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Blue Canyon to Martha Lake Route

Difficult

Trail

11.9 mile 19.2 kilometer point to point
76% Runnable
Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 3,816' 1,163 m
Descent: -2,096' -639 m
High: 11,803' 3,597 m
Low: 9,291' 2,832 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 33% (18°)

Dogs

Unknown
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Trail shared by Lee Watts

Off-trail route over Blue Canyon and Reinstein Passes traversing near timberline across one of remotest areas in Sierra.

Lee Watts

Features Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views

Permits are required and there are daily quotas. However, I was always able to get a walk-in permit at the Sierra National Forest ranger station in Prather.

Description

This rugged off-trail run connects Blue Canyon Trail and Goddard Canyon Trail. It traverses one of the most remote areas in the Sierras with many beautiful lakes and great views. It is difficult and requires good route-finding ability, but no rock climbing skills. The most difficult part is crossing Blue Canyon Pass. Although it is rated as Class 2, you need to descend a steep 30-40 yard chute on the north side. It often has snow fairly late in the season, which may require an ice-axe and crampons.

The lakes above the official end of the Blue Canyon Trail make the long run worthwhile. Just continue up on the right side of the creek until you see easy slopes headed up through the trees. Pass the first and second of the Blue Canyon lakes and then head back near the creek where it is easiest to climb to the 3rd and 4th lakes. I went around the south end of the 4th lake and then made the easy climb up to the plateau near 10,400 feet. Lake 10401, the most beautiful of the Blue Canyon Lakes, is well-worth a short detour.

From there, cut back northwest across the plateau, around the next two large lakes, and find the easiest way up the canyon to the northeast. From near the northernmost lake, work your way up to Blue Canyon Pass, just to the right of Finger Peak. I found this difficult but doable without much exposure.

As described above, the short chute on the north side of the pass is the most difficult part of the route. If the snow is not too deep, you may be OK in the afternoon when the snow is soft. If the snow is deep or not very soft, you'll need an ice-axe and crampons. As soon as you can, turn left and make an unpleasant traverse of the talus, staying fairly high to avoid the steep slopes lower down.

Finger Col on the ridge to the west is rated Class 2, but I did not find a safe way to climb the last part. About 0.2 miles before it, you come to a safe way down to the easy slopes headed northeast. At this point, the hard part is done. The indicated route to Martha Lake is a pleasant run, at or above timberline, with great views. Some of the best lakes are a few hundred feet below the route. They are easily reached, but you'll need to climb back up to continue to Martha Pass. The lake at 10,800 feet, about 1.5 miles north of the pass is well-worth a detour.

The descent to the two lakes north of the high spot marked 11493 is somewhat difficult but doable, if you scramble down the talus to the southwest of the small lake.

Reinstein Pass is just northeast of Reinstein Peak. There are great views looking down Goddard Canyon to the north and the Ragged Spur and Goddard Creek to the south. It is easiest to take the long way around the east side of Martha Lake. It takes time and effort to negotiate the large talus blocks on the west side.

Flora & Fauna

Remarkably I saw two deer about 2 miles south of Reinstein pass. I'm not sure how they get there.

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  4.0 from 1 vote

#10243

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Trail Rankings

#1,123

in California

#10,243

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730 Since May 7, 2017
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Photos

4th Lake at elevation 10,100. Blue Canyon is exciting only if you venture beyond the official end of the trail. This is not difficult.
Apr 17, 2017 near Big Pine, CA
A picture does not do justice to this narrow shelf running parallel to, and 500 ft. above, Goddard Creek. Two little waterfalls are barely visible. Flowers, green grass, little streams...I loved it.
May 10, 2017 near Big Pine, CA
This lake sits at 10,400 ft. about 1/4 mile below the trail. It is well worth a visit!
May 10, 2017 near Big Pine, CA
Blue Canyon Pass is the dip on the left. From there, make a high traverse toward Finger Peak and Finger Col on the right side. After reaching the basin below Finger Peak, the route becomes much easier.
May 10, 2017 near Big Pine, CA
This view looks over the upper Blue Canyon Basin from near Blue Canyon Pass.
May 10, 2017 near Big Pine, CA
These are the lakes northwest of Peak 11493. You can make a fairly steep descent among the talus to the smaller lake in the foreground from the trail.
May 10, 2017 near Big Pine, CA

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