Sunny Pass · Santa Cruz, California · July 25, 2020
My husband and I took our 7 and 10 year olds for our first backpacking trip at the end of June 2020. We packed too much for our 3 night stay so our packs were too heavy. The kids were only able to carry their packs for the first third (which is the flat part). Long story short, it was incredibly hard carrying our overloaded packs and theirs. Some of the hike takes you through burned trees that are not attractive. The crown jewel of the whole hike was the valley vista near the end and the lake itself. Our hike out was easier because it was mostly downhill and we had gravity on our side.
The lake was fantastic! We found a perfect camping spot. We were under social distancing protocols so the crowds were low. We were the only ones in our area. The kids fished and swam most of the time we were there. We had intended on doing day hikes but we were so worn out from the hike in, we just took short hikes around the lake. I filtered water from a nice spot in the creek that flowed over rock. We went swimming and found the water to be cold but lovely. The mosquitoes were HORRIBLE from about 7PM on, depending on how windy it is. We saw many yellow-bellied marmot.
Advice- Pack as light as you can, especially if you are bringing young children.
So worth the extra miles
Anita · Sonora · November 17, 2019
It's by far my favorite hike in Yosemite! Of course there is so much more of Yosemite to explore. I went in July a few years back and still plan on making another trip out with my daughter. I love the view from the top that overlooks the back side of Half Dome. Just shows you how big this wonderful park is. If you've never been you need to make it a priority next year.. or go during the winter. I just don't do well in the cold.
Marlene · New Hampshire · January 13, 2019
A wonderful hike. Ostrander is the prize at the end of this long trek. I could not resist a dip even though it was October and the water was probably 60 degrees. Invigorating.
Craig Camus · Folsom Califonia · August 30, 2017
This was a wonderful hike. The hike was more than moderate with a 65lb pack. We hiked with my wife and two children 12 and 16 years old. When you are almost to the top there is a great view of half dome. There are so many trout in the lake, they are just staked up and easily seen from the shore. If I were to do this overnight hike again I would buy a water filtration pump for water rather than carry water in the back pack. There is a stream running over rock that is perfect for drinking water. There is a cathedral type fire pit and someone had abundant wood cut left for hikers. We only saw 2 people on the trail coming down and we had the lake to ourselves for two days. I highly recommend this hike.
Worth it all
Robert Lanz · McAlester, Oklahoma · March 20, 2017
First trip was in July after a winter record snow fall, about 1965. Took family, my 4 children and another family. Lost the trail twice due to remaining snow drifts but quickly recovered as we had and were able to follow topo map. Had rain on the way and it took about 5 hours as I remember. Beautiful scenery, moderate hiking. My youngest child was 6 and carried her own clothes in her pack. Guided a Boy Scout troop there a few years later. Some of the boys had never been away from home except for their training campouts and hikes for this trip. They were amazed. Some caught the first fish in their young lifetime. An experience they and I will never forget.
Perfect Yosemite Hike
Steve T · Martinez, CA · July 9, 2016
The hike is pretty tough with a 50lb pack, which the three of us had for a two night stay at the lake. This is a serious hike with gear, take it seriously and you will enjoy it. The second half of the hike is the hardest part and I recommend packing a water filter, which we used to replenish water from the creek running along the path as it got hot in the open part of the trail. If you plan to stay the night definitely use a bear canister for all food and garbage storage. We had the lake to ourselves the first night with one other group at the lake for the second night. If you're looking for peace and solitude this is your place. We went swimming at midday, which was nice after the strenuous hike but the water is extremely cold, but worth it. The lake was full of hungry golden trout. Every time I casted I caught a 10" to 12" fish. My son and I caught three fat trout for dinner in less than 10 minutes. We cooked the fish with garlic salt and a lemon over the campfire, it tasted amazing. Lastly, I recommend mosquito netting as they come out in the morning and evening, but not too bad. Enjoy your trip and be safe! ST...
Backpacking at Ostrander Lake
Stacey B · Sierra Madre, CA · May 16, 2016
If you want to lay down next to a pristine alpine lake and see the infamous, historic Ostrander hut with no one around, this is the place! The hike is hard at times. We started at bridalveil and it was flat and beautiful through the meadows for an hour or so. The rest was switchbacks and the elevation climbs. I was tired by the time we hit the lake but it was so worth it! So gorgeous. Awe inspiring.
Tough, but manageable
Rich T · San Jose · August 30, 2014
Hiked up on the Wednesday before labor day and it was a tough trek. Maybe not as a day hiker, but as a backpacker the climb will slow you down. Pretty much had the lake to ourselves since we only saw 2 people from Wednesday to Friday.
