Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Day Hike

Mystery Lake

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It was going to be a new adventure into a new wilderness. My crew had surveyed the lakes last year and it was time for me to do follow up surveys. I started early that morning but due to some delays arrived at the Dinkey Lakes TH later than planned. No problem I thought as I was told the hike was pretty easy and rewarding.

Not ever being to the area before, I parked about a 1/8 mile short of the actual trail head. Well it would be a good warm up for the day hike. I had River with me too, so it helped her “unwind” a bit so she could focus on hiking on the trail instead of zigzagging everywhere.

It was not long and we were both on the trail. Our first creek crossing was within the first 400 feet. A quick hop across and the trail followed Dinkey Creek. Being mid morning, the shade was nice and temperature was perfect. River and I didn’t see anyone else on the trail at this point. Another creek crossing was soon to follow. River gulped up some water as we continued on a steady grade towards the wilderness boundary.


It wasn’t long after crossing Dinkey Creek for a second time we would arrive at the wilderness boundary. This would be River’s third wilderness to cross into. I stopped at the sign to take my usual photo and River looked back to see what was taking so long? She was glad to be outside again this summer and her energy levels were high!


So far the trail was easy to follow and the grade was easy too. We were making great time as we continued to walk through the wilderness. The weather was starting to warm up and we had about 3/4 a mile to go to our first destination; Mystery Lake. The trail soon forked and we went right.

Once we took a right towards Mystery Lake, a crossing of Dinkey Creek was required once more before going uphill. Here was our first encounter with people. Not just one or two people, but about a dozen of them. They seemed all around there mid to late teens. The leaders saw River and I waiting our turn to cross. I spoke with him about what I was doing out in the wilderness. He thanked me for helping out and made sure the group made way for River and I. I told everyone to have a great time and enjoy the cooler temperatures. Passing by we climbed for about 10 minutes max and then we were there.

Mystery Lake was a beautiful place. It was only a 1.5 mile hike in and actually was rather quick to get to. A few user trails created some minor confusion, but we found our way. River was not too sure about the body of water and didn’t want to get in. However, she did grab a drink. The mosquitoes found us, but they were nothing like my recent trip to the Kaiser Wilderness a couple weeks ago. Easily tolerable after that experience. Anyway, I took a small snack break and continued on to the next body of water; Swede Lake.

The trail goes through part of a meadow/riparian area. With so much water, the area was over saturated with water. Not wanting to get wet, I walked on high ground where I could and made my way across. The hike to the next lake was going to be quick. Friends of mine told me you can hike to so many beautiful lakes in such a short time when going through the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. I was determined to find out too.

The trail became steep rather quickly. It was significantly steeper compared to going up to Mystery Lake. However, it did not take as long. Maybe 5 minutes and it started to level out again. Looking through the trees I could see Swede Lake. It only took about 20 minutes to get to this lake! Once on the shore line, I stopped for a moment to take in the scenery.


Swede Lake was not as big as Mystery Lake, but it was beautiful. The water was crystal clear. The ridgeline was to the south with some snow. A slight breeze made the water move distorting the reflection of the surrounding scenery. After the moment and several photos were taken, it was time to cool River down.

I found a stick and started to get River excited about retrieving it. I threw it out into the lake. Not too far, but enough to where she may have to swim a little. She jumped in with excitement and went past the rocks resting on the bottom of the lake. At this point the depth of the water significantly increased and River was no longer to sure about this mission I had set out for her to accomplish. She bumped the stick with her nose and came swimming back. Needless to say she was cooled down and the bugs didn’t bother her as much. She gave me a look of “why did you do that and why did you not come with me?” I patted her head, she shared the water from her coat on me, and we proceeded to our next lake; Rainbow Lake.

Rainbow Lake resided in the headwaters of an unnamed tributary to Dinkey Creek. A trail had once been established and took users there. Unfortunately the lake of maintenance allowed the trail to disappear. It wasn’t a hard uphill hike at all and cross country travel was easy to do. A great view of Mystery Lake could be seen just before going over the ridge and into Rainbow Lake. In fact a decent view of the wilderness could be seen along this portion of the journey.


Rainbow Lake was a beautiful spot. It was more secluded then Mystery and Swede Lakes. I saw a person’s campsite across the water. There was a hammock in the trees near the shoreline. Another lake was to the west and would require more cross country travel. I thought about heading there next, but having a later start then I wanted to I decided against it. Soon we headed back down to Swede Lake where we encountered a family going fishing. After the short greetings, we proceeded further west to South Lake.

The trail this time started going uphill. It was less steep then my previous two uphill climbs thus far. It was shorter too and, once at the top, the trail was relatively flat and descended down into South Lake. In about another 20 to 30 minutes, River and I would arrive at the next destination.

