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Convict Lake Loop
Convict Canyon, California

Convict Lake is one of the most picturesque lakes we have ever seen, the lake is surrounded by spectacular peaks of the Sierra Mountain Range, the two most prominent being Mount Morrison (12,275 feet) and Laurel Mountain (11,870 feet). Both peaks tower nearly 5,000 feet above the 140-foot deep lake and one of the best ways to experience the vastness of this wilderness is to hike around the shoreline of the lake on the beautiful 2-mile hiking trail. We happened upon this trail quite by accident, while we were driving from Mammoth Lakes on highway 395 we were awed by the magnificent mountains, and then when we saw a sign for the Convict Canyon turn, we jumped at the chance to venture back into the landscape. The drive back into the valley is truly spectacular, and the closer we got to the mountains the more we hoped there would be a trailhead at the end of the road, and indeed there was. We grabbed our bags and hit the trail, which first leads through the dry landscape of sagebrush, cactus, and Manzanita, before cresting a hill where you get your first view of the lake. This deep glacial lake, at roughly 7,500 feet, sparkles in the shadow of the towering mountains. Its waters are a deep teal color, and its shoreline is populated by willow, aspen, cottonwood, birch, and Jeffery Pines. We followed the trail along the west shore of Convict Lake, passing a sign marking the border of the John Muir Wilderness, until we reached the southern shoreline. It is along this shoreline that the crystal clear runoff from snowmelt enters the lake via an inlet; this inlet is crossed by using the well-constructed boardwalk. As we made our way along the boardwalk, it became quite obvious that 2006 had been a record snowfall year in the Sierras, as the boardwalk was under about a half a foot of water! This made for a brisk, yet refreshing fording of the inlet—a highlight of the hike. The remainder of the trail skirts the eastern shoreline, with little to no elevation gain along the entire hike. Perhaps it was because we had no prior knowledge of this area, or perhaps it was just thanks to the absolutely incredible scenery, that we can call this one of all time favorite trails—don’t miss it if you are in the Mammoth Lakes area!

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