Explore the most popular waterfall trails in Trinity Alps Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

An absolutely amazing hike. I went to Emerald and Sapphire lakes and spread it out between three days. Even though I was completely out of shape it was all doable and worth it. The trail starts out easy enough to get you warmed up and gets harder as it progressed.

Beautiful trail. Plenty of wildlife.

Did this as a day hike Memorial Day weekend 2018. More than doable in one day. Almost everyone on trail was backpacking. As expected a good amount of foot traffic on a holiday weekend but nothing compared to a national park. This hike is absolutely stunning. Everything you could ask for on a hike. Plenty of running water. Just be careful of the river/creek crossing. Will need some degree of balance to cross over a log. If you are camping over night there is tons of room at the lakes.

So far, I try to never go to the same TH twice. However, I loved this place so much that I cannot WAIT to go back.
The worst part of this trip, was that it got cut short.
There is a nice campground at...Alpine Lake, I believe. Lots of water sources along the way and creek crossings, which is always fun.
I would say the Morris Meadows Campground is more like 9 miles. It is definitely an ideal location. The second site out of the 3 is huge and had multiple fire rings from previous burns. It would be good for a large group or if a couple families get there.
We experience the most wonderful rain and thunderstorm while there. My friend left her tent open, which made for the immediate departure.
The hike to Emerald Lakes was an easy one, but we left our packs at camp. With our packs, probably would have been not as easy. Hah.
I definitely recommend. Also, just prefer this Wilderness. They aren't as strict. Hopefully, people don't leave big messes and force them to enforce stricter rules.

backpacking
15 days ago

Good beginner/intermediate backpack trip.

backpacking
18 days ago

This was an amazing backpacking trip that id recommend to anyone. Our GPS had the mileage longer than this and so did the signs at the trail head.The hike to the canyon creek lakes is more like 16 or 17 miles. It was a busy memorial day weekend but you can still find plenty of solitude. Most of the people are found at around 5.5 miles up near the middle falls. We stayed at boulder creek lakes our first night which were even more beautiful than the canyon creek lakes

AmaZing trail! Well shaded for the first 10 miles. Tons of water. We brought our dog. We planned to go to alpine lake but the river crossing was too high to ford so we ended up camping near deer creek - 7 miles in - and day hiking to emerald and sapphire. Views of and from the lake reminded me of the eastern sierras alpine lakes. Saw two rattle snakes on the tail right before Caribou trail turn off. Saw tons of other garter snakes. Amazingly we got lucky and there were no mosquitoes and very few bugs. No poison oak. Sapphire lake is the deepest lake in the trinity alps at 200ft deep. Saw some beautiful golden trout swimming.

As for the debate about the mileage: Trail sign says 14 miles to Sapphire. All trails says 12.4 miles and outdoor project maps says 14 to emerald. As an avid backpacker and hiker and trail runner, I would say it felt more like 14miles.
100% recommend this trail!

backpacking
20 days ago

Excellent 3 day hike. Amazing views, crystal clear waters! Rugged in some spots for short duration and parts of the trail just before the upper lakes and around the upper lakes is difficult to make out and follow if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s unfortunate how popular this one is though. You see a lot of ill prepared people due to its popularity. Lots of folks without water filtration/purification abilities. We gave a lighter to one group that had no means to light their stoves and two burning logs from our fire to another group that didn’t know how to start a fire. To be clear, it’s not difficult but please bring appropriate gear.

awesome hike. There are areas of the trail that are overgrown and rain gear is nice to have if there's dew on the brush.

our GPS said this hike was closer to 16 miles RT. just fyi so you are prepared for a longer journey.

this is one of the best hikes I've been on and I hike or snowshoe most every weekend year round.

the first incline and decline are anti-climatic but once you hit the valley and start up towards the lake the views are incredible. we scrambled up to the ridge above the lake and afforded a good view.

roads to trailhead were in fairly good condition. we made it with a Honda civic but I had to jump out a few times and move some rocks out the way that were not going to clear.

hiking
20 days ago

Really great doggie-friendly backpacking trail with lots of different terrains and waterfalls

Take caution around L Lake. We saw fresh bear tracks in the snow.

backpacking
21 days ago

Beautiful hike. Several waterfalls and lakes. We did Sat-Mon with 2 nights at McKay Camp. Wish we camped further up the trail but we arrived very late on Sat and decided to just say hike to the lakes and back. When I recorded the trail coming back from the lakes, it said it was closer to 8 miles rather than 7

backpacking
21 days ago

Absolutely gorgeous hike! Went Sun-Mon of Memorial Day weekend and there were a decent amount of people, but it wasn’t super crowded. Our GPS said it was closer to 9 miles than 7 like this says, probably doesn’t account for all the switchbacks going up the mountain.

hiking
22 days ago

One of the best hikes we are ever done!! Superb views and the waterfall was awesome. Must do !

