Lake Edison is a very scenic 5-mile long Sierra Nevada reservoir at 7600 ft. South of Yosemite and north of Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Parks, the lake borders the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas. It offers opportunities for paddling and hiking from an unlimited number of lakeshore base campsites. Or stay at nearby Mono Hot Springs Resort or Vermillion Valley Resort - rustic family-oriented mountain resorts with tent cabins, showers, store and meal service.
The lake was formed by impounding Mono Creek, a gorgeous crashing trout stream that traverses a typical Sierra landscape of deep valleys, glaciated granite domes and craggy 12,000 ft. peaks.
About 3 hours drive from US 99 (Fresno-Clovis), you know you've arrived when the road ends. You can drive a standard family sedan to the rudimentary U.S. Forest Service launch ramp - though the road deteriorates as you climb into the mountains until you are on a decently maintained one lane unpaved road with frequent turn-outs for passing.
A great first trip might be a 5-mile paddle with your camping gear to the area where Mono Creek enters the lake. Plenty of primitive campsites along both shores - many with "bear boxes" for food storage, but no toilets or water systems. With a base camp in this area you can explore either shore on foot or water, or hike one mile to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that runs 2600 miles from Canada to Mexico. Day hikes to glaciated lake basins at 10, 000 ft. are possible.
The famous Sierra breezes kick in around noon and last until sundown, effectively taking care of mosquitoes but producing small hissing white caps on the lake. Morning and after dinner paddles are tranquil ways to watch the trout in the lake depths or spot Bald Eagles tending their huge stick nests in the tops of lakeshore snags. Or.....splash upwind into the mid-afternoon waves to find a small sand beach or granite slab for a haul-out and semi-warm wilderness bath - then surf back to camp before the sun and wind drops.
Lakeshore camping requires a campfire permit - good for the balance of the year. If you camp very far from the lakeshore you'll be in either the John Muir or Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas and will need a wilderness permit.
From US 99, exit at Herndon Avenue just north of Fresno. Follow Herndon Ave. about 12 miles to California State Highway 168 West. This new freeway soon reverts to the original two-lane that winds through ranch land in the Sierra foothills.
Stay on Hwy 168 past Shaver Lake (ski boats). Just before Huntington Lake (more power boats) watch for the Lake Edison sign and turn right. After a few miles the road narrows to a single paved lane and begins to provide spectacular panoramas of the main Sierra Nevada crest. Last chance to pick up a campfire permit (or wilderness permit) is the USFS High Sierra Station and adjacent Bolsillo Campground (4 spaces).
Within a mile of the USFS High Sierra Station turn left at the sign for Edison Lake and Mono Hot Springs. Cross the one lane bridge over the San Joaquin River and proceed until the pavement turns to dirt road near the Edison Lake Dam. In the next mile or so there is a launch ramp, campground, pack station for horse trips, the Vermillion Valley Resort and associated trailhead.