No matter what the rangers tell you, all the fire rings and campsites are on the north, northeast, and northwest sides of the lake. If you want to get a great view of the lake and the Clarke Range down to Half Dome, go around the east side of the lake and carefully scramble 500 feet partway up Horse Ridge.
Passed 20 people coming down Friday so I don't think weekends are nearly as private.
Jake · Orange County · July 20, 2014
This hike takes you through beautiful meadows full of flowers and pine trees. The first half is very flat and casual. Yoi eventually start hitting some uphill and there are some difficult parts but not too bad. My 2 friends I was with wanted to turn around after we stopped seeing signs for Ostrander Lake as they thought we had passed it. I walked for 100 more feet and saw the lake. If you think you passed it, you haven't. Not sure if anyone else has had this problem. might just be because someone on their way back told us half a mile left when there was really two miles. I went July 19th and there were not very many mosquitos. The water at the end is most definitely worth all 12 miles.
Great Day Hike - even for beginners!
Jeff Curran · Westerville, Ohio · June 16, 2014
My two teenage (18,15) sons and I were looking for a hike that was off the beaten path and devoid of tourists - something about 4 hours long. And we really liked the idea of hiking to a lake. We saw this hike was about 5-8 hours but decided to try it anyway. It was their first ever hike in Yosemite. I had done others (such as the Panorama trail) about a decade earlier.
Our experience was about the same as all of the other posters. The first 2 miles are easy, wandering through relatively flat terrain and what feels like a "graveyard" of trees. We went in mid-June and found the trail to be very dusty and dry. No mosquitoes thankfully! I believe these conditions are due to the extended drought in the area. The only thing we had to watch out for on the trail was frequent piles of horse poop. We didn't see any wildlife unfortunately. The second half of the trip was difficult and all uphill. We still managed to get to the lake in just 2.5 hours but we are all in pretty good shape (though I turn 50 this year!). The conditions were also perfect - sunny and temps around 60.
At the lake we rested, snacked and soaked our feet in the cool clean water. The ski hut was closed but it would have been neat to see inside.
We only saw 2 other groups hiking and there was nobody at the lake. There was still a very small amount of snow up on the southern ridge above the lake.
After about 30 minutes, we headed back down and got in our car about 5 hours after we had started.
We can't wait to go back on a future visit but plan to take our gear so we can fish and spend the night!
Curtis · Reno, NV · May 18, 2014
We made the hike in mid-May. The first half of the hike is easy and beautiful, through flat meadows and plenty of shade from towering pines. We read the warning about mosquitos but encountered NO mosquitos anywhere along the way, even at the lake! Maybe we just got lucky with the time of year. There was only a few small patches of snow along the trail, and snow on the granite wall across the lake (making for a picturesque backdrop) but very little snow at the camp sites. The last 3 miles of the hike are all up-hill but not too horrible; we just took our time (about 4 hrs up, 3 hrs back). Great views of Yosemite Valley towards the top of the hike before you descend into the lake. There are many camp sites around the lake with stone fire rings. We only saw a few other parties camping at the lake. We stayed one night, enjoyed a near-full moon view of the lake at night (you could walk around without a headlamp and the reflection off the lake was amazing). The lake is crystal clear and refreshing if you want to take a short, brisk COLD swim to get the trail dust off, which I did (hate sleeping in sun-block and sweat!!). Many folks we passed along the way were just going as a day-hike, but it's a great place to camp and fish if you want to stay a night or two and don't mind packing the extra weight. Highly recommend, especially early in the season before the heat and mosquitos! Enjoy!!
Rachel Stillwell · San Diego · January 9, 2014
Excellent beginner or intermediate hike. Six of us hiked out in early July. We had the entire lake to ourselves. The girls skinny dipped. The water was cold and clear. The mosquitoes ate my husband alive. Really nice hike.
Day hike or backpack trip
Pat · Boston · November 8, 2013
This is a great day hike with multiple places to stop and enjoy the scenery. Make sure you watch for bear paw prints in the trail dust. If you are early, and quiet enough, you might even get to see one of the local black bears while on this hike.
If you are packing, save your strength, as the last section before the campsites at the lake is quite steep, but non technical.
As an alternate, the right fork takes you to a beautiful dome and can serve as an alternate entry point for a longer backpack trip to the high lakes loop that is significantly easier than the Chilnualna Falls trail entry.
Big Wave Dave · Palo Alto · October 1, 2013
A few years ago, three of us booked reservations at the Hut and skied in just ahead of a big winter storm. It was an amazing trip, and we ended up spending 3 nights in the hut - two with others who were snowed in and one by ourselves with the ranger. It was a memorable event, with more than 5 feet of snow falling during our stay. The skis enabled us to stay on top of the snow and the skiing down the nearby hills and the views were spectacular! A must for the intrepid back country skier.
