Charlotte Lake is normally reached from Roads End via the Bubbs Creek trail
and then the John Muir Trail. The lake drains into the Charlotte Creek that
ends at Charlotte Camp on the Bubbs Creek trail. It is therefore possible to
hike between the Charlotte Camp and Charlotte Lake, and it looks like a major
short-cut on the map. Alas, it is not so easy. The route is fun from Charlotte
Lake downhill to Charlotte Camp (if you don't mind bushwhacking a bit).
It is not recommended uphill.
If you are going uphill, your route begins 50 meters before (west of) the first creek crossing of Charlotte Camp. You should be able to see a cairn in the forest that marks the "use trail". A series of cairns lead you along the left (west) side of the creek up a very steep slope. If you lose the cairns, resist the temptation to move near the creek: even if you survive the bushwhacking, you wouldn't survive the slippery cliffs. The recommended route, instead, climbs to the left of the creek, sometimes as far as 100 meters from the creek. This allows you to avoid most of the bushwhacking. The very steep section is not very long, but very steep indeed. That's how i wouldn't recommend it uphill.
You then enter a series of swampy meadows and pine forests that are relatively easy to cross (your feet will get wet). Follow the creek staying between 50 and 100 meters to its west. The creek makes a bend to the right (east) when it enters the last vast meadow. Here you should meet the fence that used to limit the grazing area. Look for the official gate. If you find it, you picked up the use trail again. If not, just follow the creek. At the end of the meadow it turns into the lake. To the left (north) side of the lake there is a well-maintained trail (you should see the bearbox) that coasts the whole lake and eventually connects with the John Muir Trail.
From Charlotte Lake to the Bubbs Creek trail took me more than 2 hours. It was relatively fast until the very steep section, where i had to scramble in different directions to find the best route. Eventually i hit the cairns that mark the use trail.
Distances (and 2009 times)
Pictures of this hike