East Boulder Lake Loop (Trinity Alps Wilderness) 22-Sep-2015

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California

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,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
A meadow in late season along the East Boulder Lake Trail

but steady, climb about 1,000 feet up canyon,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Looking north down East Boulder Creek 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.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
East Boulder Lake

We went across the old dam (the lake’s depth isn’t entirely natural),

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Crossing the dam at East Boulder Lake

around the lake,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Along the west side of East Boulder 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.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Lakes higher in the East Boulder Creek 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.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Descending to the PCT, with Mount Shasta in the distance
East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Mount Shasta

At the junction, we turned right and followed the well-constructed PCT as it contoured southwest along the south side of the ridge,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
On the PCT heading south

across the head of the Eagle Creek Valley,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Looking down Eagle Creek

with further views of Mount Shasta and others. We could also see Mount Lassen on the horizon further south.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Mount Eddy (E), Black Butte (B), Mount Shasta (S)

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),

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
The junction of the PCT and the Middle Boulder Lake Trail

with a view down into that lake’s basin.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Middle Boulder Lake

After lunch on the pass, we headed down the Middle Boulder Lake Trail,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Descending toward Middle Boulder Lake

passing above the lake,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Middle Boulder Lake

to a faint, but signed, junction with the Boulder Lake Tie Trail (USFS #5582), a trail that contours through sagebrush and forest,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Along the Boulder Lake Tie Trail

to an overlook of the East Boulder Lake,

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
East Boulder Lake from the tie trail

and then down a long sagebrush-covered slope to the lake.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Descending back to East Boulder Lake

From there it was just a matter of retracing our steps back to the trailhead.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Going back

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.

East Boulder Lake Loop Trinity Alps Wilderness California
Our track around the East Boulder Lake Loop

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