For my 25th birthday, I took a road trip through the Eastern Sierra. Renown for its mountain views, Convict Lake ranked high on my to-visit list. Located just south of Mammoth, this was the perfect stop on my way down to Bishop.
Convict Lake is just south of the town of Mammoth Lakes. Named for a group of convicts that escaped prison in Carson City, this lake bustles with visitors due to its accessibility. There’s a resort that’s open year-round for visitors looking for a getaway. The campground is open spring through fall.
Hiking Convict Lake gives you an easy and relatively flat 3-miler around the lake. The trail begins at either the Convict Lake trailhead or the resort. It doesn’t matter which.
As you start the lake loop, the most prominent peak behind the lake is Mount Morrison. The trail is well-graded and easy to follow. You have to try really hard to get lost. Just follow the edge of Convict Lake.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure, take the trail up into Convict Canyon to Mildred Lake and onward to Lake Dorothy. The trail follows Convict Creek for most of the way before disappearing into a pile of scree and talus.
In late March of 2015, a very low snow year, any visible trail ended just past the washed out Convict Creek bridge and then disappeared under a foot or two of snow. We boulder hopped across the creek several times to avoid sliding down snowy slopes. I also managed to fall in the creek. This is an off-season hike where you should bring your microspikes.
We ended up deciding that it was less fun than we expected and opted to head back to the car to continue onto Bishop instead. Convict Lake is a beautiful place to stop. In the winter, it is incredibly barren and stark. The mountains, imposing. I’m looking forward to coming back in the fall when the leaves change colors.
The loop trail is totally doable as an easy day hike or road trip leg stretching break. A hike into the canyon is a bit more strenuous for someone looking for more miles and elevation, or a short backpacking trip off 395.