Lundy Canyon on the eastern edge of the Hoover Wilderness is known for its rushing waterfalls in the Spring and extraordinary colors in the Fall. The trailhead is just six miles from Highway 395 near the northwest end of Mono Lake, and the entire canyon can be hiked out and back in about 4.5 miles. This makes it perfect for a leisurely day trip in Spring, Summer, or Fall.
We ended up in Lundy Canyon unexpectedly on May 16th, after finding the road to Leavitt Meadows near Sonora Pass still closed for the season. We stopped at the Bridgeport Ranger Station to inquire about alternate areas to hike in, and when I asked the ranger what she thought about hiking Lundy Canyon, she replied, “Oh yeah!”. I was surprised at her answer, considering it’s been a productive winter and the trailhead is at 8,140 feet elevation. This was exciting. Not only would it be hikeable, but there would be a lot of water flowing down the canyon. Additionally, we were taking some friends from back east hiking, and this would be a great hike to introduce them to the beauty of the Eastern Sierra.
When we got to Lundy Lake, we could see the trail to Oneida Lake climbing steeply up the canyon to the south. This trail still looked snowy at the time, but will make another great day hike to do later in the year. At the west end of Lundy Lake is the site of Lundy (aka Mill Creek), a former lumber and mining camp from the gold rush days. Today this area serves as a fishing resort, and there is even a county run campground below the lake.
The road turns to dirt at the west end of the lake, and continues up the canyon to a trailhead parking loop. We were the only ones there when we arrived, a big contrast to last October when nearly every nook and cranny had a vehicle in it. Being mostly on the south facing slope and bottom of the canyon, the trail was snow free. A few wildflowers were present, and the aspens were just starting to wake up, their budding branches still leaned over from the heavy winter snow.
We heard the sound of rushing water as we hiked through the trees, and in just a 1/4 of a mile, reached the shoreline of a big beaver pond with large waterfalls cascading down the far side. The trail continues around the pond for a nice overlook of the falls.
The trail enters the Hoover Wilderness as it climbs above the falls, and crosses a small stream coming in from an unseen Burro Lake high above. There are few creek crossings on this hike, but we managed to keep our feet dry on all, even with the high water levels. Some crossings are easy, while others took some examination to choose the best way across.
The trail slowly makes its way over to the south side of the canyon where all the snow had not yet melted. The snow was mostly easy to traverse, although there were a couple sections where footholds had to be placed securely. A slip would’ve meant an icy dip in the nearby creek.
Eventually the snow completely covered the trail, and we had to climb up a steep snowy slope to reach the upper falls. We stayed high up from the creek where it wasn’t as steep. The creek was really moving below and passed under the snow at times. It would be a very dangerous place to fall in! We headed over to a clearing in the snow and sat on a log overlooking the falls. We called this point the top of our hike, and it made the perfect place for a scenic lunch.
The hike out was much quicker, now having practiced all the snow and creek crossings once. It was no less enjoyable, though, with all new views down the long canyon. An incoming storm was creeping in behind us, and we made it back to the trailhead just as the first drops started arriving.
With its towering peaks, rushing water, and rugged scenery, Lundy Canyon delivers a fantastic backcountry wilderness experience without a lot of effort. Early Spring appears to be a good time to hike it, as we saw very few people on our trip. Fall may be the peak usage time with all the photographers chasing the seasonal colors. The short driving and hiking distance make this a good day trip from Carson City, or even a side trip while on the way to somewhere else. Twenty Lakes Basin is accessible via a “trail” at the top of Lundy Canyon, but it’s really steep (requiring the use of your hands at times) and full of loose talus. It’s far easier to get to the Twenty Lakes Basin via Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake.
- For contrast, see our Lundy Canyon photos from our hike in October of 2015.
- Maps of the Hoover Wilderness can usually be found at the Ranger Stations in Carson City and Bridgeport year round.