Pretty little Camp Lake is only a little more than an hour's hike from the Crabtree Trailhead south of Pinecrest. Because camping is prohibited along the shoreline most backpackers continue on another mile and a quarter to larger Bear Lake, leaving Camp Lake to the anglers.
Camp Lake's 7,600-foot elevation makes it a good choice for an early summer trip soon after the snow melts. Hungry trout are feeding all day long, making enjoyable targets for fly fishermen. Shallows, points, and coves offer a variety of places to test your luck for the resident rainbows.
I just received my new barbless flies from Big Y Fly Company, so I was anxious to put them to the test. So much better than trying to crimp the barbs myself. The Adams, Blue Wing Olive, and Royal Wulff all produced strikes. I did toss in a few lures with my spin rod, but after a few less than encouraging casts I went right back to my fly rod.
The Crabtree Trailhead is 10 miles off Highway 108 on Crabtree Road. Crabtree Road cuts off the highway about 3 miles west of Pinecrest Lake. Most of the road is paved and street vehicles can make the trip easily. Along the way the road passes through Aspen Pack Station. A spur off Crabtree Road leads to the Gianelli Cabin Trailhead, another popular jumping off point into the wilderness.
Ample parking is found at the trailhead both for regular vehicles and those towing trailers. Overnight camping is allowed at the trailhead for anyone planning to head off into the wilderness the next day. There is no fee. There are picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms.
The 2½ mile hike to Camp Lake begins with two short climbs, gaining about 400 feet in the first mile and a quarter. After that the trail eases up and continues over slightly undulating terrain. Two trails split off from the Camp Lake trail. All intersections are marked. The first side trail leads to Chewing Gum Lake and the second to Pine Valley.
Along the way you will pass a shallow pond and then soon afterwards arrive at Camp Lake. A side trail, a short distance past Camp Lake, leads off to an un-named lake 2 miles away and eventually to Piute Lake, 5 miles from Camp Lake.
Backpacking camping at Camp Lake means selecting a site that is not between the trail and the lake. Shoreline restoration efforts have obviously paid off because there is little sign of erosion or trampling of foliage. The sites on the other side of the trail are exposed and not especially inviting. The better choice is to hike the extra mile to Bear Lake where there are many good sites (and more fishing).
Camping is allowed for one night at the trailhead. No fee. Otherwise, consider camping around Pinecrest Lake where there are numerous campgrounds and plenty of support facilities such as a store, tackle shop, and restaurant. Find complete information on our sister website, Sonora Pass Vacations, under Pinecrest Camping.
To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.
You can pick up fishing supplies locally at the following places:
For an extended stay in the Emigrant Wilderness, consider having yourself packed into a base camp by a local packer. Aspen Meadow Pack Station is located right on Crabtree Road only a few miles from the trailhead. You can arrange to have them pack your gear into a recommended base camp while you make the trek on foot or you can make the journey on horseback along with the packer.