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Tamarack Lakes Hike on a Gray Day

Updated: Mar 23

Following our snowy Haskell Peak fail, we drove to Bassett's general store to grab some well-earned sandwiches, enjoyed a quick lunch at the overlook for a clouded-in Sierra Buttes, and then continued in the Jeep a bit farther to Packer Lake. Here, we found the trailhead for Tamarack Lakes along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a hike our new friends Jeff and Steve recommended to us.

The skies were getting even darker and cloudier, but we headed up anyway. Thankful to have a snow-free trail, and with renewed energy after lunch, I was moving along swiftly. The trail was not steep, but it was a steady climb and you had to maneuver around small and medium-sized rocks on the trail pretty frequently, so you had to pay attention to your feet.

A short distance from the trailhead, someone posted this mile-marker sign, a message of encouragement to PCT thru-hikers. Made me smile.

This trail had several pretty, small water-crossings along the way to Lower Tamarack Lake.

As I was racing up and got to this particular water-crossing (not small), it quickly became obvious some technical skills would need to be employed. I found several sturdy fallen branches that would work nicely as walking sticks while navigating the crossing. And luckily, we found enough rocks to use as stepping stones, keeping our feet from getting wet.

We made it safely across with dry feet and continued the climb to the lower lake.

The trail got a bit rockier at this point, too, with a few very small snow runoff streams to cross. I loved the variety of color of some of the rocks.

The huge rock formations along the trail were also really unique, in both their geology and coloring.

And these twin giant boulders were begging for a photo op.

As I got closer to the lower lake, I first saw some of the overflow of the lake that had flooded some of the treed areas around the trail.

It was also neat to watch the low clouds blow across the "pond" surface in the breeze.

Shortly after, we reached the lower lake, which was decently clouded in.

It was quite windy around the lake, and the rest of the trail that would take us to the upper lake was a giant pile of snow still, so we turned around and rerouted via the Jeep road (on foot).

We double-backed on the trail and headed toward the intersection with the Jeep road. A few hundred feet in, there was basically a swampy river to cross. I was ready to turn around. My husband, however, didn't think we needed to. So we forged ahead.

With some finagling and fancy-footing, we made it across and continued along the trail, dodging mud pits here and there. A group of three parties was setting up camp near the upper lake. They chose a nice spot, but they were not out of the wind at all.

The upper lake was nice, but also mostly clouded in. I think on a clear day, you can see the Sierra Buttes in the background, but not today.

Our our way back down, we had to carefully cross the swampy outflow river again to get back to the trail. After that crossing, the only other dicey spot would be that first major creek crossing where we used the walking sticks as an aide. Then we'd be home free to the trailhead.


Then it started raining!

I can count on one hand the number of times we've gotten caught in the rain while hiking out here: 1) Kinney Lakes hike, 2) Picnic Rock hike (which actually had hail, too), 3) one of our hikes up to Sierra Buttes, 4) Bull Run Lake hike, where the sky in the distance got scary dark and we did encounter some rain drops in the last 1/4-mile of the hike, and now 5) Tamarack Lakes hike.

It began with some small, really random drops we felt on our faces. Then more drops came. Then it was fully raining. All of these people tent-camping! What a drag. Everyone we saw seemed prepared for it, but still. Camping in the rain is not very fun.

We made it back to the Jeep, a little soggy, but glad we made the trek up to both Tamarack Lakes. We had the trail to ourselves and being outdoors with dirt under your feet is always a good day.

Tamarack Lakes

Total Distance

4.58 mi

Total Time


Total Ascent

732 ft

Max Elevation

6,954 ft


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