Four Lakes Loop via Long Canyon in the Trinity Alps

Upper Siligo Meadow

Who: Just me!
What: Backpacking
When: 5/27/14-5/28/14
Where: Trinity Alps Wilderness
Mileage: 18 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +6000ft/-6000ft
More photos: here

My second solo trip ever! After last weekend’s mellow backcountry excursion, I was hankering for a beating to help me get in shape for the High Sierra Trail in August. I headed up to the Trinity Alps Wilderness with plans to hike up Long Canyon and do the Four Lakes Loop (again), camping at Summit Lake before looping around past Diamond, Luella, and Deer Lakes and then returning back via Long Canyon. I’ve hiked the Four Lakes Loop via Stoney Ridge before and I set out thinking that this would be simply a training trip, but I was pleasantly surprised to find peace, relaxation, and solitude as I hiked this rugged landscape. The mid-week post-Memorial Day start offered me plenty of alone time. At the trailhead, I met couple who were planning on doing the same loop over three instead of two days, and on my way up Long Canyon I encountered four people (two solo hikers and one couple) who were headed out. After I hiked over Bee Tree Gap, I didn’t see a soul until my car rejoined Highway 3 the next evening.

Day 1
Long Canyon Trailhead to Summit Lake
8 miles, +4200ft/-300ft

After sleeping the night before at the Motel 6 in Redding (and finding a cockroach and a bottle of ranch dressing in my room to boot), I headed out to the Trinity Alps not too long after sunrise. After picking up my permit at the Weaverville Ranger Station, and carb loading at the Garden Cafe, I drove up to the Long Canyon Trailhead off Highway 3. After hiking in about a mile, I reached the wilderness boundary.

Entering the wilderness about a mile in

The next few miles of the trail are heavily forested and gain elevation relatively quickly. The views aren’t great, but at least the forest provides some cover from the sun.

The first few miles are heavily forested

About four miles in, the forest began to give way to meadows and exposed rock. For these first few miles, the Long Canyon Trail had headed due west, hugging the northern side of the canyon. As it gained elevation, the intimidating slopes of Granite Peak started come into view.

The trail exits the forest and the views begin to open up to Gibson peak

Just after crossing the main creek through Long Canyon, I took a little break in the shadow of Granite Peak.

The trail follows the dramatic granite wall of Gibson before crossing the main stream in Long Canyon

After the creek crossing, the trail climbs the southern slope of Long Canyon to a hanging meadow with wonderful views across the canyon towards Granite Peak. The wildflowers were already beginning to show themselves even though it was quite early in the season. I’ve heard that the midsummer wildflower show in Long Canyon is spectacular and this early evidence seemed to support those claims.

Once across, the trail climbs the south wall of the canyon to a hanging meadow

This area is at the confluence of many different types of rock, making it very colorful.

The trail continues to climb and bends back into the canyon proper before reaching Bee Tree Gap.

Climbing higher to Bee Tree Gap, the trail provides great views down the sculpted valley of Long Canyon and off to Mount Shasta in the distance (barely visible on the horizon in this photo).

Looking down Long Canyon. The canyon points essentially straight east and there are views of Shasta for most of the time. Unfortunately, it's hard to make Shasta show up in photos!

After climbing 3,900 feet from the Long Canyon Trailhead, I finally arrived at Deer Creek Pass, which provided a familiar but yet still beautiful down to Deer Lake, framed by Siligo Peak on the left and supported by the Grey Trinities in the back.

The views are great atop Deer Pass. Siligo Peak and Deer Lake in the foregrund and the White Trinities in the background.

I hiked down towards Deer Lake until I reached the trail junction that would lead me to Summit Lake. Heading back up across the north slope of the unnamed peak to the west of Deer Creek Pass, I made my way across talus and terribly soft snowfields on my way to Summit Lake. I spent quite a bit of time using my trekking pole to bust out fragile snow bridges above ankle-breaking talus in hopes of finding secure footing below. I didn’t want to break (or even twist) my ankle since I was all alone on this trip.

The trail to Summit Lake from Deer Pass is north facing and holds snow longer than elsewhere. I was crossing in the afternoon, which made for slow going as I kicked through thin crusts to solid footing of the rocks below. I didn't want to step and punch t

I had a final look back at the Deer Lake basin before dropping over the saddle towards Summit Lake.

