After our heavy snows from the previous winter, finally our mountain roads are open. Lingering on the north slopes are patches of snow but most of the high-elevation trails are open.
Let’s start the season and take a day hike to Vandenberg and Lady lakes. We’ll depart Oakhurst to Road 222; look for Beasore Road (also called Sierra Vista National Scenic Highway) on the left. During the first hour of driving you will pass the historic Jones General Store dating back into the early 20th century. I always make this my special place to refuel myself before or after my adventure into these mountains. Within the hour you will arrive at the dirt road with a sign reading: Norris Creek Trailhead. Now we’ll have only two miles before starting our hike to Vandenberg and Laky lakes.
Both lakes are excellent for trout fishing; most trout will be considered pan-size or between 8 and 12 inches.
The main trail leading around Vandenberg Lake will offer natural campsites.
Keep hiking for a short distance and Lady Lake comes into view. This lake is a must-fish with many native trout within her double lakes. The lower level is much larger at an elevation of 8,956 feet, with a forested shoreline on the east and south borders. Natural fingers of shoreline protrude into its center and offer great cover to catch those clever large trout. The upper level is smaller in size, gaining only a few feet in elevation. At the northern bank a waterfall brings in fresh water directly from the snow pack accumulated on Madera Mountain.
If photography is your hobby, you will not be disappointed in the landscaping. Those high cliffs from Madera Mountain will offer a challenge to a photographer looking for the correct angle to capture the mountain’s reflection on the lake.
After you spend a few hours exploring this area, Lady Lake would be an ideal place for an overnight stay. Many small, sheltered areas for campsites snuggle in the flat areas between these natural formations of granite. Another bonus is the large, flat rock slabs, ideal for just stretching out and enjoying the warmth of the summer sun.
Overall, this 5.2-mile hike will take less than three hours to complete with a day pack. I would rate this hike as moderate which means the average hiker will enjoy this wilderness experience. The rating with a full pack is strenuous because of the added weight.