Horton Lakes 

A great weekend get away from the crowds, with great fishing, quiet space, exploring and climbing.

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Author: rickschneck
Date: 1 May 2008 4:29:28 PM
Activity: Backpacking
State: California (CA)
Distance: Total: 14.11 mi
Active: 0 mi
  (Change units)
Difficulty: 8 / 10
USGS Topo Map: Mount Tom
Tags: California, Chalfant Valley, Eastern Sierra, Los Angeles
Rating:   2 rating(s) Rate it

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 10,090 feet and west of Bishop is a great spot to backpack and fish. Horton Lake is perched in a basin between Basin Mountain and Mount Tom. This small alpine lake is away from the weekend crowds. This is due in part to the dirt road to get to the trailhead and to the tough climb up to the lake. I suggest arrival in Bishop on Friday afternoon, pick up your wilderness permit, eat and drive the rest of the way to the trailhead in the early evening. Hike to the small meadow, spend Friday night and tackle the rest of the trail rested on Saturday. The Trailhead is reached by heading west on hwy 168 from Bishop. At the marked turn off for Buttermilk Road, exit and follow it for about 7.5 miles west. The last ¾ miles are on a less used dirt road that takes you to a locked gate and the trailhead. The trail starts at an elevation of 7,867 feet and climbs at a fairly steep pace to Horton Lake at 10,090 feet with a distance of 4.5 or so miles. The total backpacking trip generally takes about 4 or so hours to get to the lake. About 1.5 miles from the gate on the trail we enter a delightful meadow with the cabin for the Sony Boy Prospect tungsten mine. Here next to Horton Creek is one of the best spots for a Friday nights stay. After a good nights rest, you are ready to tackle the last 2/3rds of the trail up to the lake. Just a bit from the cabin you enter the large meadow follow the road/trail as it ascends up the northern side of the valley. Climbing up the slope is dry and can get hot if you leave late on Saturday. Expect no shade till you crest the climb at the lake. Take a well earned rest when you arrive at the cabins for the Hanging Valley Mine at the lake. One cabin is left open for hikers use in bad weather. The final Hike to the Campsite. Head south from the mine cabins, down the slope to the outlet stream. Locate and cross over the log bridge. Then head up a gentle slope in the direction of the edge of the lake. Follow the lakes edge on a trail west about ¼ mile to some large boulders at the waters edge. Just up the slope is a large and frequently used campsite. Fishing Head back to the lake and large boulders and set up your rod. Use red worms, 3 feet below a bobber. Cast north/west as far as you can. Fishing in the afternoons and mornings are best. The Brook and Rainbow Trout are all hungry. I have used lures, red worms, fly's and they all work well. Red worms seem to work best. These fish spawn naturally in the inlet stream, and no fish have been planted in in Horton Lake in over 30 years. The Brook and Rainbow Trout are all hungry. These fish spawn naturally in the inlet stream, and no fish have been planted in Horton Lake in over 30 years. The inlet stream has poor fishing because they feel you walking up to the edge and hide. Upper Horton Lake has a population of Natural Golden Trout, but the fishing is poor except when the ice first melts. Other things to do while your up here. Visit Upper Horton Lake Follow the sometimes faint trail from the Inlet of Horton Lake 1.4 miles west. As you come to a meadow scramble up the rock and boulder filled chute through the pass to Upper Horton Lake at 10,909 feet. Climb to Hanging Valley Mine The mine is located at 11,716 feet, it originated during World War II, to supply tungsten for the war effort. In the 1960’s the movie actor Slim Pickens purchased the claim and used his famous friends to work on and improve the mine and roads in order to maintain the rights to the claim. Of course they got away from Hollywood and were able to fish at the same time. From the mine cabins, head north following the old mine road 1.3 miles uphill. The road has fallen on disrepair and will require care over a few rough spots. As you climb just try and imagine a dump truck full of ore negotiating this road several times a day. The truck could not turn at switchbacks, but had to back up or down at each switchback. Climb Mount Tom 13,500 feet high and up a slope from the mine. Climb Basin Mountain 13,000 feet high steep uphill climb from camp.

TO TRAILHEAD: From Bishop head west on HWY 168 to Buttermilk Road. Follow buttermilk road to the trailhead.

Position Format: Datum:

Points of Interest


Location: 37.319344, -118.662415


Location: 37.335236, -118.515701


Location: 37.318707, -118.662384


Location: 37.331757, -118.555161


Location: 37.317570, -118.661972


Location: 37.327862, -118.582542


Location: 37.316956, -118.662041


Location: 37.316544, -118.662125


Location: 37.316532, -118.663330


Location: 37.316395, -118.664246


Location: 37.316242, -118.664742

Buttermilk Road

Location: 37.342613, -118.478912


Location: 37.319328, -118.662201

Follow Buttermilk Road from here

Location: 37.309052, -118.608742

Hanging Valley

Location: 37.330662, -118.676430

Locked Gate

Location: 37.311481, -118.623100
Park along the side of the road, leave room for exiting cars.

Parking for cars

Location: 37.311008, -118.618500
It all adds to the walk so drive up as far as you can. Good place to wash up after the trip.

