Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

July 10, 2012

Grouse Lakes Basin Trails

* If you click on a photo you will be able to view all of the photos enlarged.
Update 11-2012  The roads have snow and trucks are going up, but cars may have problems.  Also, be aware it is hunting season. 
*** Update July, 2012: 
My grandson and I just got back from Carr-Feeley Campground as our basecamp for the Crooked Lakes Trail, and what a shock! Unlike the solitude I am accustomed to in that area, the parking lot was FULL. There were two large groups of backpackers, fishermen, dayhikers, and outdoors enthusiasts! Along the lakes and trails were a practical stream of people and some well-behaved dogs.
The campground wasn't being used except for us and a family at the other end. They were expecting to use the road you see on maps that goes to the Feeley Lake Dam. They brought kayaks for fishing but had not planned on having to carry them and all of their car camping gear back in. The gate is always locked and used only by personnel, so you pack your gear in.
*Permits are not required.  Let someone know your plans and the time of expected return.

Distance and difficulty:  Crooked Lakes Trail is about 7 1/2 miles, out and back but our experiences have been more of a freestyle hike so we could visit as many lakes as possible, and our miles hiked varies. Other websites rate it strenuous, but without a big elevation change and no bushwhacking necessary, it seems more of a moderate hike, and that being for distance. Nothing requires you to go too far though and lakes are close enough to adjust it to your own fitness level. Allow at least 6 hours if you use only Crooked Lakes Trail and make your final destination Rock Lake before you turn around. 
Elevation:  6,285 ft-6,900 ft.
Driving Directions: 
  • I-80 to Hwy 20 (Nevada City) Exit 161
  • Hwy 20 3.8 mi
  • Right on Bowman Rd 8.4 mi
  • Right on dirt road NF 17 (Called-Lindsey Rd) 2.9 mi or right on earlier dirt road following sign "Carr Feeley TH" for 4 miles.
  • Take food, water, and first aid.  I also suggest taking a warm layer as weather is unpredictable and we've used those layers unexpectedly!  Survivor Night on Crooked Lakes Trail   explains my cautionery note!

  • Spectacular views and many alpine lakes for fishing, swimming, camping, backpacking,  hiking, and photographing!  The area is pretty level and the trails normally are in good shape, after a rough storm being the exception. A GPS is helpful on this hike to clarify your planned hike since there are numerous unnamed lakes and ponds that might confuse a newcomer.
  • So that you can do some research, the lakes we go by include Carr, Feeley, Island, Long, Round, and Milk Lakes, and then you can go south to Sanford Lake or just beyond Milk lake you can go west to Downey Lake. We have taken Glacier Lake Trail heading northeast of Milk Lake and with a couple of creek crossings you can get to Glacier Lake.  I'll include a map at the bottom of the page.  
  • Another option is to head north after Milk Lake and visit Lake 3, Middle and Shotgun Lakes to another junction heading west with a side trip south (on trail) to Penner, then back north then rejoin  the previous trail. Head west and then south hitting Rock and Lower Rock Lakes.  Return the way you came in.  That tour would be best left for backpacking!  
  • We did hike north of the end of Crooked Lakes Trail to Culbertson Lake and the trail turned uphill on scree and was not at all worth the trouble. The view was nothing to shout about and the hike was an ankle twister.
  • Remember that this is a popular deer hunting area so check your dates when planning your hike if that makes you uncomfortable.  Otherwise be advised to wear reflector materials to avoid any accidents!

These were taken in the fall and our campsite was at the backpackers camp near the Carr Trailhead.  There is a bathroom back in a ways.  As you can see, our tent was completely hidden from the trail but was close to it!  We were also near enough to the lake for water, but did indeed find large cat tracks the next morning so take your pepper spray and bear canister!

I want you to see what the trail is generally like.  It is visible and below are posted photos of the type of signs you can expect to see guiding your way.  You may go over some boulders now and then or rocky sections but they double as great places to hang out for sunning and swimming.

Actually new signs were placed in 2012.

When we allowed 3 hours to hike there it was just not meant to be.  Plan a whole day or use the backpackers camps for a base camp and choose different trails and lakes for each day you stay!  With all of those lakes and views, we stopped often for photos and a few splashes in inviting lakes.  We have enjoyed this area in every season, although in winter there are no road plows (we hiked in), and you can't get too far past the backpackers campground at Carr TH without snowshoes.  Below I loaded photos to show you the pleasures and the hazards of hiking up there in the winter!
This is one of my favorite places to hike or backpack.  Happy Trails!

Look closely and see the under melt that can cause hikers to collapse the snow and get stuck, potentially hurt or drowned.  Nothing is really holding the snow together, so enjoy but take snow precautions and an ice ax.

These snowlines are hazards too.  People have been known to walk along the top, not realizing that nothing stable is under them. 

The lakes are gorgeous during winter but earlier this was a total snow blanket.  Another cautionary note about using proper equipment and having the skills for this kind of environment.

This is to show how deep the snow was, and impassable by vehicle.

Wildflowers even in snow!  Wonderful!

Peachy Hikers Table of Contents

Hikes By Locations

and other articles about this area:
    No GPS tracks are posted here but the trails are marked as photographed above and just a map like I posted and a compass will serve you well. 

Happy Trails
Updated 11-2012