Backpacking to Minaret Lake

Trailhead: Devil’s Postpile

Length: 18 mi roundtrip

Permit: Required for overnight

Elevation gain: 2,500 ft

We attempted this hike mid July 2022 for my third annual backpacking trip. My sister, Emily and friend, Sabrina, joined Crystal and me for their first time in the backcountry. Looking back, this may not have been the best choice for first timers, but hindsight is 20/20. In the summer, you can only drive into the parking area before 7am, so I hauled ass from San Diego, and we arrived at the Devil’s Postpile parking area around 6:30am. I emailed ahead of time to receive my permit via email a few days before the trip, so we were ready to start once we arrived. After leaving my Subie in the overnight parking lot, we walked toward the ranger station to use the bathroom for the last time for the next couple days.

I knew going in this would be a difficult hike. When I picked up the gear I rented from, the worker helping me warned me of the up-down nature of the trail. After the fact, I can definitely confirm this was a challenging trail. The first five or so miles are a gentle incline, and wasn’t in the shade, it wasn’t too hot. Unfortunately, in mid-July the mosquitoes are out. Even with a mosquito face net, and long sleeves, we were eaten alive. The views along the way are gorgeous.

Feeling confident about the first five miles, we had no idea how wrecked we would be from the last couple. The incline in the last mile as you take switchbacks up the mountain was torture, especially in the fully exposed afternoon light. As I caught my breath at each bend, the trek almost doesn’t feel worth it. But then, after the last bend, you get your first look of Minaret Lake, and it suddenly makes sense why you are lugging 30 lbs of gear up a mountain.

With renewed energy, we chose a campsite around the left side of the lake, between the smaller pond and edge of Minaret Lake. There are many campsites to choose from, depending on how far you are willing to walk around the lake. After setting our packs down, we quickly dipped our feet in the lake congratulating ourselves for such an achievement.

I woke up for sunrise the next morning to see that special alpine glow kiss the tops of the Minarets. I’m addicted to the promise of a new day. And the limited time to capture the perfect sunrise shot adds to the adrenaline rush. Looking back, I wish I had scoped out my shots the day before, as I wasn’t completely happy, but I was still content with what I got.

After sharing a pot of oatmeal for breakfast, we spent the rest of Monday exploring around the lake and swimming. While I initially thought we might climb up to the next lake, another hiker warned us about the rock scramble up and we decided we were too tired from the day before to do anything strenuous. It turned out to be a great decision. With only one other group at the lake, the whole experience was incredibly peaceful and isolated. Storm clouds rolled in during the late afternoon, and a light rain covered the mountain for about an hour. The nights were cold, even with 3 layers and my 30 degree sleeping bag.

After two nights in the backcountry, it was time to go home. We packed up damp supplies and snapped some last photos at the lake.

The hike down was quick, and we encountered a pack of horses and mules being led up the trail to restock the forest workers who spend the summer repairing the trails.

When we finally crossed the last bridge at the trailhead, I was relieved. This hike was definitely my toughest backpacking trip yet, and I’m so proud of my first-timer friends. For me, there is no greater joy than to share my love of nature with my loved ones. So when my sister told me how much fun she had and how she couldn’t wait for the next backcountry adventure, I couldn’t be happier.


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