Trip Type: 3 Day/2 Night semi-loop
Trailhead to Joe Crane Lake: 8.3 miles
Altitude Gain: 2500 feet
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
Season: Early Season Destination
Trail Traffic: Moderate. The long drive to Clover Meadow keeps crowds low but it's unlikely you'll be alone.
WSH Trip Rating: 3 out of 5 stars: Day trip to Post Peak Ridge and Isberg Pass were highlights. Downside was limited views/scenery for first 7 miles of the hike and mosquitos around Cora Lakes
The Hike: If you parked in the western parking lot (south side of the road) you'll need to cross the road to pick up the trail. Also, maps show a trail heading down Timber Creek (leaving from the Joe Crane trail). That trail was not apparent in the 3 times we walked through that area.
Trailhead to Cora Lake: We started in the late afternoon and only made it to Cora Lakes on day 1. I don't recommend this as the mosquitos can be terrible at Cora. Instead I recommend continuing on to Joe Crane Lake (total is under 8 miles) for Day 1. The start of the trail (7150') is quite sandy and can be extremely dusty on hot/dry days. The initial grade feels flat but there's a light uphill grade to it. The grade continues to increase slightly for the duration of the trail to "The Niche". It's a bit like a frog in boiling water, you don't notice the grade increasing until you get to the last quarter mile before The Niche, then there's a more pronounced uphill. Once you're over The Niche (7950' @ mile 2) there's a remaining 400' of gain to Cora Lakes. Again, there are a lot of mosquitos in mid/late season at Cora and the lake can become stagnant mid season so pushing on the additional 3.5 miles to Joe Crane is recommended.
Cora Lake to Crane Lake: Leaving Cora the trail is relatively flat, only gaining 200' over the next 2 miles. Mosquito's can be a challenge though this area but push through it. At mile 6.0 the trail begins to ascend and just before mile 8 you'll reach the turn off to Joe Crane Lake (8840'). This last pitch from the Joe Crane junction to the lake is a good climb gaining a bit more than 800' in the final mile. Joe Crane sits at 9640' and sits in a beautiful alpine bowl.
Joe Crane/Isberg Loop: On Day 2 I suggest taking the 9 mile day hike as noted on the map above. The cross country from Joe Crane to Post Peak Pass and Ridge was beginner level cross country, with good slab walking. Walking to the top of the tree line on the western side of the lake you'll notice an obvious "bowling alley/valley to follow to the north. Take this until is runs out then keep left picking up various slabs as you go. Continue towards the ridge line and you'll pick up the Post Peak Pass trail. From there follow the trail down into Yosemite catching the junction back over Isberg Pass. Then it's a quick jaunt over Isberg Pass, pass Sadler Lake reconnecting you with the Joe Crane Lake junction you hiked the day prior. This is a fun diversion for those that aren't interested in a "spa day" in camp.
Day 3 Return to the trail head by retracing your steps from Day 1.
Trail Traffic: Moderately traveled trail. Frequented by pack trains.
Camping: Camping at Cora Lakes is available on the Southeastern Northeastern banks. Joe Crane has really one good area to camp, just to the right as you reach the lake. I don't recommend camping at Sadler Lake, again mosquito's appear to be a problem in that area as well.
Trail Notes: As mentioned above the area between Cora Lakes and Sadler Lake are consistently "buggy". The mosquito's were less aggressive at Joe Crane. Also, if you're into alpine camping I suggest the Upper Isberg Lakes area as an alternative.
Clover Meadow/Granite Creek is a solid 5 hour drive from most S.F. Bay Area locations. Follow Hwy 41 towards Bass Lake. Exit Hwy 41 at Bass Lake, making a right onto Beasore Road. I think they call it "Beasore" because that's what you'll be when you finally get to Clover Meadow. You'll "be sore" from all the curves, the rough dirt road, and the long drive. I recommend you drive a sturdy vehicle (truck, SUV, or other high clearance vehicle), particularly in early season as the final 5 miles can be quite challenging for low clearance cars.
The trailhead is NOT at Granite Creek!!! SEE MORE BELOW!!!.
I photographed this crude map at the Clover Meadow Ranger Station. The road to Granite Creek is rough and, well, you don't want go there. That's not where the trail begins. I met other hikers at Granite Creek searching for the trail head - not a great way to start a trip. Instead head towards Strawberry Mine (first left past Clover Meadow Ranger Station......follown the green line heading up the middle of the page - crossing the river near the orange highlight where "5S30" is printed). Cross the bridge and make the first right. The Isberg Trail Head parking area is on the right, about a mile up the road. The trail itself leaves from the North side (left side) of the road. Although I didn't check, it appears from the map above that there's a second parking area a couple hundred yards further up the road, East (over a second bridge). That lot appears to be on the left side of the road. It also appears if you park there you'll need to cross the East Fork of Granite Creek.