Virginia Lakes Chain of Lakes, California, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra -

Also known as:  Trumbull Lake, Red Lake, Bue Lake, Little Virginia Lake, Big Virginia Lake, Cooney Lake, Moat Lake, Frog Lakes

Uncrowded and unspoiled are the perfect words to describe the nine Virginia Lakes. Strung along Virginia Creek in California’s High Sierras, most of the lakes require a bit of a hike to get to. Virginia Creek isn’t navigable so no boats ever intrude on six of these alpine lakes. The three accessible lakes are limited to canoes, kayaks, row boats and trolling motors. And, since the largest lake only covers about 100 acres, no major horsepower is actually needed. Wildlife, beautiful mountain scenery, a riot of wildflowers in season, and lake trout greet arriving visitors. Indeed, it’s a rare hiker who doesn’t take the time to cast a line or wet a fly in at least one of these lakes as they pass by.

The entire Virginia Lakes Basin lies within the Toiyabe National Forest. Dunderberg Peak and Black Mountain tower over the high valley, and those serious about backcountry hiking can access Yosemite National Park from the far reaches of the local trails. Backcountry camping is available along the trails with the appropriate National Forest permit, which is available at the Ranger’s Station in Bridgeport. The six upper lakes are within the Hoover Wilderness Area and require a permit to hike. Backpacking permits are issued on a quota basis from the last Friday in June until September 15th to assure the trails are not overused. There are no sanitary facilities or drinking water available along the trail and bears are quite common, so rangers regularly warn hikers to make preparations for both unexpected inclement weather and unwanted visitors prowling for food near the campsites. The trailhead is at an elevation of 9,600 feet and the elevation rises 1,270 feet along the 6.6-mile trail. Groves of aspens and lodgepole pines dot the slopes and offer contrasts of color in autumn.

The three lower lakes get far more visitors than do those up the trail. A US Forest Service campground operated by a private firm shelters campers beneath the lodgepole pines at Trumbull Lake, the farthest east of the nine lakes. The 45 campsites here are so popular that reservations are suggested on peak weekends. Only half can be reserved, with the rest rented on a first-come, first-served basis. The Trumbull Lake Campground has grills, picnic tables, vault toilets, drinking water and campfire rings. Firewood may be purchased nearby. Food storage lockers are available, and campground hosts are on duty. Trumbull Lake’s 100 acres welcome canoeing and fishing, although proper fishing licenses must be carried and all regulations observed. The campground is not open in winter.

A hundred yards south of the campground, a long-lived resort holds to the shore of Little Virginia Lake. In business since the 1920s, the resort is a popular haven for hikers, hunters, fly fishermen and vacationers. Backpacker parking is available near the lodge, providing access to both Little Virginia Lake and Big Virginia Lake. From the trail and the access road, adventurous hikers can reach Trumbull Lake, Red Lake, Blue Lake, Big Virginia Lake, Little Virginia Lake, Cooney Lake, Moat Lake and the two little Frog Lakes. The hike along the creekside trail is strenuous but beautiful. The lakes are filled with brown trout, rainbow trout, and eastern brook trout. Moat Lake still holds a few golden trout, the last remaining in the watershed. The trout are stocked regularly by the Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Program. Funded by local businesses and citizens to enhance tourism in the area, the group stocks brown trout weekly during the summer season and trophy-size trout once a month. The effort pays dividends during the two annual fishing tournaments promoted by the group, as contestants are allowed to fish these lakes along with several more in the area.

There is no town of Virginia Lakes, although a small community has grown up east of Trumbull Lake that is often referred to by that name. Several ‘subdivisions’ of private RV sites have been developed in the community although not on the lake itself. A few small businesses offer supplies and food, and an outfitter provides backpacking supplies and guided hikes. The Virginia Lakes area is properly considered attached to the town of Bridgeport, the Mono County seat 20 miles to the north. Although small, Bridgeport is the focal point of tourism and outdoor activities for this portion of the county. Formerly known as Blue Meadow, Bridgeport has over 500 miles of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling and multiple-use trails around the town, including Bodie Hills, Virginia Lakes Road, Buckeye, the Sweetwater Range and Summers Meadows.

The area around Virginia Lakes and Mono County is popular in both winter and summer. The Bridgeport Reservoir is a great fishing destination. An old-fashioned Fourth of July Festival, rodeos, marathons, Bodie State Historic Park (original gold rush ghost town), Mono Lake, Mammoty Lakes, and nearby Yosemite National Park keep the entire family entertained. A full complement of lodgings such as private cabins, bed and breakfast inns, resorts and motels join many local restaurants and tourism services. Bridgeport is a good alternative to camping if one doesn’t choose the resort at Little Virginia Lake or one of the local campgrounds. The ranger post at Bridgeport is the best place to get maps, permits, and advice on exploring the millions of acres of surrounding national forest lands.

Real estate at Virginia Lakes is not available, but some housing may be for sale in the community east of Trumbull Lake. A few sections of land along US 395 are not owned by the State or Federal governments, and real estate shoppers often find property or existing vacation cabins in these areas. Virginia Lakes is the perfect place for a weekend hike. The beautiful small lakes and majestic peaks will fill your vacation album with photographs to be envied. So, come prepared to catch a few trout and commune with nature on the Virginia Lakes Trail.

*No statistics are available for lake size, depth or other information.

Things to do at Virginia Lakes Chain of Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Virginia Lakes Chain of Lakes

  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Golden Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Virginia Lakes Chain of Lakes Photo Gallery

Virginia Lakes Chain of Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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