Sailor Lake Backpack & Climb of Mt. Haeckel

Lake Sabrina Parking, Bishop, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    13 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2500 Feet


This is one of my favorite areas of the Eastern Sierra - Sabrina Basin, just outside Bishop, CA. The scenery includes beautiful alpine lakes surrounded by rugged granite peaks and seasonal wildflowers and Sailor Lake is in the middle of it all. This is a great overnight trip!

The basic part of this adventure is a backpack to Sailor Lake. From there you can enjoy small dayhikes to the nearby lakes or waterfalls, go fishing, enjoy some photography or just lounge in camp and gaze at the beautiful scenery. Although Sailor Lake looks smaller than the nearby lakes it still makes an excellent camping area, as it is situated right in front of the one of the most beautiful Sierra peaks - Picture Peak. Your campsite won't suffer from a lack of views! Arguably, Hungry Packer lake may have better views of Picture Peak, but I prefer Sailor Lake.

This back pack is ~13 miles round-trip and 2500' of gain. If Sailor lake is too much in one day, either Blue Lake and/or Dingleberry Lake, which you'll pass along the way, would make fine pit stop for a night. Keep in mind Sailor Lake is at around 11,000 feet, so some acclimatization may not hurt. This trip would be rated intermediate.

I've been to this area a few times. Once to climb Haeckel as a backpack. Once to day-hike Mt Wallace. And, a third time for night sky photography. There is so much to do here and so much beauty to take in.

Best time of year would be late July, August or early September. Typically, the mosquitoes are gone and the thunderstorms have died down. May/June will work, but there would probably be significant snow. Late September and October are really nice because the crowds disappear, but tends to be quite a bit colder.

To get to the parking area and started on your adventure, head West on the 168 (W Line St) out of Bishop. Roughly 14-15 miles up the road make sure to continue on towards Sabrina Lake at a junction. Overnight hiker parking is set back about 1/2 mile from the actual trail head near the lake.

Optional Side Trip:
If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can also use Sailor Lake as a base camp to climb Mt Haeckel. This peak is 13,418' tall and the the easiest route from Sailor Lake is the Class 3 South Ridge. Ice/Axe and crampons may be needed early in the Summer. Go cross country from Sailor Lake to Moonlight Lake and on to Echo Lake. From there, contour into the bowl between Haeckel and Wallace and onto the South Ridge.

Add 6 miles round trip and another ~2700' of gain to the total stats for the trip. See RJ Secor, The High Sierra, Peaks, Passes and Trails for more information, if you desire. I would definitely recommend prior mountaineering experience before tackling Mt Haeckel. The difficulty for this side strip would be advanced.

Chow Time:
You're sure to be starved when you get back to the trail-head and, let's face it, you probably just burned a few thousand calories several days in a row, so any non-dehydrated food is going to be delicious at this point, right? Still, Bishop does have some of the finest Eastern Sierra cuisine offered along the 395. If you like Mexican like me, Taqueria Las Palmas and Amigos are both good choices. Jack's makes for a good breakfast or burger and fries for dinner. And, Pizza Factory always hits the spot too.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Ground Mat
  • Sleeping Bag, 20 deg if possible
  • Warm Clothes
  • Food/Cooking Items
  • Fishing Pole and/or Camera
  • Hiking Boots
  • 10 Essentials
  • Headlamp
  • Gaiters, Optional but can be nice early in summer
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Overall rating: 

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Great trip as described with peak bag day trip. Density of beauty in the Sailor Lake zone is chart topping.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Evan Thomas

Avid explorer of the Eastern Sierra and Mojave Desert, with the occasional road trip to more distant locales. Love to hike, climb, cycle, dirt bike and have recently gotten very much into photography, especially the night sky. Staying active and living a healthy lifestyle is basically what my wife and I are all about. Cheers, Evan.

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