CAPTURING THE SPIRIT OF THE SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS
One of the crown jewel trails in the Sierra National Forest Ranger District, Swamp Lake is a treasure of a trail.
Swamp Lake trail is 13 miles long and will test the driver and vehicle. This trail is not as long as Dusy Ershim Trail, though it will give you the same type of terrain and obstacles. Dusy has Chicken Rock, and Swamp Lake has Rooster Rock. Both will get your attention and require concentration while negotiating the climb.
“Swamp,” as we call it, has obstacles with the following names: Blast Rock, Pinch Point, and Sharks Tooth. I am sure everyone has specific names for some of the smaller obstacles and there are plenty of them along the trail. There is enough rock crawling that you will have very little time to relax behind the wheel of your rig.
This trail can be run in either direction. I personally think if you are going South to North, the trail is a little harder. This is because you are going up Rooster Rock and going up through Pinch Point. Gravity is your friend going North to South.
On the South end, there is a long down hill section with football-sized rocks that will make you wish for the trail to end soon. This section just seems as though it never stops and then you are in the trees at the bottom of the mountain and it is all good as you look upon the beauty of the mountain.
There are many places to pull over and take lots of photos with views stretching for miles and miles. With 24 miles of trail while ascending nearly 5000 feet, pics are just plain necessary!
We usually take lunch to stop at either Swamp Lake itself of Grouse Lake. Grouse Lake is an easier stop as it is right next to the main trail. If you want to get close to Swamp Lake, you will have to walk down to the lake. Depending on the time of year, take some good bug repellent if you plan to stay at the lakes for very long.
Day Trip or Not!
The last few years I have ran the trail in one day, and it will leave you beat up at the end of the day. I have camped at Swamp Lake before and really prefer to do that, as it breaks up the trip into manageable sections and gives you a rest half way through the trail.
If you camp at Swamp Lake you will want to take your fishing pole as the fish are usually hungry and will jump on your hook. Grouse Lake also has some great fishing.
The Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno has installed pit toilets at both lakes, and they maintain the trail with help from the local clubs in the area. July 4th is the typical opening date and can depend on the amount of snow that the mountains have had. I have seen snow still on the trail in July.
If you go late in the year to run the trail, you will want to plan for some possible bad weather. I have seen rain during the summer on the trail, and it changes the whole complexity of the obstacles. I have talked to people who have had snow in late August while on the trail. That will make for a very tough trail ride with snow and will make it very tough to find the trail in some places.
Just Do It!
Take the time to find this trail and check it off your bucket list. You will not be sorry that you did this trail.
Photos and Video
Located near Lakeshore, CA, not far from Fresno, CA, Swamp Lake Trail is a high elevation trail reaching over 9000 elevation at one point in the Sierra National Forest.