Trinity Alps Wilderness

Trail Guide

Dayhike - East Boulder Lake

One way length: 2 miles
Low and high elevation: 5,850 to 6,700 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Don't expect a lake less than two miles from a trailhead to be lightly used. The scenic, open basin of East Boulder Lake isn't a place to seek out solitude, but it does make for an easy, pleasant day hike that is particularly good for children. It is, unfortunately, often overrun with cows. To find the trailhead, drive on Forest Road 40N17 from Callahan. Following signs for McKeen Divide and East Boulder Lake, it is 6.0 miles to the trailhead located on the northern slope of the wilderness.

The trail follows Boulder Creek to the lake, passing a lovely waterfall enroute, then climbs steeply for the last 0.25 mile to the 32-acre lake, the largest in the northern Trinity Alps. The lake basin, open with scattered trees, is covered with sagebrush and rabbitbrush—plants one doesn't expect to see at this elevation in the"lush" Trinity Alps. The underlying serpentine soils may have something to do with limiting the vegetation in the area.

Dayhike - Tangle Blue Lake Trail

One way length: 3 miles
Low and high elevation: 4,500 to 5,700 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

This short hike climbs 1,200 feet and provides access to one of the prettier lakes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The first part of the trail is an old mining road, which eventually passes beyond the wilderness boundary and becomes a real trail. There are some huge incense cedars about a mile up the trail from the wilderness boundary. The shallow Tangle Blue Lake lies in a large meadow.

Dayhike - Granite Peak

One way length: 4 miles
Low and high elevation: 4,100 to 8,091 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous

This hike is short—just four miles—with a climb of nearly 4,000 feet on countless switchbacks, but the views are worth it! There is a false summit 1,500 feet below the true peak, but the vistas of the surrounding mountains will keep your mind off the climb. The trail splits just before the final push for the top, with the left-hand fork leading to Red Mountain and Stonewall Pass and a traverse of high alpine country studded with lakes.

The trailhead is located 3.0 miles west of Highway 3 on a logging road that begins opposite the entrance for Bushy Trail Campground on Clair Eagle Lake.

Overnight Hike - East Fork New River Loop

One way length: 20 miles
Low and high elevation: 2,400 to 5,600 feet

This hike along forested streams and over limestone ridges is located in the remote western part of the Trinity Alps Wilderness and is best done over a 3-to 4-day period. The trailhead is accessed by driving 32 miles west of Weaverville on Highway 299, then north on the Denny Road (County Road 402) to the Pony Buttes parking area.

The first part of the trip follows the East Fork New River and then Cabin Creek before climbing up Blue Ridge and continuing on to Limestone Ridge by Rattlesnake Lake. There's a few campsites here, but you will have to get your water from a signed spring nearby. From Rattlesnake Lake, the route turns south along the New River Divide Trail. There are great views—but little water—all along the ridge as you traverse the high country, passing 6,870-foot Cabin Peak enroute. This summit used to have a lookout, and an old trail leads to the top for excellent views.

Continue on southwest to tiny half-acre White Creek Lake by Pony Mountain, where there is a small campsite in western white pine at the fishless lake. From here, the trail heads northwest and mostly downhill, passing Upper Jakes Camp and Lower Jakes Camp and eventually linking up with the East Fork New River Trail just a few miles upstream from the trailhead.

Please note that this is a very difficult trail. There are multiple stream crossings and the trail is not well marked. It is not suited for beginners.

Overnight Hike - New River Trail

One way length: 9 miles
Low and high elevation: 2,400 to 6,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

This trail follows the designated Wild and Scenic New River, located in the western, lower, and less frequently used portion of the wilderness. New River Trail passes such landmarks as Megram Cabin, Robbers Roost Mine, and Emmons Cabin, ending at Mary Blane Meadows, the final destination of the hike. It's possible to climb Mary Blane Mountain from this campsite. Longer, more extended trips are possible by linking with connecting trails that converge on the meadow.

Overnight Hike - Red Cap Lake Trail

One way length: 4.1 miles
Low and high elevation: 4,000 to 5,700 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

This relatively easy hike along the forested Salmon Summit National Recreation Trail to Red Cap Lake in the northwestern corner of the Trinity Alps Wilderness could easily be a day trip, but the seldom visited lake also makes a good overnight destination. The trail is accessed 18.5 miles from Orleans on Highway 96 by following Forest Road 10N01 to the trailhead.

The trail route is mostly in forests, providing shade from the summer sun, but as you approach the lake, the views open up. Initially, the trail climbs slightly to the Salmon Divide, then begins a descent just beyond Indian Rocks. About 2.75 miles from the trailhead, the Red Cap Lake Trail leaves the Salmon Summit Trail to descend to the lake. Red Cap Lake is reported to be fishless, but flowery scattered meadows and numerous campsites surround it, making it an attractive place to spend the night. You'll probably have the place to yourself.

Overnight Hike - Granite Lake and Seven Up Peak

One way length: 5 miles
Low and high elevation: 3,200 to 8,100 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Granite Lake, as the name suggests, rests in a dramatic granite-lined bowl on the eastern edge of the wilderness. This trip takes you to the 18-acre lake at an elevation of 6,000 feet. For those with a bit more energy, a climb of Seven Up Peak offers spectacular views of the highest summits in the Trinity Alps. It's also possible to extend the trip into a multi-day loop by linking with several trail options that radiate from below Seven Up Gap. The trailhead is accessed from Highway 3 by Trinity Center. Take the Swift Creek Road 7.0 miles to the trail's start.

The first part of the trail follows the aptly named Swift Creek as it dashes its way down a canyon lined with azalea, Douglas fir, sugar pine, incense cedar, and Jeffrey pine. At 1.3 miles you will reach a trail junction: The trail along Swift Creek continues to Ward and Horseshoe Lakes—worth a trip in themselves—but the path to Granite Lake crosses Swift Creek and climbs up fern-lined Granite Creek, passing several waterfalls and a few flowery meadows, eventually arriving at Granite Lake. From the lake it's possible to climb by trail to Seven Up Gap, where there are scattered stands of mountain hemlock and the rare foxtail pine. From the gap, it's just a short scramble to the top of 8,134-foot Seven Up Peak.

If you're interested in making the trip more than an in-and-out from Granite Lake, consider hiking to the Bear Basin Trail or the Mumford Basin Trail, which course north from Seven Up Gap. Both trails eventually lead back to Swift Creek and the trailhead.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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