Looking back at Deer Lake and Deer Pass.

Over the saddle, I immediately had a nice view of Summit Lake, where I planned to spend the night.

Summit Lake, my home for the night. Feeling pretty good about the time it took me to get here. I was on the trail at 10am and at Summit lake at 3:30pm. That's 8 miles and 4200 feet of elevation.

After a quick descent into the basin, I arrived at Summit Lake. I began to feel a little strange because the last time I was here I was with my now ex-husband and my dog had a bit of a scary meltdown. This, combined with some surprisingly arresting feelings of solitude gripped me for a bit before I decided to busy myself with setting up camp and making silly videos. I chose my favorite out of three clearly established campsites and pitched my tent.

Camp at Summit Lake. I had the lake entirely to myself. Actually, I had the whole loop to myself. After seeing a couple at the trailhead headed up like me, I passed a few parties leaving on the trail and then never saw another soul the whole trip.

Still full of nervous energy, I wandered about the lake basin, gathering water and checking out the views.

Summit Lake has beautiful clear azure water. Would be great for swimming later in the summer!

Aqua waters and red metamorphic rock. Am I in Utah?

Sunset reflections at Summit Lake.

Running out of things to do, I finally crawled inside the tent and began reading the book about the Trinity Alps that I’d schlepped all the way up here.

Tent view!

The reading and the cocoon-like nature of the tent and sleeping bag finally restored me to my normal state and I slept peacefully through the quite cold night.

Day 2
Summit Lake to Diamond, 
10 miles, +1800ft/-5700ft

I was quite cold and tired in the morning, so I elected to sleep in. I had thought about perhaps summiting Siligo Peak for sunrise, but with the whipping wind and the biting cold (a low in the upper twenties), I couldn’t be roused from my sleeping bag before the sun warmed my tent. I’d seen the view from Siligo at sunrise before, so I summoned those memories as I lay in the warmth of my little cocoon.

Finally, around 8am, beams of sun reached my tent and warmed it enough for me to feel like getting up. I made a ridiculous breakfast of Easy Mac with a side of Reese’s Pieces and broke camp. I headed out along the Four Lakes Loop towards Diamond Lake. Soon I was well above Summit Lake and looking back down to where I’d spent the night before.

The next morning, I headed around the Four Lakes Loop clockwise. This is the view on the trail from Summit Lake (left) on the way to Diamond Lake.

Upon rounding the bend towards Diamond Lake and the pass above it, I was greeted with a cold, biting wind and the most magnificent view I’d seen yet—the granite slabs of the Grey Trinities rising above the chasm of the Stuart Fork well below Diamond Lake. The switchbacking trail down to the lake was laid before me and I made my way down at a reasonable pace, stopping to admire the view along the way.

The pass above Diamond Lake offers the first up close views of the White Trinities and Stuart Fork way below.

Diamond Lake and the White Trinities. This spot was spectacular.

After losing the trail in a meadow below Diamond Lake, I found it soon enough as it gained altitude to a small pass on the way to Luella Lake. The whole ascent has amazing views of the Grey Trinities. I couldn’t help but stop and set up a timer selfie.

Obligatory timer mountain selfie!

The views of the Grey Trinities disappear as the trail climbs over a saddle north of Siligo Peak and descends down to aquamarine Luella Lake.

Luella Lake

From there it was down down down some seemingly endless and unnecessarily flat switchbacks to the valley below Deer Lake. A nice clear stream (coming from invisible-from-here Round Lake) provided a good place for a break with a view of what lay ahead on my way back up to Deer Creek Pass.

Finally down to the Deer Creek Valley. To complete the loop, I've got to ascend that saddle way off in the distance.

The ascent out of the valley was fairly steep, climbing about a thousand feet in a mile. The views back down Deer Creek were lovely, with Seven Up Peak on the right.

Making my way up the steep, rocky trail from Deer Creek to Deer Lake. The orange peak is Seven Up Peak.

Soon I’d reached Deer Lake and I had a view of the snowfields and talus I’d crossed the afternoon before.

Deer Lake looking up at Deer Pass. I'm a little worried about those clouds, so I move quickly.

