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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps Trip report

Hidden and South Fork Lakes – 08/26/2022

For the last hike of our week in Etna, CA we had chosen Hidden and South Fork Lakes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. (Featured hike #91 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” 4th edition.) This was both the shortest hike and drive of the week which would allow us to get home as early as possible. We began the hike at the Carter Meadows Summit Trailhead which is right next to a helipad. This area was hit pretty hard by the 2021 Haypress Fire.
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From the small parking area a trail descends 50′ to a junction which was left unsigned by the fire. Here the to the left was the Pacific Crest Trail coming up from the south and heading uphill to the north on the far right. A second trail to the right led downhill to the Carter Meadows Campground and finally the Hidden Lake Trail went straight ahead on along a ridge.
IMG_0831The PCT running left to right with the Hidden Lake Trail extending straight ahead.

IMG_0832Remnants of a trail sign. The sticks across the Hidden Lake Trail are to let PCT hikers know that is not their trail.

We followed the Hidden Lake Trail just under a mile to Hidden Lake. (Sullivan showed a distance of 1.2 miles but our GPS put it at 0.9 each way.) The trail followed a ridge and gained a little over 500′ of elevation which doesn’t sound like a lot but it felt quite a bit harder than we’d expected. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the final day of our trip and we were just worn out, but we were glad that we hadn’t tried to do this portion of the hike the day before after our Gulch Lake Loop (post).
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IMG_0835A layer of smoke over the valley on the horizon.

IMG_0836A fleabane, possibly California rayless fleabane.

IMG_0856Hidden Lake Trail following the ridge.

IMG_0853Dwarf purple monkeyflower

IMG_0868Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_0871Approaching Hidden Lake.

We arrived at Hidden Lake right around 7am, early enough that the Sun hadn’t had time to rise high enough to hit the lake.
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The lighting conditions were not ideal for photos but it was nice to sit in the shade by the lake after the climb up.
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After a short break we headed back along the ridge to the PCT.
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IMG_0895Golden-mantle watching us from atop the ridge.

IMG_0900Looking back now that there was a little more sunlight.

We turned right onto the PCT and began a 0.9 mile descent to a crossing of the South Fork Scott River.
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IMG_0903Diamond clarkia

IMG_0905A small raptor watching from a snag.

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IMG_0910Wildflowers in the burn scar.

IMG_0912Spreading dogbane

IMG_0913A small stream/spring providing some green.

IMG_0916Bleeding heart, fireweed, monkeyflower, and hedge nettle along the stream.

IMG_0923Yarrow and Oregon sunshine.

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IMG_0931California harebells

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IMG_0936A lot more green vegetation near the river crossing.

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IMG_0948South Fork Scott River

20220826_080306Mountain coyote mint

20220826_080407Mountain larkspur

20220826_080417Mountain larkspur

IMG_0953Snacks

IMG_0952Campsites along the PCT near the river crossing.

Two tenths of a mile beyond the river crossing we came to an unsigned junction with the South Fork Lakes Trail.
IMG_0954You can just make out the trail ahead heading uphill to the right.

We turned onto this trail and climbed a quarter of a mile to a meadow where the tread became faint.
IMG_0959This trail was the most overgrown/least maintained of all the trails we’d been on this trip.

IMG_0960Nearing the meadow.

IMG_0961Entering the meadow and losing the trail.

IMG_0964As of yet unidentified flower in the meadow.

We were behind a pair of bow hunters who were just exiting the meadow at the other end so we were able to follow their path through the tall grass. Beyond the meadow the trail began a steep rocky half mile climb before leveling out in a basin near Lower South Fork Lake.
IMG_0966There was a brief pause in the climb while the trail passed a series of springs.

IMG_0968Vegetation along the trail at the springs.

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IMG_0974Back to climbing.

IMG_0975The final spring that we passed was coming out of this hollowed trunk.

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IMG_0982There were several places where it looked like the trail was going to finally crest but when you got there you just found more uphill.

IMG_0985Finally the trail is leveling out.

It had just been a mile between the PCT junction and the lower lake but it had been the hardest mile of our trip. A well deserved break was taken at the lake.
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After the break we followed the trail around the west side of the lake and then bushwhacked two tenths of a mile to Upper South Fork Lake.
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IMG_1002Looking back over the lower lake.

IMG_1003Heading off-trail for the upper lake.

We took another break at the upper lake watching dragon flies zoom up and down the shore.
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The bow hunters arrived as we were starting to head back. It had been years since they’d visited the lake and were glad to see that at least most of the trees, including those around the campsite had survived the fire. We headed back down to the PCT and then hiked back up to the trailhead passing another group of backpackers heading for the lakes along the way.
IMG_1028Back to the lower lake.

IMG_1030A penstemon

IMG_1035Another look at the cool spring.

20220826_100459Monkeyflowers along the springs.

IMG_1043Butterfly on western snakeroot

IMG_1045Back through the meadow.

IMG_1050Thistle

20220826_103807Close up of a California harebell.

IMG_1063I can see a car at the trailhead.

IMG_1064The helipad at the trailhead.

