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5 Reasons to Hike Smith Lake

October 04, 2017

3.75 miles for the full loop, beginner to moderate
Approximately 2.5 miles to the lake and back, which is a great beginner hike 

There are so many good reasons to hike Smith Lake! The photos below are from today’s hike, but it’s equally beautiful in the spring and full summer. Here are my top five reasons for loving this hike.
  1. Because of its full sun exposure at the start of the hike and its relatively low elevation (lake elevation is 6100’) this hike is one of the first to be accessible in the spring and one of the last to remain accessible once the snow starts to fall. The trailhead is also one of the lowest, making it a shorter drive to start the hike.
  2. The exposed rocky ridge on the northern rim (accessed via what was called the Jamison Connector trail, which is supposed to be renamed by the Forest Service to Smith Lake trail) offer views for miles and makes you feel like you’re on top of the world without a strenuous hike (highest elevation is 6300’).
  3. It’s a great loop hike, which is my favorite kind, enjoyable in either direction. Counter-clockwise, you get your climb in at the beginning and finish in the cool shade of the south side. Clockwise, you get the magic of the forest, crossing the creek on a log and the cool shade at the beginning and then end with the fabulous vistas from the northern rim followed by a long downhill.
  4. I’m not sure why the color of Smith Lake is so unusual, but it has a blue-green color that is different from all the other lakes in the area. Some days (or some times of day, I can’t figure out which) the color is nearly emerald from the ridge overlooking the lake. I just love the color of this lake!
  5. You can get a good workout if you go at the uphills with gusto but it can also be a leisurely hike when you’re in the mood to simply commune with nature. When time is short and I want to bust out some quick exercise, I blast up the face, then take the switchbacks to the rim full steam. But sometimes I just want to drink in all the views and the hike is more of a meander. I love the flexibility of the hike!
Note: The trail on the back (west) end of the lake is not maintained. A few of us locals go out periodically with clippers to keep the Manzanita back, but the trail itself is fairly steep with loose rock and not in the same good shape as other trails in Lakes Basin. Also, despite our efforts this year, the south side is massively overgrown due to the plentiful water and warm summer. Hopefully we’ll get back up there before the snow falls to clear some of the brush back.

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