Deer Lake. The trail from Deer Pass to Summit Lake is visible as a slash along the talus and snow on the right.

Of course I couldn’t resist a short rest at Deer Pass before saying goodbye to this view.

But I can't stop taking pictures of this view.

The weather was much nicer in Upper Siligo Meadows on this day, so I stopped to have lunch. The clouds were ever shifting, highlighting or shading various peaks and ridges, making for a dynamic view.

Unnamed peaks, Upper Siligo Meadow, and my feetsies.

I heard a few little chirp-whistles and noticed that a friend had decided to join me for lunch.

I had a little friend join me as I rested.

Heading out, the gray wall of Granite Peak stood strong and imposing above Bee Tree Gap.

Headed across to Bee Tree Gap, the granite walls of Gibson loom above.

After the short traverse to Bee Tree Gap, it would be all downhill from here, with views of Shasta off in the distance.

At Bee Tree Gap. You can barely see Shasta in this photo off in the distance on the right. I'll get to look at this view for the whole way down until I enter the forest.

Unnamed peaks to the south of Bee Tree Gap.

Looking across at the granite of Gibson from the hanging meadow.

Down, down, down. A lot of this. A total knee-buster. I was really glad I had a trekking pole.

Lots of this on the way down. It's a knee buster for sure!

The views of Shasta gave way to forest, but at least there was some beautiful yellow lupine in bloom.

Yellow Lupine makes up for the lack of rocky peaks.

And huge cones from what was I think some type of cedar.

The hugest cones! Anyone know what this is from? I think maybe a cedar.

The trees in the forest had their springtime manicure going strong.

Springtime tree manicure.

Around 4pm I arrived back at the trailhead to find only my car and the car of the couple who was still up enjoying the loop.

And I'm back!

Want to do this trip yourself? Check out the Trinity Alps Trail Condition Report and download the Siligo Peak USGS quad. Pick up your permit at the Weaverville Ranger Station (self-registration after hours is ok) and head to the Long Canyon Trailhead.


16 thoughts on “Four Lakes Loop via Long Canyon in the Trinity Alps

  1. Great photos! What kind of camera did you bring with you? I’m thinking about doing almost the same hike soon although it’s been very hot.

      1. I am impressed. I thought for sure you were using a DSLR or something comparable. I am going to check out that LX3. I set a date for this hike to be the second weekend in September. Hopefully it will be a little bit cooler by then but it’s hard to predict. Thanks for the reply!

  2. Beautiful photos! I just got back from that area myself, and I was curious about your experience.

    On my trip, I initially tried to find the northern end of the 4 Lakes Loop, as I came over from Granite Lake to the East. However, despite the USFS map showing the northern loop entrance to the north of the Granite Lake trail, it appeared that it was actually to the south of it, as evidenced by the signage and my view of the trail to Luella Lake coming over the pass from the East.

    I didn’t go up that way, and I instead I went up to Deer Lake and beyond, and found the southern end of the loop. I unfortunately didn’t have enough daylight left to make the loop and return to Granite Lake, so I didn’t end up staying down that southern end of it.

    I guess my question is whether or not the northern end of the loop connects to the north of the Granite Lake junction, or to the south of it?

    Thanks in advance for any response.

  3. Hey PLUTONICLOVE, I’m hoping to do this loop in the coming month but wanted to know what the road was like getting to the trail head from HW3… Do you think it would be fine to get to without a four-wheel drive car?

    1. The road was dry and fine for my Honda Fit when I went on this trip, but this past winter was really wet, so there might still be snow, road damage, and washouts, when you are going. I’d give the ranger’s office in Weaverville a call before you head out for your trip (530) 623-2121

    1. Nope! But I haven’t been up there since last spring and this winter was pretty rough, so I’d check in with the forest service ranger office in Weaverville.

  4. Hey – thanks for the great write up! My brother and I are planning to do a good chunk of this hike this weekend (which is pretty similar to when you did it). I know this winter has been a bit rougher but what, roughly, were the daytime and overnight temperatures up around Summit Lake? We are planning for it to get down to low 50s during the day and high 20s overnight but I’m curious what your experience was.

  5. Looking forward to the hike this coming weekend. Thanks for sharing your trip and for the useful info!

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