We passed a small meadow and nobody else was on the trail to South Lake. It was a peaceful and quiet walk. I was loving every moment of it. We had been to three lakes already and was soon to arrive at the fourth one. I was understanding why so many people came here and why it was recommended to me for a family backpacking trip. The hikes from lake to lake are quick and provide plenty of scenery. I then looked up to see South Lake through the trees. This lake was huge!


I went to the shoreline of South Lake to grab some food, get some work done, and enjoy the time spent there. It was absolutely beautiful and quite a large body of water. Like all the other lakes visited so far, the water was crystal clear and cold. Soon it was time to move along and head towards Second Lake.

As we were making our way around the lake and heading east, we came to a trail junction. On my map there was a small detour not to far off. I made a left (north) and followed the outlet of South Lake towards First Dinkey Lake. Well we never found the next junction going east again as it said on the map, so I hiked back up to the outlet where I started. Here we meet three people camping and going fishing. They were polite, wished they had brought their dogs out, and were soon on their way. I proceeded to continue to go around the lake (east) and the trail soon ended. Looking at the topo map, I decided it was time to cross country. It would not take long and the landscape was rather open making it easy to navigate. Within about 15 minutes we had found the trail and saved some time. Now it was an uphill climb to Second Dinkey Lake.


Again the hike uphill was a consistent and easy grade for both of us. River was slowing down a little bit around this time. I tried to give her some dog food, but she was not ready for it. I figured she would probably eat at Second Dinkey Lake. I would soon find out as we approached a sign letting me know where other lakes were. I didn’t see Second Dinkey Lake on the sign, but one would not need to. Just behind the sign one could see the lake.


Someone had placed a round log seat by the edge of the water. It was a perfect spot to sit and enjoy the view. I decided to do a timed photo of River and I by the lake. It took a couple of tries to get her to face the right way, but I got it. Also, by this point, I had drank all 3 liters of water. It was time to filter some for the rest of the trip. River did eat some of her dog food too, which helped her out a lot (go figure). Then looking at the map, I was tempted to go to other lakes so close by. However, we had at least 5 to 6 miles left in our trip to get back to the truck and drive out of there. I decided at this point to come back again but enter from the east near Courtright Reservoir.

Looking at the map, it was all downhill back to the truck. Both River and I made good time heading down to the final lake of our trip. Before arriving there, we met up with that group of teenagers and their leaders within 10 minutes of leaving Second Dinkey Lake. They said, “long time no see” and we all smiled. This time some of them enjoyed patting River. Their backpacks were much larger then mine and the leaders decided a break was a good idea. I told him they were very close to Second Lake. That seemed to spur up the energy once more. I said goodbye once more and made my way down the trail. I was surprised when I arrived at the lake.

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First Dinkey Lake would be the last lake to visit on our journey. Wildflowers were everywhere along the shoreline. The lake level was maxed out too. The three sisters were seen on the ridge in the background. It was another great place for photos and the “grand finale” of our trip. There were three other people to the west of us that we let come by before proceeding. Some bees were out enjoying the wildflowers too. I remember thinking I needed to take Diana and Jaden here to see all of this. It would be a great place to do a first family backpacking trip.

Now it was time to get moving. We had 4 miles of hiking left to do and it was all down hill. We didn’t see anyone either. The temperatures were warmer now and we were both getting tired. I continued to snake along the way to keep my energy levels up. River was doing great too. We walked nearby Dinkey Creek the whole time. Some pretty riparian areas were present and the trail went through them. Eventually we came back to the junction towards Mystery Lake. Now we had about a mile to go and we were done.

Once past the junction we met up with a dad, a small dog, and two small children. He was hiking in all the gear for a family backpacking trip. River was happy to see another dog. We chatted for a few minutes and then were on our way. He seemed pretty tired and I don’t blame him. He had a lot on his back as he was doing most, if not all, the carrying for the dog and kids.

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We made our way along and crossed Dinkey Creek a couple more times. The beginning of the trail was in site too. At this point the geology in the creek and nearby was very unique. Looking at the map, I was reminded that we were in the Dinkey Geological Area. I can see why it was a special spot designated that way. I took some photos to show my family back at home. The trail head was now full of cars. Probably double what it was compared to the morning.

Thus we both concluded our trip. I had a great time and I could tell River did too. However, she was glad we were no longer moving and laid down on her bed in the back of the truck. It was going to be a long and bumpy ride out. She didn’t get up from her bed till the end and then slept for sometime at home. However, the next day she had the look of “are we going somewhere today?” What a great day hike and something I highly recommend to anyone who wants to go backpacking or even hiking. It would be a great first time backpacking trip as you are rewarded with so much beauty.