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 16, 2016

Grouse Ridge Lookout ~ and Trail Head

Experience miles of Grouse Ridge trails for backpacking, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and swimming in many of the lakes.  

And take in the views!

One view from the ridge.  I bet if you zoom you could see Mt Shasta too.
For my son's first backpacking trip, we toured
the Grouse Ridge area.  We started out with a warm up hike
to the old lookout.  Surprise!
It is being refurbished to offer
as a rental.  I would use it.
In good weather, visitors might see
all the way to Mt Shasta.
We did!
Grouse Ridge Lookout
To hike to the lookout, walk south up the dirt road that forks
uphill off of the dirt road to the trailhead parking.
There is a closed gate without parking,
so plan snacks and water for a mile or so
uphill along the road, and the return hike down.
Trust me ~ it is worth the extra time and effort!
Wildflowers are blooming in profusion, so get up there soon if you enjoy these seasonal shows!
We had the pleasure of some snow blankets to play on,
although who knows how long they will last.

Mt Shasta is back there if you can zoom, though it is just a blur, you can tell it is the snowy peak.
Views from Grouse Ridge Lookout.
After exploring and taking photos, we headed down
to start our backpacking trip. Near the trailhead,
there are car camping spots that have been greatly improved, and
are well marked with tables, campfire rings, and level tent spots.
Widow maker's truck hikers pass near the start of the trail.  Each trip, I photograph the truck, which used to be red!  Moral of the story:  Do not park under a dead tree!
Since my son was out for a first backpacking trip,
and most likely over-packed,
we needed a shorter hike.  Just hiking to Milk Lake
to set camp seemed great, then we could hike
to many other lakes without all the gear.
A view of Milk Lake from the use trail that exists now,
breaking off from the main trail before the tree fall.  
We missed this sign.
A tree has fallen that blocks the old trail to Milk Lake,
our preferred route and maybe our campsite.
Milk Lake from the north hillside.  That little patch of snow is under the trailhead.
Grouse Ridge Trails are well marked as a rule.
We weren't thrilled to keep going
not having seen Milk Lake, but we bravely marched onward.
The trails are mostly shady, and there are enough tree falls to rest here and there.
Round Lake, Grouse Ridge Lakes Basin, California

We set camp near Long Lake, but Round Lake
would be fantastic.  We spent time there swimming
wishing for our fishing poles.

The south side of Long Lake is pretty shallow and marshy,
but the up side is it is warmer water for swimming and we enjoyed it.
We packed up to hike out, but the smoke
we had noticed while swimming seemed thicker.

The wildflowers were still a treat, but you can see the grey
skies moving in.  My throat was scratchy.
On our way in we could see Mt Shasta, and on our way out,
we could hardly see the close mountain ranges.
This map shoes Carr-Feeley TH and many of the lakes in the basin.

Distance: 2 mi round trip or many more.
Difficulty:  Easy to moderate, according to your choice.  I have been comfortable taking an outdoorsy child who can hike at least 1 mile in downhill and then 1 mile out uphill. They would enjoy the lakes.  There may be some tree falls to climb over or go around, and strollers are out of the question. It is an excellent place for backpacking with youngsters.
Driving Directions:  Get onto Highway 20 West from Highway 80 west of Donner.  Turn right onto Bowman Lake Road, cross the South Fork Yuba River and turn right on Grouse Ridge Road (Forest Road 14). It is 6 miles. 
Advisories:  The road is dirt and in some places my car did hit bottom this time.  We made it; I would do it again. Use your judgement. Camping and hiking are free, no permit required.  In the fall be sure to check hunting season dates.

Here are some other trails in Tahoe National Forest:
Tahoe National Forest
6+ miles
Moderate (kids do it though)
Snowshoeing PCT at Donner’s Castle Pass
9.3 mile loop
3.5 miles
1+ miles with many lakes and options
Easy to Moderate
5+ miles this trip
Whatever you choose
1 mile each location
Pioneer Trail near Spaulding Lake
Up to 25 miles; I did 5.7
Easy to Moderate
Sierra Discovery Trail with Bear Creek Falls
½ mile est. interpretive loop & picnic area
.7 mile
Stroller and WC friendly
3+ miles
Easy - Moderate
6 miles
4 miles
Easy - Moderate
Grouse Ridge Glacier Lake Trail Milk and Downey Lakes are closest.
.5+ many optional miles to many lakes, all pretty close to each other!
Easy to Moderate Car camping available near the trailhead.
Thank you for stopping by!  Happy Trails.
July 16, 2016