Birch Lake Trail


Infrequently traveled, Birch Lake trail is steep, rugged and un-maintained. At times it is difficult to locate. Be prepared to navigate with the aid of a topographic map. There is minimal water or shade along Birch Lake Trail. So, a pre-dawn start is recommended during the summer. The alpine lake at the end of the trail and various nearby peaks are popular with mountaineers. The trailhead is accessed by rocky unpaved roads. 4WD and high-clearance vehicles are recommended.

Common Destinations: Birch Lake

Download area map for trail names

Birch Lake Trail Recreation Guide (pdf)

At a Glance

Reservations: Wilderness permits may be reserved up to 6 months in advance at
Permit Info:
  • Wilderness permits are required for overnight trips in the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
  • Obtain permits at Inyo National Forest visitor centers.
  • From May 1 to November 1 use is limited to 8 people / day. 
Usage: Light
Closest Towns:
  • Big Pine, CA
  • Bishop, CA
Water: Water from creeks, lakes and springs should be treated before drinking.
Restroom: Please Leave No Trace. Bury human waste away from water sources.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Wilderness permit information (760) 873-2483 White Mt. Visitor Center  (760) 873-2500.  
  • USDA Forest Service: A Guide to the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness
  • USGS Quad: Split Mountain and Fish Springs
  • National Geographic: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Tom Harrison: Kings Canyon High Country; Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
To purchase maps or guidebooks, visit

General Information


From Big Pine, go west on Crocker Ave. which becomes Glacier Lodge Rd. Turn left onto McMurry Meadows dirt road (4x4 wd recommended for this dirt road if you are going beyond McMurry Meadows). Trail starts from road 9S03A.

From US Highway 395 in Big Pine, CA:

  • Turn west on to Crocker St. (Glacier Lodge Rd.)
  • In 2.5 miles turn left onto McMurry Meadows Road.
  • Follow the road for 5.9 miles, turn right on 33E306. From here 4WD is recommended.
  • In .6 miles, turn left onto 33E306A, at the sign for Birch Lake. 
  • A gate marks the trailhead. The trail begins by following the old road beyond the gate.



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Day Hiking


Permit required?: Y