263 forum posts
Gianelli Trailhead is actually a bit easier than the Crabtree Trailhead, in that the trails are not as steep. But the lakes here are not along the trail---they are off to the side---so it's not quite as rewarding as the Crabtree to Deer Lake route. ON the other hand, it is easier to cover a lot of ground along here.
We hiked to Leopold Lake the first day, passing by the turn-offs to Powell, Chewing Gum, and Y Meadow Lakes, all of which seemed pretty crowded on a July weekend. Even Toejam Lake had about twenty people camped in different places around the lake. At least one of whom was cutting dead branches off a tree for firewood. Doofus.
View to the South., with the El Portal Fire in view from Leopold Lake
All of these trails were clearly marked...but that's not true of the cross-country route to Leopold. There is a significant series of granite ledges between Toejam and Leopold, and it takes a bit of route-finding to get through them. It wasn't exactly difficult, it just took some time to find a route. But once there, it is worth it--a stunning lake high on a ridge, with views in all directions if you just walk a few yards up the slopes. No people, probably because there are no fish. But well worth the hike. (There are fish at Toejam, which may explain why there are more people.)
On the way back we stopped at Y Meadow Lake. We had heard it was very crowded on Saturday night, but by Sunday afternoon we were alone there. No fish, but a shallow, warm lake that had some in our group swimming like Naiads. The lake was low, with a 3-5 foot rim around the bathtub from high water. We camped on the ledges to the West of the lake, with lovely views. But dusk came early there, as we were in the shadows of the cliffs. No worries, the sunrise got us up before 6:30...
Y Meadow Lake in the smoke
Y Meadow without the smoke
This area gets a lot of traffic, both from hikers and horse packers, but you can find your spots to get peace and quiet if you are willing to go a step further than most people. This was 23 mile total, including the sightseeing day-hikes.