Scenic USA - California

Muir Wilderness - Third Lake

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Third Lake - Muir Wilderness, California

Photo by Fred Weyman
Fred Weyman Photography

   The John Muir Wilderness, named after America's most famous of wilderness proponent, includes some of California's most spectacular mountains of the Sierra Nevada Range. Stretching across the spine of this iconic mountain range, the Muir Wilderness now totals more than 650,000 acres. Managed by the Forest Service, the majority of the preserve was included in the initial 1964 Wilderness Act, protecting lands that surrounded the highest peak in the Lower 48. Despite its rugged terrain and relatively remote location, its 590 miles of trails see plenty of activity. The attractions here are some of the highest peaks in California, with 57 exceeding 13,000 feet. Its mix of stately granite peaks and alpine lakes create some of the most majestic settings in the country.
   This Big Pine Canyon scene captures the imposing Temple Crag and Mount Gayley (13,510') looming 3000 feet above the Third Lake. Fed directly from Palisades Glacier, Third Lake's unusual milky cast is a result of relentless glacier movements. Crushed under the immense weight of the perennial ice field, the mountain slopes of granite are turned into a fine powder. Glacial melt, laden with a powdery mix of fine stone, feeds this series of alpine lakes. With its a milky turquoise water, Third Lake is part of a wonderland of alpine scenery that John Muir so adamantly wished to protect. In fact, Muir's creation of the Sierra Club hoped to establish a wide appreciation for this Sierra Nevada landscape.

     Directions and Trailhead Location
    Motor vehicle use map (Inyo National Forest)


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