Your Ultimate Trail Guide: Mount Langley Hike and the Cottonwood Lakes - California 14er

Your Ultimate Trail Guide: Mount Langley Hike and the Cottonwood Lakes    | Mount Langley is the 9th tallest mountain in California and one of three California 14ers that can be accessed via a Class-1 hiking trail which makes it one of the easiest California 14ers to summit. Even if you aren't interested in summiting Mount Langley, just hiking to the Cottonwood Lakes is a worthwhile trip all on it's own. Check out our full guide to this beautiful area and this Sierra Nevada classic hike! |

The Mount Langley hike often gets overshadowed by its nearby neighboring peak, Mount Whitney, but is one of California's best hiking and backpacking trails. The Cottonwood Lakes are also, arguably, some of the most beautiful series of lakes in the Sierra Nevada, and are surprisingly easy to get to! When hiking Mount Langley you will have to battle its over 5,900 feet of elevation gain over 26 miles all while adapting to the altitude of its high summit at 14,026 feet. Many hikers choose to attempt Mount Langley in 2-3 days, camping near the base of New Army Pass or scattered among the Cottonwood Lakes, but some extra-ambitious hikers will attempt to achieve its summit in a 1-day push. For the rock climbers out there, there are even a couple of more technical routes leading to the summit of Mount Langley. Either way, Mount Langley makes for a great beginner 14,000 foot peak hike, and should be at the top of your peak-bagging list! 

For me, hiking Mt Langley was actually my 2nd California 14er to summit. I first climbed the mountaineers route up Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states, and then went after Mount Langley. Ironically though, it took me 2 attempts to get to the summit of Mount Langley. Back in 2015 I decided to attempt Mount Langley as my first solo backpacking trip. I had been toying with the idea the whole year of 2015 and after a bit of research decided the Cottonwood Lakes trail to Mount Langley would be the perfect first solo backpacking trip. It had a defined trail. It was an out-and-back trail (no shuttle required). The route seemed straight forward, had plenty of water, and as a bonus, the high point was the summit of Mount Langley. I wanted to go on a solo backpacking trip in order to prove something to myself. I wanted to know that I could use all these skills I had been learning from others and be completely dependent on myself in the backcountry. I wanted to learn how to make smart decisions for myself, and I wanted to experience what it felt like to be truly on my own (like in the middle of the night, no one knows exactly where you are, there might be a bear outside your tent alone). Most importantly though, I wanted to get over this fear I had of needing other people to be there. I needed to know that if I, for some reason, lost touch with friends or found myself on my own, that I could feel confident in my own skin to do things by myself. (Insert #independentwoman rant).

View of Mount Langley.

Well the first summit attempt of Mount Langley went great! I actually had a ton of fun out there on my own, and I totally geeked out over maps and finding alternative routes (my first route option, Old Army Pass, ended up being completely covered in snow). I learned a lot about myself even though it was only a 2 day trip. I didn't, however, get to summit Mount Langley. Shortly after I got to the top of New Army Pass on my solo attempt, I made the decision to turn around because there was too much snow on the summit and I was worried I wouldn't be prepared since I hadn't brought any sort of crampons or ice axe. It was mid October and the first snow of the season had fallen the weekend before. I'm happy I made that decision since I was alone, but I eventually came back with a friend and summited Mount Langley on my 2nd attempt. 

The guide below goes into great depth on everything you need to know logistically about the class-1 Mount Langley hike, plus some fun photos and a trip report of our hike on the Cottonwood Lakes trail. If you are looking for additional resources on hiking 14ers be sure to check out our post on  7 crucial tips to hiking and summiting a 14er, or if you are just looking for some other awesome mountains to hike in California, check out our guide on some of the best, challenging Southern California day hikes.


Mount Langley is located just south of Mount Whitney and is the southernmost California fourteener in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Mount Langley is the 9th tallest mountain in California and one of three California 14ers that can be accessed via a Class-1 hiking trail which makes it one of the easiest California 14ers to summit. Even if you aren't interested in summiting Mount Langley, just hiking to the Cottonwood Lakes is a worthwhile trip all on it's own. Getting to the lakes is an easy 6-mile, relatively flat, hike in and you can easily spend several days here exploring the lakes and nearby peaks. There are also excellent fishing and camping opportunities!

