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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps

Boulder Lakes Loop (Trinity Alps) – 08/23/2022

By spending the night in Etna, CA we were only 30 to 45 minutes from the trailheads for the four remaining hikes we had planned for the week. As mentioned in the previous post we chose to do East Boulder Lake first due to it being the closest to the recently started Callahan Fire and thus the most likely to be affected if that fire were to escape containment. From Etna we drove south on Highway 3 to Callahan then made our way to the East Boulder Trailhead.
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The road to the trailhead passes through forest burned in the 2021 Haypress Fire but the trailhead and trails for our hike escaped damage.

Sullivan describes three options for his featured hike; a 4 mile out-and-back to East Boulder Lake, a 6.4 mile out-and-back to a pass beyond the lake, and a 9.8 mile lollipop loop past Middle Boulder Lake at the edge of the fire scar which was the option we were planning on. The East Boulder Trail climbed gradually at first through the forest and a couple of small meadows before steepening and climbing past a small waterfall on East Boulder Creek.
IMG_9938Entering the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

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IMG_9957First view of the small waterfall.

IMG_9961Bigelow’s sneezeweed

IMG_9963Marsh grass-of-Parnassus

20220823_074146Not sure what these little guys are.

20220823_074341Checker-mallow

IMG_9972Western snakeroot

IMG_9973Passing the waterfall.

Above the falls the trail leveled out some and made a final short climb to East Boulder Lake, just over 1.8 miles from the trailhead.
IMG_9974Peaks in the Russian Wilderness to the NE.

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IMG_9984Dam near East Boulder Lake.

The trail crosses the dam here but there were better views this time of the morning in the other direction so we detoured to the left admiring the reflections in the lake.

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We took a nice break along the lake shore listening to cow bells coming from the trees on the far shore.
IMG_0007There were cows out there somewhere but we couldn’t see them.

After the break we crossed the dam and continued around the lake.
IMG_0008View from the dam. We had to watch out for frogs here.

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We lost the trail briefly in a meadow on the southern end of the lake but picked it up again after crossing the inlet creek.
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IMG_0019We should have stuck closer to the lake.

IMG_0020Buckwheat

IMG_0021Back on the trail where the cows were just leaving.

The trail then passed two smaller unnamed lakes and Upper Boulder Lake where there were several cows and some ducks.
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We detoured to the right to get a view of Upper Boulder Lake then returned to the trail and began to climb out of the basin to the pass.
IMG_0029Upper Boulder Lake

IMG_0031_stitchUpper Boulder Lake in the background.

IMG_0045One of the cows on the far side of the lake to the left.

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IMG_0048Toothed owl’s clover

IMG_0053Ducks on Upper Boulder Lake.

IMG_0059The climb was fairly steep at times.

IMG_0060_stitchAll four lakes in view.

IMG_0069Almost to the pass.

IMG_0071At the pass.

IMG_0074Looking south further into the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

Beyond the pass the trail descended 150 yards to the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned right.
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We turned right onto that trail following it for 2 miles to another pass. The scenery along this section was great, particularly the colorful rocks.
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20220823_091151Balloon-pod milk vetch

IMG_0090Golden-mantled ground squirrel taking in the views.

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IMG_0098Mt. Shasta over Mt. Eddy through the haze. I believe the lake below to the right is Big Marshy Lake.

IMG_0101Fireweed in the rocks.

IMG_0102Paintbrush

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IMG_0107A bit of water from a spring along the PCT.

IMG_0108The water was coming from somewhere up there.

20220823_093103Looking back along the PCT.

IMG_0117Snack time.

IMG_0121Caesar and Thompson Peak

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IMG_0130This northern flicker looks like its head is on backwards.

IMG_0138A little bit of burned forest near the pass.

IMG_0145More peaks in the heart of the Trinity Alps.

IMG_0146Caribou Mountain (post) on the right with Sawtooth Mountain over its shoulder.

IMG_0151The pass above Middle Boulder Lake.

IMG_0152Middle Boulder Lake is just visible beyond two smaller unnamed lakes.

There was no sign at the pass but a small cairn marked a trail to the right that led down past the lakes.
IMG_0154Middle Boulder Lake Trail at the pass.

IMG_0155The Middle Boulder Lake Trail traversing down the hillside.

IMG_0157A sulphur butterfly.

IMG_0158The trail stayed above the two unnamed lakes.

The trail grew faint as it passed through a series of meadows where little frogs were abundant.
IMG_0163The trees on the far hillside were burned in the 2021 fire.

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Approximately 0.6 miles from the pass we came to a cairn near a downed tree. A trail sign had been attached to the end of the tree marking the Boulder Tie Trail.
IMG_0174The cairn to the right of the downed tree.

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It took us a minute to identify the actual start of this trail which was in a wet meadow. There were a few small cairns that helped guide the way and we soon found ourselves on clear tread again.
20220823_104855This may be Autumn dwarf gentian

IMG_0183One of the more obvious cairns.

IMG_0185Butterfly on a seed head.

IMG_0189The tread getting clearer.

IMG_0190Middle Boulder Lake

IMG_0191Back on good tread.

As we were traversing a sagebrush hillside Heather started repeating something behind me. She was saying “buck” but that isn’t what I heard and thought something bad had happened to her.
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The vegetation was tall enough that he was hard to pick out but when he raised up we got some decent views.
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IMG_0213Orange agoseris

After a mile and a half on this trail we climbed to a saddle overlooking East Boulder Lake.
IMG_0221Passing through a bit of forest before climbing to the saddle.

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From the saddle we spotted a hiker making his way along the lake. He spotted us as we were descending and waited for us to come down. We lost the trail again as we descended and simply hiked cross country through the sagebrush to the East Boulder Trail. The waiting hiker asked us about the loop and how hard it was to follow. He was a local that had been to the lake and the pass above several times but had never attempted the loop. After getting some information from us and taking photos of our paper map he was considering giving the loop a go. We went our separate ways, recrossed the dam, and returned to the trailhead.
IMG_0232Approaching the dam.

IMG_0233Fish in East Boulder Creek.

IMG_0236Descending near the waterfall.

IMG_0239An aster or fleabane.

IMG_0243Butterfly

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IMG_0248Woodpecker

While Sullivan listed the hike as 9.8 miles our GPS only registered 9.6 miles with a total elevation gain just under 2000′.

We returned to Etna, showered, and then headed to Paystreak Brewing for dinner. We turned in fairly early in anticipation of our longest hike of the week the next day when we would be taking the PCT north from Carter Meadows Summit and heading into the Russian Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: East Boulder Lake