Norris Lake is small and not very exciting. It does not have any fish and it does not have an inlet stream. Most people on the Norris Lake Trail
will continue on the trail to Jackass Lakes. The Norris Lake Trail
is an alternative to the Jackass Lakes Trail
, which goes directly from Beasore Road to Lower Jackass Lake. It is a little longer, but a more moderate hike. The trail can either be done as a day hike or you could camp at one of the Jackass Lakes.
To reach the Norris trailhead from Bass Lake, drive 28 miles up Beasore Road. The last 10 miles are mixed broken tar and gravel and dirt. At the Norris Trail sign, turn left for 1.5 miles. This is a rough dirt road, but passenger cars should be able to make it unless they have very low clearance. It is about a 90-minute drive from Bass Lake
From the Norris Trailhead, hike an easy 0.4 miles to where the trail crosses Norris Creek and meets a connector trail coming from the Fernandez Trailhead. Turn left. After another 0.1 miles, there is a junction with a trail that climbs steeply up the ridge to meet the Lillian Lake Loop
Trail. The Norris Lake Trail
follows Norris Creek climbing a moderately steeply under a coniferous forest to reach Norris Lake after a total of 3.0 miles. In the early season, there is plenty of water in the creek and in other creeks that come down the ridge on the north side of the trail. However, later in the season, these may be entirely dry. The trail passes along the right side of the lake. If the lake is so full that it covers the trail, you'll have to work your way through the rocks.
After another 0.5 miles of climbing, the trail reaches a granite ridge about 80 feet above Lower Jackass Lake. From here, there are great panoramic views across the huge valley that contains the various forks of the San Joaquin River. On the far side you can see the Silver Divide, the Kaiser Wilderness and the southern part of the Ritter Range. There is good camping all along low granite ridge that runs on the east side of the lake. There is a big logjam at the outlet for the lake, which makes for an easy crossing. The trail is now merged with the Jackass Lakes Trail
. It runs along the east shore of the lake and climbs about 80 feet up to a signed junction.
At the junction turn right (northwest). The trail climbs fairly steeply up the rocks to Middle Jackass Lake. This trail is not very well maintained, but there are numerous ducks (cairns) which make it fairly easy to follow. Middle Jackass Lake is not very exciting. The trail passes around the right side of the lake and continues climbing to the much more beautiful Upper Jackass Lake. I meet a family there with 3 children under the age of 10.