This adventure starts on the Mud Lake 4×4 trail, but you unmount at the Munson Meadows trailhead for a hike to Cole Creek Lakes.
This is very under-the-radar hike since the trailhead is guarded by a true 4×4 trail. No stock SUVs allowed (well, I suppose you could try it), though I think a stock Jeep could do it without a problem. Most people out on a 4×4 journey are not going to stop at a trailhead to hike, so the two times I’ve used this trailhead I’ve seen only one hiker (hunter actually) on the trail.
But it is an awesome trail with views across the massive Mokelumne river valley over to the Bear Valley ski resort. The trail actually branches out to several places but the nearest destinations are Cole Creek Lakes and Black Rock Lake. The trail to Cole Creek Lakes is easy to follow and Cole Creek lakes are beautiful.
The trail to Black Rock Lake is more of an adventure hike. It isn’t long, but it is a little hard to follow because it just isn’t used very often.
I actually found this place because I took local climber Bobby Hutton up in my plane to scout out new climbing locations. One of the places we found is about a mile from Black Rock Lake so I took our ATV out to the trailhead and hiked in from there. The granite cliffs in that area falls away down to the Mokelumne River and although there could be one or two decent climbs there, it wouldn’t be good enough for the effort to get there. But I liked the hike so much we came back with my family in my Tacoma (with a 2″ lift).
To get there, head up to Tragedy Springs on Highway 88, then turn right onto the Mud Lake 4×4 road. Stay left at the intersections, go by the stunning little historic meadow and log cabin at Allen’s Place, enjoy the road on the ridge and finally drop down to the Munson Meadow trailhead.
By the way some of this 4×4 is an unbelievable relic of the past. It is part of the original Mormon Emigrant trail. Pioneers actually took their horses, wagons and mules up on the ridge! You’d think they would be down where 88 is, but they were up around 9,000 feet in the harsh alpine environment.