Bell Meadow to Mud Lake is a moderate level 3.2 mile one-way hike in the Stanislaus National Forest. The trailhead is located about three miles southeast of Pinecrest Lake off of FR 4N25, near the Aspen Meadow Pack Station. Mud Lake is a perfect day hike and awards you with spectacular views of pristine meadows, beautiful creeks, granite cliffs and abundant wildlife. If you choose to do this hike shortly after the rainy season, Mud Lake can be a spectacular site in and of itself.
The trail starts out at the west end of Bell Meadow and traverses along the north edge through beautiful Aspen groves that show off their magnificent colors in the fall. After about 1.3 miles you will come to the junction with Crabtree Trail that leads up to Pine Valley Horse Camp. Keep going straight (southeast) and you will come to a large creek crossing (Bell Creek). During the spring runoff the creek will be full so your best bet is to cross the log bridge that Mother Nature so generously provided for us. At 2.3 miles you will reach another junction that takes you to Grouse Lake, keep right (south). The trail gets a little more difficult with a slight ascent and some possible log jumps but nothing too extreme. At about three miles you will reach the last junction. Right takes you to Coffin Hollow so stay left (east). Mud Lake is just another 1/4 mile down a short descent. Once you get to Mud Lake it’s possible to hike the entire perimeter although there is no established trail and requires a bit of effort. The perimeter is about one mile around and offers alternative spectacular vantage points than from just the west side.
If you decide to do this hike keep in mind Mud Lake very shallow and marshy and will likely dry up in the warmer months so mid to late spring is your best best. Access to this trail usually opens mid to late May so check with the Summit Ranger Station for status.
Directions: From Sonora head east on Hwy 108, turn right on Crabtree Rd (two miles before Pinecrest Lake turnoff). Follow Crabtree for 6.5 miles and turn right on FR 4N25. Drive 1/2 mile and turn left on FR 4N02Y. Drive two miles to Bell Meadow parking area.