The Cottonwood Lakes Basin is probably one of my favorite areas in the Sierra Nevada, and I find myself coming back to this trail time and time again. This hike, in my opinion, is even more beautiful than the Mount Whitney hike and the best part about it is that there aren't quite as many people on this trail. I've camped both at the base of Old Army Pass and New Army Pass, and to be honest, you can't go wrong with either one. In fact, if you only have one weekend to explore this area I suggest hiking in to the base of Old Army Pass and exploring the Cottonwood Lakes, and then take a connecting trail over to the base of New Army Pass and camp your first night at Long Lake. 

In the guide below we will go over:

  1. Hiking Details for Mount Langley via the Cottonwood Lakes Trail

  2. Cottonwood Lakes Trail Map

  3. Getting There - How to Get to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

  4. When to Go - Mt Langley California Weather

  5. Cottonwood Lakes Trail Camping Information

  6. Cottonwood Lakes Trail Permit Information

  7. Backpacking Gear Essentials

  8. Mount Langley Hike Via New Army Pass Trip Report (with more details about the trail and pictures)

  9. Video of One of My Trips Hiking Mount Langley

Plus, be sure to check out the bottom of this post to find more trail guides and some additional resources for hiking and summiting fourteener peaks. Let's get started...

Backpacking the Cottonwood Lakes Trail.

Hiking Details for Mount Langley via the Cottonwood Lakes Trail 

  • Mount Langley Elevation: 14,026 feet

  • Easiest Trail to summit: Most people hike the Class-1 hike that starts up the Cottonwood Lakes Trail and either goes up Old Army Pass (steeper but more direct) or New Army Pass (switchbacks and more well defined path)

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Mileage: ~26.5 miles round trip 

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5,940 feet total elevation gain

  • Trailhead Name: Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

  • Trailhead Elevation: 10,066 feet

  • Estimated Time to complete: 2-3 days backpacking, or day hike if feeling ambitious

  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult (mostly because of the high altitude)

  • Permit Required: Yes, if staying overnight you must have a permit!

  • Water Available? There is reliable water sources at the different lakes. Make sure to fill up with water at the cottonwood lakes before going up one of the passes.

  • Dog friendly? Dog are only allowed on part of this trail (the National Forest portion). They are not allowed in the National Parks portion. So if you plan to summit Mount Langley, leave the pets at home.

  • PRO TIP! Spend some time enjoying this area! It's one of the most beautiful trails in the Sierra. The hike in to the base of New and Old Army Pass is fairly easy, so make an effort to see all the different lakes in the area!

Cottonwood lakes trail map

As mentioned above, the easiest trail to the summit is the class-1 route that starts at the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead. You can choose to either hike up New Army Pass or Older Army Pass. Either route is fine, but here is a bit more information if you are having trouble making up your mind:

  • New Army Pass - This route will add a bit more mileage onto your overall trip because it is less direct than Old Army Pass. However, as the name suggests, this route is a bit more maintained and follows a series of easy switchbacks to the top of the pass. If hiking earlier or later in the season, this pass is also least likely to have snow on it since its sits more directly in the sun light, so if you are concerned about snow, choose New Army.

  • Old Army Pass - This route is more direct, and thus the "quicker" way to access Mount Langley summit, however it is also steeper and less maintained and traveled than New Army Pass. When it is early or late season, this area also tends to hold snow.

The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is pretty well maintained and easy to follow. Once you get to the top of either New Army or Old Army Pass, the trail will become a bit less distinct, but still easy to spot. Just make sure you are hiking towards Mount Langley summit and not hiking out into the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada. It should be fairly obvious though if you end up straying away from the Mount Langley summit.  It could be useful to have a GPS with a pre-loaded GPX track with you to help avoid confusion.

Giant cairn stones mark the path to the summit on Mt Langley.

