By Michael Lanza
It seems a fool’s wager to guess how many mountain lakes exist in the High Sierra, the range that reaches heights over 14,000 feet and spans some 200 miles through eastern California from Lake Tahoe to south of Sequoia National Park, including Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks and several national forest wilderness areas. Some estimates place the number of named glacial lakes at around a thousand—but that omits the constellation of lakes and tarns identified by their elevation only or that remain completely anonymous. It’s a safe bet the total reaches into the thousands.
Backpack virtually anywhere in the High Sierra—which comprises one of the largest contiguous blocks of wilderness in the Lower 48—and you’re bound to pass by countless shimmering, watery gems and pitch a tent near some of the prettiest you’ve ever seen. This story shares images of many of the finest I’ve seen on numerous backpacking trips all over the High Sierra, in all of the parks, the major wilderness areas, and on the John Muir Trail over the past three-plus decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.
I’m a big fan of other American mountain ranges that are speckled with beautiful lakes, such as the Wind River Range, the Tetons, the Cascades (especially the North Cascades), and Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. See my stories “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites” and “Photo Gallery: 36 Gorgeous Backcountry Lakes.” Still, almost none compare with the High Sierra for sheer numbers of freshwater bodies or the splendor of the “Range of Light.”
The photo gallery below includes some well-known lakes and others that are remote and obscure; you may have never heard of some of them. All are only reached by hiking or riding a horse for miles into the wilderness. Click on the gallery to open it and use right and left arrow keys to scroll through it. Scroll past the gallery for links to stories about the High Sierra at The Big Outside.
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I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking trip in the High Sierra, including the John Muir Trail, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon national parks and the national forest wilderness areas. Want my help with yours? See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn more.
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