Caribou Lakes Trail

MODERATE 22 reviews
#4 of 45 trails in

Caribou Lakes Trail is a 18.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Forks of Salmon, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

18.1 miles
4366 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly





nature trips

trail running






wild flowers



old growth



Coffee creek rd off of route 3 just north of Trinity center. Follow road paved 3mi then dirt for 17mi along river westbound. Lots of sharp rocks and flat tires. Air down car tires and come prepaired with tools incase of a flat. Drive will take 1hr to go those 17mi slow & narrow in parts. Watch for deer and bear. Park at the Big Flat campground a 1/4mi just past Mountain Meadow Resort. Bring lots of water and food on trip as there is not any store pass Coffee creek rd turn off.

14 days ago

Trip Dates: June 1st, 2018 to June 3, 2018

This trail is tough and I’ve done my fair share of tough ones. The difficulty comes with just essentially going uphill for 9 miles. Some parts are steeper than others but seemingly always up. Based on the topo map, it appears that the last 2.5 miles are the easiest... wrong. I’d say they were the hardest as you’re tired and hiking over rubbley granite which grinds on the feet and still plenty of uphill.

The prize at the end (three lake basin), however, is worth it if you are spending an extra day up there to relax. It would be quite a feat to push up there one day and come back the next. We headed up on a Friday and had one day of rest (Saturday) which was highly necessary. The views were breathtaking and we had (quite nearly) absolute solitude! We fished (for trout) and caught 3! Soaked up the sun. Swung in our hammocks and caught up on reading. I even dove into the lake... which is pure snow melt and COLD! But all in all, it was paradise. We headed down the following day (Sunday).

Things to know:

1. There are plenty of water sources along the trail during the dates we went (rivers, brooks and finally, lakes)

2. I never got a lick of reception (nor did I expect it) but I heard you can get it (dependent on your carrier I’m sure if you hike up the ridge (snow covered though)

3. As of the dates we went, the trail was clear of snow and there were only a few little patches here and there up at the lakes. If you hike up to the ridge though, you will run into some for sure.

4. There is trout fishing in the upper lake for sure and they were biting. The ones we caught though were fairly small.

5. The ratio of sun exposed to shade is about 65/35. Doing it in mid-August would likely be pretty brutal.

6. Not a crowded trail. Hardly ran into anyone, so that was nice but also if you get hurt, help is not coming for you anytime soon so be aware of that.

7. During our dates, I hardly noticed the bug situation. It was not too severe, but might be as it gets hotter.

8. Remember before you go to get a Wilderness Permit and Fire Permit (both available at the Weaverville Ranger Station at the self-serve Kiosk, so you can go get that even if the station isn’t open). Both are required even if you only intend on using a camp stove.

Hope this is helpful! Stay safe!

21 days ago

were there this memorial weekend no snow on the trail up to the 3rd lake

5 months ago

Amazing trail, the lakes are beautiful. We hiked up the end of June and beginning of July. Lots of snow up on Sawtooth and some snow on the trial. One of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on.

8 months ago

beautiful trail, challenging for sure. Definitely worth the hike. Caribou Lake is breathtaking

10 months ago

Great Lake and the other two lakes are just as amazing. Hike in and of early in the morning to avoid the heat.

10 months ago

I'm getting ready to head up here in three weeks. Any idea of how the fishing is?

11 months ago

Ran in to quite a bit of snow while on the trail, but definitely possible to walk around or over in order to get to the lakes. Have to wade through a creek in the very beginning of the trail, but after that it's a great workout with views better than most.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

My fiancé and I did an over nighter on this trip. And boy, it was impressive. We took the new trial in and it was a relatively slight elevation gain. However, we did get scorched by the sun. The new trail climbs gradually along many exposed areas. Actually there is hardly in cover for the majority of the new trail section. On the positive note, you don't miss a minute of the spectacular views!! Once we made it to the lakes we hiked back to large Caribou to find a place to spend the night. We hiked nearly three more miles from the trail marker...but it was worth it. We traveled over floating logs on a river and scrambled up a few rock faces but at the end was a camp site full of solitude. We had a perfect spot next to the water. We swam and fished and even rode out a hail/rain storm. We hiked back the next day. We hiked in, in about 5.5 hours and hiked out in about 4. We clocked 11.5 miles in each direction.

We would totally recommend this trial. Spectacular views on an advanced trial. Next time the only thing we would change is spend one extra night camped out. This would allow for more exploring and possibly a scramble up Saw Tooth. Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

3 lakes, countless ponds, so much granite!, streams, ridges on both sides with a postcard view, swimming, fishing... I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

This trail makes for an awesome backpacking trip! There are 2 versions of the trail that lead to Caribou Lake, the old trail and the new trail. The old one is much more direct and strenuous, whereas the new one has a more gradual elevation climb but is about 2 miles longer. New trail: 9 miles, old trail: 7 miles.

We did the new trail until Caribou Meadows where the two trails meet and then we took the old trail to Caribou. The old trail here climbs to ~8000 feet elevation so you're basically on top of a mountain. The views here make that strenuous bit worth it! Once at the top of this, you descent into the basin where Snowslide Lake, Lower Caribou Lake, and Caribou Lake are located. The trail goes past Snowslide and then goes up some elevation to Caribou Lake. We stayed there and it was gorgeous! Once rested, you can climb up to Sawtooth Ridge just above Caribou Lake for some more spectacular views.

We took the new trail completely back to the trailhead. The new trail was in direct sunlight and there is no shade! There was a fire there recently that burned down all the trees. :( It was so hot!

Anyways, I would definitely do this again! The views are breathtaking.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hidden Gem
Perfect backcountry hiking and camping trail. Get to the trailhead early and climb all the way to the top of stop mid way and overnight in an alpine meadow. Truly awesome place to visit.
This is a must do trail in California.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My family has been comeing to this river and mtns for 30yrs. My aunt and uncle are shareholders of Mountain Meadow Resort along the river up there in the Trinity Alps. Area is extremly remote and wild. Not a lot of traffic up in these mts that climb from 4000 to 8500 feet. If you come hikeing up in this area come prepared for quick weather changes and and bring enough supplys of food and water just incase something happens. Long way away from help and cell phone coverage is none. The trails that are around to all the high lakes are spectacular. The trails are easy along the river to straight up switchbacks to some of the higher lake peaks around the Caribous. Bring a good map and a compass. If you do go up durring June/Aug stop by the resort and say hi in the Lode lounge/bar to grab a beer after your hike. Also check the Resorts website and maybe book yourself a week trip. Have fun :)

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saturday, May 16, 2015