Mill Creek Lake (Trinity Alps Wilderness) 02-Jul-2020

Five years ago, we did a late-season loop hike to East Boulder Lake in California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness. Just over the ridge from East Boulder Lake are the Mill Creek and Washbasin Lakes. A trail, the Little Mill Trail #5572, connects these three lakes. We thought to take advantage of the excellent early summer hiking weather we’re currently having (not too hot (yet) and no smoke (yet – but hopefully never)) to hike the Little Mill Trail up to the Mill Creek Lake. The guidebook (Lewon’s 2014 Hiking California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness) indicated that we’d find subalpine meadows, wildflowers, views, and old mine relics (all of which we did). It also suggested that Mill Creek Lake is not often visited, located as it is at the end of narrow, somewhat rough Forest Road 40N16. Well, it’s probably less popular than East Boulder, but we still encountered seven other hikers during our visit. The trail from the trailhead to the lake, although temporarily covered by vegetation where it crosses the meadows, was nonetheless easy to find and follow. Above the lake it’s much sketchier until you get up on the bench with the Klatt Mine – then the route over to East Boulder is obvious.

There’s one easy crossing of Little Mill Creek just after you enter the wilderness
Crossing one of the meadows
Oregon Checkerbloom
California Corn Lily

We followed trail – which is partially an old road – as it rose easily, but steadily, up along the creek until it reached some rock outcrops just below the lake. Here things got steeper and rockier. At the top of this steeper section, and just before we reached the lake, we had a great view to the east over the Scott Valley and could just make out the top of Mount Shasta on the far horizon.

Climbing to the lake
Scott Valley and Mount Shasta (arrow)
Mill Creek Lake
Mill Creek Lake
Mill Creek Lake
Mill Creek Lake

We went on past Mill Creek Lake to see the remains of the Klatt Mine. It operated here between 1905 and 1910 and produced some 1,200 ounces of gold (which doesn’t seem like much given all the effort it took to get up here back in those days).

Going up to see the mine
Mill Creek Lake is nestled at the base of some impressive rocky slopes
On the bench, with the upper workings (arrow) of the Klatt Mine in the distance
The trail (arrow) to East Boulder Lake is just visible across the cirque
The view from one of the old mine prospects
Going down to visit the lower workings (arrow) of the Klatt Mine
An old ore car (made in San Francisco)
We were surprised to find that the ore car rails had been made in Germany
Heading back to the trailhead
Marsh Marigold
Back through the meadow, while trying to avoid a “Sound of Music” moment

All told, a 6.5 mile (1,700 feet of gain) out-and-back hike that gave us everything promised by the guidebook. 😀 Near the mine, we met a couple of hikers who had come over from East Boulder Lake. So we’re putting an East Boulder to Washbasin Lake hike on our to do list for later this year. 🙂

The Little Mill Trail: “T” is the trailhead, “M” is the lower workings of the Klatt Mine, and “P” is the prospect
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3 comments

  1. Thank you! We’ve always enjoyed following your adventures and were particularly taken with the hikes you did in the Chiricahuas. We’ve only been able to visit there once and are hoping to go back (someday).

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