While our hike to Marie Louise Lakes was long on cherished memories, it was a bit short on Fall color. So, after consulting several Fall color guides, we figured that Lundy Canyon, just north of Lee Vining, California, was the most likely spot to offer up a palette of hues. So after stopping to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, we made our way to the Lundy Canyon Trailhead at the end of Forest Road 2N01. The parking here is surprisingly limited and awkward for what seems a popular trailhead. And the only “amenity” is a single, fragrant, pit toilet. But we found a parking spot and were soon heading up-canyon is search of color.
We were about 30 seconds up the trail when the Fall color started to pop – rich yellow, orange, and gold quaking aspens lined the trail.
We continued on through a grove of small aspens on a trail that had recently been reconstructed after being obliterated by a massive mudslide from the canyon wall above. In less than a half-mile, we reached a rocky prominence where we got a big view of all the color in the valley and of the first waterfall. Yes, we got both Fall color and waterfalls on this hike!
We followed the trail up the north side of the valley,
past the top of the first waterfall,
around a little pond above the falls,
and into a large grove of huge, colorful quaking aspens. What impressed us about these aspens was how big they are – some looked to be over 6 feet in diameter.
An old trapper’s cabin is buried in this aspen grove. This is a beautiful spot but we still couldn’t build any enthusiasm for spending the winter here in a log hut.
Beyond the grove of large aspens, the trail climbed just enough to bring us to another grove of aspens further along in the Fall color process – moving their leaves from a bright yellow to a rich red-orange.
We continued along, following the gently rising trail,
up past the other two waterfalls on Mill Creek. Both are tumbling cascades rather than direct drops but both are very charming nonetheless.
We continued on up the valley to where the trail makes a turn south and starts a ragged, scree-laden climb to Lake Helen. Since this was a Fall color hike, and there isn’t much in the way of color up at the lake, we passed on a scree-slog to sit, snack, and gaze at the wildly colored canyon walls and the ever shifting clouds and contrails.
Snacking completed, it was time to (reluctantly) head back.
This was an easy, short (4 miles round-trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain) hike but one long on the Fall color we were looking for. It was just what the Fall color guides promised. Of all the hikes we did on this trip, this one provided the most color for the least effort. The three delightful waterfalls were a bonus feature. The allotted parking area seems oddly inadequate for what is an obviously popular hike. We saw a dozen people on the trail, all the awkward parking spots were taken when we got back, and there were cars parked along the access road. So, absolutely worth a visit for the Fall color but, on weekends, arrive early to get a parking spot!