I can recall only one portion of the trail feeling a bit confusing, but we quickly found the first giant cairn stone (shown in photo above) that marks a steady path toward the summit of Mount Langley.

Below is a map of our route up the Cottonwood Lakes trail. Since we did this Mount Langley hike over 2 days, we decided to go explore the Cottonwood Lakes first on day one and then connect over to Long Lake where we eventually made our camp. The hike in is easy on the first day, so if you have some time to kill I definitely recommend checking out the area. We then took New Army Pass up to the summit of Mount Langley and we also hiked it back down (since all of our camping stuff was still at Long Lake).  If you click on the image below (or click here) you will be taken to an interactive map that you can further explore.


I recommend brining a GPS and a downloaded GPX track of this route. I also recommend having a map on hand. For the Cottonwood Lakes Trail I found the Mt Whitney High Country Trail Map to be particularly useful. Get access to this trails GPX file PLUS my library of GPX files with tracks and waypoints for all the trails loaded onto the She Dreams of Alpine blog.

Load this puppy into your trusted GPS and rest easy knowing you have tracks to follow on your next hike or backpacking trip.


Look, I believe every hiker and backpacker should be self-sufficient, and that includes knowing how to practice smart navigational skills in the outdoors. This is something I teach in my backpacking program, but I want to give you a couple GPS options to get started. Don’t ever risk getting lost, and don’t rely on other people for your safety. Be empowered, take 100% ownership for yourself my friend. Here’s what I recommend: 

1) GAIA GPS Phone App: At a bare minimum, consider getting a premium subscription to GAIA GPS App. This App allows you to download maps in advance and take them offline into the backcountry. You can record your tracks, upload tracks from online to follow (like the one I have above), and so much more with this phone app, and GAIA is offering a special discount to those who subscribe online through my link above, 20% off their normal prices. But even if you don’t use my link... please, at a minimum get a GPS phone app to help you navigate outdoors!

2) Handheld GPS: If you hike often or go backpacking, then I highly recommend you investing in a handheld GPS. I own a Garmin 64st and LOVE this device.

3) Handheld GPS with Satellite Communicator: However, if you have a little bit more money to spend, if I were starting over, I’d get the Garmin inReach Explorer+ which provides not only GPS tracking capabilities, but also an SOS satellite search and rescue communicator. I own the Garmin inReach mini now and I pair it with my Garmin 64st, but you can save weight by getting this all-in-one solution.

Getting There - How to Get to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

Getting to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead is fairly straight forward. We simply typed in Cottonwood Lakes Walk In Campground into Google Maps and it got us to the trailhead without a hitch.

Alternatively, from the 395 highway in Lone Pine, California, turn West onto Whitney Portal Road. At about the 3 miles mark, you will turn left onto Horseshoe Meadow Road. Continue on Horseshoe Meadow Road for about 20 miles and then turn right at the signs towards Cottonwood Lakes. Park anywhere near the trailhead. The whole drive up takes about a half hour to 45 minutes from Lone Pine to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead. The road is steep and sometimes windy, but it is a well-maintained road.

Driving directions from Lone Pine to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground.

When to Go - Mt Langley California Weather

September is my favorite time of the year to backpack or hike peaks in the Sierra Nevada area. The weather is perfect and there are less mosquitos (which can be really bad when it is warm). You could also plan to go in July and August, but expect the weather to be a bit warmer (with a chance of relentless mosquitos).

June and October are hit or miss on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail. If there was a big snow year in California, there may be too much snow on the trail in June. Alternatively, in October, the mountains can start to get their first snowfalls of the season. If you recall earlier in this post I talked about having to turn around on my first Mt Langley attempt due to snow on the summit in October (and not having the right gear with me). Also, if there is a chance of light snow, opt to take New Army Pass over Old Army. Be sure to call the ranger station before heading out on your trip to get weather and snow updates.

Average Temperature plot at Mount Langley.

Cottonwood Lakes Trail Camping Information

Campsite at Cottonwood Lakes.

There are so many options for backcountry wilderness camping along the Cottonwood Lakes Trail. 

