Catfish Lake

Most adventurers in the Sonora area are familiar with Pinecrest Lake Loop but few are aware of the spur trails heading off the main trail to other scenic destinations. One of these being the trail to Catfish Lake, a one-mile hike off the main Pinecrest Lake Trail to a small natural lake that is a haven for various birds and other wildlife. There is also another lake (unnamed) less than a mile from Catfish Lake, however, later in the summer this lake will dry up but is still worth a quick visit.


Catfish Lake is a nice place to sit, relax and have a snack while watching the bald eagles and blue herons sore above as well as the mallards feeding in the shallows of the lake. I would assume that certain times of the year Catfish Lake would harbor mosquitoes so come prepared. During my visit I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate) to have to deal with only a face-full of gnats as opposed to mosquitoes. For some reason the gnats appeared only after turning off the main Pinecrest Trail.

To get to Catfish Lake start out hiking the Pinecrest Lake Loop in the clockwise direction. About 1/2 mile after the dam you will come to a small cluster of cabins. Look for a rusty metal sign on your left indicating the trail to Catfish Lake. From here the hike is mostly uphill but only at a moderate grade. After one mile you will come to a wooden post marker. Turn left to go to Catfish Lake or right to the unnamed lake. The distance to each from this point is about 3/8 of a mile. This part of the trail is popular with mountain bikers riding down from Pinecrest Peak so keep an eye out.

Trail Specifics

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles one-way
  • Elevation Change: 460 ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 750 ft.
  • Best Season: spring, summer, fall
  • Open To: hikers
  • Dogs: yes
  • Hrs of Operation: year-round, may have snow in winter months
  • Fees: none
  • Managed By: Summit Ranger District
  • Restrictions: no dogs in day-use area

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