Eagle Lake, a popular weekend backpacker destination, is reached by one of Mineral King’s easier trails. Relatively easier, that is. A 2,200- foot gain at high altitude in 3.5 miles is a good workout to say the least.
The lake lies in cirque, a basin formed by glacial erosion. When the light is right, the lake mirrors some of its scenic surroundings: weathered foxtail pines and polished granite walls, their shaded cracks and crevices patched by long-lingering snow.
Eagle, like many a Sierra lake, was “improved” to render it more reservoir-like. The Mt. Whitney Power Company built a rock dam to better control waters flowing down to their hydroelectric plant located near Three Rivers.
The moderately steep path has three branches: to Eagle Lake; to Mosquito Lakes (see hike description); to White Chief Canyon.
En route to Eagle Lake, you’ll encounter two strange waterways. The path crosses Spring Creek, which emerges as if from nowhere. Geologists speculate that it’s of subterranean origin. If the sudden appearance of Spring Creek isn’t strange enough, Eagle Lake Trail hikers also witness the disappearance of Eagle Creek into a large sinkhole. The creek reappears down the hillside, leading to speculation that is channeled through a network of underground passageways in the marble rock below ground and emerges as…Spring Creek?
Experienced hikers, familiar with cross-country travel, can make a loop of this hike: climb a ridge from Eagle Lake then descend into Mosquito Lakes Basin. You’ll arrive at Mosquito Lake #4 and follow the lake chain north until you join the Mosquito Lakes Trail that returns you to Mineral King.
DIRECTIONS TO THE EAGLE LAKE TRAILHEAD
From Highway 198, about 3 miles northeast of the town of Three Rivers, turn right (east) on Mineral King Road. (If you drive up to the park’s Ash Mountain entrance station, you’ve gone a tad too far; double back.) The mostly paved road (it reverts to dirt in several places en route) leads about 24 miles to the Mineral King Ranger Station. Continue east on Mineral King Road another 1.3 miles and across a wooden bridge to the trailhead parking area.
Join the signed trail and soon view the restored “Honeymoon Cabin,” circa 1914. The path leads south along the East Fork of the Kaweah River and in 0.3 mile crosses the strange Spring Creek on a wooden footbridge. Look for Tufa Falls, a cascade so named for high levels of calcium carbonate in the waters.
One mile out, at a junction with the trail to Eagle Lake/Mosquito Lakes, turn right, tackling steep switchbacks that climb a half-mile over fir-clad mountainside. Observe Eagle Creek’s disappearing act into a sinkhole and continue across a meadow to the junction with Mosquito Lakes Trail, two miles out. (See Mosquito Lakes hike.)
Continue southwest toward Eagle Lake. Staying west of Eagle Creek, the trail switchbacks steeply, climbing white granite slopes and finally reaching the outlet of Eagle Lake.
Interested in more hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon? Check out my guide: HIKE Sequoia and Kings Canyon