Marion Lake is a classic hiking and fishing destination in my household. My brothers and I grew up hiking this trail at least once a year and my parents still frequent the lake to this day. It was my first real intro to hiking and my first backpacking trip in 2011.
Nat, Oliver, and I decided to visit Marion Lake once again for our most recent backpacking trip on June 24-26. Our friend Max, his fiancé Teal, and her younger brother Mark joined us.
Marion Lake has become increasingly popular over the years, so I recommend arriving early. This way, you’ll snag a parking spot and a camping spot if necessary. Before you hit the trail, don’t forget your forest pass or day pass. You will also need to fill out a free wilderness pass, so the rangers know how many are in your group, how long you’ll be staying, etc.
The hike into Marion Lake is about 3.1 miles and is easy-moderate. There are a few up-hill switchbacks going into the lake but nothing too difficult. The ground levels out between switchbacks and is pretty much level as you travel around the lake.
At about 2 miles in you will arrive at Lake Ann after crossing a rock field. I love this area because you can hear a small stream running underneath you and reverberating against the lava rocks. Truly a unique sound you have to hear for yourself!
You’ll eventually reach several splitting points in the trail – we usually opt left at all intersections. There are maps of Marion Lake posted along the trail, though you might want to study this map that shows Marion Lake Trail #3436 as well as the whole trail system.
If you decide to travel to the left, you’ll arrive at another rock field where you’ll have your first peek of Marion Lake.
After this point, it’s just a matter of finding a good spot to set up camp. This may require you to follow small paths that lead you off the main trail toward the lake. Our group found a sweet spot by following one of these paths and over a rushing creek.
We had a great view of Marion Lake and the nearby creek was perfect for filtering fresh water.
Beware! If you’re hiking into Marion Lake during the late spring or early summer, bring strong bug spray! (Usually the mosquitos become more manageable by late July.) The mosquitoes were unforgiving throughout the trip. They weren’t quite as bad during the day, but swarmed us in the mornings and evenings. Moral of the story: be sure to come prepared.
During our second night just after dinner, Nat noticed dark clouds looming in the distance. He predicted a thunderstorm that would crawl over the mountains and hit Marion Lake. Before we knew it Nat’s prediction came true and large rain drops began to splash on our heads. Chaos ensued as we scrambled around to pick up our gear and hide it away in our tents. Lightning flashed and thunder ripped through the sky – it was pretty exciting!
Maybe it’s just me, but I love it when my fingernails are dirty, my hair is grimy, and my coffee has a few unidentified bits and pieces. It’s just what happens when you go backpacking. Getting dirty and letting go makes me feel so rugged and free.
Marion Lake still stands as one of my favorite hiking and backpacking destinations. There are plenty of spots to set up camp with close proximity to the lake – this is perfect for day hikes and overnight trips. You can spend your day fishing, lounging, or exploring nearby creeks and trail systems. Marion Lake is truly worth exploring!