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 26, 2014

Rockbound Trail to Lois, Doris, and Maude Lakes in Desolation Wilderness

Be prepared to hike over Rockbound Pass 

to enjoy secluded lakes and numerous wildflowers.

Once you cross the pass, your effort is rewarded.  Hiking down into this valley 
is a green and pleasant stretch of trail to Doris Lakes.

Doris Lakes July 2014
The creek bed east of Doris Lakes crossing Rockbound Trail, July 2014.
For more information provided by Desolation Volunteers
 in planing your trip, check this helpful guide.

Distances:  Official distances are listed on the  Desolation Volunteers website.  My estimations without side trips: One Way:   Maud Lake:  5+       Doris Lakes:  6+      Lois Lake:  9+
Desolation Wilderness is located west of Lake Tahoe near Wright's Lake Recreation Area.
and Icehouse.  It has numerous lakes, and hiking/backpacking opportunities.
GPS tracks on Wikiloc.
Difficulty:  Moderately strenuous, but consider whether you are carrying a backpack,
 if you feel comfortable hiking with a fairly steep view below you (qualifies a trail as difficult
 in my scale of ratings), and whether the rocky trail shown above might inhibit you! 
(Hiking down was pretty fast and easy.)  Up 8590 and down 7064 feet elevation per Wikiloc.

Click and enlarge this photo, keeping in mind how hard it is
to capture "steepness" in a photo!

Driving Directions:  Take Highway 50 to Wrights (Lake) Road north from the Kyburz area.  The Wrights Lake Road will be between tract 36 and tract 39 along Highway 50.  Follow the signs to Wrights Lake Recreational area.  When you get to the Wrights Lake Welcome Cabin and parking lot on your left, go straight ahead following signs to Rockbound Trailhead.  There is ample parking and a restroom there.  (The trailhead is near the restroom.)

Advisories:  Carry water!  If you go earlier in the hiking season, check road conditions. Be aware that there is a lot of uphill, and the "stairs" can wear on your quads and knees. If you have had knee trouble, carry knee supports. 
Desolation Wilderness passes are required.  Day Passes are available at the trailhead signs seasonally, otherwise check in at Pacific Ranger Station at Fresh Pond, CA.

For backpacking, get permits online or at a Tahoe or El Dorado National Forest Ranger Station, for a small fee.  If you are concerned about this trail, talk to the staff at Pacific Ranger Station at Fresh Pond.  There are no campfires allowed inside the wilderness boundaries and if you fish, be sure to have your regular fishing license with you.

Maud Lake 2012
Maud Lake 2012
The first stop will be Maud Lake that is very grassy.  There are some great rocky areas 
to rest on and you can get your feet wet (or swim) and enjoy some shade 
before you start the upward jaunt over Rockbound Pass.

Maud lake 2014
The article Rockbound to Maud has a great detailed description of the trail up to this lake.

Once you have had your rest, follow the trail eastward.  It will head through some thick and pretty vegetation. The trail then begins the upward trend, and will traverse along the north wall, with a gradual incline.  The challenges are the loose rocky surface and the view below.  

There are a few places where you can take off your pack and rest. 
 While you're at it, take in the views toward the west.

In the center is Maud Lake!!!

When you cross the saddle you will see Doris Lakes at the other side.  The hike down is 
pleasant after all of those rocks!  There are "stair steps" down, with all the green and the 
promised lakes in sight were a motivating factor for me.  

As you pass the Doris Lakes, you cross the creek on the far side,where 
you get another magnificent show of wildflowers! To stop at Doris, just hike from 
the trail over to the lake when you are near it.  The trail does not ever go directly to it.

After leaving sight of Doris Lakes, the trail heads north and is hard packed dirt.  It heads into the woods with little elevation change.  On the right you pass an unnamed pond (has a potential campsite on the east side).  The trail stays pretty far to the south west of the pond and suddenly you'll see 
Lois Lake! The path turns rocky again.  

 The campsites at Lois were in the woods on the north side of the lake.The trail is 
packed dirt again, with a nice forest floor for your tent.

I actually saw some snow up there!  This lake has a great "swimming hole" reputation.  
From the shore are smooth rocks and it is easy to wade in.

 Garmin's elevation profile gives you a hint at the climb, but it is a traverse, not straight up climb.

I carry a small pocket-sized map like this, from Basecamp, on my hikes,
which gives me an overview of the area I am hiking in, and to.