Sonny Boy Prospect Cabin

Location: 37.322071, -118.630798
We have often hiked up in the dark to here and camped on Friday night. It gets you out of the hot trail and cuts the trip by 1/3. The small meadow avoids the strong winds at night that blow often in the large meadow. Horton Creek has clear water and scarry fish.

The best campsite at the lake

Location: 37.315842, -118.664398
Great spot about 100 feet south and 50 feet higher than the water. Great firepit, sandy soil for tents, shade and less bugs than other spots around the lake. You can fish from several large rocks at the edge of the lake, But don't wast your time fishing from the scree rockfall into the lake. The water is deepest here and cast northwest and out as far as you can. Use red worms 2 to 3 feet below a bobber.

Horton lake Backpacking Trip

Location: 37.345211, -118.479164
This shows the general location of the Horton Creek Camp for Friday Night and Horton Lake Camp for Saturday.

The way up

Location: 37.310463, -118.622169


Location: 37.311142, -118.624245
The locked gate is the trailhead. Follow the old mining road as a trail all the way to Horton Lake.


Location: 37.312950, -118.626823
This and the next few switchbacks are just a way of making the climb better. Note the trees to the left, they often have a small bit of water by them.

Near The Cabin

Location: 37.323116, -118.630798
Best campsite for the first nights next to the cabin for the sonny boy prospect.

Horton Creek Camp

Location: 37.324966, -118.630981
This is where you can hike on Friday evening. The old cabin has a overhead cover for cooking under. The small meadow is shielded from the sometimes harsh winds in the large meadow above.

Sonny Boy Prospect Cabin

Location: 37.324020, -118.630844

View of Buttermilk Country

Location: 37.321804, -118.628632
From a spot cross country you can climb a boulder and look back at Buttermilk Country and Bishop.

Just Above camp

Location: 37.322029, -118.631744

Looking up

Location: 37.321941, -118.635094
This view of the road and valley you will climb up. The road follows the north side up to the high point of the trip and the lake.

Half way up

Location: 37.322617, -118.653343
This is on the way up, the lake is above the trees in the center. You will rest at the top of switchbacks and catch your breath.

Loocking back

Location: 37.322662, -118.646614

The road up

Location: 37.321625, -118.638840
This is on the way up, the lake is above the trees in the center. You will rest at the top of switchbacks and catch your breath.

Getting closer

Location: 37.320225, -118.656731

Lower Horton Lake

Location: 37.318504, -118.659126
A few feet deep

Trail Crest

Location: 37.320473, -118.661819
The climb is over

Hanging Valley Mine Cabins

Location: 37.318642, -118.662880
The cabin to the rear is locked and belongs to the Mine owners. The closer cabin is left open for people cought in bad weather.

Camp as seen from below the cabins

Location: 37.317604, -118.664864
The scree slope into the lake has poor fishing.

Horton Lake

Location: 37.317616, -118.668762

The shallows by the outlet

Location: 37.314182, -118.658600

Ore Chute

Location: 37.320057, -118.664063

Log Bridge

Location: 37.317650, -118.660797


Location: 37.311832, -118.663116
One of our larger groups, set up camp here.

Fishing Spot

Location: 37.315208, -118.665817

Horton Lake from Trail Crest

Location: 37.322769, -118.671021
From Hanging Valley

Hanging Valley

Location: 37.328190, -118.673553
Mine road and approch to Mount Tom and a classic hanging valley.

From Hanging Valley Mine

Location: 37.325569, -118.677071

Upper Horton Lake Outlet

Location: 37.308311, -118.679962
Scramble up this chute keeping to the right hand side for handholds and access the upper Horton Lake at 11,000 feet. Fishing for the Native Golden Trout is extreamly hard and often only sucessfull as the ice breaks up on the lake in late May.

Upper Horton Lake

Location: 37.304970, -118.680962
High up at 11,000 feet this lake must be reached cross country up the stream from Horton Lake at 10,000 feet. A lite trail follows the creek and climbs to a small wet spot, then climb up the chute.


Buttermilk Road to the trailhead

Distance: 8.55 mi
Follow the dirt road as it assends across grazing land. There are two cattle guards to cross about 1/3 of the way to the trailhead. After these the road climbs and gets slower as it heads up to the turnoff to the trailhead. After leaving Buttermilk Road the road is rougher and slower with some ruts and rocks, just proceed slow and pick your way onward. The road will support a passenger car if your carfull.
Distance Name Location Distance to next
0.00 mi Buttermilk Road 37.342613, -118.478912 Then go 2.09 mi
2.09 mi 1 37.335236, -118.515701 Then go 2.18 mi
4.27 mi 2 37.331757, -118.555161 Then go 1.53 mi
5.80 mi 3 37.327862, -118.582542 Then go 1.94 mi
7.74 mi Turn off Buttermilk Road here 37.309052, -118.608742 Then go 0.55 mi
8.30 mi Parking for cars 37.311008, -118.618500 Then go 0.26 mi
8.55 mi Locked Gate 37.311481, -118.623100

