Hiking by Henry
Henry Ferguson has been exploring the area since the 1970s, when he and his family built their vacation cabin. They dreamed of retiring here and were able to make it happen in 2005. He is committed to providing useful information for visitors to enjoy the area.
\The hike to Duck Lake is a little over two miles round trip. It is not a difficult hike. You do have some elevation gain and the last part of the trail before you come to the meadow can be slippery. Of the thousand of people who visit Lake Alpine very few take the time to hike to Duck Lake. A visit to the lake is well worth your time and effort. The lake is small but the scenery around it is beautiful. In the spring you will see a lot of wild flowers blooming in the meadow on the west side of the lake. There are three log buildings near the lake that add to its beauty. The meadow stays green all summer. This is a natural lake so it’s shoreline recedes during the summer months. There is a large aspen tree grove on the north side of the lake. We like to hike to the lake in the fall to enjoy the fall foliage. You may also be able to observe a family of river otters that have taken up residence at the lake the last couple of years. The trailhead for Duck Lake is located at the southeast end of Lake Alpine.
Woodchuck Basin/Wheeler Ridge
I call this trail the Wheeler Ridge trail. The forest service calls it the Woodchuck Basin Trailhead. This hike takes you to the top of a ridge, which is the divide between the Mokelumne and Stanislaus River watersheds. You also get a view of Wheeler Lake. The lake is on the north side of the ridge. So I call it Wheeler Ridge. It is about a 1 ½ to 2-mile hike from the parking area at Woodchuck Basin to the top of the ridge. Woodchuck Basin is located one mile east of Lake Alpine on highway 4. This hike is all up hill. The first ½ mile down the jeep road is level but after you reach the trial head marker the next 1-mile is a steep uphill climb. Not dangerous but you will work up a sweat. The trail is well marked but there could be snow lingering on the first part of the trail until June. Once you break out of the forest you will be treated to wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada’s all the way to Yosemite. There are alpine wild flowers blooming almost all summer along the trail. Once you reach the top of this part of the trail, (You know your at the top when you start to go down hill) climb to the top of the ridge. It is on your right. Take a bite to eat and something to drink relax and enjoy the view. You can see the mountains around Lake Tahoe to the north and Yosemite to the south. The trail continues on for about another three miles to Wheeler Lake. It is all down hill and remember it is a steep climb back uphill. It is not unusual for snow to cover the trail down to Wheeler Lake until late June or early July. Be careful! If the trail is covered in snow, end your hike by enjoying the views from the top of the ridge.
Bull Run Lake from Stanislaus Meadows
The hike we did to Bull Run Lake starts at Stanislaus Meadows. The parking area for Stanislaus Meadows is about 3 miles east of the lake on highway 4. You will see the turn off on your right as an open meadow. You can park near the road or drive about 1 mile farther on a rough dirt road. I would not recommend driving farther unless you have four wheel drive and a high ground clearance.
The Forest service classifies this hike as easy. It is about a 7 mile round trip hike. The lake is very pretty and in the early summer or late spring the mountains around the lake will have snow on them. My guess is the elevation gain is around 1000 to 1,500 feet. The trail is well marked. Many parts of the trail are rocky and up hill. I guess it would be easy if you are in good physical shape. In the late spring the meadow is beautiful it is green and covered with wild flowers. The pictures were taken on an early August 2007 hike. It had been a dry year so the flowers and meadow were already drying out.