Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
680.00 ft (207.26 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.40 mi (5.47 km)
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The Virginia Lakes trailhead has a parking area where hikers can head up into the scenic backcountry of the Sierra Nevada, with the trail cresting the nearby mountains and forking into the rugged interior. However, this hike takes a relatively shorter route yielding the most bang for your buck - 4 alpine lakes all within a 3.4 mile round trip hike with around 700 feet of total elevation gain.

The trail begins at the end of the generally quiet Virigina Lakes Road, an off-the-beaten-path area between Mono Lake and Bridgeport that has a couple small resorts and campgrounds. With numerous lakes in the area, several reachable by vehicle, and others by a short hike, these trails also make a popular destination for anglers.

Beginning at a parking area beside Big Valley Lake, the trail skirts the north side of the lake, alternating between crossing through generally level forested areas and climbing the mountainous walls of the valley. Above Big Valley Lake is Blue Lake, which has tall stone perches high above its western shore, providing beautiful panoramic views of the canyon below and surrounding mountains. Beyond Blue Lake is the steepest climbing stretch, leading to an abandoned cabin and Cooney Lake. From here, the surrounding peaks of Black Mountain and Dunderberg Peak rise dramatically from rockslide fringes.

The final lake area are Frog Lakes, where the trail cuts through the center of the crescent shaped pools, and rocks offer hikers the chance to sit with their legs hanging over the water.

It's possible to continue further. A round trip hike to Summit Pass would be about 5 miles, and there are other lakes and trails beyond.

While this is generally a little more quiet than many hiking and camping destinations nearer to Lee Vining and Yosemite's eastern entrance gate, Virginia Lakes has a tendency to get crowded and parking and trails can get very busy on weekends during the peak season.

The trailhead has a vault toilet, benches and trash.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful views.

Cons

Area can remain beneath snow late into the spring season.

Trailhead Elevation

9,770.00 ft (2,977.90 m)

Highest point

10,310.00 ft (3,142.49 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Waterfalls
Fishing
Family friendly
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

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