Directions: From Lone Pine, drive west on Whitney Portal Road 3.5 miles to Horseshoe Meadow Road and turn left. Continue 20 miles to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead (not the nearby Horseshoe Meadow trailhead). The paved road is usually open May through October.
There are 6 numbered-lakes within the Cottonwood Lake system. The first 5 are within an easy walk of each
other from the Cottonwood Trail where the 6th lake is a more strenuous climb to 11,600'. Starting at the
trailhead (10,040'), it is a 4.5 mile hike to Cottonwood 1 at 11,008'. The lakes had been off-limits to
fishing from 1966 to 1998 while the lakes were used as breeding ponds for Golden
Trout by Calif Fish and Game. However, during that 30 year period, Rainbow Trout have made their way
into the lake system and contaminated the gene pool. The planting of Golden Trout throughout many of the high elevation lakes during this period were from these contaminated sources. The contamination nullified the lakes as a source for pure strains of Goldens and pressure was created to open the lakes to fishing. The Dept of Fish and Game has been under mandate of the Calif Wild Trout program to
open at least one lake and 25 miles of stream each year. These two factors combined opened the lake system
to fishing in 1998. Fortunately, pure sources of Volcano Creek Goldens have been identified within the upper reaches of Golden Trout Creek to allow a pure strain hatchery program to continue. Most of the recent effort by DFG is to ensure the genetic integrity of the Golden Trout by protecting their native habitat from intrusions by other species.
Cottonwood Lakes are under special regulations. All lakes and tributaries within the Cottonwood Drainage require artificial lures or flies with barbless
hooks with a limit of 5 fish. Cottonwood Lakes #1,2,3, and 4 are Catch & Release only. The season begins
on July 1st and ends November 15th. This allows the Goldens to spawn during the Spring without fishing pressure.
Records show that Cottonwood Creek was fishless until 1876 when Colonel Sherman Stevens brought 12 Golden
Trout from Mulkey Creek and introduced them to Cottonwood Creek. Around 1890, E.H. Edwards and others
took 50 Golden Trout from Cottonwood Creek and introduced them to the fishless Cottonwood Lakes. The
Goldens that inhabited Cottonwood Lakes were a source for Golden stockings to other areas within the
state since 1918.
Local lakes and streams are:
Muir Lake: 8 acre lake at an elevation at 11,010. 4.5 miles from trailhead. May consists of Goldens but is now managed as "fishless" by DFG.
Hidden Lake: 6 acre lake at an elevation at 10,850. 4.0 miles from trailhead. May consists of Goldens but is now managed as "fishless" by DFG.
Cottonwood 1: 7 acres at 11,000 feet. 4.3 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cottonwood 2: 5 acres at 11,030 feet. 4.5 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cottonwood 3: 25 acres at 11,045 feet. 5 miles from Trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cottonwood 4: 20 acres at 11,150 feet. 6 miles from Trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cottonwood 5: 20 acres at 11,160 feet. 6 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cottonwood 6: 5 acres at 11,600 feet. 8 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Lower South Fork Lake: 5 acres at 11,640 feet. 4.6 miles from trailhead.Consists of Goldens.
Long Lake: 7 acres at 11,135 feet. 5.0 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
High Lake: 6 acres at 11,500 feet. 5.8 miles from trailhead. Consists of Goldens.
Cirque Lake: 7.5 acres at 11,060 feet. 5.0 miles from trailhead. May consists of Goldens but is now managed as "fishless" by DFG.
Cottonwood Creek: Spring Creek with pockets and pools. Designated a Wild Trout Stream by DFG. Catch & Release only. Consists of Rainbows and Goldens.