At 106 acres, the Pando aspen grove near Fish Lake in Sevier County is hard to see as a single thing. Its thousands of trunks are united by a single root system, but up close, they look like a forest.
The best spot to get a distant view of Pando — the largest aspen clone and most massive single living organism known on Earth — is across Fish Lake, on one of the lookouts along the south ridge of Mytoge Mountain.
The best view is from an overlook on Forest Road 046 N, which can be reached via the Lakeshore National Recreation Trail. The trail climbs up and down Mytoge Mountain and circles Fish Lake. The section from Pando to the overlook is just X miles. You can visit all year, but to see Pando at its best, shoot for fall colors in late-September and early-October.
Getting there • State Road 25 passes through Pando. Near mile marker 6 is a Fishlake National Forest sign on the southeast side of the road; at the turnoff there are two roads, but one is blocked by a gate. The other one is Forest Road 1483.
I started the hike at a rough parking circle in a clearing about a half mile down this road, but I was in a all-wheel-drive car with decent clearance; people in passenger cars will want to drive cautiously and perhaps stop earlier on the road, or even at the turnoff with the national forest sign.
A formal trailhead exists at Doctor Creek, three quarters of a mile northeast of the national forest sign — but that starting point adds a mile to the hike each way.
Trail description • From the parking circle just south of Pando, follow an informal footpath toward the lake. If you lose the footpath, just beeline toward the lake until you reach the Lakeshore Trail about 500 feet away; it’s clear and well maintained. Take the trail east through meadows and into an aspen grove. At about 0.6 mile there is a fence with another parking area (the road there was too rough for my car, though), and the trail bends northeast to enter the conifer forest on the slope west of Fish Lake.
From here the trail follows the lake shore and rises into long switchbacks. Near the end it enters a rocky clearing where you can see Pando to the southwest. It may be hard to distinguish from other aspen stands around it; the northeast corner of the clone is at the campground, just west of the group sites, which are are visible from the overlook. There are benches at the overlook and at several other spots along the trail.
The Lakeshore Trail rises a couple dozen yards from the rocky clearing to a parking area on the plateau above it and continues northwest up the ridge for those who wish to explore farther.
Lakeshore National Recreation Trail<br>Hiking time • 3 hours <br>Round-trip miles • 4.8 miles <br>Elevation gain • 600 feet<br>Difficulty • Medium<br>Trailhead restrooms • No, but bathrooms are near the lake.<br>Fees • None<br> Dogs allowed •Yes<br>Bikes allowed • Yes