South Fork to Dry Lake report- 4/20-4/21

Home Forums Trail Conditions South Fork to Dry Lake report- 4/20-4/21

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    • #2857

      Just got back from an overnight at Dry Lake with my dog Max.  As usual, I’ll try to keep it short but still give enough details for those who are interested.  For those are just want a snapshot, here is the short version.

      Cliff’s Notes: South Fork has a “bypass” route a very short distance into the hike.  Look for the orange tape/ streamers. 

      Trail is snow free (but is muddy in parts) until shortly before the Dry Lake/ Dollar Lake split.  Then is snow free (with a couple exceptions) until about 1/2 mile or so before Dry Lake.

      Quite a few downed trees.  I have no idea how they know to fall exactly across the trail

      Dry Lake is completely snow covered with exposed water around the some edges.  Finding a snow free camping spot in Lodgepole Springs area was difficult.

      Long version:

      After obtaining my overnight permit, I stopped by the Ranger Station and spoke with Ranger Lon (and the other ranger who I keep forgetting to get her name) to get any new details about the hike on South Fork to Dry Lake.

      Lon told me about a new bypass route that begins shortly (very shortly) into the hike.  It is marked with orange flags/ streamers and gets you across the river to a trail that follows the river up to the regular trail fairly quickly.  This allows you to take the regular trail without having to negotiate the washed out area or follow the drainage up. *Watch for the streamers on the way back or you’ll miss it*

      The trail has quite a few downed trees and is muddy in places.  It seems the trees and rivers talk to each other.  The trees agree to fall across the trail blocking our path and the rivers agree to flow down the trail keeping us in the mud. 😉

      The trail is snow free until a little before the Dry Lake/ Dollar Lake split. I lost the trail a couple times, but if you just keep going up, you’ll see the sign.

      After you cross the river, the trail is again snow free until about the 4th (?) switchback.  It’s the one after you round the corner after taking the first few switchbacks.  It was fairly precarious to traverse without traction devices.  I had microspikes  which worked “ok”, but the snow was melting, so crampons would have been much better.  Coming back, it was much earlier, so the snow was fairly hard.  Microspikes worked well, but crampons would have been even better.

      I lost the trail there too.  I followed some footprints which kept going straight- traversing the slope- and soon realized I was not going in the right direction.  After about 15 minutes of checking (and trusting) my GaiaGPS map, I found the trail and was on my way.  There is no marker, but there is a switch back covered in snow that was missed by person whose footprints I was following.

      The trail is then snow free until 1 mile or so from Dry Lake.  Dry Lake is beautifully snow covered.  The whole area is essentially snow covered.  We planned to camp at Lodgepole Spring and only found a couple spots.  I hear other people were camped there, but I think they were all camped on the other side of the lake.  We had the whole place to ourselves.

      Weather was very nice albeit a bit cool.  About 34 degrees in the tent overnight if you trust my garmin watch.  Very windy at times, but we were protected by the snow.

      All-in- all a great trip.  Took us 3.5 hours to get up to Dry Lake and about 3 to get back down.

      I’d like to say “hi” to the Volunteer Ranger George who we met on the way up.  Would also like to thank him for all the volunteer work he does and all the information he shared with me.  He was a wealth of knowledge of the area.  I hope he stops by the forum now and then.Max took quite a shine to him.  Perhaps he’ll post the picture. 🙂   Speaking of pictures…

      If you look close, you’ll see my tent.  Should give you an idea on how tough it was to find a decent spot to set up.

    • #2860
      Kimi Chung

      Thank you Mike for your report.  It really helps.  We have a permit to backpack overnight at Dry Lake this weekend.  Where can I possibly find Lodgepole Spring to draw and filter drinking water from Dry Lake?  Trying to reduce the weight of my backpack. Thank you in advance.

    • #2861
      Kimi Chung


      Thank you so much for the report.  Where can I locate Lodge Pole Spring for water source from Dry Lake?  I am trying to reduce the weight of my backpack.  Thank you for your advice.

      • #2864

        Hi Kimi,

        Do you have the appropriate topo map(s) for the area?  Be sure to obtain and bring it/them along.  You can always go to, zoom into the SGW zone until you locate Dry Lake.  On the left sidebar, “Preset Layers,” click on ‘Forest Service.’  This will fill in numerous details onto the map–such as the approx location of Lodgepole Springs (+/- 1/4m east of Dry Lake, up the use trail to the Lodgepole camp area).  Using the dropdown “Measure” tools tab at the top of the map image you can easily figure out distances, specific GPS location numbers etc.  Similarly, printing out the map(s) to paper is easy-peasy.  Like Mike said though–melt-water is practically everywhere right now and you can easily load up en route at the always-reliable, South Fork or Dry Lake creek crossings before heading up to/down from Dry Lake.  Please let us all know next week how your adventure went!  Thx, Steve B

    • #2862

      Hi Kimi,

      Glad the report helped!

