Corbett and Givens Lakes

Corbett Lake
Givens Lake


It was going to be a long day. The day hike to Corbet and Givens Lakes would would require about 4 to 4.5 hours of driving round trip. The hike was all uphill gaining 2,000 feet in about 2.4 miles one way. Hiking would consist of about 3 hours total too. There was about 30 minutes each of time spent at the lakes. Was it worth it? You bet!

Full photo album HERE.


The hike consisted of a coworker and I hiking up to do some basic water quality sampling. Our samples would be taken at high elevation lakes. We left the office around 8:15 am and arrived at the Corbett Trailhead around 10:00 AM. Excited and eager to see our destinations for the day, we began hiking on the trail. There was a nice information kiosk to help. We would be entering the John Muir Wilderness about half way to the lakes.


Trail was easy to follow and started us on a “warm up” around 7800 feet. It was supposed to be 106 in the valley, so we knew we would be thankful to be around 9100 feet once at our destination. The trail was nicely covered by the canopy. Bugs were not an issue on the trek up and that we were well pleased.

After our 10 to 15 minute warm up, the trail began to increase in grade. We were in a mix of shaded stretches of trail and those exposed to the sun. However, when we stopped for a break you could see the high peaks showing proudly through the trees.

The trail had three parts to it in my mind. The “warm up” was the first section followed up by the “steep climb” section. The last section of the trail was similar to the first, just longer and all in the John Muir Wilderness. Well it was about half way through the “steep climb” section we heard voices. There was a van parked at the trailhead. Apparently they were coming out of the wilderness. Soon dozens of Jr. High boys were escorted by adults. I asked if they were having a good time and not one of them said no. Granted, some didn’t even reply haha. Once the three lines of kids passed us, we continue upward.

What I didn’t count on, but was not surprised either, was the last part of the steep section. It became steeper. I let my coworker Lauren take the lead and set the pace. She did a good job and progressed up the trail until we found the “crest” and were finally into the last section of the trail. We had made it to the John Muir Wilderness.

It was great to see that wilderness sign again. Not this exact one, but the last one I saw was the Mt. Whitney trip on our final day down to Whitney Portal. It said “Inyo National Forest” instead of “Sierra National Forest.” Anyway, our pace quickened and heart rates settle a bit. This meant we did a lot more taking which made the last bit fly by.

Before we new it, we made a last little climb up to Corbett Lake. It was a wonderful sight and rewarding to accomplish our goal. I took some photos and collected the first water quality samples. Based on the time, we decided to only do Givens Lake and leave Cunningham Lake for another day. It was going to take a little more effort to get there and time would not allow it for today.

Trout was present in the lake and Bob from the High Sierra Ranger Station (near the beginning of the trail) had asked if we brought fishing poles. We did not and he had a gesture of “thats a bummer, you missing out.” Anyway, we grabbed a snack here again, looked over the maps, and hiked up and around to Givens Lake. It only took 10 minutes.

Between the two lakes, Givens Lake had more of a “high sierra” feel to it. The outcropping of granite bedrock and clear water was very inviting. While collecting the samples, we both concluded that if we were to do an over night trip would camp at Givens Lake.


Now it was time to check the lower of the two Givens Lake out. As we made our way around the lake, there was a large strip of dead trees. All of them were broken off at roughly the same height. Maybe an avalanche at one time? I am not sure, but that could explain what we observed. It was some time ago though and we continued on to the lower lake. Come to find out, it was all one lake. However, when the water levels are too low for the outlet, the “island” or “marsh” appears and creates to lakes.

Our job was complete and it was time to make our way back down to our truck. Here we saw all the “tops” of the trees that were broken. They were all laid out in the same direction parallel to one another.


Our way back was peaceful. There was nobody else coming up the trail, so we maintained a consistent pace. We did find a small bird that was not able to fly. I think it was too young or something as it could not get off the ground. I took a photo and then proceeded onward. We chatted for most of the way, so it again made the time go by quickly.

We arrived at last to the truck. I pulled out my hydro flask that was filled with ice water. It was very refreshing. We both had another snack and made our way back to the office. Shortly after driving for about a minute, very carefully on an unmaintained road, we came across a deer. It was a buck and a spike. We snapped a photo or two. I grabbed a video for my son to enjoy when I returned home.

It was a great day hike and would be a nice place for an overnight. If you are interested in fishing, stay at Corbett Lake. If you want a place with solitude and don’t need to fish, camp at Givens Lake.