“Enjoy easy hiking around the rocky eastern shore. Many coves and inlets provide great camping and fishing.
— Lee Watts
Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
Wilderness permits are required, but they are easily obtained at any Stanislaus Forest ranger station. Campfires are not allowed above 9000 feet, but Buck Lakes sits below that.
The trail is easy, but either end is a long way from the nearest road. It is about 14 miles from three trailheads: Gianelli, Pine Valley, and Crabtree, and it is about 17 miles from Kennedy Meadows either via Upper Relief Valley or via Lunch Meadows and the Emigrant Lake Trail
. I met two large groups of campers who got there in a single day with horses, mules, and a guide, which were rented from the stables near Pine Valley or Crabtree Meadows (about $250 per person roundtrip).
The Buck Lakes Trail starts from the junction of the Crabtree and Emigrant Lake trails on the western shore of Upper Buck Lake. It crosses the stream, runs down the eastern side of Lower Buck Lake, and then drops slightly to connect with the Bell Meadow and Letora Lake trails. In several places along the eastern shore, the trail splits into multiple paths, but all go in more or less the same direction, so route finding is not a problem. There is an equally good trail on the eastern shore of upper Buck Lake, but there was no obvious path on the northern side that crossed the creek to reach the Emigrant Lake Trail
. However, I had no difficulty either finding my way or crossing the creek.
The lower lake is deeper and has polished granite on both sides. The upper lake is grassy on the west and northern sides, but it has good rocky points and campsites on the eastern side.
From the eastern shore of Upper Buck Lake, it is less than 3 miles to the beautiful western end of Emigrant Lake via the Emigrant Lake Trail