Early Spring in the Eastern Sierras: Green Creek Backpack

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Pre-Season SolitudeGreen Meadows and Early WildflowersClose Encounters with MarmotsModerate Hike to Base CampPlenty of Room For Exploration

In the Sierras, you have to know that the East side is the quiet side. The Hoover Wilderness seems to harbor the passionate ghost of John Muir himself. Here, experience the solitude and escape from civilization on an overnight trip among the quaking aspens and shallow snowdrifts. All of the majesty of Yosemite, without the need for permits and neighbors.

The drive up Green Creek Road to trailhead is a worthy trip itself. From the town of Bridgeport, where you can stock up on any last minute gear, drive about 4 miles South on the 395 and make a right onto FSR #142 Green Creek Rd. In no time, you’ll find yourself 8,000 feet into the mountains. Enjoy the views along the curves of the steep dirt road and make sure to thank your trusty steed for climbing the first few thousand feet for you. About 11 miles up, you’ll see Green Creek Campground, which has parking and the trailhead.

This is an easy trek into the wilderness; you don’t need to head out on foot until mid afternoon. You’ll climb only about 5 miles and 1000 feet up to camp at Green Lake, the trail winding between welcoming stands of Quaking Aspen that open into sharp and austere views of the granite Sierras. The meadows are green this time of year, and yellow owlsclaws flowers bloom under the bright sun. There are great campsites in the woods near Green Lake…and most will be vacant this time of year. There is lots of wood from storm-fallen trees to collect for your fire. It’ll be chilly, so leave time to get it going!

Wake early to enjoy the stillness of the lake. In the early snowmelt, there are cascading rivulets that drop from the rock faces into the clear cold water. Over your morning coffee, sit and enjoy their mesmerizing force, while basking in the welcome rising sun. Curious marmots will probably stop by to check you out, soliciting an impromptu photo shoot.

After a peaceful morning, take your pack filled with snacks on to larger and bluer East Lake. Hike on to small and icy Gilman Lake. If snow allows, you can go still higher to the two Hoover Lakes. For the finale, visit the high and aptly named Summit Lake. The trail isn’t always obvious in the snow, but with your topo map, you can carve your way up without too much trouble. Bring extra socks; you might find your feet wet with snowmelt, even wearing water resistant boots. Don’t be discouraged if the snow is too deep to reach the higher lakes. Enjoy the peacefulness that the “off-season” brings.

The Green Creek trail does lead to Yosemite National Park's backcountry. If you plan it out with permitting, you can put in at the Green Creek Campground and hike all the way into the Yosemite Valley. There you can cap off the long trip with a celebratory beer among the day trippers in the heart of all the craziness. That is, if you want to face the crowds after your time out alone.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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