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Blue Lake Backpacking Trip

If you’re backpacking around Blue Lake, there are a number of lakes you can visit in the area. Here’s the route we took on this trip:

  • Friday Afternoon: Hiked in from Sabrina Lake to camp at Blue Lake for the night.
  • Saturday: Continued on to Baboon Lakes and set up camp. Day hiked to Sunset Lake.
  • Sunday: Hiked all the way back out.

Going in late August proved to be a good choice—there were very few mosquitos, I never even bothered to put repellent on and didn’t get bit once!


We left Santa Barbara on a Friday morning at the end of August (8/24/18) and made our drive up. We grabbed our permit and some Taco Bell in Bishop, then drove out to the trailhead at Sabrina Lake. Despite being a backpacking trailhead (and appearing to have abundant parking!), there are signs all over Sabrina Lake Road saying no overnight parking, so we had to park about a half mile back up the road where 168 turns into Sabrina Lake Road.

Hike to Blue Lake

The trail starts off fairly gentle, overlooking beautiful Sabrina lake.

View of Sabrina Lake from the trail
Photo credit: Mike McKinniss

Before long, though, it becomes a non-stop uphill climb to gain 1,000 ft over a couple miles. It’s a beautifully maintained trail, though–look at this set of stone steps!

Stone steps on trail to Blue Lake
Photo credit: Ty Vernon

Blue Lake is a great prize at the end of all that climbing.

Shot of Blue Lake

Shot of Blue Lake

Shot of Blue Lake

Here’s the GPS data from our hike from the trailhead to Blue Lake. Note that it includes all of our stops and breaks.

GPS data from trailhead to Blue Lake

Hike to Baboon Lakes

From Blue Lake, you can choose to explore one of two valleys in the area. For this trip, we chose the eastern valley with Donkey Lake and Baboon Lakes.

There’s a well-worn trail from Blue Lake that goes to Baboon but doesn’t actually go by Donkey Lake. Donkey didn’t look particularly interesting, though, to be honest.

The trail we followed didn’t appear in my gps app, but did appear on the paper map we got from the ranger station. Here’s both.

GPS data and map showing trail to Baboon Lakes

We had trouble finding the trail towards the end; it’s frustrating, but that’s what makes it an adventure!

And, man, was it worth it!

Shot of Baboon Lake

We had the place to ourselves–there’s nothing quite like drinking in all this beauty and knowing that you’re the only souls for miles around to enjoy it.

Panorama of Baboon Lakes

Day Hike to Sunset Lake

Down at Baboon Lakes, looking farther up into the mountains, it appears as though the hike would be a moonscape of rocks and nothing else. In fact, there’s a gorgeous creek running from Sunset lake down to Baboon.

Grassy creek up to Sunset

And the view down towards Baboon Lakes was one of my favorites of the trip!

Looking down from Sunset

There’s no established trail, but if you follow the creek it’s not hard to pick your way up. It does help to have a GPS app to give you confidence, though :). (Note that the gps data here is for the round-trip).

GPS data for hike to Sunset and back

Sunset Lake itself is definitely more barren, but the water is a gorgeous, other-worldly blue.

Panorama of Sunset Lake

Fishing at Baboon Lakes

Half our crew hiked to sunset, while the other half stayed behind and did some fly fishing. They found an unbelievable spot at the base of the waterfall from Baboon Lakes. Looks like heaven to me.

Jon doing some fly fishing

Some freshly caught and cleaned trout

Hike out

The hike out was quick and easy. I thought that for sure we’d find the right trail down from Baboon this time, but we totally failed again :)

Hiking back down to Sabrina Lake

We stopped at The Burger Barn in Bishop; it’s a quirky place with a fun menu. I made the mistake of adding jalapenos to my burger, though, with cracked and dry lips from the altitude–a little more burning sensation than I was prepared for. A huge burger, basket of fries, and a coffee milkshake were a great re-entry into the civilized world :).

Stopped at the Burger Barn