Waterhouse Lake is a beautiful, natural lake in the Stanislaus River canyon several miles southeast of Herring Creek Reservoir. The hike to Waterhouse Lake is short at just under two miles and a relatively easy decent on an established trail for the first mile but quickly becomes steep and tricky as you begin to decend the granite canyon. Along the route cairns are laid to mark the way but so many are scattered about they do little more than confirm that you’re not totally lost. I would highly recommend a GPS if you plan to decend the canyon as it’s easy to get confused especially on the way back up. Once you make your way down to the solid granite slab head east (left) toward the lake but don’t forget to stop and admire the vast vistas overlooking the South Fork Stanislaus River canyon and over to Dodge Ridge. The views are spectacular and remind you how little we are in this vast wilderness. Sunscreen or long sleeves are a must if you plan to spend some time exploring as the granite outcropping is very sparsely populated with trees. If you make it to Waterhouse Lake and still have energy to burn (remember you still have to climb out) walk around the lake to the right (south side) and head up the granite to Lake Adele, smaller but just as beautiful. Getting there can be tricky and may take a mile or so of additional hiking even though the lake is only 1/2 mile from Waterhouse as the crow flies. The inlet to Waterhouse Lake and surrounding shoreline is densely populated with mature Aspen trees so this spot is ideal for a fall visit as well as summer. Access to Waterhouse lake is restricted to the warmer months and is usually accessible from July to November depending on the season. Check with the Summit Ranger District (209) 965-3434 for area status.
To reach the Waterhouse Lake trailhead take Herring Creek Road off Hwy 108 three miles past the town of Strawberry. Follow Herring Creek road past the Trail of the Gargoyles to the “Y” and stay right. You’ll pass Herring Creek Camground and begin ascending for three miles or so until you get to Forest Road 5N31. Take a right and follow for 1/2 mile to the parking area just past the large meadow.