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Bordered by Yosemite National Park to the south and Toiyabe National Forest to the east, Emigrant Wilderness is a prime destination for solitude-seeking Bay Area backpackers. Its alpine lakes are warm enough to swim in during summer months, and they’re also great fishing spots. Chewing Gum Lake is no exception.
Start by climbing to Burst Rock along a small section of the West Walker Route that shuttled emigrant gold miners to and from California during the 1850s. At the lookout, the glory of Stanislaus Valley unfolds before your eyes: the South Fork Stanislaus River, Castle Rock, and the Three Chimneys. Notice the rare flora lining the trail.
After descending into the valley, follow the main trail about a mile before reaching a T-junction. The subalpine waters of Powell Lake are a short distance to your left—a rapturous side trip for fishermen and brave swimmers.
Continue on the main trail for almost two more miles and revel at the wildflowers that spread across Lake Valley’s lush meadows. At mile 4, turn right onto Chewing Gum Lake Trail. Only a short hike brings you to the granite-rimmed lake, which has campsites on either shore.
Mapped by David Miller, Bay Area Outdoors
- Distance: 7.6
Location: 38.1983109, -119.8842621
Gianelli Cabin Trailhead (8,560 feet). Climb the unnamed, well-maintained dirt trail toward Burst Rock, gaining 600 feet over about a mile and a half. The Forest Service does not give the trail an official name, but users typically call it “Burst Rock Trail.” It usually opens in late June or early July, depending on how quickly the snow melts.
This route also includes a small part of the historic West Walker route through the Sierras, which miners and settlers took during the Gold Rush.
Location: 38.2013435, -119.8729858
Turn left onto the spur trail after 1.3 miles. Walk about 100 yards north over a sandy plateau towards Burst Rock. Once you reach the top of the plateau, the terrain levels out. You can then easily walk to the lookout point at Burst Rock. To continue back to the main trail, pick up the trail to the right (east) and begin a brief descent. Look for wildflowers all along the trail.
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Burst Rock lets you view Stanislaus River Basin’s South Fork, Cooper Meadow, and the Three Chimneys. On a clear day, you also can see the peaks of Yosemite. Marmots skitter (and in some cases, lumber) around the granite.
This lookout was originally named “Birth” Rock because a member of a West Walker Route wagon train gave birth here. Bear right to merge back onto the spur trail, then descend the rugged granite steps into the valley below.
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Continue straight @ T-junction (about 2 and a half miles in) and stay on the unnamed main trail. Powell Lake Trail shoots off to the left here, offering a short side trip to lunch, fishing, or swimming. This is one of the most popular campsites in Emigrant Powell Lake because of its short camp-out distance. If you are just looking to catch a glimpse of the water, walk down 15 to 20 feet along Powell Lake Trail and turn back to the main trail.
Location: 38.2027626, -119.8446884
Turn right on Chewing Gum Lake Trail (mile 4). Follow the sign to a narrow, dirt single track, which cuts through a lush meadow towards Chewing Gum Lake. The trail is muddy and wet in the summer. Small wildflowers dot the meadow along the trail.
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Chewing Gum Lake. Arrive at your destination after 0.7 miles. Unofficial campsites can be found around the lake. The southern and eastern shores are best because they provide level ground. You can camp on the western shore as well, but you’ll need to pitch your tent or lay the sleeping bag out on a dirt patch between granite boulders. Chewing Gum Lake is surprisingly warm for an alpine lake, so swimming and fishing opportunities abound.
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Burned out Ponderosa
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Castle Rock & The Three Chimneys in the background
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Castle Rock & Chimneys
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Wildflowers along Powell Lake
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Powell Lake Panoramic
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Lake Valley Overlook
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Lake Valley Meadow and Chewing Gum Lake
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Mule Ears and Paintbrush
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Chewing Gum Lake Trailhead
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This way! The rare trail marker points the way to Chewing Gum Lake.
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Narrow trail winds its way through the Lake Valley meadow towards Chewing Gum Lake.
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Wildflowers dot the meadow in Lake Valley
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Chewing Gum in the Morning Light
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Contrails reflecting in Chewing Gum lake
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Granite boulders on the granite South bank of Chewing Gum Lake
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