IMG_1065The helipad at the trailhead.

Sullivan has these hikes listed as 2.4 miles out-and-back to Hidden Lake and 6 miles out-and-back to Upper South Fork Lake. Our GPS put the distances as 1.8 and 5 respectively giving us a 6.8 mile total for the day. The cumulative elevation gain was 1770′.

The lower mileage allowed us to get an earlier start on our drive home than expected which was nice. We were back home in Salem a little after 4:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and relax for a bit. Despite the flat tire on Wednesday it had been both a successful and enjoyable trip. It also marked our completion of all of Sullivan’s featured hikes in California. That doesn’t mean we are done hiking in that State but it does mean we are that much closer to completing our goal of hiking all the featured hikes in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (post). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hidden and South Fork Lakes

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Paradise Park via Hidden Lake Trail

Just like our previous hike (Jefferson Park via Woodpecker Ridge) our latest outing consisted of a new way to visit a familiar area. Our goal this time was Paradise Park on Mt. Hood which we had hiked to twice previously; first in August 2012 on a day hike from Timberline Lodge and again in July 2014 during an overnight trip that started from the Burnt Lake Trailhead.  This hike was originally going to be a 13.2 mile day hike consisting of  a loop using the Hidden Lake, Pacific Crest, and Paradise Park Trails.  The drawback to this plan was that the planned loop did not bring us to Paradise Park. We would need to add at least another mile to the hike to reach the park and even then we would only be seeing a small portion of the Paradise Park area.   Our solution was to turn it into an overnight backpacking trip which would allow us to set up camp and then explore to our hearts content (or until our feet said no more).

We decided to park at the Paradise Park Trailhead and walk .9 miles along Road 39 to the Hidden Lake Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trailhead

Hidden Lake Trailhead

We turned up the Hidden Lake Trail, stopping to fill out a wilderness permit and read a nearby sign recalling the organization of the Mazamas.
Hidden Lake Trail

Interpretive sign near the Hidden Lake Trailhead

The Hidden Lake Trail climbed at a pretty good pitch at first, eventually becoming less steep as it gained the forested ridge and approached Hidden Lake.
Entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

We reached the spur trail to Hidden Lake about 2 miles up the Hidden Lake Trail. The lake itself was not visible from the trail but the presence of a campsite just off the trail gave its presence away. We followed the spur trail past the campsite to the small forested lake.
Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

The muddy lake shore seemed to be attracting a fair number of yellow jackets so we kept our distance and didn’t stay long. From the lake the trail climbed nearly another 2000′ in approximately 2.5 miles. The forested ridge provided no views of Mt. Hood but there was a nice supply of ripe huckleberries for us to munch on as we climbed. The trees did provide some protection from the Sun which was welcome because it was already a warm morning. Temperatures in the Willamette Valley were supposed to hit triple digits and the high at Paradise Park was forecast to be around 70 for the day. We were able to keep a decent pace though and at the Pacific Crest Trail we turned left toward Paradise Park.
Hidden Lake Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Hood finally came into view as we hiked along the PCT.
Mt. Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail

From the Hidden Lake Trail junction it was a mile and a half to the dramatic Zigzag Canyon overlook. From the overlook, Mt. Hood looms behind Mississippi Head as the Zigzag River roars below.
Mt. Hood and the Zigzag River Canyon

To the south Mt. Jefferson was visible although it was a little hazy.
Mt. Jefferson

The PCT drops approximately 500′ from the overlook down to the Zigzag River. We rock hopped across the water then decided to head upstream toward Zigzag Falls.
Zigzag Falls

On our 2012 hike we noticed the fall but didn’t actually make it all the way there. It had seemed too far away. Our definition of “too far” has apparently changed over time. This time Zigzag Falls appeared relatively close and it didn’t take us long to arrive at the waterfall.
Zigzag Falls

Zigzag Falls

We were surprised at the power of the waterfall as it crashed down into the splash pool. A nice cool mist was being generated and we took advantage by sitting nearby and taking a fairly long break. After cooling off we returned to the PCT and continued toward Paradise Park. The climb out of the northern side of the canyon was much shorter than the descent on the far side and shortly after climbing out we came to a junction with the Paradise Park Loop Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the southern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The 2.4 mile Paradise Park Loop Trail climbs up to the wildflower meadows of Paradise Park and eventually rejoins the PCT further to the north. Before we headed up to Paradise Park though, we wanted to find a campsite so we could leave our heavy backpacks behind. After passing the junction we began looking for a suitable spot. We were hoping to find something near the junction with the Paradise Park Trail which was just a half mile from the Paradise Park Loop Trail. There were a couple decent spots just before we reached the Paradise Park Trail but we preferred to be a little further off the busy Pacific Crest Trail so we decided to turn down the Paradise Park Trail and see if we could find something along this trail.
Paradise Park Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

As we descended the .2 miles to a junction with the Burnt Lake Trail, we agreed to turn around if we were unable to find a decent campsite. We found what we were looking for near the trail junction and were able to set up our tent.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

