Chain Lakes is a small collection of natural, alpine lakes in the Emigrant Wilderness part of the Stanislaus National Forest. There are a couple of different routes to Chain Lakes but this one starts at the Box Spring trailhead, about 7 miles off Forest Route 3N01. The hike is relatively easy with an elevation change of only 300 feet, with 7260 being the minimum and 7560 the maximum. The trail cuts through an old burn scarred area of the forest which is currently used as range land for cattle. The cattle like to share the trail with hikers so the first section can be a little chewed up. A couple of miles into the hike you’ll encounter a very scenic pond accurately named “Lily Pad Pond”, which is also called Dodge Meadow. Another mile or so will get you to the first of the Chain Lakes, a nice spot to sit in the shade for a picnic. A little ways further down the trail is the second lake (my favorite), a picturesque marshy lake covered with brilliant green aquatic grasses. Another quarter mile or so will get you to the third lake. It’s worth planning at least a couple of hours to explore the area around chain lakes and since the hike in is only three relatively easy miles, most ambitious hikers will have excess energy to burn.
To reach the Box Spring trailhead drive east on FR 3N01 out of Long Barn for about 20 miles. 3N01 is paved most of the way to the turn off to Box Spring with the last mile or two being dirt. After about 20 miles turn right on FR 3N16, the rest of the way is all dirt. Drive five miles to 3N20Y and turn right (continuing on 3N16 will bring you to a dead end). Drive for another three miles to the Box Spring trailhead. Give yourself about 1.5 hours drive time from Long Barn to the trailhead.