Union Reservoir Photos – A Stunning HWY 4 Gem

Union Reservoir Sunset View
Union Reservoir Sunset View

Welcome to my favorite granite-rimmed Sierra lake! It’s amazing to me that I only learned about this place within the last year. Funny thing, too…I actually found it by simply pouring over Google maps in “satellite view”. Haha. Anyhow, here are some of my favorite Union Reservoir photos…

Islands out in the water, through the trees - Union Reservoir Photos
Islands out in the water

Tucked away, miles down a side road off mountain highway 4, this is the sister lake of Utica Reservoir. However, even though that it’s less than a mile away, I’ve never seen it! So far I just visited Union Reservoir twice.

The first trip consisted of me parking my truck at Elephant rock lake nearby, then bushwhacking my way to Union Reservoir. I just had a general idea where to go, based on screenshots of the map. Though I did get lost until I climbed up high to get my bearings, ultimately I did prevail – it was an incredible solo camping trip!

Elephant Rock View near Union Reservoir
That’s Elephant Rock in the Distance

Well, not so fast. This was actually during the dreaded Ferguson Fire near Yosemite. Not only did smoke come bellowing into my front yard – but it lingered there. I hoped to find some respite further north up at Union Lake. As chance would have it (and as you can see in the pics), smoke from the wildfire was inescapable.

Smoky Union Lake in the Sierra, during wildfire
The Downside of Summer in California

Still, though, at least I could get an idea of what an incredibly beautiful area this is. Anyhow, I suppose the haze gives the lake a mystical feel, yeah? They say that wildfires can inadvertently produce beautiful sunsets…judging by the photo below, who am I to disagree?

Sunset hues over the rocky, granite-rimmed lake - Union Reservoir Photos
Sunset Hues – A Decent Consolation Prize

Camping alone here – with no lights, infrastructure or people, was truly an unforgettable experience. I suppose it was something I felt I needed to experience at least once in life. I hope to write more about it in my mountain diary someday.

Camping – Union Reservoir Photos

Speaking of camping, here are photos from another trip I made with family a few months later. However, clear skies this time! What I neglected to mention before is that Union Reservoir is famous for its “granite islands” out in the water.

Canoe loaded with camping gear and campers, paddling out to the far end of the lake
Canoe camping with the bros

After my first excursion, I dreamed of returning with all my camping gear loaded into a canoe. In fact, this is exactly what we did! “Canoe camping” is a total blast, I tell you.

Campers in hammock, a sunset silhouette - Union Reservoir Photos
A Hammock Sunset – The Only Way To Go

We set up camp and watched the sun set a few hours later. While the weather was more or less perfect during the day, it was bone chilling cold in the wee hours of the morning – even though it was just September.

Setting sun over Union Reservoir tent site in backcountry.
I could get used to this

Well, I suppose that’s what camping at over 8,000 feet gets ya. Besides, it’s nothing a good thermarest and down sleeping bag can’t take care of.

Stone firepit and primitive tent campsite at dusk
Rock firepit we discovered at our site

Another great thing about this lake is that there aren’t so many restrictions. I’m pretty sure you can camp anywhere there is a site (I found quite a few primitive, backcountry locations) without a permit. However, I think you do need a campfire permit…and you can get that online here.

You’re welcome. Enjoy!

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About My Photos

The images on this website are available for licensing and/or sale as framed prints. If you’d like to purchase them for a blog, news article, or gift, feel free to contact me with the specifics. This way you’re supporting photographers such as me directly (as opposed to buying from a faceless stock photo corporation).

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– Nathan Allen

About Me

Photographer Nathan Allen

I’m Nathan Allen, photographer / creator of YosemiteParkPhotos.com (Yosemite Photos) and international travel site I Dreamed Of This. In truth, I lived in San Francisco, New York, & Singapore…but nothing compares to life in the mountains. I share my experiences HERE.