Wheeler Lake is a 6.8 mile out and back hike beginning at the parking area at Woodchuck Basin off Hwy 4 Ebbetts Pass, a mile and a half northeast of Alpine lake. This hike offers spectacular panoramic views of Lake Alpine to the south and vistas of Underwood Valley and the Mokulemne River Canyon to the northwest. This moderate level hike climbs just under 1000′ over the course of two miles to the crest of Reba Ridge and descends quickly down to Wheeler Lake. The trail is rocky in places with some steep sections and you will likely encounter snow up on Reba Ridge, even in the summer months, since it is at an elevation of 8700′. The hike to Wheeler Lake is best done in the summer months, June through October. Any overnight camping near Wheeler Lake will require a permit as the lake resides in the Mokelumne Wilderness (no permit required for day trips). Contact the Amador Ranger Station in Pioneer, CA for more information.
About the Hike
As you begin your hike heading north from the parking area, the trail meanders through wooded forest for the first mile and then opens up to offer amazing views of the rocky crags of Reba Ridge. The next half mile is relatively flat hiking but fully exposed. Then the trail begins to climb rapidly till you reach the top of the ridge. It’s worth taking a little break here to enjoy the natural splendor as the views are magnificent. From here the trail is mostly downhill and steep and loose as you descend the ridge so be careful. After another mile and a half of hiking you will reach Wheeler Lake. Once you do find a shady spot, take a break and have some lunch before the hike out. Wheeler lake isn’t necessarily good for swimming as it’s somewhat marshy, it’s more about the scenery. If you do this hike in the summer (July or August) you’re rewarded with an abundance of wild flowers and Wheeler Lake is surrounded by lupine and corn lilies.
The trailhead to Wheeler Lake is 50 miles east of Angles Camp along Highway 4. Once you reach Alpine Lake drive another mile and a half and turn left into the dirt parking area. The trailhead is to the north of the parking area. Expect about 3 hours hiking time give or take.
Wheeler Lake Hike Photos