One thing that I’m sure many people don’t know or expect from me is that I adore backpacking. I’ve only ever been a few times, but one of my favorite places to backpack is Dinkey Lakes in California.
Dinkey Lakes is about 200 miles straight east of San Jose, California, in the Sierra National Forest. It’s closer to Fresno, CA, and is right in between Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. It’s a large patch of wilderness scarcely populated and with gorgeous views.
The drive to the Dinkey Lakes Trailhead is long and rugged, BUT, there is a hidden gem along the drive. There is a hidden grove of gigantic sequoia trees in the forest. They seem to appear magically along the road, with trunks bigger than cars! Sequoia’s are my favorite tree, or plant, of all time. I’ve been amazed by them ever since I saw them when I was a little girl. Seeing sequoia’s is always very awe-inspiring and humbling experience. They can be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and are hundreds of feet tall.
Once you reach the trailhead, it’s time to leave modern civilization behind officially, grab your pack, and hike!
It’s about a 6.7 mile hike from the trailhead to the campgrounds. I would say that it’s probably a fairly easy hike, but with a 40-pound backpack, it doesn’t always feel so easy. It’s a pretty heavily-trafficked trail for day hikers and backpackers alike, but, when we went in late May there weren’t any other backpackers at our campground.
The views along the hike are absolutely gorgeous.
Along with the incredible views, I love leaving behind all of the people, noise and distractions. It’s very calming to simply listen to the sound of your feet hitting the dirt, the birds chirping overhead, and the wind whistling through the trees.
After a few wooden bridges, switchbacks, miles of hiking and complaining, we reached the campground at the main Dinkey Lakes. Dinkey Lakes is actually a series of lakes and the largest one has the campground. There wasn’t anyone there so we picked out the best tent spots.
First thing I did when we arrived and after we pitched our tents? I took a nap… on a rock. Seriously. I laid down leaning against a giant boulder with my head on the rock and fell asleep.
The lakes are fully stocked with fish, so my uncle and his friend caught fish for themselves for dinner. I am a vegetarian and don’t eat or enjoy eating seafood, so I stuck with our meal-in-a-bag selection. Backpacking food can actually be pretty delicious, but it’s kind of a hit-or-miss because some foods are disgusting. However, at some point you are just so hungry that you really don’t care what you’re eating.
Now, I know what you’re thinking — “I could never backpack because I don’t ever want to poop in the forest!” … Let’s just say that you get over it pretty quickly. It’s always awkward, especially for women, because you’re crouching in the middle of the forest with no protection from animals, or, other people spotting you. My uncle and his friends always joked that you just have to find a good “poopin’ log,” and that’s actually true.
Enough about bathroom jokes.
I’ve always loved relaxing at the lake shore, listening to the sounds of nature. The morning is always the best time because the animals are waking up, the water on the lake is still smooth, and it’s the start of a new day in nature.
Since Dinkey Lakes is a series of lakes out in the middle of the forest, there are plenty of places to hike and explore. And you might just find random patches of beautiful little pink-purple flowers.
There are always more places to explore.
At the end of the day, we always came back to our campground and lit a fire. Partly because it was freezing even though it was almost June, but also partly because campfires are an essential part of every hiking trip.
After three days in the forest, it’s time go home. The hike back to the car is always a paradox because I’m excited to get out of the woods and shower, but I’m so exhausted from the days of hiking and challenges from living in the woods for days — so naturally, I complain the whole way asking “how much longer??” I get there eventually.
Ending a backpacking trip is always a bittersweet experience. I love being out in the woods, surrounded by no one and nothing but nature. Yet at the same time, I’m excited for good WiFi, a warm shower, and toilets. I cherish my time backpacking in the forest and couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone who feels a little overwhelmed by society sometimes.
Thanks for the memories, Dinkey Lakes!
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been backpacking? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!