Related Posts you might be interested in for nearby trails:

Desolation Wilderness
10+ miles
30 miles
Moderate to Strenuous/Difficult
18 miles
12+ miles
Moderate to Strenuous
13+ miles
Moderate to Strenuous
Umpa Lake & Enchanted Pools
8+ miles
Cross country ~ Moderate
Horsetail Falls via Pyramid Creek TH
Aprox.  10 miles to lakes at the top of the falls
"Difficult, and potentially dangerous" miles
10 miles
8 miles
Lyons Lake via Lyons Creek Trail
10+ miles
9.2 miles
6+ miles
Lyons Creek Trail with melting snow
9+ miles
3.8 miles
2010-09 We hiked 12 days.
167 total
Moderate to Strenuous

See the Full Table of Contents.
Added updated links and Table of Contents 06-2016
Happy Trails!

July 16, 2014

Loch Leven Lakes in Tahoe National Forest

Loch Leven Lakes are popular hiking and backpacking destinations southwest of Donner Lake, 

warm enough to enjoy swimming, and bring your fishing gear!

This map is to give you an idea of what to expect for the drive to the trailhead.  Parking consists of dirt pull outs.  Enlarge it by clicking on it to view details.  (Sorry, ignore the pink which is for another trailhead).

Difficulty:  Moderate.  Distance is flexible but also farther than beginners usually want to tackle for a day hike.  For backpacking though, you do half that distance each day, and 3 miles is an easier distance.  Be prepared for rocks and tree falls though.  This is an excellent beginner's backpacking trip! My 8 year old grandson said "Grammy, you added a whole new meaning to the word 'hiking'!" on this, his first backpacking trip.
Elevation changes:  Round trip, ascent 1218; descent: 1198, no section is too steep or scary.
Driving Directions:

  •      From I-80E take the Yuba Gap Exit.  
  •      In .2 mi. turn right onto Lake Valley Road.  It turns slightly left and becomes Crystal Lake Road. 
  •      In .2 miles make a slight right toward Lake Valley Road.  Continue for 1 mile.  
  •      Make a slight left onto Forest Route 19 and drive for 3 miles. 
  •      Continue onto Power Line for .8 miles.  
  •      Continue onto Forest Route 19 for .2 miles.  
  •      Turn left and drive for 1 mile. 
Note: The TH is after you pass Huysinks, which is visible from the road and looks like a large pond. You will follow the road to the right, going around the lake. 
Much of the drive is on dirt roads.  Conditions are fairly good right now with a few tire ruts, but fully negotiable by car.

This map shows the hiking trail.

The trailhead is on the left side of the road, heads into willows, and is posted with a small wooden sign.  Past the willows, it opens into the large meadow with corn flowers (at about knee-thigh height at this time)  For GPS Tracks check Wikiloc.

The walk through here is easy, on hard packed dirt, without obstacles.  When you pass the meadow, hike into the forest where the trail becomes hilly.  

Nothing too steep.  In the woods the trail leads through a beautiful, lush, cooler patch of ferns.

The trail will open into a rocky area, and you will climb a rocky, boulder section, winding your way upward. It sometimes looks like a creek bed.  Good shoes help grip the rocks and protect your ankles from twists. Kids do a lot better in good shoes as well.  I like using hiking poles for balance while moving from rock to rock.

An unnamed pond will be on your left, where we did encounter enough mosquitoes to spray ourselves with bug spray for relief from the biting pests.

From the trail, you can look down into the Salmon Lake bowl.  Since fewer people 
camp here, it is an excellent choice for a more secluded 
camping experience.  It can also be a resting place for your hiking break.
Keep traveling eastward.  There are cairns, tree blazes, rows of rocks placed by the forestry to line the trail on both sides across open granite areas, and, at "use paths" that might lead hikers astray, there are dead wood branches or rocks placed across them to help you recognize the designated trails.  Do not follow cairns exclusively because they can be placed by anyone to any random destination, although in general, when you think you lost the trail they can alert you to it.  Keep looking for additional markers and clues..  My 8 year old grandson was able to choose the correct route on almost every occasion using markers and signs.

High Loch Leven seems to appear out of nowhere!  My grandson wanted to drop everything and get out the fishing pole.  This first lake is large and has numerous campsites around it.  My preference is to avoid camping right beside a trail, which describes many of the sites available.  We traveled on to the sometimes less busy, Middle Loch Leven Lake.

Although we were able to camp off of the trail in this perfect campsite, there were groups 
of people hiking and swimming around the lake. Everyone was quiet by nightfall.

The next day a LARGE group of backpackers traveled through.  If you are traveling with a group like this, it is a good idea to break up into smaller groups to decrease your noise impact. Large groups are bound to be having fun, talking over one another, and perhaps getting a bit boisterous.  Keep in mind we affect the habitats of the wildlife with our visits too, so take the opportunity to enjoy wildlife in their home.

Once our base camp was set up,

we had time to explore the area. My grandson had time to try out his slingshot, try various fishing holes, explore, play in the water, and relax.

