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Norris Lake Trail to Jackass Lakes



7.5 mile 12.1 kilometer out and back
79% Runnable


Ascent: 1,741' 531 m
Descent: -1,740' -531 m
High: 9,209' 2,807 m
Low: 7,498' 2,285 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 34% (19°)


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Trail shared by Lee Watts

Two beautiful lakes at 8600 and 9100 feet make good targets for early season runs.

Lee Watts

Features Commonly Backpacked · Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Wilderness Permits required. Each day there are 6 reserved permits and 4 walking permits for the Jackson/Norris trailheads. This will probably not be a problem because these trails are not very crowded. Reservation fee is $5.00 per person, but walk-in permits are free. They can be obtained at the Bass Lake Ranger station in North Fork or the High Sierra Ranger station in Prather.


Norris Lake is small and not very exciting. It does not have any fish and it does not have an inlet stream. Most people on the Norris Lake Trail will continue on the trail to Jackass Lakes. The Norris Lake Trail is an alternative to the Jackass Lakes Trail, which goes directly from Beasore Road to Lower Jackass Lake. It is a little longer, but a more moderate run. The trail can either be done as a day hike or you could camp at one of the Jackass Lakes.

Need to Know

To reach the Norris trailhead from Bass Lake, drive 28 miles up Beasore Road. The last 10 miles are mixed broken tar and gravel and dirt. At the Norris Trail sign, turn left for 1.5 miles. This is a rough dirt road, but passenger cars should be able to make it unless they have very low clearance. It is about a 90-minute drive from Bass Lake


From the Norris Trailhead, run an easy 0.4 miles to where the trail crosses Norris Creek and meets a connector trail coming from the Fernandez Trailhead. Turn left. After another 0.1 miles, there is a junction with a trail that climbs steeply up the ridge to meet the Lillian Lake Loop Trail. The Norris Lake Trail follows Norris Creek climbing a moderately steeply under a coniferous forest to reach Norris Lake after a total of 3.0 miles. In the early season, there is plenty of water in the creek and in other creeks that come down the ridge on the north side of the trail. However, later in the season, these may be entirely dry. The trail passes along the right side of the lake. If the lake is so full that it covers the trail, you'll have to work your way through the rocks.

After another 0.5 miles of climbing, the trail reaches a granite ridge about 80 feet above Lower Jackass Lake. From here, there are great panoramic views across the huge valley that contains the various forks of the San Joaquin River. On the far side you can see the Silver Divide, the Kaiser Wilderness and the southern part of the Ritter Range. There is good camping all along low granite ridge that runs on the east side of the lake. There is a big logjam at the outlet for the lake, which makes for an easy crossing. The trail is now merged with the Jackass Lakes Trail. It runs along the east shore of the lake and climbs about 80 feet up to a signed junction.

At the junction turn right (northwest). The trail climbs fairly steeply up the rocks to Middle Jackass Lake. This trail is not very well maintained, but there are numerous ducks (cairns) which make it fairly easy to follow. Middle Jackass Lake is not very exciting. The trail passes around the right side of the lake and continues climbing to the much more beautiful Upper Jackass Lake. I meet a family there with 3 children under the age of 10.

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6 Views Last Month
119 Since Aug 4, 2019



Outlet from Lower Jackass Lakes drops quickly. Balloon Dome is in the center. The ridge on the left is the Silver Divide. The one on the right is the Kaiser Wilderness. In between is the South Fork of the San Joaquin River.
Aug 6, 2019 near Yosemit…, CA
Upper Jackass Lake, looking towards Madera Peak
Aug 6, 2019 near Yosemit…, CA
Lower Jackass Lake
Aug 6, 2019 near Yosemit…, CA


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