East Lake, Kings Canyon

Notes by piero scaruffi | Other California destinations | California hikes
Driving directions to Roads End: See this page The trailhead is at the end of the paved road, near the ranger's house. There is water at the trailhead.
Park at Roads End, at the first parking lot, marked by the sign "Information". The trailhead is right in front of the tiny ranger station (at an altitude of about 1600m). Follow signs for the Bubbs Creek trail. After 3kms (about 20 minutes) of very nice and flat trail in a meadow, you reach the first fork (Paradise Valley). Bear right (don't go to Paradise Valley) and walk over a series of four bridges. You are on the Bubbs Creek trail going east. Steep switchbacks take you in 3 kms (1 hour 10') to the junction with the Sphinx trail. Ignore it and continue straight east along the Bubbs Creek trail. The trail is now much less steep as it coasts the northern bank of the creek.

After 17 kms (if you believe the Harrison map) or 19 kms (if you believe the sign at the junction), you reach Junction Meadow, where the East Creek flows into the Bubbs Creek. Shortly after this meadow, you have to wade the creek, which can be treacherous in early summer. If the water is really high, the safest way to cross is to walk back about 800 meters to the large meadow and cross there: instead of crossing one deep roaring creek you will be crossing a dozen small shallow creeks; once on the other side, you will then have to walk 800 meters left along a use trail (mostly obliterated as of 2016) until you hit the official trail to East Lake. The other way to cross the Bubbs Creek is to walk upstream about 300 meters, where the Bubbs Creek splits in 3 or 4 branches. These are very easy to cross. Once on the other side of all of these branches, coast the East Lake creek upstream until you see the bridge. You rejoin the official trail at the bridge.

If you were able to wade the creek at the official crossing, the trail is a steep climb for 5 kms to East Lake. The trail begins on the left side of the East Lake creek but then a bridge takes you to the other side.

As you are heading up to East Lake, you have an impressive view of Mt Bago behind you. West Vidette is to your left (east). When you reach East Lake, you have a clear view of the East Ridge of Mt Brewer. The second creek on the other side of the lake is Ouzel creek. It looks like a giant stairway to the jagged top of Brewer. If you continue up south from East Lake, the trail continues 2kms to Reflection Lake, but this section is mostly obliterated.

2005 time:

  • Roads End (1534m) to fork for Paradise Valley 3.5km 45'
  • to beginning of the switchbacks 53'
  • to Sphinx Creek junction (1914m): 6.5 kms, 1h 45'
  • to two downhill switchbacks 2h 20'
  • to Charlotte Creek (2200m): 3h 15'
  • to two big boulders: 3h 30'
  • to first bear locker by the river: 4h 15'
  • to gate: 4h30'
  • to Junction Meadow (2490m): 4h 45'
  • wading the creek 5h
  • to the bridge 5h 30'
  • to East Lake (2886m) 21.5kms 7h

On the way back: 1hr to East Creek junction, 2h 30' to Charlotte Creek, 4hr to Sphinx Creek junction, 5h 30' to Roads End.

There is plenty of water along the way, so you don't need to carry much.

There are bear lockers at every junction and every major camping area.

Lots of mosquitoes.