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.

August 11, 2013

Silver Lake, Hidden Lake, Granite Lake, & Amy Lake

We backpacked this moderate loop but spent our first night in the Silver Lake Campground.  It cost over $20/night.  The hosts were friendly, warm, and helpful.  There are vault toilets, firewood for sale, and each site had flat tent areas and well positioned fire rings.  There are short trails from the campground over to various lake areas.

One of Silver Lake's islands; have you been anyplace more idyllic?  I imagined meeting Tom Sawyer wading out to the boat.

Pastures a few miles from Silver Lake.  Horses grazed as lazily as the clouds that floated overhead.

 The jagged cliffs overlooking the Silver Lake basin.  As the sun rose and fell the cliffs took on dramatic shadows and depths. 
 Silver Lake in the evening.  The area is a mixture of mountain meadows, granite slabs to cross, and pine forests to meander through.  You'll find a variety of geological features.
 The brown in the skies was from a recent fire in San Joaquin.
 Another beautiful island that you can swim or paddle to near the campground.

 Granite Lake is large and a better place camp than other lakes we passed.  The water was less grassy and it is deeper so a swim is possible.
This is my least favorite.  It is surrounded by old cattle droppings and moss grows on the water.  More later.

 There are rental horseback riding stables, and a camping area that is set up for visitors with horses.
 Silver Lake came into view.
 The bugs were thick on the entire Amy Lake.  It is shallow and muddy, unsuitable for swimming.  There are fire rings around the lake, but it really looked unappealing to me since the water might be difficult to purify and filter, too.
 Amy Lake, okay, this one view of it is pretty.
 Wildflowers were at eye level and in full bloom!
 This trail is mostly well maintained and other than distance, if you do our loop, it is fairly easy.  On the flip side, there are numerous trails that break away from Hidden Lake Trail and head to Silver Lake for a swim, and maybe a shorter hike.  There are more fire ring sites to be found, too.
 We apparently took a turn that got us off-trail so we crossed the fallen tree (over a stream) to return to the correct trail.
 As you can see, there are plenty of hiking options, and Plasse Resort would also be a good starting point.  Note that if you enter Mokelumne Wilderness, you need to have obtained permits ahead of your hike.
 This was taken from Plasse parking.  There is a nearby boat ramp for Silver Lake. There are water faucets and picnic tables near the creek and "Shanty Town".  It is a trailer type park and next to it are campsites with small horse enclosures for the equestrian crowd.
Silver Lake at sunrise. 
We camped near Treasure Island without a campfire ring, off the trail.  Bears are common so we did hang our supplies in nearby trees.  The campgrounds have nice large metal "bear proof" storages in each site.  For reserving sites, I liked the ones along the creek which have a pleasant sound, and I avoided pond-side sites.  Mosquitoes like those sites!  There are sites for two vehicles parked side by side, for an extra fee.
To Plasse
East of CA88 is the campground we enjoyed.  We camped on the side closer to 88.  To get to the trailhead we drove along Kit Carson Road to the dirt parking.  (There is a fork in the road, go left.)
Driving Directions:
From Sacramento,
Take Highway 50E towards Lake Tahoe.
Take the Sly Park Exit.
Turn left on NF-5 Northern Emigrant Trail. Drive 24.6 miles.
Turn left on CA88.
Follow the signs to either Plasse Resort or to Silver Lake Campground for a great basecamp.  We chose the campground to the north of the lake, but there is another one across CA88 also.
This takes about 2 hours from Sacramento.

Silver Lake Campground
We drove through the cabin "neighborhood" along the west side of the lake to the road's end where there was ample free parking at the trailhead.  We started our hike by passing the green gate (locked) and following the old road for a short distance where we broke away from the road then walked through the old girls camp.

ASAP I will post our map and GPS tracks for you.

Happy Trails, and if you feel like finding more trails, check out Trails By Locations.

July 23, 2013

Sugar Pine Reservoir: Hikes, Fishing, Boating, Camping, Swimming...

Beautiful views, an easy drive, forested, and at higher elevation for a cooler temperature. Perfect for a family day on the water.  Equestrian trails too.

Located 15 miles northeast of Foresthill.

Perfect.  There are four main recreation areas around the lake, including the boat ramp, campgrounds, a picnic area, and a swimming beach.  There are numerous places to swim and hang out which you can get to by trail or boats, kayaks, and rafts.  I found two rope swings near each other. Most of the facilities are wheelchair accessible.  Boats are limited to ten miles per hour.
One entrance.  The trail beyond this is excellent ~ don't worry!  There are other places to park and get to the lake, too. 

One of the things I enjoyed was how quickly some places along the lakeside have a drop off so I could get submerged at once rather than wade in slowly and painfully! If you prefer the gradual, beach-like spots, they are all around the lake too.

The trail is shady, making your hike more pleasant, then you can choose some sunny spot to hang out if you prefer.  I had few bugs or mosquitos bother me.  At 3500 feet elevation, this makes a great escape from the valley heat!

 For your inner tarzan! 
 Rope swings were popular this weekend.

 Fishing for warm and cold water species is good.  The boat ramp (with a large parking and restroom)is located on the southeast side of the lake.  I parked on the southwest side where there is also ample parking, no restroom, that is located along Sugar Pine Road before it becomes Iowa Hill Road.

 Several campgrounds are walking distance from the lake, as well as day use parking with the advantages of picnic tables and bathrooms.  Manzanita Day Use Area fills up on hot days.  There are also biking and horseback riding trails available, and OHV areas are open in Tahoe National Forest.

 Family and group sized spots were available when I drove through Shirttail Campground on Saturday, but I would always recommend trying for reservations.