      I do not know where the actual spring is, but there is water EVERYWHERE right now.  You can get water from the lake or any of the various rivers/ streams etc.  The camping area where we camped had quite a few spots of run-off.

      Don’t know if it’s necessary, but bring a filter just in case.

    • #2863
      Ranger Lon

      Thanks Mike. This will be helpful to us at Mill Creek. I’ll make sure the crew has this info to share with other hikers. I have been able to get a lot of use from your info on San Bernardino a few weeks ago, as well. Shout out to Roxanne, my faithful partner on most Saturdays. Hikers are well advised to listen to what George has to say about conditions. He likes hiking all the way back into Dry Lake, but sometimes he patrols on different trails and likes to work on trail maintenance. Thanks again and see you next time!

    • #2905


      I’m planning on hiking this route in two days starting May 18th 2019. It’ll be my first time. I know there was a decent amount of snowfall and I’m curious as to what the trail conditions are. I have crampons and an ice axe ready (as well as satellite phone and gps tracker). I know more people are hiking the Vivian Creek trail and are posting a lot of updates on the status of the trail. I’m wondering if it’d be safer to just hike that trail. More traffic on a snow covered trail means it’ll be easier to identify. Planning to call the Ranger station when it opens on Thursday. However, any information I can get now would be much appreciated. Thank you!!!

      • #2924
        John H


        I hiked this trail two weeks ago (5/4/19) and did have some trouble finding the trail past Dry Lake, but it wasn’t overly difficult. I would imagine that the snow has melted a bit since then as well, but we did use micro spikes and bring our ice axes when we went.


        Furthermore, I put in a permit request for a site at Dry Lake this weekend (5/18/19) and was told it was full, so there should be plenty of people on trail. Sounds like it’s getting busy. I wouldn’t worry too much, but obviously stay within your comfort zone for safety.

    • #2925

      Update on South Fork trail (May 18, 2019 hike).  The trail to Dry Lake is snow free except for a few drifts near the lake that are easy to hike around.  Beyond Dry Lake the trail soon becomes completely snow covered and hard to follow.  It is possible to hike up to Trail Flats on dry ground by just heading up the hill and navigating around the snow drifts.  You will meet up with the trail from time to time.  At Trail Flats you will find several feet of compacted snow.  You can advance along the gentle slopes for awhile in microspikes and hike on some of the snow piles from the avalanches from the Valentine’s Day storm.Looking across Dry Lake toward San Gorgonio and JepsonCrampons and ice axe are suggested for any attempt on the north face via the winter route.  Photo of the view of San Gorgonio and Jepson from the hill on the north side of Dry Lake. Below, trail flats and the north face of San Gorgonio. Trail flats and north face of San Gorgonio

    • #2926

      Thank you John for the update!

      I wanted to share the photos from my trip. I wasn’t able to summit before the storm hit but my friend and I were close!  We already put in for another permit at the end of June.:)

      Here’s some photos.

      Dry Lake Saturday May 18th 2019

      Ranger John


      • #2928


        I am planning to head up to the summit via fish creek trail this coming weekend. From the north side, approximately where was the snowline? Also, how much difficulty did you have navigating the sky high trail area with the snow?

      • #2929

        Hi Clint,

        Well on Saturday it was just above Dry Lake. After that it was all snow and my friend and I couldn’t find the trail. I have never been there before so we ended up following tracks and I was no where near the trail.

        Below is how far we were from the trail, red line is me and purple is the trail.


        We followed tracks and the advice of others who were coming down the summit. Below is the snow chute everyone was going up. We made it to the top of the dirt in the middle of the snow.

        My friend and I had agreed to turn around at 3:30pm regardless of where we were. It was perfect timing because the winds picked up and the storm came soon after.

        After it snowed, the land was covered all the way to Poop Out Hill on Sunday May 19th 2019.

        Hope this information helps!


      • #2930
        John H

        Lovely photos, Cassie! Thanks for sharing. Sorry you were stymied by the storm. I hadn’t even thought about the upcoming weather. Hopefully it clears up a bit in the coming weeks.

    • #2932

      Great photos, Cassie!

      Must have been quite the surprise to wake up covered in snow!

      Where did you set up camp?

      • #2934

        Thank you, Mike!

        We camped at Dry Lake. Even though all the overnight permits were taken. It was only the myself, plus my friend, the park ranger and one other guy. We basically had it to ourselves. 🙂 Sometimes bad weather helps with the crowds 😛

    • #2933

      Thanks DLH for the great pics!

    • #2953

      These are great reports!

      We have a permit for South Fork Trail to the Summit, camping at Dry Lake, for June 21-23. I’m mostly interested in drinking water conditions and so far it sounds very promising. I had heard that the spring just near Dry Lake that I was familiar with from 2012 & 2013 has been gone the last couple of years. Sounds like it might be back (fingers crossed).

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