Backpack to Grizzly Lake

14 Miles Round Trip - Out-and-Back Trail

China Gulch Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by TJ Orton

Backpacking to Grizzly Lake will take you to an absolutely jaw-dropping waterfall. Keep in mind that the scramble to the lake is challenging and the first two miles of the hike are pretty steep. The best season to hike this is June through October.

Grizzly Lake is in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The lake is know for its brilliant waterfall flowing from the lake's surface straight off the side of a cliff and roughly 600 feet down to the meadow below. Grizzly lake is located in some of America's most amazing and remote alpine wilderness, including Thompson Peak, the highest peak in the Trinity Alps, which hoovers above Grizzly lake.

Getting There

From Oregon heading south: China Gulch trailhead is accessed from Hwy 3, which connects Yrecka and the I-5 to Weaverville and Hwy 299. From Yreka, head south for an hour and pass through Fort Jones and Etna. Past the town of Calahan, turn right on the road that goes to Cecilville. About 30 minutes later, just as you're entering Cecilville, turn left on a paved road to China Gulch. About three miles later the paved road turns to gravel and is marked as road 37N07. Follow this road another six miles to the China Gulch Trailhead. There is plenty of parking.

The Trail

The newer, and now more common, route to Grizzly Lake involves a nearly seven-mile stretch on a steep trail through thick pines and beautiful alpine meadows. The trail often runs alongside the gin-clear Grizzly Creek, a haven for small brook trout.

About 5.7 miles into the hike, there is a nice meadow you can camp at before making the rocky climb, often called the Grizzly Scramble, to the lake. This saves the trouble of hauling a lot of gear up the epic scramble you're about to tackle. Enjoy a day of fly fishing at the incredible lake, then return to the meadow before dark. If you're feeling brave, it's amazing to camp at the lake on the side of the ledge over looking the entire valley down below. The view of the stars is amazing from up there.


The crystal-clear lake is loaded with colorful brook trout. Cast small woolly bugger flies for them. They can't resist!


Make sure to bring warm clothes since it gets chilly at night. Tie up your food in a tree while you sleep, since there are a lot of bears around. Be careful making the scramble to the top of the lake. You'll want to veer left as you get higher up and the trail disappears—it's less steep this way.


Easy Parking


14 Miles
Out-and-Back Trail

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Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Grueling but worth it

This hike is not for the beginner! Starts out mild for about a 1/4 or so mile but becomes quite tough. Switchback up for a while then down again through brush for a ways then you hit a noticeable trail again. I think the hardest part about this trail for me was the constant up and then constant down. Was murder on my toes. Ended up loosing a few toenails. Ended up buying better shoes because of it. But that being said, Its beautiful country and well worth the hard work. Definitely not a hike to do in a few days. You want to give yourself some time to enjoy all the nature and scenery. I will definitely do this hike again (better shoes) and stay even longer!

Can't beat a 14 mile roundtrip run with a 600 foot rock climb to a glacial lake!

Thanks for posting this, I just went last Monday! The trail's in great shape for being so remote, I don't know how all these people are getting lost. The climb up to the lake's a little scary, though just I climbed up the rocks adjacent to the waterfall. I'd recommend most people start cutting up over the left wall of the valley way back in the meadow to make it safe. The whole trip doesn't take very long at all if you're in great shape; the steepest part besides the near vertical climb is right at the beginning/end. Can't wait to go back next spring when the waterfall is raging!

Epic hike...but needs some trail work.

I just did this hike as an overnighter on 7/10-11, and it was as epic as this article describes. However, like Jenice Ray mentions, the trail needs quite a bit of TLC from the trailhead to the junction with the Hobo Gulch trail. This stretch of trail runs through a nasty old burn scar, and as a result, there are quite a few downed trees to climb and overgrown brush to fight through. The worst trouble spots I encountered were within 200-300 yards of the top of Hunters Camp summit heading down the south side of the ridge. Here there is a particularly tricky spot where the correct path veers slightly to the right and is obscured, but there is a false trail straight ahead that leads to nowhere. Lots of people have mistakenly taken this route, as evidenced by the footprints. Luckily I realized my mistake quickly and backtracked, but another group I ran into wasn't so lucky and bushwhacked the entire way down the 1000 foot ridge. This was the only spot that I really had any trouble navigating, and I put a couple cairns there that will hopefully help. Another spot farther down the hill, two large trees fell along the length of the trail, and there is a wide path around it that hikers have worn in. As long as you make your way back to the end of the tree trunk you'll find the original trail again. Once you get to the bottom of the valley it's smooth sailing, aside from the scramble.