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.