Burt Canyon Backpacking


Click for larger map and trail profile.

It’s official, Hoover Wilderness is my favorite wilderness hands down. The sky-scrapping peaks, the eastern Sierra foliage, the lack of people – amazing. The plan was to hike up Burt Canyon then head to Anna Lake for a night, descend back into the canyon then cross-country up and over the saddle to Molybdenite Canyon and pick up the trail, find a place to camp, and then hike out in the morning. We ended up being ambitious and hiked all the way out on Saturday, I recommend sticking with the original plan.

The first day we parked at the Burt Canyon trailhead near Obsidian Campground, since that’s where we’d be looping back to. We hiked up Burt Canyon which had great views from the start, hiking around the base of Mt. Emma then once we got to the Piute drainage we could see the end of the canyon to Flatiron Butte and snow-covered Hanna Mountain. Along the way we stopped to fish in Little Walker River and caught (and released) a few brook trout. Then we started up the canyon wall at the sign for Anna Lake where the trail was rather elusive, but perseverance was rewarded with this high-elevation lake. The day’s total was 8.7 miles starting at 7,673 feet, climbing to 10,594 feet.

At Anna Lake finding a tent spot was a bit tricky, bivy sites were abundant though. We did find a nice spot among the trees with a view of the lake. The shelter was nice as I think I was more wind-burned than sunburned. The next morning we took our time getting on the trail. Wildlife 4-8 tried to catch a golden trout – they weren’t interested in the fishing lure though – and I loosened up with some lake-side yoga.


1. Hiking up Burt Canyon. 2. The one river crossing we had to take our boots off for. 3. Anna Lake 4. Almost to the saddle. 5. Hiking down Molybdenite Canyon.

On the way down from Anna Lake we decided to go cross-country since we had so much trouble keeping track of the trail the day before. Once we got to the bottom of the canyon we found a place to rock-hop across Little Walker River and started up the other side. We were aiming for the obvious saddle just to the north of a rock outcrop, while being sure to stay above the drainage. The ascent was no steeper than the previous day’s – stop and enjoy the view when you need to catch your breath. Once over the saddle we could look down Molybdenite Canyon to Mt Patterson, which is the view the whole way out.

Once up and over the saddle we headed down the canyon’s west wall, we found a suitable creek crossing and headed up the east wall in search of the trail – don’t do that. Once the trail appears it is close to the creek, which also has biting brook trout. After consulting the GPS we decided to descend to the creek following it out and an obvious trail randomly appeared out the grass. I’m not sure what kind of wild grass is growing in this canyon, but it grows fast! In quite a few places the grass would take over the trail and we wandered along until it reappeared. Look for wooden posts that guide the way in these sections. There are a few options for camping the second night, when you first get over the saddle or multiple places along the creek; we opted to hike all the way out though to get an early start on the drive home. That day ended up being 11.1 miles with a high point of 10,640 feet. As I mentioned earlier, I’d recommend camping the extra night.

Due to high elevation, it was unusual to get into this area so early in the season – mid-June – and that’s probably alright as I would not recommend it for season opener; nearly 20 miles with two ascents over 10,500 feet in two days was a bit much. Maybe it’s living at sea-level now, but I was having a hard time on the Anna Lake ascent, with some serious doubts about making it over the saddle the next day. However, going to bed at 7:00 pm and drinking my weight in water did wonders; I’m glad we completed the loop – the views were breath taking and wildflowers blanketed the ground.

For more information and a wilderness permit contact Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Bridgeport Ranger District: 760-932-7070. Since we were coming from the west side of the Sierras we were able to pick up our permit at Stanislaus National Forest’s Summit Ranger District, since Bridgeport was not on our route to the trailhead.

Be on the lookout for pika!

9 responses to “Burt Canyon Backpacking

  1. Thanks for posting this awesome hike! I would love to try this with my pup in a few weeks. He is an active dog and a seasoned hiker– but I have never taken him to elevation (we live in the Bay Area) — any suggestions for making sure your pup is safe at high altitudes like this?

    • Hi Dana, Aspen and I currently live at sea level. She’s in good shape in general since she loves to run, which I’m sure helps. When we go up to the mountains we acclimate in the same manner – get up to higher altitudes at least the night before the hike starts, lots of water, and don’t get too crazy the first day. I would say treat your adventure pup as you would a person when it comes to acclimating, the problem is they can’t tell you if they’re feeling the elevation…just watch for unusual behavior.

  2. Hello. Hoover is my favorite wilderness also, mostly for its amazing colors. I haven’t yet done the northern accesses such as Burt Canyon, but I will.
    You might like to check out my many other Hoover hikes on my website.

  3. Critical! Park at the bottom of the hill, where the sign says Burt Canyon Parking. DO NOT PARK at the top by the gate! My truck got towed-fire lane! With the terrible fire season the main owner is enforcing. Not fun finding a ride to Bridgeport!

    • Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that. I’m not sure of your exact situation, but it’s a good rule in general never to block an access gate.

      I hope you had a good trip, besides the unexpected hitch.

      • I suggest changing the text of your blog post if you can, and removing this line: “If you’re just doing an out and back, drive to the gate and parking area at the private property boundary and shave off a couple miles of dirt road.” NO.

        You are not supposed to park near the gate. There is a pullout, and people do park there, but a sign at the bottom of the road explicitly says you should not, and the property owners will do things like let the air out of your tires if you do.

        I guess the reason is that the property owners are worried about access being blocked to fire personnel by hikers’ cars. It would be good if there was a sign at the pullout saying this, but apparently there is not.

      • Thank you for the clarification, I removed the sentence you suggested. I haven’t been up there since our trip in 2011, I’ve been meaning to visit again and will be sure to park at the designated trailhead!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s