Unbeknownst to most people, California was the place where glaciers were “discovered” in the United States, atop Mount Shasta. And while the words “California” and “glacier” will never be synonymous, the state still has twenty glaciers (seven located on Mount Shasta, and thirteen are located in the Sierra Nevada). While each of California’s remaining glaciers offer their own individual logistical challenges, the Palisade Glacier is one of the easiest to visit from May to mid-October. In this case, easy is a relative term, as visitors to the Palisade Glacier will have to traverse ten miles of trail to the end of the glacier, and gain 4,000 feet of elevation, before returning back to the trailhead. From mid-October through May, the ascent to the Palisade Glacier becomes substantially more difficult, as it is over snow and ice, and requires proper preparation and navigation. However, for those willing to make the trek, the Palisade Glacier is a spectacular sight to behold; and is a relic from a long lost past that is disappearing in the modern age.
Chances are, if you have any sort of social media presence, you’ve seen with increasing frequency some sort of picture of people, tents, or both laid out artfully in front of tall mountains and crystal blue lakes. And, if you’ve seen these photos and there wasn’t a caption, you probably wondered where these lakes were, and if the photos were photoshopped. These lakes are the glacial lakes of the Big Pine basin, specifically located off the North Fork of Big Pine Creek; and for the most part, there is no photoshopping of the photos of these lakes – they actually do look like that way in real like, with brilliant shades of cerulean blue. The lakes popularity, however, precedes social media, as the trail up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek has long been one of the most popular destinations in the Inyo National Forest. As a matter of fact, the only thing unknown – and unspectacular about these lakes is their names. For unknown reasons, the lakes – and the waterfalls along this trail were given generic names – “First Waterfall”; “First Lake”; “Second Lake” through “Seventh Lake”. My personal suggestion for hikers or backpackers visiting the area – call them whatever you want, because they are amazing.