Lundy Canyon Trail winds through gorgeous Lundy Canyon that began its history as home to the May Lundy Gold Mine and W. J. Lundy Sawmill. In the 1870s the canyon area provided timber to another gold-mining town in the California northeast, Bodie, now known as Bodie Ghost Town. The original Lundy town, whose remnants are part of the current Lundy Lake Resort, was plagued by fire in the summer months and snow slides in the winter. In a Mono County journal from 1886, the entry for Lundy Canyon reads: wild, rugged and raw but her gold is rich and yellow.
Her gold mine may be long since deserted, but her hills are covered with incredible golden Aspens each autumn and her lands are a bounty to the trail hiker. In fact the Lundy Canyon Trail, part of the Hoover Wilderness in Inyo National Forest, is well-known for its fall colors and spring wildflowers, making it not only a nature lover’s paradise but also a photographer’s delight. There are panoramic views in all directions from sweeping mountain vistas with snow-capped peaks to Aspen groves to waterfalls to numerous lakes, rivers and ponds formed by beaver dams.
Lundy Canyon Trailhead may be easily accessed from Lundy Canyon Road. About 7 miles north of Lee Vining, California turn left, or west, from the 395 onto Lundy Canyon Road. Follow the road about two miles past Lundy Lake and Resort. The way looks rough as it becomes a rocky dirt lane, winding through forests and past river-fed ponds, but it is easily accessible by car from May to October. A sign for Inyo National Forest will mark the park’s actual entrance. A short while later the road ends in a loop, providing ample parking and campsites for day and over-night usage. The trailhead is at the back of this loop, facing west.
When driving Lundy Canyon Road various points offer reminders of a time long past, including the last grave of what was once Lundy Cemetery and Stagecoach Corner. Legend says that a stagecoach missed this sharp bend and plummeted into the lake. Some years ago scuba divers confirmed the stagecoach is lying preserved in the icy cold waters. (Side note: Is this true? Only so much as info on the Internet is accurate, but it makes for a good story!)
The length of Lundy Canyon Trail depends on the hiker. It winds along Mill Creek and over the canyon’s surrounding slopes with areas of steep rocky switchbacks. The level of difficulty ranges from moderate to extreme over the course of the trail. Hence the trail length depending on the hiker: the trail skill intensity should not be a deterrent from walking the route while in your comfort range as the entire path is beautiful and any portion is worth the effort. However as the trail ascends, views only become more spectacular, culminating at the 20 Lakes Basin high in the Sierra Nevadas. From here trails circle to the numerous lakes at the foot of Shepherds Crest East, North Peak, Tioga Peak and Mount Conness at the border of Yosemite National Forest.
About ½ mile into the trail, follow the detour to the left and the first set of falls, known as Lundy Canyon Falls. These large powerful falls may be seen and heard from the first section of the trail, and their trail route is easily spotted from the main trail. Towards the falls the trail is over grown, but continue through the brush as the trail does meet the water’s edge. The Lundy Canyon Falls are estimated at sixty to seventy feet high, falling in two waterfall plunges. Back on the main trail, takes the hiker near the top of the falls and officially into the Hoover Wilderness.
A popular attraction is “Indian Rock”, a large boulder painted with the portrait of an Indian chief in full headdress. It is near the first of the beaver ponds, and better sighted on the way out as it’s only painted on the side of the rock facing into the canyon. I read that “controversy has been attached to the rock due to people who were repainting it choosing their own color scheme instead of using the colors the original artist used. Pictures of the rock from when it was first painted or at least before it was repainted in the wrong colors are highly sought after to help restore the original color scheme.” So, if you come across a photo from a past trip to Lundy, prior to October 1992, please share with the Inyo National Forest Service.
The trail is accessible from spring through fall, check with the Forest Service for current updates.