Convict Lake, California Camping

by paperfacets

Try this vacation spot for dry RV camping and tenting. Trout fishing is good and it is usually sunny and warm with fresh mountain air.

There is a locale that has a special place in our family's hearts. A tucked away blue lake surrounded by high, very high stone mountains, not many trees. Twice a day you witness a line of horseback riders going up one side of the lake. That is a hint of things hidden even further into the stony mountains, but you are probably just at the side of the lake with your fishing pole.

The lake is dark blue and cold, so swimming is not an option, except for the hardy. Trout can be snatched if you work it just right, pan fried later in the iron skillet on the Coleman stove in butter, garlic and onion. There are favorite spots called the swimming hole, the cliffs, the store, and the bridge.

Convict Lake,CA
Convict Lake,CA

As the children get older they have to tell their friends about this place. They take off and go without me. Renewing the soothing activities again with new hearts that also find a place in them for Convict Lake, so named for a shootout in 1871. Guns blazing and the outcome not so sweet as camping.

Whoooa! Wake up you are sitting at your computer. Oh, but I want to be back at Convict Lake. 

Swimming Hole
Swimming Hole

Where is Convict Lake

Convict Lake is in the eastern Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Nevada mountains run up the eastern side of California for more than four hundred miles. The drive is 325 miles from our house and it is the high desert and hot. The temperature is always in the 90's so air conditioning in your vehicle is a plus. In later years we had a trailer and the trip took about six hours. Half the highway was twoway most of the trip. It is gradually getting widen to a split four lane highway. You can reach Convict Lake by traveling Hwy 395.

Getting there offers views of high desert wilderness, small towns and sparsely populated wide open spaces. Something that can baffle Los Angleles dwellers, home of millions. 

So as our family was growing, nearly every year during the summer months, we took a vacation to the Mammoth area. I had known this area because I went skiing there several times, but my husband introduced the eastern Sierra to me in the summer.

He was a fisherman and had been there many times already. Above, the fisherman making his flies at the evening camp table at Convict Lake near the town of Mammoth Lakes.

Dawn at Convict Lake
Dawn at Convict Lake
Vijayan on Flickr
Stormy Day at Convict - 1987
Stormy Day at Convict - 1987

Located in California

For the geology buff or student the Mammoth area is loaded with hot spots and interesting volcanic formations. The mountains behind the lake were carved by glaciers, the arms of the ice reaching toward Hwy 395. As they receded they left moraines, the formations mapping the areas of glacier flows. The road to the campground climbs through the moraines to get to the base of the lake. Road's end, to an elevation of 7,580 ft.

You can also see head of Convict Creek along which the campground is situated. Read more about the moraines at Convict Lake Moraines.

Directly across Hwy 395 is Mammoth Airport which only accepts small planes. Further north you pass the Long Caldera. Hot Creek or Whitmore Hot Springs.

Behind the lake is the John Muir Wilderness Area. Looking on a map, note all high mountain alpine lakes. The first set of Lakes about 2,000 ft. above Convict are Dorothy, Edith, Mildred and Constance Lakes. Go deeper into the wilderness area you find Tully Hole, Bloody Mtn, Brave Lake, Lake of the Lone Indian, Graveyard Lakes and Devil's Bathtub. Going deeper in the wilderness the lakes get ominous names.

I have never been there.

From Above
From Above

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Along the campground road
Along the campground road
The Creek
The Creek
Campground Trail to Convict Lake Store
Campground Trail to Convict Lake Store

Have you been to Convict Lake?

Updated: 08/03/2018, paperfacets
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frankbeswick on 07/10/2018

Humans take on wilderness as a challenge, but we are not at home there.You need to be well-prepared for wilderness and know what you are doing. In particular you need to know the dangers of where you are going.

Dealing with wilderness on your own is daunting. Humans do better in groups.

paperfacets on 07/10/2018

Derdriu. The lakes with the ominous names are for pack packers who like to stay over night in the wilderness. The woods in the Sierras are called wilderness. No one I who does that kind of adventure.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/10/2018

paperfacets, Has anyone in your family been to the lakes with "ominous names"?

paperfacets on 06/14/2018

Frank, yes, this area is in the rain shadow. Many peaks are nearly 10,000 ft and one ski resort can get huge amounts of snow some years. Los Angeles County took so much water since 1920 from the area that one lake became a dry salt pan. For the last 20 yrs it is starting to be restored and is attracting many water birds. A triumph of lawsuits and litigation. Owens Lake is starting to be ranked as a major flyway bird site.

frankbeswick on 06/12/2018

Is the fact that it is a dry forest due to its being in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and that it thus does not receive the full brunt of rain bearing Pacific winds?

paperfacets on 06/11/2018

It is a dry forest but can get much snow some years in a decade. The bristle cone pine, oldest tree in the world, grows about a hundred miles from this lake. Many Europeans visit the area in the summer.

frankbeswick on 06/10/2018

You have opened my mind to an area about which I knew nothing. Thank you.

dustytoes on 06/10/2018

Looks like a beautiful place.

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