Back to index Virginia Lakes Hike
Trip Date:  06/26/2018

: 7.0 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1500'

Group Size: 1
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Virginia Lakes Hike
See video of this hike  See video of hike  Download GPX GPX for this trip
Virginia Lakes Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 02.880, W 119 15.770     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates

Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   From Highway 395 drive to the top of Conway Summit, just a few miles north of Mono Lake and take the Virginia Lakes Road west for 6 miles until you reach the paved trailhead parking area.
Hazards of Note:   High elevation trailhead begins at almost 10,000 feet. Crowd Factor:   High.  From the beginning of the hike it will be crowded unless you can get there early enough to beat most of the crowds on the way in.
General Notes:
From the trailhead parking area head west toward the large wooden sign and the restrooms to find the start of the trail to the Virginia Lakes.  Stay right at some of the many junctions near the first lake, as most of these off-shoots just head down to the lake.   When you get to the Hoover Wilderness sign against stay to the right, and you will begin passing a series of lakes on your way deeper into the valley.    The trail climbs along the north side of the lake through a large section of shale, with two or three small water crossings along the way which drop a couple hundred feet to eventually wind up in the lake.  Reaching the second lake requires a water crossing over a number of rocks.  This will be Cooney Lake, another picturesque destination along the way.  The third lake, one of the Frog Lakes is quickly reached from this point, and is a reasonable turn-around point to make this a slightly more than 4 mile trek that would be considered moderate for the entire hike.
It is highly recommended to continue at least up to the ridgeline ahead, which is another mile and a long climb up a series of switchbacks which top out at over 11,100 feet in elevation.  The effort required to get to this point is well rewarded, with a spectacular view into Yosemite and Summit Lake almost 1500 feet below.  Continuing down another 1/2 mile will get you to a plateau area about 500 feet in elevation below the ridgeline, with a bonus view up the Green Creek canyon to the northeast and even a glimpse of the Hoover Lakes.  Summit Lake is a worthy destination for a longer dayhike of about 9 1/2 miles out and back, but you will have the long climb out of the valley to consider before partaking in this trek.

Even before the trailhead is Lower Virginia Lake, which has a full-fledged resort on the north side of the lake and on this Tuesday had at least 25 people fishing around the perimeter of the lake. Lower Virginia Lake
Trailhead information on the Virginia Lakes trail area and the lakes which are encountered along the first couple miles of trail.
Trailhead Info 
A fully blooming Wallflower encountered early on the trail as well as some Alpine Forget-Me-Not. Wallflower  Other flower
A weather-beaten signpost indicating where the entrance into the Hoover Wilderness is just about a quarter mile up the trail. Entering Hoover Wilderness 
Blue Lake, the first of three pristine lakes encountered along the trail once entering the Hoover Wilderness.   Blue Lake 
Looking back at Blue Lake after climbing along the tallus trail along the north side of the lake.  Further in the distance is the valley where the trail began about a mile back. Blue Lake
Reminant cabin from an old miner dwelling which is still in remarkably good shape after so many years.  People have even placed some old items from the settlement just inside of the cabin for safe-keeping.
Miner cabin Look inside
After another short climb Cooney Lake makes an appearance with a fairly dramatic backdrop of the rugged mountains in the area. Cooney Lake 
The third lake, one of the Frog Lakes offers some nice camping sites on the far side of the lake as well as a smaller lake beyond this one but out of sight of the trail for those looking for a little more isolation from the many visitors to the area. Frog Lake 
Past the last lake the area gets much more rugged and a series of switchbacks will quickly add to the elevation.
Beginning the uphill climb
Looking west the trail continues to climb steadily, crossing over the crest in the distance at an elevation of over 11,000 feet. View to the crest 
On the long climb there are wonderful views back of the lakes passed along the trail to this spot high above the valley. Looking back
It was a pleasant surprise to find that the pack trains through the area had cleared a path through the icy snow at this elevation and micro-spikes were not necessary to get past this point. Passing through
It is a long climb up to the crest of the mountain above the Virginia Lakes, but the views are incredibly worth the effort.  Summit Lake is far below in the basin, about 1500 feet below this crest in the trail. Amazing views
Heading a little ways down the other side gives even better views of what lies below.  Just past Summit Lake is the boundary into Yosemite National Park. Even better views
At this plateau (and turn-around spot) there is a bonus view into the Green Creek valley, where the Hoover Lakes can be found. Green Creek Valley
There was and abundance of wildflowers on this side of the ridge, including these Pestemon and Coville's Columbine. Wildflowers  Wildflowers 
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike