Take a Hike: Jackass Lakes and Madera Peak

Photo courtesy of Joshua Helm A hiker overlooks one of the Jackass Lakes located in Yosemite National Park.

Jordan Nicholson

Special to The Collegian

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are the ultimate playground for mountaineers, climbers and hikers. The jagged mountain peaks, rushing rivers and rocky terrain call for vast exploration and at times, technical skill. It’s also the perfect setting to learn how to be the ultimate adventurer. Spring break is almost here and I say go big next week and take a hike. I hope you’re excited.

An overnight hike can be the perfect way to relax and unwind. I recommend unearthing your camping gear, grabbing a fun group of friends and heading up to Jackass Lakes, located at the end of a long ridge of the Sierra Nevada that forms the Yosemite National Park’s boundary. This area overall is fairly remote and resides in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and is my favorite place to camp.

There are three different lakes you’ll encounter along the hike: Lower Jackass, Middle Jackass and Upper Jackass Lake, all resting below the looming Madera Peak at 10,509 ft.

The hike from the trailhead to Upper Jackass Lake is roughly five miles, gradually rising in elevation along the way, but there is plenty of shade coverage throughout the area. The sun exposure occurs once you are past Upper Jackass Lake and going towards the peak.

There are times when you’re hiking when the trail may seem hidden. Make sure that you are keeping an eye out for trail markers, which are stacked or piled rock formations placed along the trail, also called cairns. Otherwise, the trail is very accessible and I’d estimate the hike in would take about three to four hours.

The great thing about this hike is that once you reach Upper Jackass Lake at about 9,000 ft., camping spots are everywhere so feel free to unpack and set up camp for the day or the night. If you decide to camp out, I recommend rising early in the morning and making your way up the trail to Madera Peak.

The hike to the peak from Upper Jackass Lake is roughly three miles round trip and is about an hour and a half each way. The terrain is rocky and exposed a lot of the way but as you climb in elevation you begin to see a 360-degree view of distant mountains and valleys – a major plus. I’d recommend taking lunch to the top and enjoying the views for a while.

If you’re planning to camp out, I recommend bringing a couple extra layers of clothing, since the high altitude atmosphere is accustomed to sharp temperature changes, especially during the night. Be sure to bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen if you’re going to hike to the summit. I like to take my portable stove on these excursions, which you can pick up at any outdoor store. The parking is also open and free.

Cell reception is pretty nonexistent up there so don’t expect to upload any Instagram worthy photos at any point. Although, I did get a phone call at the summit one time, for which I could never explain. Regardless, this is an amazing hike and a great place to spend part of your well-earned spring break.

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