Make sure you have rain gear if you are starting AFTER a rainy night. The bushes going down from Hunter's Camp soaked me even with my emergency poncho. Made the trek very unpleasant.

Wanted to do Thompson as well, but I felt there was way too much snow still to do safely without more gear.

The scramble to the top of the falls starts earlier than I expected. Find the correct way up or you might end up on some sketchy 4th class like I did.

Didn't see a single person from the beginning of the road to the trailhead till I drove back down. Be careful. With no cell service for miles and miles, a twisted ankle could turn into quite an epic for the solo trekker.

Grizzly Lake might be the most beautiful place in the world in "winter" conditions.

Also. Ticks.

backpacking
1 month ago

Amazing views! Wish I had been in better shape when I went. Would highly recommend.

backpacking
1 month ago

I hiked in Saturday morning to the second Canyon Creek lake. It took about 5 hours from the trailhead, with stops to snack and take photos along the way. There was plenty of water along the route. It was never too challenging or too steep. There was one other group camping at the second lake but we rarely saw each other. There were snow patches here and there and some of the trail included hiking through shallow snow. It wasn't too hot or too cold. It took 3.5 hours to hike out the next day. The trip was full of natural beauty. I definitely hope to return.

Have done this hike twice now, once to the lakes and this weekend just to Morris Meadows, as I was intending to do Alpine Lake on an overnighter, but Stuart Fork was too high to cross this early in the year, and I got a late start to the trailhead.

Overall, the trail is pretty moderate with mostly a gradual incline until the scramble below the lakes. As others have mentioned, however, the trail is longer than advertised. I submitted an edit recommendation for the trailhead lat /long to be revised, so hopefully that will help make the description closer to accurate. There are several areas with multiple established camp sites, i.e. where you veer left to do the Alpine Lake trail (there is a sign), off to the left around mile 7 where the trail has a decline back to the level of the river, and at the south end of the meadow, which is around mile 9, to name a few.

This time, my hike was very quiet, I only saw about a dozen people over the course of 2 days, but late last June, the trail was much more crowded, and the people in the camp site next to us got drunk and obnoxious in the evening which is, unfortunately, probably not that uncommon of an occurrence given how busy this trail can get during peak season (though still nothing compared to much of the Sierras or the Tahoe area). Still incredible though and absolutely worth the effort!

some snow past 3 miles, but mostly passable. no visible poison oak or ticks. a couple flowering plants but almost no flowers yet.

My group of six backpacked this route in March of 2014 over a weekend. We started our hike late morning, camped at the Canyon Creek Lakes at the top, spent the entire next day hiking around the bowl and up to L Lake, and then hiked back the next day. March was a little early to be hiking up there and crossing the river (maybe too dangerous in hindsight). The river looked safe to cross on the way up, but on the way back the river had rose significantly and felt quite treacherous. The nights were brutally cold, but L Lake covered in snow was the most beautiful sight I've seen to this day. Climbing up to L Lake can be intimidating for some. I don't recommend bringing your backpack up there. Camp below and make a day hike up there. Did I mention we had the entire place to ourselves the whole time? Best part of it all. I highly recommend this trail; stunning views, waterfalls, rivers, beautiful boulders, and whimsical wooded areas. Be careful when you're hiking around on the rocks and boulders--they get slippery--and be cautious around flowing waters. Don't miss L Lake!

backpacking
5 months ago

What a great hike for exploring and getting a good sample of what the alps have to offer. The Trinity Alps are so beautiful and one of my favorite wildernesses to backpack.

I would rate this more of a moderate hike, due to the steady incline and tricky spots on the trail. Gorgeous views and serene atmosphere. Lake is clear and beautiful. Definitely worth the effort.

hiking
6 months ago

I hiked this trail as a day hike with my dog and a friend in November 2017. I had seen the previous recording of 14-15 miles and thought that I could do that in a day hike at a quick pace. The trail ended up being 20+ miles to Alpine lake from Stuart Fork TH. We got held up for 30+ minutes trying to find a dry place to cross Stuart Fork about 7 miles into the hike. There was no definite dry crossing established, so we took off our shoes and waded through midcalf deep frigid water. The climb from the creek to alpine lake is steep , a good work out , though hard to do at a fast pace when sunset is nearing. We misjudged the elevation and got stuck in some snow for the last mile. Snow shoes would have allowed us to get to the lake, but we ran out of daylight. There was a beautiful waterfall that we accepted as worthy of our climb and started down to cross the creek before it got dark. Headlamps saved the day for the trek back to trailhead. I'll definitely retry this hike as part of a 3 day backpacking trip including Emerald and sapphire lakes when the snow clears and will re-review at that time. Overall, pretty hike, challenging ascent.

