Hike Name: Parker Lake Trail
Name of area/general location: Inyo National Forest – Ansel Adams Wilderness
Land Acknowledgement: This trail is located in the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Western Mono/Monache Numu (Northern Paiute) people. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca
AllTrails Hike Link (if applicable): https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/parker-lake-trail
Trail rating and why (easy, moderate, hard): The trail rating is easy, bordering on moderate (as described below).
Trail mileage (different options if available): 3.6 miles, roundtrip
For more information: Inyo National Forest (760) 873-2400
Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail: This trail is a relatively easy and short in-and-out hike. Your destination is Parker Lake, which is tucked in a small canyon overshadowed by the 12,000-foot peaks of the Sierra Crest. The trail stays on the south side of Parker Creek on the way to Parker Lake. While the elevation change is rather minimal (625 feet), it occurs primarily in the first half mile, so you may feel a bit out of breath as you initially trudge up the hill from the trailhead. However, the remainder of the trail is relatively flat.
It is easy to follow the trail to the lake. When you see a trail and small wooden sign on your left that says “Silver Lake” continue hiking on the trail (unless you want to take a hike to Silver Lake which is a little more than 4 miles away, as the crow flies). Once you arrive at Parker Lake, take note of where the trail meets the lake. As you enjoy exploring around the lake, it is easy to forget where the trail meets the lake. There is not any sign that marks the trail and the trail is not always readily discernible at that location. As you hike back to your vehicle and get close to the trailhead, you will be treated to spectacular views of Mono Lake.
This trail is often heavily trafficked, but if you arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon on a weekday, you may be able to avoid encountering other hikers. The trail is accessible year round (unless Parker Lake Road is impassible due to snow), but the best times of year to hike this trail are late spring/early summer (for wildflower viewing) and fall (for fall colors viewing).
Dogs are allowed on this trail so long as they are leashed. Most of the trail is in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. However, a Wilderness Permit is not required for day hikes on this trail. Groups are limited to 15 people (including day use).
CalWild and its allies advocated for National Wild and Scenic River eligibility for Parker Creek in the 2015-2019 Inyo Forest Plan revision process. The Forest Service had originally found only the 4.5-mile segment of the creek from its source in the Ansel Adams Wilderness (Parker Lake) to the wilderness boundary to be eligible for protection due to its outstanding scenery and recreation values. In response to our advocacy, the Forest Service determined that another 1.9 miles of Parker Creek downstream of the wilderness boundary is also eligible.
How To Get There: The trailhead is located near the northern junction of Highway 158 (June Lake Loop) and Highway 395. Turn off of Highway 395 onto Highway 158 for slightly less than one mile. Veer right onto Parker Lake Road (dirt road) at the sign for Parker Lake Road. Follow the dirt road for about two miles where it dead-ends at a small dirt parking lot and the trailhead. Please watch for sage grouse when you see the “sage grouse crossing” sign on the road. There is a portable toilet at the trailhead, but no trash receptacles, so please take all of your trash with you when you leave.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.