Virginia Lakes and other nearby lakes are very popular with fishermen. The Summit Pass
Trail is a popular day run for people staying at the Virginia Lake Resort and campgrounds. Some just go to the top of the pass where there is a great viewpoint. Many extend the run by going on to Summit Lake, which makes the round trip about 9.3 miles. If you have two cars and can park the second at the Green Creek trailhead, the run between Virginia Lakes and Green Creek is one of the most beautiful 1-3 day runs in the Sierra. The Summit Lake Trail is also the entrance for great backpacking trips down the Virginia Canyon Trail
to Hetch Hetchy, to Twin Lakes or to many other possible destinations.
Note: This pass is sometimes called "Burro Pass", but I believe that is a mistake. On the USGS Topo maps, Burro Pass is at the top of Matterhorn Canyon, west of Matterhorn Peak.
Because of the campgrounds, fishermen, and day hikers, there are numerous trail branches by the Virginia Lakes. No signs mark the correct path. In some cases the trails rejoin, so which path you take makes little difference. In other cases, the paths lead around the lakes or to lakes not on the main path. Finding the way up is not too difficult, but you may end up making some small detours or having to backtrack.
The Summit Pass
Trail starts from directly behind the trailhead sign. It climbs up through desert vegetation and then contours over to Blue Lake. Alternatively, from the west side of the parking lot, you could drop down to Big Valley Lake, go around its northeast shore and take a path up to Blue Lake. Either way, after about 0.6 miles, you pass an old log miner's hut. Above Cooney Lake, at 1.4 miles, there is an unsigned fork next to Virginia Creek. The correct path is to cross the creek here and continue to the largest of the Frog Lakes. This choice is not obvious, especially if there is a snow patch on the other side of the creek. On this side, a more prominent trail heads up to the northern two Frog Lakes and possibly on the Moot Lake.
After about 1.8 miles, the Summit Pass
Trail becomes steeper and climbs 700 feet in elevation in a little over a mile to Summit Pass
at about 11,100 feet. From the pass, it is well worth running about 100 yards northeast to a point that overlooks the canyons and surrounding mountains to the north and west.
From the pass, the trail makes a fairly steep 1000 foot drop over 1.6 miles trail to the junction with the Summit Lake and Green Creek Trails. On the upper part, the trail switchbacks down a very steep slope, which could be treacherous when covered with snow unless you are properly equipped. From the junction, Summit Lake is only about 0.35 miles away and requires only another 150 feet of climbing. In the other direction, the barren Hoover Lakes are about 1/2 miles away and East Lake is a little over 2 miles away.