1) Wilderness Camping at the Cottonwood Lakes - These are the first 5 lakes you will come across on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail. The best camping options are around Eastern portions of Cottonwood Lake Four and Five. There aren't really any good camping options near Cottonwood Lakes One and Two. Choose to camp here if you are hoping to access Mount Langley from Old Army Pass. The above photo shows a camp set up at Cottonwood Lake Number Four.

2) Wilderness Camping at Long Lake - This is where most backpackers will camp if they are planning to summit Mount Langley via the New Army Pass. There are a ton of great options for dispersed camping here.

3) Wilderness Camping at High Lake - Some may choose to camp here, but there aren't as many good spots and it is a bit higher elevation (which makes it colder at night). I don't think it's necessary and it doesn't save you much more time. Long Lake is the better camping area in my opinion.

Map of all the lakes along Cottonwood Lakes Trail

4) Camping the Night Before Your Hike - If you are wanting to spend the night at the trailhead before your hike you can also camp at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground in the Horseshoe Meadow Recreation Area. This campground is walk-in only and has about 13 sites for about $6 a night. It is a self-register system and sites include bear boxes, tent pads, fire pits, toil facilities and tent pad locations. There is also water on site. 

Cottonwood Lakes Trail Permit Information

If you plan to stay camp along the Cottonwood Lakes Trail for your Mount Langley hike, you will need an overnight Inyo National Forest Wilderness permit.

  • A wilderness permit is required for overnight trips in the national forest. Online Reservations can be made here.

  • There is a 60 person (36 reservation and 24 walk-in) trail quota for the Cottonwood Lakes Trail from June to mid-September. More details can be found here.

  • Permits can be reserved from 2 days up to 6 months prior to your when you want to go. I found it fairly easy to get a reservation in advance ($5/person), but I tend to make all my permit reservations about 6 months in advance.

  • Trail code: Red Lake - JM39

  • You can find specific details about the Cottonwood Lakes and Mount Langley permit here.

See some step by step details below:

>> Go to online reservation site (link above). In the "Find Permits" part on the left hand side of the page, select "overnight" (if backpacking), select "Cottonwood Lakes JM39", put your entry date (if known) and number of permits desired. Then click search..

Where to get a Mount Langley Permit

>> If the date you chose is available, select "see details". Then follow the prompts to book your permit!

Backpacking Gear Essentials

Below I have listed some basic items to remember to pack on your backpacking trip, but it is not a comprehensive list. Be sure to check the weather and pack appropriately! 


*Please note that some of the below links and in this post are affiliate links.

  1. Backpack: Deuter's 45+ Liter backpacks make great backpacking backpacks. This was the first backpack I used when I started backpacking.

  2. Tent: You will be fine with a 2-season tent, such as Marmots Crane Creek Backpacking Tent .

  3. Sleeping Bag & Pad: I always recommend getting a down sleeping bag if you are going to be a "serious" backpacker. If that's you, I recommend getting a 0 to 15 degree rated bag. If you will be doing more high altitude hiking, just splurge on the zero degree bag, it will be worth it. We love the Big Agnes Brand down bags. And if you've read any of my other posts, you know that the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad is my favorite sleeping pad. It's light weight and easy to pack. It's super comfortable (no body parts touch the ground), and it's warm!

  4. Headlamp: I pretty much don’t go anywhere without a headlamp. I have a Petzl headlamp, and it has been going strong for over 3 years now. It's also always good to pack an extra set of batteries too whenever you hike or backpack.

  5. Water Bottle and CamelBak: Camelbaks are awesome for hiking! They are the easiest way to stay hydrated, and I typically always bring one with me. I recommend getting one that has at least a 3 liter reservoir. Also consider brining a Nalgene or water bottle for backup. Then, if a leak develops in my Camelbak, I can at least transfer water to the Nalgene and still be OK.

  6. Water filter: There are two main water filters I recommend, and I own both. I like the Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilterand I like the SteriPen. I use the Hiker Pro more often when I backpack, but when I want something small to bring with me on hikes I will throw the SteriPen in my pack.