I backpacked to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes as a 2 days backpacking trip with my dog near the end of October. It was stunning the entire way from trailhead to the lakes. Fall 2017 in the Trinities was a very vibrant autumn and this trail really showed off the yellows and oranges of the deciduous trees lining the trail. The contrast of dark green evergreens vs yellow maples vs the Stuart Fork creek was beautiful. I camped up at Emerald lake, just barely made it before sunset - I clocked 16 miles on my fitbit. There was only one other tent there. I passed only 2 other couples along the trail and they ended up camping at the meadows. Walking through forests, along a creek, through a random meadow, crossing a few small waterfalls and constant views of the valley's peaks. It was a very secluded hike. The trail is well maintained. The scramble up to Sapphire lake gives a beautiful view of the valley you just climbed up.

it was nice im from there and love the outdoors iv only been to the sinks lake here i come soon

First of all, you need to know that our track, from China Gulch trail head all the way up to the lake was 10.6 miles, one way. The hike was absolutely amazing, changing scenery every other mile or so, with the finale being the falls, then grizzly lake and Thompson peak, stunning!

But this hike is hard, and the mileage reported on alltrails is inaccurate. The first 2.2 miles are spent climbing 1500 ft, then the next 1.7 miles descends 1300 ft both grueling. The next 4.5 miles or so is steadily up hill but not nearly as steep as the first section. Then it gets really good. After leaving the trees behind you emerge to see the falls and the wall of rock on which Grizzly lake is perched. Its beautiful. But the trail gets tricky. Walking through boulders on a very rocky trail you start climbing more and more over the next half mile. Then the trail starts to take you up the grizzly scramble. This is when you turn to go up the cliff-like valley wall. The trail is marked by stacked rocks and zig zags up the hill. Very shortly after the steep ascent starts you will see a creek run off that seems to take you up the hill, stay left and do not try and use the run off as the trail, the rocks are very loose and you're better off on the trail. Stay left and follow the rocks. about a quarter mile (estimate) up the hill the trail will lead to a rocky channel that you will need to use hands and feet to crawl up. After making your way though this there is more steep trail for another half mile or so. The final 3/4 of a mile is still mostly up hill across large boulders until finally see the lake and coast down the rocky terrain. The final bit of the trail is marked by stacked rocks, follow the rocks and try not to stray, they will lead you the best way. It is also important to remember where you came up because it is even more important to follow the rocks on the way down. The gps said 10.6 miles by the time we reached the lake from the trail head. We hiked 'fast.' We were wearing packs but we rarely stopped and not for more than 2-3 minutes, and it took us 5 hours to hike in, and 4.5 to hike out - the return down the steep section took us an 1 hr 15 minutes. This hike was beautiful in so many ways, but it was challenging. It was cool at night by the lake, I would estimate it got down to 34 degrees, and windy (late September). There was fresh snow on Thompson peak, but only an inch or two in the shaded sections.

There are a few reviews on here with slightly different mileage markers, I don't know if mine is more or less accurate, but we did not stray from the trail and our measurement said 10.6 miles one way. I highly recommend this challenging hike!

I can't even handle how beautiful this adventure was for our family. Epic.

Great hike with lits of beautiful waterfalls. Amazing scenery from the Meadow and a fun scramble up to the lake. It was great to get out of the smoke. Up to 7 deer would come and visit our campsite.

Had an amazing 2 nights up here. Absolutely stunning. ❤️❤️❤️

backpacking
9 months ago

We had a great time on this trail. We hikes about 6 miles to middle falls and set camp by the creek. It's nice and shady and plenty of water around. We hung out by the waterfalls and enjoyed the swimming holes!
Once you go pass the middle falls and climb up above the falls, you can no longer set fire - so if you are looking to have camp fire don't go beyond this point.
On Saturday we did a day hike up to the upper lakes, and boulder lake (can do both in 1 long hiking day). Swam in the lakes, and enjoyed the scenery.
So beautiful!! Will be back for other trails in this area!

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