south) onto Horseshoe Meadow Rd. as it snakes up the mountainside to a fork at about 20 miles. Go ahead to the Horseshoe Meadow and Kern Plateau trailheads at the road’s end at a parking lot, 0.5 mile more, which has water and restrooms.
On the Trail: Pick up the sandy trail by a large information sign to the right of the restrooms and head west through an open forest of lodgepole and foxtail pines, soon entering Golden Trout Wilderness. The gradually rising trail stays in the forest edge as you skirt broad, dusty Horseshoe Meadow and bypass a use trail left to Trail and Mulkey passes. Stay on the main trail and near the west end of Horseshoe Meadow cross a couple of forks of Cottonwood Creek one after the other (they look like one crossing on the book’s map). Just beyond there’s a lovely, shady, streamside stop at 1.5 miles and 9960 feet, with lots of nice rocks to sit on. Sharp-eyed hikers may spot an old log cabin to the southlook but don’t disturb.
Continuing, cross the creek once more, pass a small, flowery meadow, and then begin a moderate, switchbacking climb toward Cottonwood Pass. Views soon open up over Horseshoe Meadow. Cross the creek again partway up, where there’s a fine display of flowers in season. Just below the pass, a signed but unmapped stock bypass route branches right; go left, staying on the main trail. Shortly reach Cottonwood Pass at a little less than 4 miles and 11,200 feet. The view westward, over Kern Plateau and Kern Canyon, toward one of the Sierra’s most beautiful subranges, the Great Western Divide, is sublime.
A few steps west of Cottonwood Pass, meet the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at a threeway junction. Turn right on the Pacific Crest Trail and follow it for almost 0.6 mile to the rocky outlet stream of Chicken Spring Lake. Turn right and follow the outlet, which is often dry by late season, upstream a short way to reach Chicken Spring Lake at 4.5 miles and 11,270 feet. This beautiful lake is a popular spot, so you’ll probably have company. Return the way you came.
Table of ContentsSummary of the Trips’ Best Features
Preface to the Third Edition
Get Ready to Hike!
How to Use This Book
Chapter 1: Lone Pine to Convict Lake
Chapter 2: Mammoth Lakes
Chapter 3: June Lake to Bridgeport
Chapter 4: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Chapter 5: Between the Parks
Chapter 6: The Valleys of Yosemite National Park
Chapter 7: State Route 120: The Yosemite High Country
Chapter 8: State Route 108: Sonora Pass Country
Chapter 9: State Route 4: Ebbetts Pass Country
Chapter 10: State Routes 88 and 89: Wildflower Country
Chapter 12: State Route 89 Around Lake Tahoe
Chapter 13: Interstate 80: Donner Summit Country
Appendix A: Top Picks
Appendix B: Hints for Staying in Lodgings
Appendix C: Backcountry Lodgings
Appendix D: Travel in the Sierra
Appendix E: How I Got the Data
Index of Accommodations
Index of Towns and Agencies
About the Author