  7. Camping Stove: I love the MSR Reactor Stove System. I bought this after my Jet Boil broke down, and I like it a lot more. It works great at high altitude and takes only about 30 seconds to bring water to a boil.

  8. Spork: I like these Light My Fire Sporks because you get a spoon and fork all in one. Your bases are covered.

  9. Trowel: Nobody likes to talk about it, but to be a responsible outdoorsman/woman you need to bury your human waste. The Deuce of Spades Trowel is a fantastic lightweight option. When I went backpacking with my friends in Tuolumne a couple of months ago, all of my friend's trowel handles broke except for mine! Winning!

  10. Sunglasses: My favorite pair for day hikes are Goodr Sunglasses. They come in a bunch of great color options and the best part... they are only $25! If you want something more classic Native Eyewear is also another good choice because they have a great lifetime warranty.

  11. Food and Snacks: This should be slightly obvious, but make sure to pack enough food for the appropriate number of days you will be backpacking. I like to pack cliff bars, complete cookies, and lara bars for quick snacks. Good To-Go Dehydrated Dinners are some of my favorite dehydrate meals to bring on backpacking trips as well. The ingredients are great, and they are super delicious. My favorites are the Thai Curry and the Herbed Mushroom Risotto!

  12. Treking Poles: I love the black diamond trail pro shock trekking poles. Michael and I both have these. They have a set for women (blue) and men (red). I've owned a pair of cheaper trekking poles in the past and they break fairly easily. These are almost indestructible. I've been using the same pair for almost 5 years now, and still going strong.

  13. Sunscreen & Lipbalm: This should be a no-brainer, but always wear and bring sunscreen for a hike. I really like Neutrogena brand. Just like sunscreen, it is also important to bring lip balm that has sunscreen in it on your hike. My favorite lip balm is the either the Joshua Tree brand.

  14. Bug Spray: If you have warmer weather, it’s always safe to just bring some of this just in case. I prefer the wipes for hiking and backpacking because it is lighter and easier to pack.

  15. Camera: Don't forget to pack a camera or a phone to capture your hike! You can read our post on the Outdoor Adventure Photography Gear we use if you want details on the cameras we recommend for outdoor photography, but also you can't go wrong these days with your phone camera either. Your choice!

  16. First Aid Kit: Another nice item to have is a small first aid kit to throw in your bag that has some basic first aid essentials in it, like the Lifeline Trail Light Day Hiker First Aid Kit. Better safe than sorry.

  17. GPS: I mentioned this before, but I think having a GPS on this hike is smart. My favorite GPS is the Garmin GPS 64st.

  18. Maps: Whether I print out a map from online or I buy one on amazon for my specific trail, I always like to have a map of some sorts. Depending on where you are hiking, many trails can have forks and split off in different directions, so it’s good to have something to ground yourself with. My favorite maps are the National Geographic Trail Illustrated Maps or the Tom Harrison Maps, if you can find one that includes your trail. I love this super detailed National Geographic Map of the John Muir Trail! For the Cottonwood Lakes Trail I found the Mt Whitney High Country Trail Map to be particularly useful.

  19. Clothing based on time of year you will be hiking: For details on clothing, hiking boots, and socks we recommend, I suggest reading our Essential Hiking Gear List. As for footwear, definitely bring a good pair of hiking boots and at least 2 pairs of wool socks.

For more detailed descriptions on gear that we like and recommend, check out our Essential Hiking Gear List.


Want a full list of everything I recommend to take backpacking with you? Download our free backpacking packing checklist below! This download also includes my layering tip-sheet PLUS 25+ backpacking food ideas.


And without further ado, the trip report:

Mount Langley Hike Via New Army Pass Trip Report

Posing in front of Mt Langley.

