Round Lake Loop

August 6, 2022
Round Lake Loop
Part 5 of 5, Vacation to the Lakes Basin, Sierra County
Total distance walked: 5 miles

Our Big Hike

Saturday morning Sarah and I left the cabin early for our big half-day hike, the one we patiently waited to do all week—the Round Lake Loop.

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With baby James in his carrier, we headed into the bright morning sun, yesterday’s rain just a fleeting memory. After a leisurely walk through the forest—where the recent rain had tamped down the dust, then a mild uphill trek we were rewarded with a view of the mountains and Big Bear Lake.

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View of Big Bear Lake, where we will end our loop hike.

Leaving the vista behind, the trail took us up a scree-covered mountain and ended at the Round Lake Mine site, the highest point along our route. We were pleased that the uphill section came first while the air was still cool.

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A mining relic?

This area was originally prospected during the Gold Rush. A shaft three hundred feet deep and a stamp mill were built there. Unfortunately, the mill and shaft timbers were burned to the ground in the 1930s. What we saw were the remains of the fire.

From the mine, a narrow spur trail took us downward over dry, slippery rocks depositing us lakeside, an ideal spot for a break.

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There was a soft sandy beach and trees for shade.

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Round Lake

It surprised me that we were alone at this gorgeous high mountain lake.

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James, happy to be here.

With much more to do, we moved on.

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Leaving Round Lake.

Marching forward and away from the lake, we got a better view of the mountain we had just crossed.

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Somewhere on that mountain is the trail.

The trail then led us in and out of the forest over rocky terrain.

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Looking back.

A half-mile later we approached Silver Lake. The Forest Service touted this lake as, “one of the prize gems of the Lakes Basin Area.” It is a cirque lake formed when glaciers scooped out a bowl-shaped area. Interestingly, it has no inlet but is fed by snow melt and springs. Like Round Lake, it too looked like a delightful place to spend an afternoon.

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Silver Lake

Passing Silver Lake, we came to an intersection. Many trails wove through the area providing access to all the lakes.

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Which way should we go?

A short uphill section led to the next leg of the hike and offered a scenic view of Long Lake. The loop to Long Lake had the lure of Halsey Falls, but the trek to the falls and back would have added another few miles to our hike.

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Long Lake from above.

The cool and quiet morning had become a warm afternoon. People crowded the trail, from families out for a stroll and hikers with their dogs, to more serious ramblers heading for the strenuous slog to the Pacific Crest Trail. Most people stopped and congratulated Sarah for carrying James, the youngest child we saw on the trail.

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Continuing up the trail.

Leaving the view of Long Lake, we descended to the last set of lakes, a trio named Cub, Little Bear, and Big Bear—aptly named as there were reports of bears in the area.

First was the baby, Cub Lake, the smallest of the lakes on this hike.

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Cub Lake

Just beyond Cub was Little Bear Lake. The trees that surrounded the lake offered a canopy of shade for those who wanted to spend the day swimming.

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And last, but not least was Big Bear Lake, the largest of the three bears. Hikers clothed in swimsuits with colorful towels draped over their shoulders passed us one after another as they made their way to Bear Lakes. And so ended our Round Lake Loop. From there we managed one last uphill jaunt that led us back to the car.

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Big Bear Lake

The Round Lake Loop took us through wetland meadows filled with lovely summer wildflowers. It brought us in and out of the diverse conifer forest, and up and over a talus-covered mountain. We saw a Gold Rush-era mining site, and six spectacular high mountain lakes all with a backdrop of dramatic granite peaks. This hike was more than I could have asked for. Having my daughter-in-law and grandson by my side was a blessing and made the day perfect. Indeed, good things come to those who wait.