Emigrant Wilderness Trifecta: Burst Rock, Powell and Chewing Gum Lakes
Ever since I swam across Pine Mountain Lake during the Groveland Triathlon, I decided it would be cool plan to see how many other lakes I could swim across this summer. Everyone loves bagging a peak, and so do I, but variety is the spice of hiking! Now if only I could figure out a good verb for “bagging” a lake…. Maybe I should bring back “Scooped”? Man, I totally just scooped these lakes…
This trip into the lower emigrant wilderness in early July was the first time I got to move my plan of scooping lakes into action. Luckily the small Powell and Chewing Gum Lakes are low in elevation – plus warm, sunny, and fairly easy to get to in a day hike. Remember to bring the sunscreen though, it is far too easy to get burnt while floating around all day.
Day Hike to Chewing Gum Lake, Lake Powell, and Burt Rock from Gianelli Cabin – Emigrant Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest
Trailhead: Start by heading up to Dodge Ridge Ski Area on Highway 108, and turn right towards the cross country ski trails/experimental forest (just before reaching the lift area). Follow the road to a T and turn left onto Crabtree Rd. Here follow the signs to Gianelli Cabin Trailhead. The road will turn into dirt and then fork left. It is a long slow haul in a passenger vehicle. Actually at one point there was a rather large tree in the road, but someone had cleared it just enough for a single car to get around. Thanks whoever had a chainsaw in their truck! map.
Distance: About five miles from trailhead to chewing gum lake, ~2.5 from trailhead to Powell Lake, and ~1.5 from trailhead to Burst Rock. My total loop hike was a 10.7 miles. There are rolling hills on this hike, but the overall elevation change is never too steep.
From the trailhead the hike switchbacks up towards Burst Rock, offering good views of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River as you crest over the ridge. A little under a mile and half into the hike you will reach sign designating the Emigrant Wilderness. If you want to say you stood on Burst Rock take a hard left to the north and follow the decomposed granite out to the edge of Burst rock. This would be an awesome place for photos if you and a friend picked further points on the ridge – but I was all alone so instead took some squinty selfies (of course).
From the ridge the trail descends down to the Powell Lake Basin – look for a use trail to the North side of the trail to descend further to the lake. To continue onto Chewing Gum Lakes follow the main trial again as it gains back the lost elevation to a ridge that overlooks the Lakes Basin, where Chewing Gum Lake is located. Chewing Gum Lake is at approximately the same elevation I started the hike at, located in a very green boggy meadow area. There were some mosquitoes on my trip, and it seems obvious that at a given time of year you would definitely be sucked dry down here.
But, more importantly – how are the lakes for swimming? Chewing Gum Lake is very small and very warm, with what seems to be a couple optimal places to manage to enter the water without sticking your feet in a muck pool of silt and gods knows what else. I enjoyed a lap around this deeper part of the lake. Powell Lake is bigger, with cliffs that I saw some adventurous kids jumping from. There is a cute rock peninsula in the middle of the lake that is available for entering lake, but there are quite a few creepy crawlys on the rocks. I really did enjoy Powell as a swimming lake though, not too hot & not to cold it was beautiful to just float around and enjoy the wilderness.
This area is popular with new backpackers and backpacking families with kids, but I made the 10 mile hike leisurely by taking my time and getting an early start. I would recommend to anyone who wants to explore the emigrant and go for a quick swim.