Earlier this year, we did a loop in the northern Trinity Alps Wilderness, greatly enjoyed it, and thought (now that changes in the weather have damped down some of the fires pouring smoke into this area) we’d do another, similar loop a little more to the east: the East Boulder Lake Loop (Hike #93 in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon hiking guide (Third Edition, 2014). This one, like others in this area, uses the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as a connector that allows you to loop through different lake basins – and get some great views to the east and south.
The East Boulder Lake Trailhead is about two hours south of Medford, Oregon and involves – if you’re driving a sedan – some careful driving for the last four miles or so (but nothing heroic). From the trailhead, the East Boulder Lake Trail (USFS #5575) makes an easy,
but steady, climb about 1,000 feet up canyon,
to East Boulder Lake. This is one of those wilderness areas where cow grazing was grandfathered in years ago and continues to this day. This time of year the moos have been mostly moved down to the valley (we saw 4-5 under a tree) and their trampling and pooing wasn’t much of a distraction.
We went across the old dam (the lake’s depth isn’t entirely natural),
around the lake,
and then climbed southeast up the canyon wall, which gave us a good view of the other, unnamed lakes in the upper East Boulder drainage.
The trail crests the Scott Mountains divide and then drops to end at a junction with the PCT. On our way down, we got our first big view of Mount Shasta to the east.
At the junction, we turned right and followed the well-constructed PCT as it contoured southwest along the south side of the ridge,
across the head of the Eagle Creek Valley,
with further views of Mount Shasta and others. We could also see Mount Lassen on the horizon further south.
We followed the PCT along the south side of the divide for a little over two miles, until we came to the junction of the PCT and the Middle Boulder Lake Trail (USFS #5577),
with a view down into that lake’s basin.
After lunch on the pass, we headed down the Middle Boulder Lake Trail,
passing above the lake,
to a faint, but signed, junction with the Boulder Lake Tie Trail (USFS #5582), a trail that contours through sagebrush and forest,
to an overlook of the East Boulder Lake,
and then down a long sagebrush-covered slope to the lake.
From there it was just a matter of retracing our steps back to the trailhead.
A short (9 miles roundtrip; 1,900 feet of elevation gain) but exceedingly pleasant hike to some wonderful lakes on a beautiful, full bluebird day in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.