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Gem Lake via Rush Creek Trail

 4 votes


3.3 Miles 5.3 Kilometers


1,823' 556 m


-30' -9 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (18°)

9,034' 2,754 m


7,241' 2,207 m




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Peng Shi


Features: Fall Colors — Lake — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Dogs: Leashed

Need to Know

This is a well maintained and popular trail, so come early before the parking lot completely fills up. The trail is rated easy to moderate if you are well acclimated to the altitude, and moderate to difficult if you are not well acclimated.

Late spring and early summer thaw brings a lot of flooding. Some sections of the trail itself turns into creeks. So check trail conditions before you go and be prepared for creek crossing.


The trail starts on the southwest corner of the parking area. For the first 0.35 miles, the trail is essentially flat, with Silver Lake Resort to your left. Soon, the trail begins a steady climb parallel to the June Lake road. In another mile, with a few small switchbacks, you'll arrive at a rocky area and get your first glimpse of the cascade waterfall of Rush Creek. This is a good place to look back and enjoy a panorama view of the June Lake area. To the far left is Parker Bench and the trailhead parking. Silver Lake and Silver Meadow is right below you. Oh! Ridge is right across the valley. Further right, you can see the June Mountain ski lifts. Finally, Carson Peak looms above the trail you are heading towards.

Continue on the trail. At around mile 1.85, you'll come to the first intersection with the incline railway track used for Dam maintenance. As far as I know, the railway is still used several times a year. Although it might be tempting to follow the track and climb straight up, the switchback trail is much easier on your legs, more scenic, and takes about the same amount of time.

Following the trail, you begin a series of steep switchbacks, each getting longer. Finally, at around mile 2.5, the grade eases, you'll reach the end of the switchbacks and the edge of Agnew Lake. At a trail junction, you have the option to turn left and head down to the first dam and Agnew Lake, or stay on the main trail and continue your climb. If you opt to go down to Agnew Lake, the two trails will eventually merge together again at the end of the railway station.

Look ahead and above, you can see the second dam and your destination. The climb continues, mostly moderate and occasionally steep. As you get closer to the dam, a few switchbacks break up the monotonous climb, giving you a chance to look back at the June Lakes area you came from.

Finally, at around the 4 mile mark, you reach a rock outcrop and a beautiful view of Gem Lake below. This is a good spot for a break. If you feel up to it, you can continue on the trail all the way to Waugh Lake. The trail follows the north shore with plenty of ups and downs. Turn around whenever you like and return on the same trail.


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Jul 24, 2017
Jun 15, 2017
Kanes Pantayatiwong
Nice view of Silver Lake most of the trail till we reached the view of the waterfall. There was snow near the top and one part of the trail, which ... 2.5mi

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 4 votes


  4.5 from 4 votes
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in California


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1,839 Since Aug 19, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult



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