The trail to Horton Lake Camp

Distance: 3.62 mi
This locked gate is the entrence to the wilderness area.
Distance Name Location Distance to next
0.00 mi Road 37.311909, -118.623917 Then go 0.25 mi
0.25 mi Road1 37.314682, -118.626762 Then go 0.11 mi
0.36 mi Road2 37.313438, -118.628136 Then go 0.09 mi
0.46 mi Road3 37.314770, -118.628479 Then go 0.06 mi
0.51 mi Road4 37.314205, -118.629257 Then go 0.07 mi
0.58 mi Road5 37.315063, -118.629944 Then go 0.26 mi
0.84 mi 8694ft 37.318810, -118.630196 Then go 0.11 mi
0.95 mi Road6 37.320217, -118.629456 Then go 0.12 mi
1.07 mi Road7 37.321587, -118.630798 Then go 0.04 mi
1.11 mi Road8 37.321285, -118.631401 Then go 0.06 mi
1.17 mi Lower Meadow camp at Cabin 37.322071, -118.630798 Then go 0.07 mi
1.24 mi Road9 37.321342, -118.631683 Then go 0.08 mi
1.32 mi Road10 37.322445, -118.632027 Then go 0.06 mi
1.38 mi Road11 37.321678, -118.632545 Then go 0.09 mi
1.47 mi Road12 37.322018, -118.634148 Then go 0.09 mi
1.57 mi Road13 37.321411, -118.635658 Then go 0.23 mi
1.80 mi Road14 37.321163, -118.639839 Then go 0.41 mi
2.21 mi First switch back 37.321945, -118.647278 Then go 0.03 mi
2.24 mi Road16 37.322445, -118.647278 Then go 0.08 mi
2.32 mi Road17 37.321930, -118.648567 Then go 0.19 mi
2.52 mi Road18 37.321678, -118.652046 Then go 0.05 mi
2.57 mi Second series switch backs 37.322361, -118.652458 Then go 0.37 mi
2.94 mi Lower Horton Lake (Pond) 37.319958, -118.658516 Then go 0.05 mi
2.99 mi Road21 37.320560, -118.658882 Then go 0.07 mi
3.06 mi Road22 37.320805, -118.660172 Then go 0.08 mi
3.14 mi Trail Crest 37.320126, -118.661362 Then go 0.06 mi
3.20 mi Road24 37.319965, -118.662483 Then go 0.04 mi
3.25 mi 001 37.319344, -118.662415 Then go 0.04 mi
3.29 mi 002 37.318707, -118.662384 Then go 0.04 mi
3.33 mi Stream crossing 37.318161, -118.662163 Then go 0.04 mi
3.37 mi 003 37.317570, -118.661972 Then go 0.04 mi
3.41 mi 004 37.316956, -118.662041 Then go 0.03 mi
3.44 mi 005 37.316544, -118.662125 Then go 0.07 mi
3.51 mi 006 37.316532, -118.663330 Then go 0.05 mi
3.56 mi 007 37.316395, -118.664246 Then go 0.03 mi
3.59 mi 008 37.316242, -118.664742 Then go 0.03 mi
3.62 mi The best campsite at the lake 37.315842, -118.664398

Trail up to Hanging Valley

Distance: 1.93 mi
Distance Name Location Distance to next
0.00 mi wpt 1 37.319729, -118.663857 Then go 0.15 mi
0.15 mi wpt 2 37.319908, -118.666565 Then go 0.14 mi
0.29 mi wpt 3 37.320766, -118.664169 Then go 0.20 mi
0.50 mi wpt 4 37.321037, -118.667831 Then go 0.09 mi
0.58 mi wpt 5 37.321716, -118.666473 Then go 0.09 mi
0.67 mi wpt 6 37.321716, -118.668106 Then go 0.04 mi
0.72 mi wpt 7 37.322212, -118.667648 Then go 0.08 mi
0.80 mi wpt 8 37.321941, -118.669098 Then go 0.11 mi
0.91 mi wpt 9 37.323116, -118.667740 Then go 0.06 mi
0.97 mi wpt 10 37.322983, -118.668777 Then go 0.05 mi
1.01 mi wpt 11 37.323479, -118.668236 Then go 0.05 mi
1.07 mi wpt 12 37.323341, -118.669189 Then go 0.06 mi
1.12 mi wpt 13 37.324066, -118.668777 Then go 0.04 mi
1.16 mi wpt 14 37.324020, -118.669502 Then go 0.04 mi
1.20 mi wpt 15 37.324562, -118.669144 Then go 0.06 mi
1.26 mi wpt 16 37.324337, -118.670135 Then go 0.09 mi
1.35 mi wpt 17 37.323883, -118.671761 Then go 0.06 mi
1.41 mi wpt 18 37.323524, -118.672714 Then go 0.07 mi
1.48 mi wpt 19 37.323254, -118.673889 Then go 0.06 mi
1.54 mi wpt 20 37.323387, -118.674927 Then go 0.18 mi
1.72 mi wpt 21 37.326008, -118.675240 Then go 0.21 mi
1.93 mi Hanging Valley Mine 37.329079, -118.674744


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