In Summary, here is how we tackled Mount Langley:

Day 1 - Easy Hike in to "base camp"

  1. Start at Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

  2. Take a right at the fork in the trail toward Old Army Pass and the Cottonwood Lakes

  3. Have lunch at Cottonwood Lake Number Four and admire Old Army Pass

  4. Hike connecting trail along Cottonwood Lake Number Three toward Long Lake

  5. Set up camp at Long Lake

  6. Day 1 Totals: about 9 miles and 1,000 ft of elevation gain

Day 2 - Summit Mount Langley Via New Army Pass and hike out

  1. Hike up New Army Pass

  2. Summit Mount Langley

  3. Hike back down New Army Pass

  4. Pack up Camp at Long Lake

  5. Hike back out to trailhead & Drive home

  6. Day 2 Totals: about 17 miles and 4,900 ft of elevation gain

Below you can see the elevation profiles for each day of our trip:

Elevation profile for Mount Langley hike.

Day 1: Easy Hike in to Long Lake via the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

On this particular outing on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail, my best friend, Cara, flew in to California from Colorado to attempt Mount Langley with me. We drove up to Lone Pine the day of our entry and picked up our permits at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center at around 9am, and then drove to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead (which took about 40 minutes from Lone Pine, CA).

Since I have done the hike before, I knew the first day would be pretty easy, so we decided to add on some extra miles for the enjoyment of it and planned to visit the Cottonwood Lakes before ultimately heading to Long Lake for the night.

Pack weights were around 25 lbs each.

Cara standing by the John Muir Wilderness Sign on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail.
Allison standing by the John Muir Wilderness Sign on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail.

When we got to the fork on the main trail we took the right trail which takes you towards Cottonwood Lakes and Old Army Pass. The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is fairly flat up to the base of both New Army Pass and Old Army Pass with minimal elevation gain. It makes for a nice way to get acclimated.

The longer hike gave us plenty of time to catch up and make fun of each other.

Selfie with Mount Langley in the background.

Besides the fact that we had plenty of time on the hike in, the main reason I wanted to hike up to Cottonwood Lakes at the base of Old Army Pass is that I remember from 2015 that it was such a beautiful area. It is just gorgeous lake after gorgeous lake. We saw a couple of fisherman out there too.

Cara near Cottonwood Lake Number 3

The Photo below shows the base of Old Army Pass (in the distance), this is where we decided to take a lunch break and enjoy the views, and we had the whole place to ourselves. In front of me in that photo is Cottonwood Lake Number 4.

One option for hiking Mount Langley is by going up Old Army Pass (shown in the photo below). If you decide to take this route to the summit, you can camp around Cottonwood Lake 4 and 5. The trail on Old Army Pass is a bit more rugged and "adventurous" and steep, but it is a slightly faster and more direct route to the summit of Langley.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't really consider it this go-around. I sort of just wanted to go up to New Army, probably because I remember thinking that area over by Long Lake and New Army Pass is equally as beautiful and not to be missed.

Choose your own adventure. You do you. We weren't in a particular rush, so we meandered.

Having a lunch break at the base of Old Army Pass and Cottonwood Lake Number 4

Then if you look at the map (details in the Cottonwood Lakes Trail map section above), you can see that there is a trail that connects the Cottonwood Lakes over to the trail that takes you to Long Lake (where we intended to camp that night).

It is very easy to follow and just skirts the edge of Cottonwood Lake Number 3.

Cara leading the way around Cottonwood Lake Number 3 towards Long Lake.

Once you are past Cottonwood Lakes Number 3 you have to pass through a bit of "marshy" area. There wasn't a super defined path across the watery grasses, but you can see the trail on the other side that you want to connect with. So we just tried to follow the path that kept our feet the driest. 

The trail to Long Lake then turns into this really insane, alien-planet looking boulder field. The picture below doesn't really do it justice. It was really cool to walk through.

Boulder field on the cottonwood lakes trail.

We reached camp at Long Lake a little before nightfall, set up our tent, pumped water for the next day and then made dinner.

During dinner, Cara found out that her dehydrated meal (that she was half way through eating already) was over 2 years expired! haha! There is a funny clip from this discovery in the little video I linked at the bottom of the post.

It got very cold at night even though we were there early September.

Alternatively, you could continue on up to High Lake a bit further and be positioned right beneath the base of New Army Pass. We opted not too since we figured it would be colder up there.