 As I left, I made the decision to follow the "primitive road", Iowa Hill Road to Colfax, rather than retrace my longer drive up through Foresthill.  The views were a pleasure, if you don't mind driving along a mountainside with steep canyon walls descending father down than the eye could see along one side!

Before long I entered the fee area (laughably) since behind this sign is a wide turnout without so much as a garbage can!  However, there are some excellent recreation sites and campgrounds in Tahoe National Forest.
   For campgrounds and fees, click here.

 Hairpin turns on this "primitive" route too.  As you can see, the term means narrower, and curvy, but not dirt or for four wheelers.  The pavement was well maintained.

 As you reach the North Fork of the American River, there are day use spaces (fees apply) and a campground available near the river.  Not far back up the hill from here is the parking for another favorite hike called Windy Point Trail.

On my way to town, I couldn't resist stopping in a non-fee area to pick blackberries.  They are delights, each and every one!  More flavorful than any you find in stores or fruit stands!

Almost everything here fits into "Easy" ratings, although the day use beach and near the boat ramp are best with small children.
To find your way, a map is provided here.

 Happy Trails!  See Trails By Locations for more ideas!

July 12, 2013

Historic Independence Trail, CA ~ Wheelchair Accessible

Take a hike! Independence Trail near Nevada City is a dirt wheelchair and stroller accessible trail. Then, a waterfall!

DIRECTIONS:  Take Highway 49 north of Nevada City, CA to the parking shown below.  (Estimates are 5-8 miles out of Nevada City.)  South Yuba River State Park manages this area and provides a map online.  From Sacramento allow about 1 1/2 hours each way.
Difficulty:  Easy to moderate based on whether you stay on the main trail or head down to the swimming holes.
The trail is well marked so no GPS tracks are necessary, although sites do have several peoples' tracks loaded.

There are handicapped parking spots marked.

At the trail head, there are wheelchair accessible vault toilets.  Turn to the right for this hike to the waterfalls and swimming holes described in this post.  It will lead you under the highway through a tunnel that is too short to stand upright in. 

I chose to go down this Jones Bar spur on the right to see the creek, river, and swimming holes I have read about.  It is not stroller or wheelchair friendly, but is a great short, although steep hike if you came to picnic and swim.

You might endure a brief hot, sunny, section but most of it is shady on your way down, less than one mile, to the water.

This was my first, disheartening, sight of the water.  Nearly dry this year.

The previous photo was taken from this bridge.  I suggest you cross it (although there is a wide looking trail before the bridge, it is harder to get to the swimming holes from it) then take the trail on your right that is scarcely wider than a deer path.  Trust me.

It forks so take the left option and you will find this entrance to two very large and deep, perfect, adjacent swimming holes.  Do be prepared to avoid poison oak!  All of the warnings expected such as: don't dive from rocks, kids need life vests, no glass containers, and so on apply.

There are some sandy areas and lots of giant rocks to sun on.

 If you either skip the spur mentioned or return to the main trail, you are treated to excellent resting places, all accessible.  In days gone by, restrooms were stationed along the trail with wheelchair accessibility, but they are no longer maintained and are boarded up.

Continue along the trail and flumes.  The trail is mostly divided for strollers and wheelchairs on a lower level along the old flume, and the upper more narrow strip is for hikers.  There are rustic benches along the way too, some with distant views and others are places to take time to breathe in the forest and soak in the peace.

Visitors are soon rewarded with this open view of the flume in a horseshoe shape curving around
the canyon wall. The creek is gurgling pleasantly far below. Some people get squeamish here,
so maybe avoid looking down.  It is all in good repair at this time and you can't fall unless you
climb the rails and topple over. To your left will be a wooden flume traversing the canyon wall down
 to the waterfall and creek.

Small benches to rest on and absorb the views and nature are stationed here and there.  At
the bottom you can refresh with a splash or two from the creek.  And by the way, I met hikers
with dogs, all leashed and picked up after.  It was a pleasant outing for all.

I met Georgie there, a well behaved rescue who you can read about here.

This is part of the Rush Creek Falls that normally drops in a series of cascades,
the longest being a double tier falling 50 feet under the flume bridge overhead.

After a snack, splashes, and rest, I resumed hiking the trail around the bend. 
Often the trees are too tall and thick for views but I took in this gratifying view...

and nearly stepped on....

this wildlife surprise!
I decided to turn back at this point because the trail was less maintained. 

But this lone bright lily stood out!

A small reward for having continued!

This is an out and back trail I highly recommend.

In addition, check out the
Independence Trail Herb Walks
PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED: $20 prepaid or $35/both walks, prepaid. $25 at walk if space, but walks limited to 16 people so usually fill. Must pre-register via email, mail or phone; mail payment to secure place. Confirmation and directions 4 days in advance (payment refundable till then). Kids free, but number limited; teens half price. Rain cancels. checks/MO to Kathi Keville at: Oak Valley Herb Farm, PO Box 2482, Nevada City, CA 95959 530-274-3140 HERB WALKS ...a botanical adventure with herbalist and author Kathi Keville.  Her 40+ years of herbal knowledge shines through energetic discussions about their science, lore and edible, medicinal, and other uses, and how to identify, prepare and use them. (You'll receive a plant list.) Trails are short and easy with 40 herbs, and we move slowly! Kathi has been giving walks on these trails for 25 years and they are her favorites! These walks are offered only once a year at peak bloom. Picnic areas if you want to bring lunch for afterwards. Taken from 2014

For more hikes, visit Trails by Locations


Edit: added aprox. driving time from Sacramento 7/6/2015