Back to index Cole Creek Lakes Hike
Trip Date:  09/08/2017

: 14 Miles

Vertical Gain: 2500'

Group Size: 3
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Cole Creek Lakes Hike Route
Download GPX GPX for this trip
Cole Creek Lakes Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 38.105, W 120 07.609     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the south end of Silver Lake, and turn east onto Plasse Rd at a big sweeping bend in the highway.  Follow this road about a mile, and then turn right toward Plasse's Resort.  You will pass the resort on the right, and then follow the signs to the "Stockton Family Camp" all the way to the trailhead parking for Allen Camp at the listed coordinates.
Hazards of Note:   Be aware of very changeable weather in this area during any season.  Prepare for various temperatures and rain.  The first couple miles to Allen Camp present the biggest elevation gain for the entire trip.

Crowd Factor:   Negligible.  The Allen Camp Trail is lightly used and after you reach the top of Squaw Ridge the Munsen Meadow Trail is especially quiet.  The highest probability for other people will be a possible jeep or ATV group on the Pardoe 4WD trail which you cross on the ridgeline itself.
General Notes:
From the parking area head toward the sign which has a listing of some backcountry information as well as a rough map of the trails in the area and distances.  Head past that sign to the south and find the trailhead sign for the Allen Camp trail.  Follow this trail as it climbs a significant amount of elevation, about 500 feet in the first mile.  At the 1 1/2 mile spot along the trail there is a trail junction, with the path to Hidden Lake to the left and the continuation of the Allen Camp trail up a steep series of switchbacks ahead.  If you follow a faint use trail to the west and up for about 3/10 of a mile, you will be rewarded with a great overlook of Silver Lake with Thunder Mountain behind it and the Crystal Range mountains in the distance to the Northeast.  Continue past the signed intersection which points to Hidden Lake to the left, heading straight up the switchbacks until you reach the top of this first ridgeline.  
Follow the trail down into Allen Camp, where you will join with a 4WD road and head to the south past a dilapidated log building which appears to be ready to tumble down at any time.  Follow this road for about a mile as it winds around up to the top of Squaw Ridge, or if you spot a faint trail to the right, marked by a small pile of rocks (cairn) you can take this Allen Camp Trail continuation straight up to the same place at the top of the ridge.  
At this spot on the ridgeline is the historical location of Plasse's Trading Post, which he manned for a couple of years in the 1800s to help resupply the settlers coming into California.  Pick up the Munsen Meadows Trail on the south side of the ridge from here, and stay to the left where the Pardoe 4WD trail heads off to the right and follow this trail for 2 miles to the junction for Cole Creek Lakes.  Turn right at this junction and follow the trail 1/2 mile to the first of a string of Cole Creek Lakes and your destination.

Not sure what the cutout in this tree is for, along with another one on the left side which provides access into the center of the trunk. Odd tree
Looking up toward Porthole Gap from a meadow early on in the trip. Porthole Gap area
Views on the way up overlooking Silver Lake and Desolation Wilderness in the distance.   Overlook at Silver Lake
Near the top of the first ridge up to Allen Camp the trail has four or five long switchbacks which appear to have been created as an alternative to evidence of an older, highly eroded abandoned trail which just heads straight up the steep incline. Rocky trail
A view of the not so Hidden Lake, at least from this vantage high above it. Hidden Lake
This poor old building has been looking more and more likely to tumble every year, and this season a new fence has been erected around it along with a sign to keep out which has some challenged spelling on it. Dilapidated Allen Camp building Failed
Phil and Julia making their way up to the top of Squaw Ridge, right at the location of Plasse's Trading Post from the 1800s. Reaching Squaw Ridge
The signpost for Plasse's Trading Post has been pulled completely out of the ground, but at least it is still in good shape and informative regarding the history of the spot. Plasse Marker
The entrance into Mokelumne Wilderness at the start of the Munson Meadow Trail. Entering the Wilderness
Though it was late in the season there are many meadows along this trail which should be teeming with wildflowers in the peak summer months. Meadow along the trail
A late blooming Corn Lily plant we passed along the way. Corn Lily
First look at one of the Cole Creek Lakes.  A very peaceful spot and hardly any evidence of anyone visiting recently. Cole Creek Lake
Just to the north is a smaller lake, much shallower than the first. Smaller Lake
A perfect campsite we found just far enough away from the shore of the first lake.  If you want seclusion, this is the place. Primo Campsite
For a lightly-used area the Munson Meadow trail is in really good shape and is well marked for the most part, even over sections of open granite. Great trail
At the top of Squaw Ridge is another damaged sign which we placed back upright, but has been snapped off at the base. Another damaged sign
Heading out we wandered through some very mossy trees, which seemed to start about 12 feet up on all of the trees.  Probably from the level of snow this past season, which was high. Green forest
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike