Trip Report: Four Lakes Loop
May 26-28, 2018
In California’s far north lie the craggy cluster of peaks known as the Trinity Alps. This seldom visited range offers fantastic scenery somewhat reminiscent of the Cascade Range just to the north, but with a fraction of the traffic usually encountered in the Sierra Nevada. About 10 miles east of the heart of the range, near the summit of a high peak, is a collection of four beautiful alpine lakes arranged along a convenient loop hike. This Four Lakes Loop is one of the most popular backpacking trips in the range.
This trip report covers a 3-day outing with a group of friends to visit the scenic Four Lakes Loop in the Trinity Alps over Memorial Day, 2018. The low-snow year of 2018 combined with the area’s relatively low elevation made this a feasible early season trip. We had to bring two cars to fit our entire group, so we planned to enter and exit via different trailheads for a bit more variety and to lessen the big climb out of the gate.
We planned to start from Stoney Ridge Trailhead and hike north over Stonewall, Little Stonewall, and Deer Creek Passes to camp at Deer Lake. On the second day, we’d hike the Four Lakes Loop itself. The third day would take us back over Deer Creek Pass, then Bee Tree Gap and down Long Canyon to our second car at the Long Canyon Trailhead. The car shuttle was about an hour, one-way. Here’s the Caltopo map.
Day 1: Stoney Ridge Trailhead to Summit Lake
9.6 miles, +4,200’
An early-in-the-day deer sighting.
Our first morning was a foggy one down low.
The fog was just beginning to lift when we hit the high meadow along Stoney Creek, just south of Stonewall Pass.
There’s that California sunshine on the last hundred feet or so up to Stonewall Pass.
Breaking fog among the peaks of the Red Trinities and White Trinities, north of Stonewall Pass.
The wildflowers were out.
Great views of the craggy peaks above Siligo Meadows. When we hit Siligo Meadows we began to run into some more groups. There were probably 5-10 groups camped in the meadows, an unusual sight in the typically quiet Trinity Alps.
Deer Lake, below Deer Creek Pass. Our original plan was to camp at this lake, but we spotted a good collection of tents in both of the most obvious camping areas. After a quick discussion, we opted to continue to Summit Lake, hoping it was a bit quieter.
The view east across Deer Lake. The snowfield on the east side of the pass to Summit Lake had not yet melted, it’s visible at the right, so we had to kick-step across it.
First views of Summit Lake.
Summit Lake had a few other groups as well, but we found a reasonable campsite a couple hundred feet north of the Lake.
As the sun was setting, I scrambled up the small ridge south of the lake, and was treated to fantastic views in all directions.
Looking back down at Summit Lake.
Siligo Peak silhouette.
Day 2: Four Lakes Loop
6.2 miles, +2,000’
On the morning of our second day, we slept in a bit and fished Summit Lake before heading off for our loop hike.
The view of Summit Lake from the trail to Diamond Lake.
Overlooking Diamond Lake and the rest of the White Trinities. The prominent valley below the lake drops down to the Stuart Fork, the upper reaches of which contain Sapphire and Emerald Lake.
Good views on the descent to Diamond Lake!
We found great views and cold water at Diamond Lake.
Looking back south across Diamond Lake. There was a reasonable area to camp just north of Diamond Lake, but it looked a little soggy this early in the year.
Standing on the divide between Diamond and Luella Lakes.
Phenomenal views on the descent to Luella Lake. The stark divide between the Red and White Trinities wasn’t as pronounced anywhere else, and the light green/blue color of Luella Lake only added to the scene.
The outlet of Luella Lake. We enjoyed some more fishing and lunch, and spotted an otter playing in the lake.
Strolling across the meadow below Luella Lake.
Back at Deer Lake. After another dip and some more fishing, we opted for the direct route from the lake to the switchbacks below Siligo Peak instead of crossing the snowfields again.
Looking up towards Siligo Peak from the saddle. We opted to make the short detour to the top of the peak, which added about 30 minutes not counting time on the top.
Fantastic views of Mount Shasta to the northeast from Siligo Peak.
The view of Summit Lake from Siligo Peak.
Descending through the Manzanita. Despite the appearance, there’s a good network of use trails through the brush.
One last glimpse of Mount Shasta before ducking back below treeline.
Sunset views after a great day wandering around in the mountains.
Day 3: Summit Lake to Long Canyon Trailhead
7.4 miles, +500’
After another great night’s sleep under the stars and a delicious breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee, we were on the trail, headed for civilization again.
Morning views of Deer Lake.
The view down Siligo Meadow.
The hike down Long Canyon passed uneventfully. The scenery was fine, but we were mostly hiking into the sun so photographs didn’t turn out too well.
Like the rest of this trip report, I’ll keep this brief. This ended up being a really enjoyable trip. The scenery was spectacular, particularly along the Four Lakes and Stonewall Pass portions of the hike. We encountered a good amount of traffic, maybe 30-ish other groups on the trail. That’s somewhat to be expected for a long weekend in a relatively popular area like this. As for the actual trail conditions, we found one small area where the trail crossed snowfields, which was easily kick-stepped in the late afternoon, but otherwise everything was pretty straightforward.