Climbing Basin Mt. and Mt. Tom on an overnight to Horton Lake.
Summits: Basin Mountain (13,187ft) and Mt. Tom (13,658ft)
Trailhead: Horton Lakes Trail
Trip odo: 22.8 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 10,365/10,365ft
For Days? Yes, 2 days
Horton Lake is easily accessed just a few miles from Bishop along Buttermilk Rd. It really is a beautiful spot with great camping and fishing aplenty. Depending on the vehicle you drive and condition of the dirt road, it can be as little as 4 miles with 2,000ft of ascent to reach this gem. The limited opportunities to access the larger Sierra trail system keep backpackers to a minimum, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit.
I planned a one-nighter to climb nearby Basin Mountain and Mt. Tom, each a worthy class-3 scramble, setting up basecamp at a well-used site near the outlet of Lower Horton Lake. It turned into a wonderful trip that saw me summit two of the most recognizable peaks of the region, explore some abandoned mines, and be outclassed by some of the smartest fish in the Sierra. My city car limitations added a good chunk of distance and climbing to my hike, but the effort was worth it, and I had the entire trail to myself.
If you like freedom and lakes that you don’t have to climb over a pass to get to, check out Horton Lakes. One night was alright, but stay for longer. You won’t regret it.
Note: The condition of Buttermilk road can vary greatly from year to year. Check with the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop for up to date info.