Ostrander Lake Hike #1
Gerard J Shuba · Menlo Park , California · August 7, 2012
I was 15 years old and Ostrander Lake was my first backpacking trip.
Clifford's dad dropped us off at the trail and the 4 of us headed out.
I remember it to be really nice for a short time but my pack got to be real heavy real fast. I took a lot of breaks. But when we got there, it was real and spectacular. We made camp, ate freeze dried food and swam in the lake.
The next day we hiked to the top of Horse Ridge. We built throne like chairs from the slab granite and sat back and enjoyed the great view of the lake and Yosemite.
We broke camp a bit too late. When we got to Glacier Point there was no bus to catch. So...reluctantly we headed down the 4 mile trail at 10 pm. Backpacks, blisters and all. I was scared! My imagination was playing tricks. I thought the rocks and shadows were "Lions and Tigers and Bears" jumping out at me. We got to the valley floor around midnight.
Of course...No buses. So we hiked down the valley the 7 or so miles to the Pines Campground. I don't know what time it was by then.
Boy...We got chewed out by Clifford's dad. "I told you guys, Don't leave too late!" he said.
What a trip! I've been hooked ever since.
I'm now 50 and I'm going back next month to retrace my memory of Ostrander Lake.
Gonzo · Murrieta, Ca · July 30, 2012
The guys decided it was time for an outing. So on Thursday night 11:00 pm I left home and worked my way up to Yosemite, picking up the guys on the way. We were excited about the trip and looked forward to a great weekend. We had lunch at the "O'l Kettle". Great service and food. Highly recommend. We got to the ranger station about 9:30 am Friday. Got the "Wilderness Pass" and some great info from Ranger "Joan". Very nice, sweet, and informative!! Drove up to the trail head, decided what was important gear wise, geared up, and headed up the lake by noon. First couple of miles was easy. We get to the halfway point and took a water break to be safe. Some hikers heading down told us we haven't seen anything yet. She said we still have "Heart attack hill" ahead of us. After a couple of hills, we had hoped the hill she talked about was behind us. However, at the 1.5 mile marker to the lake, we saw what she was talking about. It was TOUGH!! It took us 5 hours to get to the lake. But it was an experience we were proud of. At the top of the hill were some great views. The view of the lake was a sight for sore eyes. I just wanted to jump in since the water was great to the touch. We decided to set up camp, get the fire going cook some carne asada and break open a bottle of tequila. The next day was fishing. We caught 5 rainbow trout. It was enough since we had other snacks. No more tequila though. We kicked ourselves for finishing the bottle the first night. After dinner we shared stories next to the camp fire. Sunday morning was an early start. We got geared up and headed down the hill at 8:00 am. It took us 2.5 hours to get down. I got attacked by mosquitos in the last mile since I forgot to spray myself down with repellant. After dropping everybody off I finally made it home around 7:00 pm. It was an awesome experience. Recommendations: Pack light, but don't forget the tequila!!
All around great hike!
Barbara Mellon · Sierra foothills · July 4, 2012
This is a great day hike. You see all different types of terrain from meadows to granite to forest. Have done this hike several times and never had to deal with crowds. Not too difficult so it is suitable for all ages plus the opportunity to see some wildlife. When you get to the lake, you are rewarded with beautiful scenery and a great place to rest and eat before heading back.
Scott · San Francisco · May 24, 2012
I have hiked Ostrander Lake twice and both times were memorable. The hike starts with a Disney-esque stroll through meadows for the first mile or two. In the summer, the views, birds, and wildflowers can be beautiful if you hit it during the right season. As the hike progresses, there is a slow and seemingly never ending ascent. Just when you think you've 'made it to the top' of the trail, it bends and reveals another incline. Definitely not for the first time hiker in Yosemite. Once you make it to the lake, however, you'll know that the hike was well worth it. Putting your dusty and hot feet in the cold water is a little slice of heaven. The views are beautiful and it's a great place to enjoy the lunch you carried up there.
The way back is a breeze. Or at least it was one time. The first time we hiked there, my partner and I were chased out of there by a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. We couldn't escape them and had to run most of the way back to avoid being overrun by thousands of these mini attackers. Granted, we did the hike later in the day… and just as the sun was setting the mosquitoes were out in full force. They provided the perfect incentive to get back to our car quickly. We made it out without too many bites. We laugh about it every time we think back to that hike.
The second time we did the hike, it was amazing. Lots of flowers, cool water, great views and thankfully no mosquitoes.
Although it sounds like a hard hike, it's actually quite beautiful and we highly recommend it.
This hike holds a special spot for me and is very memorable. I got engaged on the shore of the lake!