After getting camp situated we headed back up to the Pacific Crest Trail where we faced a choice. To reach Paradise Park we could go straight up the Paradise Park Trail, turn right and take the Paradise Park Loop counterclockwise, or turn left and do the loop clockwise. We had done the loop counterclockwise in 2012 and gone straight up the Paradise Park Trail in 2014 so of course we chose clockwise this time just to be different. When we reached Lost Creek we turned off the PCT and headed up a sandy hill to visit Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Continuing on from Lost Creek Falls we passed the trickle of the ironically named Rushing Water Creek.
Rushing Water Creek

We reached the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail 2 miles from the Paradise Park Trail and turned uphill.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The northern end of the trail passes through drier meadows that were filled with aster and big views of Mt. Hood. A wider variety of flowers were present where there was more moisture.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood and split rock from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Gentians
Gentians

Cat’s ear lily
Cat's ear lily

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

We stopped to get water from the wildflower lined north fork of Lost Creek.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Wildflowers along a branch of Lost Creek

Wildflowers alogn a branch of Lost Creek

Mt. Hood was briefly hidden as we wrapped around a hillside covered in aster and fireweed that separates the branches of Lost Creek.
Fireweed and aster along the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Meadows of aster and lupine were visible below the trail.
Aster meadow

Lupine and groundsel

Beyond the hill we passed the site of the former Paradise Park Shelter before descending to the main branch of Lost Creek.
Site of the former Paradise Park shelter

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail at Lost Creek

There were lots of flowers near the creek including an impressive patch of yellow and pink monkeyflower.
Wildflowers along Lost Creek

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The meadows along the trail on the south side of Lost Creek were much greener with more wildflowers.
Lupine and groundsel

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

When we arrived at the junction with the Paradise Park Trail we remarked at the difference in the types of flowers present from our visit in 2012. That visit had been on August 27th and the meadow had been full of lupine and bistort.
Mt. Hood from Paradise Park

This time it was mostly aster that filled the meadow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

One area we had not explored on either of our previous visit was further up the Paradise Park Trail so this time we turned toward the mountain and headed up through the wildflower meadows.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

It was interesting to see how the composition of the meadows changed along the way. We passed areas of purple aster, white bistort, and eventually dwarf lupine and yarrow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

We took a break on a large rock with a great view of Mt. Hood and Mississippi Head.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mississippi Head

There was a cool breeze coming off Mt. Hood which made the temperature perfect. After a snack we followed the trail over to a ridge overlooking the upper portions of the Zigzag Canyon where a couple of waterfalls were visible.
Trail heading over to an overlook of the Zigzag River Canyon

Mississippi Head and Mt. Hood

Seeps flowing down into the Zigzag River Canyon

Waterfall in the Zigzag River Canyon

We headed back down to the Paradise Park Loop Trail and then opted to finish the loop instead of heading straight back down the Paradise Park Trail to the PCT. Once we were back on the Pacific Crest Trail we decided that we would hike back to Lost Creek Falls in order to cook dinner and then refill our water supply for the night. We cooked dinner on the sandy hill then moved to a rock with a view of the falls to eat. As the Sun lowered there was almost a rainbow effect at the base of Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

After dinner we filtered some water then returned to our campsite along the Paradise Park Trail. Stopping along the way at a nice huckleberry patch for dessert.
Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

It was just after 7pm when we arrived back at camp. There were a ton of little flies out and a fair number of mosquitoes that were much more interested in Heather than myself so we quickly headed into the tent for the night which was okay because we’d somehow managed to put in 19.7 miles for the day.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

It was still dark when we woke the next morning as I went to check the time on my phone. We both expected it to be somewhere around 2 or 3am so we were relieved when it turned out to be 5:23 and not too early to get up. After packing up camp we braved the bugs and prepared breakfast – instant coffee and Backpacker’s Pantry bacon and cheddar mashed potatoes. After eating we began the 6 mile downhill hike toward the Paradise Park Trailhead. We made good time despite being distracted by the abundant ripe huckleberries. The trail was just as view-less as the Hidden Lake Trail had been the day before. Where it would have been possible to filter water on that trail the Paradise Park stream crossings were basically dry. The forest was nice though and this ridge was a bit wider than the one the Hidden Lake Trail, creating a little more of an open feeling.
Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood Wilderness

In the middle of the trail was a long section where the trail was about as straight as a trail can be and almost looked like it was following an old road bed. As the trail approached the edge of the ridge the forest thinned and there was a viewpoint looking toward Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain to the south.
Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

While we were at the viewpoint a Turkey Vulture passed by several times close enough to hear the wind on its wings.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

The trial then veered away from the ridgeline for .7 miles and began a final set of switchbacks down to the Zigzag River, which it followed back to the Barlow Campground and the Paradise Park Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trail

Zigzag River Trail

Both the Hidden Lake and Paradise Park Trails are longer, steeper routes to Paradise Park than the more popular Pacific Crest Trail from Timberline Lodge hike but they do have things to offer. Solitude and dense forest replace mountain views making these good options for quieter hikes while still bringing you to the big views at Paradise Park. If you’ve already been to Paradise Park via Timberline Lodge either of these trails make a nice alternative, especially when the berries are ripe. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671573939900