 We found plenty of wildflowers along the way, too.  Brightly colored birds hung around while we fished.  Watch for rattlesnakes, but we didn't see any.

***Use bear bags or canisters for your safety and for securing your food supply.  Also, rodents got into some of our supplies while we were out exploring, so don't leave your camp unsecured.

This is Middle Loch Leven Lake at sunrise.  

which includes directions for another parking and hiking route.
Get your permit here: Fire permits

Links for other hikes in the area:

Up to 7.5
Easy to Strenuous
You choose
Moderate to Strenuous
·         Loch Leven Lakes, Salmon Lake

·         Sierra Discovery Trail
·         Pioneer Trail

Hikes and Articles By Titles
Trails by Locations

Happy Trails!  

July 03, 2014

2018 Crooked Lakes Trail at Grouse Ridge CA

This was my grandson's second backpacking trip to this area.

Crooked Lakes Trail offers trail use for hikers, backpackers, equestrians, mountain cyclists, fishermen, seasonal hunters, and has excellent opportunities for outdoors activities for youngsters.

July 2018 update:  The weather was variable, warm, cold and windy, and rained most of one day.  Check for weather forecasts and go there prepared for unexpected changes that are common in this area.  On this trip there were no pesky flies at any of the many lakes we visited as were noted below.  Mosquitoes were there but not a high number. There were no more of the biting orange beetles mentioned in the article either, thank goodness. The trail to Milk Lake is more adequately marked than on our last trip, and for my 9 year old grandson's first backpacking trip, we camped there. Expect to see some kids as I do on every hike there, making a great family destination.
The forestry link is here.  
Distance: can be as little as one mile and can go for many miles over many days.
Difficulty:  Easy to difficult, according to your choice.  I would be comfortable taking an outdoorsy child who can hike at least 1/2 mile in and then out. They would enjoy the lakes. It really is not too steep for any length of time.  There were some tree falls to climb over or go around, and strollers are out of the question. We always meet people with kids here and it is an excellent place for backpacking with youngsters.
Weather: For forecasts click here.
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 keep going until you see the sign for Grouse Ridge.  Turn right on the forest road NF-17 which turns to a dirt and gravel road immediately.  When there are offshoots, just follow the road to the right.  It gets quite tricky just before you reach the parking.  There is a parking circle carved out on your right just before the original shaded parking area at the trailheads that will just extend your hike a little bit.  I drove my car successfully in.  The top parking is nice and shady.  
Note:  There are fees to pay at the trail head for using the backpackers campground facilities, but not if you backpack beyond it and camp near other lakes.  There are a countless number of sites throughout the area, but no restrooms beyond Carr-Feeley.  Fire permits are required, although there are currently fire restrictions, so check the Tahoe National Forest link provided at the end of this article before your trip.  Get your permit here: Fire permits
For a pocket map of the area, Right click on the image, Save image it, and choose the location to keep it on your device.  Now you can print it as an 8 1/2" by 11" guide to take along. With all the lakes and trails at this location, it can come in handy.
This time, we arrived during a small heat wave! There were many day hikers and a few backpackers. Our camp site was along the west shore of Island Lake with good water access.  We didn't use our tent's rainfly, and sleeping bags weren't really necessary since the nights were very warm.
We discovered numerous sites along all but a few small unnamed lakes.
This campsite on the north side of the unnamed lake west of Island Lake has some nice flat tent sites nearby, is far enough from the lake, but clearly has a hazardous fire ring setup.  We chose a sunny site thinking it would be nice not to wait for morning dew to dry before packing up camp, but in this hot weather, shade like this might have been best.
There are trout and catfish in Island Lake and some surrounding lakes, although we didn't see anything large.  Only a few fish were observed feeding at sunset.
The local views of the lakes were satisfying at the end of our active days.  
There were some orange beetles (not ladybugs) voraciously biting our lower legs and feet, leaving itchy red bumps to remain for days.  Mosquitoes stayed until breezes kicked in, but the worst offenders were large black flies buzzing around our heads tapping our hair frequently, and I mean persistently.  Hikers we met reported them at other lakes they visited on this journey.  Breezes affected only the mosquito activities.
Our trip was enjoyable with weather perfect for swimming, fishing, and bonuses of viewing two eagles doing their own fishing.

FIRE RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT for Tahoe National Forest.  Get your permit here: Fire permits to use backpacker stoves and check any new restrictions.

For more tidbits of helpful information from previous trips in various weather conditions check out these posts:

Carr Feeley Trailhead and Backpackers Camp will give you more information about the area and another map of trails northwest of the Grouse Ridge. From there you use the Twin Lakes Trail or Round Lake Trail.
Crooked Lakes Trail Survivor Night describes an unexpected storm, hiking hazards and solutions. A true account with a happy ending.

Happy Trails!
July 2014