Day 2: Long Lake - up New Army Pass - to Mount Langley Summit - and back out to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead

We woke up around 6am the next day and left most of our stuff at camp and only took a few things up to the summit with us in our packs.

Once you start heading up New Army Pass, there isn't easy access to water sources, so make sure you have plenty of water to summit and make it back to at least High Lake.

Sunrise at Long Lake as we headed up New Army Pass towards Mount Langley.

I honestly think the switchbacks look like they will take longer than they actually do. We were up at the top of the Pass in no time it felt like. And at the top, you are rewarded with great views of all the lakes you hiked around the previous day! It's freaking beautiful!

Lakes on lakes on lakes.

View of all the Cottonwood Lakes from the top of New Army Pass.

Make sure to pay close attention at the top of the pass to the cairn stones and entry to the pass. It's easy to get lost at the top because all of the rock looks the same. I marked the "Top of the pass" on my GPS just in case we got lost amongst all the granite shaded stone.

At the top you'll find a path that starts to take you down, but be careful not to follow it for too long or you'll find yourself hiking away from Mount Langley and deeper into the backcountry! You'll see in my map above how me and Cara made this mistake and ended up backtracking. It's better to stick closer to the edge, you can pass by the Old Army Pass on your way hiking to Mount Langley and check out the views from the top of Old Army Pass.

Following the trail toward Mount Langley summit.

There is really only one tricky spot to the whole hike. As you make your way across, up and down, toward Mount Langley at the top of the pass, you will eventually reach some vertical rock and you'll think.. "Shoot.. now what?"

Well Cara and I opted to go "right" of the vertical rock, and found ourselves doing a bit of exposed scrambling. What we should have done is gone to the left. The left version and up and you'll see a huge cairn stone which shows you the next way to follow.

If you are getting overly sketched out, you've gone the wrong way. The exposed and "tricky move" should only last a few minutes before you find trail and Carin stones again. From that point on you will continue to follow these huge Carin Stones to the summit (seen below).

Cairn stones lead the way to Mount Langley summit.

The trudge to the summit is quite steep. It took me a bit of time, especially as I was adapting to the altitude. Cara had mile-high lungs and seemed just fine.

Soon enough we reached the summit of Langley! And just as it has happened to me many times before, a huge cloud came and sat over us at the summit, so we weren't able to see many of the views from the top.

It was awesome to finally be at the top of this bad boy, considering I failed first attempt due to snow.

Posing on the summit of Mount Langley.

Getting to the top is only half the battle though, and we knew we still had a long day ahead of us since we intended to hike all the way back to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead and drive home. So we began our hike back down the mountain.

The downhill was much faster (of course), and we made great speed back to camp. We took a longer break at camp to get more water and eat more food before heading back to the trailhead.

Marmot spotted while hiking down from Mount Langley.

We made it back to the trailhead by around 5pm, pounded some chips and salsa, grabbed some Mc Donalds to go and then drove 4 hours back home! That put us at a really long day. 17 miles +4 hours of driving.

To top it off, Cara hopped on a plane the next morning to fly back to Colorado.

I'm super stoked she was able to come, even though the weekend went by fast! We had a ton of fun, summited another 14er, and it was her very first hike in California! 

Hope you guys get a chance to go on this trip. It's one of my favorites so far! Going in October (like i did back in 2015), although colder and snowier, is also a really beautiful time to go on this trail. The fall colors are out and the snow and the lakes are just beautiful.

Some people opt to do this trail in one day, which is definitely doable if you are in good shape (and you can shave some mileage by going up Old Army Pass), but I really think this is a great backpacking trip. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the Sierra. My vote is to spend some time hanging out in it.

Mount Langley Hike Video

Below is a short "home video" we put together  of our time on the trail, mostly just for fun.

I hope you have a chance to hike this beautiful trail, and possibly hike to the summit of Mount Langley! 

If you are looking for more California 14er inspiration, check out our other resources below!

Trail guides on popular California 14er's:  

Also be sure to check out these essential hiking resources!



Allison - She Dreams of Alpine


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