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[Yosemite]

Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby jdabs » Tue May 26, 2015 5:01 pm

I'm wondering if anyone has any conditions info on camping at Chain Lakes or getting there from the Quartz Mountain trailhead this season. Heading out there for 2 nights with some cross country dayhiking to Breeze Lake and possibly into Ansel Adams (possibly to Lillian Lake or Chittenden). Hopefully some good fishing at Upper Chain. Figured being further south is a good bet this early, but any info would be appreciated.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby balzaccom » Tue May 26, 2015 10:04 pm

We hiked into that area from the Glacier Point road back in early April, and there was NO SNOW and the creeks were very manageable. The last few storms may have left some snow above about 9,000 feet, but I doubt that you'll have much trouble with high water. And the snow won't last, because it's not deep enough. sadly.

Hope you have a great trip.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby Grzldvt » Tue May 26, 2015 10:42 pm

jdabs wrote:I'm wondering if anyone has any conditions info on camping at Chain Lakes or getting there from the Quartz Mountain trailhead this season. Heading out there for 2 nights with some cross country dayhiking to Breeze Lake and possibly into Ansel Adams (possibly to Lillian Lake or Chittenden). Hopefully some good fishing at Upper Chain. Figured being further south is a good bet this early, but any info would be appreciated.

Interested in your trip report, as we are going into that area the following week.
Steve
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby jdabs » Wed May 27, 2015 4:19 pm

Thanks for the info balzaccom. Grzldvt, I'll be sure to get a trip report up quickly when I get back!

I should have asked this at the beginning of the post, but any intel on good camping spots at Upper Chain? We'll be looking for something a fair bit off the water to get away from the bugs. For some reason the mosquitos aren't very attracted to me, but one of my buddies always gets tore up! :lol:
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby balzaccom » Wed May 27, 2015 9:59 pm

Upper Chain Lake is in a bowl, and somewhat protected from wind. You might have better luck up on the ridge west of Middle Chain, if your goal is to avoid bugs...
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby jdabs » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:13 am

Avoiding bugs is definitely high on the agenda. Thanks for the tip!!
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7 -- TRIP REPORT

Postby jdabs » Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:09 pm

Just back from our 2-nighter out at chain lakes. I'll post some photos later, but wanted to get the trip report up for Grzldvt and anyone else planning to head out that way. Bugs were mostly not bad except for a few marshy areas along trails. Overall, despite the forecast of 50% chance of thunderstorms each day, we had a great trip with only a few hours of treachery... but I'll start at the beginning.

Day 1:

Friday late morning, picked up permits from Oakhurst Forest Service office. Great people there (especially Jaime) and very easy process. They have bear canister's for rent there for $3/day. Looked like they had at least 12 or so available when we were there. 2 people in our group were arriving a little later and and would enter the trail separately, so Jaime suggested making them a copy of our permit that she would give to them when they passed through Oakhurst so they would have it with them on the trail.

The drive from Oakhurst to the Quartz Mountain trailhead was uneventful (about an hour in SUV). The forest-service office gave us a hand-drawn map (that I had also found on this forum). The Beashore Road route is apparently the better way to go even though it is a few miles longer. We were told the alternate route is pretty gnarly. Beashore Road is paved, but the roads closer to the trail are dirt/rock. No problems whatsoever with higher-clearance SUV, but our later-arriving regular car was slow going on the nonpaved sections (about a half hour longer).

The trailhead has some bear lockers, but no restrooms. Trail starts with about .5 miles mostly downhill to the Yosemite border. Then another 4-5 miles to the Chain Lakes depending on which lake you are going to. On our early-afternoon hike in we had grey skies and some patches of small hail, but nothing too bad. We took balzaccom's advice and set out for the western side of Middle Chain and were not disappointed. There are some great areas for camping on that side of the lake, some near lake level and some up on the ridge. We went with the lower area to be closer to water and to avoid being completely exposed to wind and weather. Bugs were not bad at all. Firewood is virtually non-existent around the camp area though, so we had to hike quite a bit to find dry downed trees and branches. We also had to be careful with tent placement... many could-be good tent spots appeared to be in water run-off areas and since the forecast called for potential storms we had to be choosy. Night one ended with our usual bags of wine and whiskey, smores and stargazing around the campfire.

Day 2:

