Destination: Dinkey Lakes Loop
Mileage: 8.85 semi-loop
Trailhead: Dinkey Lakes/Willow Meadow off Hwy 168 – turn off at Tamarack Sno-Park
Elevation: 8,600 up to 9,400 feet
I was invited to facilitate a Leave No Trace Trainer Course for a Forest Service Wilderness Ranger Academy. We would backpack in Dinkey Lakes Wilderness – a wilderness area that was new to me. Leave No Trace (LNT), a great group of folks, and exploring a new area – count me in!
The first day we gathered at the trailhead to talk about our itinerary and get in the LNT mindset. We had two groups leaving from this trailhead so we decided to head south on the loop and the other group would go north to lessen our impact on nature and other backpackers by traveling in two smaller groups. That is when the mosquitos decided upon us…
The best defense was to keep moving so we hit the trail. Within the first quarter-mile there is a waterfall and impressive rock formations – off to a great start! On the northeast side of Mystery Lake we came across a marsh area and standing water on the trail. We had the LNT debate of staying on the trail versus dispersing and finding our way on dry ground. With a larger group we decided it was easier for our boots to dry than for a user-created trail to recover; so my boots that I had tried so hard to keep dry by rock hopping across creek crossings became so water-logged they could house a school of fish.
With soggy boots we completed the climb to Swede Lake and opted for a campsite on the western side of the lake up on a ridge, hoping that a breeze would help us escape the mass hordes of mosquitos, no such luck. We chose a rock slab as our kitchen area for two reasons, it was a durable surface and downwind from camp. We focused our group activities in a previously impacted site and then dispersed to find tent sites that were safe from hazard trees. When looking for a tent site don’t just look for a flat spot, remember to look up!!
The next day we got an early start and ascended to South Lake to find another granite-ridge view and the site of an impact monster’s camp. After cleaning up trash, discarded items, and removing nails from a tree we continued our hike. With a bit of navigation we followed Dinkey Creek toward First Dinkey Lake. The trail was hard to locate at times until we emerged on a distinctly well-traveled trail and headed west. Just before departing First Dinkey Lake we stopped at a nice site for a snack that was durable and off-trail. From here it was primarily downhill with a nice hike along Dinkey Creek. There were two sizable creek crossings as we neared the trailhead. Some folks rock-hopped, I decided we were close enough to my Chacos that I just walked through the creeks to cross.
The Dinkey Lakes Loop is a great option for beginning backpackers, larger groups, and a backpacking season inaugural trip. Plus there are lots of other nearby lakes to explore so you can adapt your trip to add length. Just remember to bring your bug spray…
Be Like Bigfoot,