Hike to Tamarack Lake, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

Tamarack Lake Trail, Coleville, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Fishing, Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    10 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2000 Feet

Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

If you want to be completely secluded out in the wilderness and experience all types of the Sierra topography, then the journey to Lake Tamarack is a must!

The trailhead begins at the end of Golden Gate Rd in Coleville, Ca on highway 396. There are very limited signs, so maps are necessary! Depending on how fast of a hiker you are, you can most likely reach the lake in 6 hours with minimal breaks. If you cannot start in the morning, there are beautiful spots to camp along the way. Either in on the ridge beneath Juniper trees or in the valley next to the creek.

After parking, you begin your hike in a redwood forest that leads upwards into the open rolling hills of Sage and Juniper groves. The single track trail follows the ridge line of the hills for a few miles and eventually switchbacks down into Long Valley. At the valley floor you'll have to cross a creek which will most likely require removing your shoes or just plodding straight through the brisk snow runoff water. This is a great spot to take a break and maybe share a little meal.

Continuing along the trail, you'll walk under beautiful redwoods and cross over the creek that acts as a natural lazy river winding itself through the valley. At two points along the valley trail, the woods open up and you'll find yourself in grassy open country bookended by steep mountain walls on either side with the creek serpentining through the middle. This is truly a view that causes you to stop, put your hands on your hips and soak it in.

Once you reach the second valley opening, look up to the right and you'll see massive jagged granite rocks jutting out of the top of the mountain. This, unfortunately, is the only landmark available that will give you direction to the end goal of your journey, being Lake Tamarack. There is no trail. There are no signs. You just have to pick your lines and try and make your way up the steep, grueling mountain side using your best intuition. Up until this point the hike is pretty simple and little elevation change. Depending on how well you traverse up the mountain side, it will take you at least 2 hours before reaching the top.

I cannot explain in words the overwhelming change in emotion that occurs once you summit the mountain and reach the emerald blue waters of the lake. For the past 2 hours you have most likely fallen a number of times, both from exhaustion as well as lack of traction from the steep terrain, and let out a slew of curse words from frustration and the seemingly endless climb. Just when you feel like giving up and rolling back down the hill you come over the crest and look down on the most beautiful little lake you have ever seen. On the far side of the lake there is a redwood grove that is a perfect spot to make camp by the waters edge. Once you're set up and started your cooking fire you probably have enough time to cool off in the lake before the sun falls behind the mountain. You've made it. Now you get to enjoy the untouched surrounding beauty without a single soul in sight.

Pack List

  • Camping Permit
  • Camera
  • Three Days Food and Fuel
  • Fishing Rod
  • Hammock
  • Swimsuit (or naked)
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Reviews

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Went for Labor day weekend and was nearly consumed alive... Tons of mosquitoes! Also, you may pick up a self-serve permit at the TH. High clearance vehicle preferred to get to TH... Keep an eye on your small dog, if you do bring... Lots of coyotes and mountain lions! In fact, coyotes are not bashful here and will come right up to your tent at night and howl! If you enjoy isolation, this is a wonderful place, so long as you bring some deet.

6 months ago
6 months ago

It was, overall, a good article about the journey to Tamarack Lk. in Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. However, there are NO redwoods as mentioned by the author. But, there are massive western junipers that the author mistook for redwoods.

8 months ago
8 months ago

Josh Currie Explorer

Christ | Country | Family | Filmmaker at GoPro

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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