Morning was sunny. Set out on day hike to Upper Chain Lake and beyond. Shorts and t-shirt for me, but most wore long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Beautiful lake, but didn't see any obvious good campsites (but did not really look hard either). From there we traveled crosscountry staying at approximately the same elevation the whole way as we wrapped around toward Breeze Lake, but by mid afternoon the skies were greying so we went down a moderately precarious rockface to a lake that is about half a mile west of Breeze Lake. We came upon an area with some large rocks near the eastern edge of the lake with partial coverage and a firering built against one of the large rocks. After lunch and a morale-boosting campfire, we split up because while others were feeling like heading back to camp, I was determined to at least get up to Fernandez Pass to gaze into Ansel Adams Wilderness. We found the trail on the opposite side of the lake and started heading up to Fernandez Pass. With about .25 miles to go before arriving at the pass, considerable hail started and there was thunder in the distance. The clouds appeared to be moving away from us though, so we continued on. Then, at about .10 miles before the pass, we saw bright lightning directly overhead and immediate loud thunder. We looked at each other and immediately turned and started heading down quickly. By the time we got down to the sign that reads "Fernandez Pass .7 miles," approximately 4 inches of hail had piled up on the ground!! We continued briskly for the next 2 hours following the 6 miles of trails back to Chain Lakes, most of the time in light hail. Many of the trails were now streaming with water and the water crossings were a bit more challenging, but all still very doable, and all extemely beautiful. When we arrived back at camp, the other half of our dayhike group had just arrived back, and the 2 who had stayed back to fish had a fire going and a shelter set up next to the fire so we were all able to warm up and dry our clothes off. Our choosiness in picking tent sites had paid off as well because even though streams were now running through our camp area, no tents were affected (except for being covered in inches of hail-turned-to-mushy ice). The 2 that had stayed back near camp reported great trout fishing (they caught 13 fish!) at a watershed area located between Middle and Upper Chain lakes. They also reported having found a cave-like shelter built along the north side of Middle Chain Lake where they had hunkered down for a few hours during the storm. After returning to camp it rained a bit, but then cleared up and we had another starry night. Saw two other tents in the vicinity of Middle Chain.

Day 3:

Got up around 7am to frost on equipment that had been left out overnight. Sunny morning, good for drying off our gear and clothes. One trout caught at Middle Chain Lake, making breakfast even tastier. Packed up and left camp around 11:30 am for ~6 mile hike back to car. Trails wet, but most of hail was melted. Ran into two young guys at Chiquito Pass who were setting off on a 5-night hike and had forgotten their map, so I sadly parted ways with my old Yosemite map with which I'd had about 10 years of hiking/backpacking experiences.... but they promised to treat it well! At car around 2pm, stopped at forest service office to drop bear cans in return bin, and then off to burgers and beer at South Gate Brewing Company in Oakhurst.

Overall great trip. As mentioned, bugs mostly weren't bad except for a few spots. No snow on trails and only patches of snow seen in higher elevations surrounding the trails and during off-trail travel. FIshing good between Middle and Upper Chain lakes. Daytime temps were great in the low to mid 60s and nightime cooler down into the 30s. Supposed to warm up this week though. Most of the group would have been happier without the hail storm, but it sure made for a great adventure! Photos to come.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby Grzldvt » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:33 pm

Excellent report and great detail. I truly appreciate you posting so quick, so we can plan our trip. Fernandez Pass is definitely on our list. Having been back in that area a few time Beasore Road is the ticked. A few years a go I bounced an 84 BMW 633 down the road to the trail head. Was pretty dicey back then.
Again Thanks, I am really looking forward to the trip. I am doing a Half marathon on Beasore in October, so this will be good to get back into that area.
Steve
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby janky » Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:28 pm

Hi there. My boys (8 and 10), my wife and I did a backpacking trip to Chain Lakes last year and it was AMAZING. Excellent views, excellent fishing and even though we went on July 4th weekend the crowds were minimal. Only the first night it was busy. I'm wondering if there any experts out there that might recommend a similar hike to this one? The distance was just right for my boys to carry their packs (although they will be carrying more weight next summer) and the fact that a harder to get (i.e. not a 24 hour) permit was required kept a lot of the crowds away. Great fishing is a must (Upper Chain Lake delivered last year)! I'd love to find a hike where we could fish a few lakes and even summit a nearby peak - just like Chain Lakes which had 3 lakes and Gale Peak. Doesn't have to be in Yosemite nor the Sierra National Forest either. I'll take anything within a 6 hour drive of the South Bay of California. Thanks!
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby balzaccom » Mon Oct 10, 2016 10:10 pm

Check out our website, We have a ton of hikes there. You might look at Desolation Wilderness, or Emigrant Wilderness, as a good place to start.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby janky » Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:40 pm

Thanks, already been going through that site, very helpful. Also searched this forum. I think I've narrowed down a choice (Ten Lakes) and a backup in the Sierra National Forest.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby Phil » Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:36 pm

If you're looking for something similar at about the same time of year, try Sunrise Lakes. You've got a summit nearby, Cloud's Rest, and fishing that early in the season at Upper Sunrise Lake is insane...some of the best we've ever had...not fishing, catching almost immediately with every cast. You're just nailing trout, and if anything under 12" comes up, you're kind of surprised. A climb up, but good campsites on the opposite shore. Mosquitoes and a few bears is all you need to worry about, but it's no big deal, and it's virtually the same everywhere at that time anyhow.

Ten Lakes is mediocre fishing. It's a great hike and a beautiful area, but the biggest rainbows we've ever caught up there, in any of the lakes, were only about 8".
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby janky » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:05 pm

Gonna research that, thank you! Ten Lakes I can't even submit my permit application for yet so nothing locked in yet...
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby Soonernation » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:24 am

I'd like to incorporate some fishing into my hike next year.

What do you use as bait with a standard rod and reel. I'm figuring fly fishing works but I'm not an experienced fly fisherman.
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Re: Chain Lakes - June 5-7

Postby janky » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:34 am

Honestly, you can use a 6 foot rod with a small reel and some spinners if you want to start off a little easier. Little Mepps or Rooster Tail spinners will be perfect for the trout in the sierras.
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