China Gulch Trail to Grizzly Lake

HARD 18 reviews
#3 of 29 trails in

China Gulch Trail to Grizzly Lake is a 11.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Forks of Salmon, California that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, camping, and backpacking and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

11.6 miles
5426 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly




trail running








Thompson Peak

2 months ago

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!

3 months ago

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.

3 months ago

Directions are difficult here's a good link
Absolutely beautiful and worth the hike about 12 miles one way so 24 round trip. The trail marked on map is off route a bit and does not show the "Scramble" to the extent that it is! 2.5 miles up boulders to get to grizzly lake! Some turn around here but think twice it's what make the trip!
Note- if you can't put your dog in a backpack or holder of some kind you shouldn't take them because it's too dangerous.

4 months ago

This trail will kick your butt! Long steep hot cold. Worth every ache and pain!

4 months ago

My husband and I completed this as a 2 day, 1 night backpacking trip with our 1 1/2 year old, 2 friends and their 10 month old. We were some of the first people out this season ( Mid June) and the trail was quite overgrown and difficult to find at times, but much of it was beautiful! The hike to Grizzly falls took us about 6 hours and seemed like it was much longer than 6 miles. We took several breaks because of the heat and the babies. We set up camp upon arrival, there were quite a few mosquitoes along the hike and at camp. We checked out the scramble up to the lake but there was still heavy snow pack towards the top and wouldn't have been safe- could have been done but the majority of the group was shot from the hike and heat. The meadow was gorgeous and the falls were as well. We went to sleep early and woke up early to head out at 6am. The hike back only took 3.5 hours, but the climb to Hunter's camp was killer!
Saw two bears, they were not interested in us at all. The kids had a blast exploring and we all had a blast too.

On our way out the trail crew showed to to do some clearing- we will try this again later in the season!

We are late 20's early 30's group of friends, active hikers each carrying 40-50lbs. ( babies included)

4 months ago

Wow what a trip it was one of the hardest hikes I have been on in a long while I would say if I had it to do again I would take less 50 lbs for sure be prepared for a long day of up hill hiking the lake was amazing one of the best I have ever seen. Put it on the bucket list.

7 months ago

This is the iconic hike/backpack of the Trinity Alps in Northern Cali. It's on any backpacker's "to do" list. It's a chore to drive to the trailhead about 3 hours from Redding, much of it along scenic rural farmland and in wilderness. The segment of the track takes you gradually up a hill to Hunters Camp. Then you descend a mile through bramble, brush and on switchbacks to the bottom drainage. The descent translates to an ascent on the return, and that's on your mind. From there it's about a 4.5 mile slog to the meadow at the end of which, high up, you see Grizzly Lake. Best to camp in the meadow scramble the next day to the amazing lake and if you have energy, then 1500 feet to Thompson Peak. Take your time climbing back down. I recommend the scramble to the left of the lake lip as opposed to boulder hopping to a trail that leads up but it more precarious. The return was quick until the climb back to Hunters Camp. What a challenge! This is an Alps backpack that will stick with me for sure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What a treat! This is a hard hike and took me about 7 hours to get to the meadow. If you plan to go to the lake from the trailhead give yourself plenty of time. The hardest part besides the scramble at the end is the long uphill at the beginning followed immediately by a taxing downhill. Nothing crazy just long. After the hard down you take a long gradual climb to the meadow. What a sight once you finally come into the meadow. Truly an amazing place. Plan to go in mid spring to see the falls raging. I'm not sure if you can cross the falls when they are running hard though. If not your camp sites are limited!

Be aware! When heading up the scramble stay left, there is a point where the trail splits and the left side looks harder than the right. Don't be fooled it's not bad, the right is almost a downright rock climb and there were times I was unsure of our situation. Totally worth every step you take!

One more note, the trailhead is on 37N07, also known as rays gulch I believe, and not 37N02 as labeled on this site. Heading towards 37N02 though you will see signs, follow them they are right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We actually did the China Gulch TH to Grizzly Lake for a 3 day, 2 night trip. What a workout and amazing experience! The lake was so beautiful. I plan to go back again next year in mid July to see the wildflowers and hopefully experience the falls. I'd love to extend the trip by a day or two and try to summit Thompson Peak.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This was my first hike since quitting a 38 year pack a day cigarette habit 8 weeks ago. I am also about 50 lbs overweight at 240. I would say it was taxing to say the least on the uphill portions and down right brutal coming back up the hill to hunters camp. My brother and I left China Gulch trailhead at 8am and reached the end of the Meadows and set up camp. No time to make the lake but a 3 day hike planned to make the lake and Thompson peak soon. I think sheer stubbornness got my butt up that hill.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Demanding and rewarding, couldn't ask for a more spectacular view. Our GPS had us logged at a little over 14 miles. Due to minimal manning in the forestry department there are lots of downed trees and some shrubs trying to overtake the trail on the backside of the first mountain climb. The rock "scramble" at the end up to the lake isn't for the faint of heart. If you are afraid of heights, this hike is not for you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The beginning of the trail lures you in and then starts a brutal uphill. The steep uphill to the lake is shorter but steeper and more difficult. We went up just left of the creek which was more direct but borderline rock climbing in several spots and pretty tiring with a full pack.
Start going up earlier in the boulder field and you can take some semi marked routes up that are a bit easier.
Either way it's definitely not easy but the lake and cliff at the falls are incredible.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This trail is very difficult and beautiful. From the trailhead the trail is very easy for the first few hundred yards. However, after that it starts to get tough to the top of the hill at Hunters Camp which is 2 miles from the trailhead. From Hunters Camp the trail goes down hill to the junction of the trail to Hobo Gulch Trailhead. From the junction follow the trail to Grizzly Meadows and to the lake. The trail is fairly gradual to Grizzly Meadows. There is plenty of water along this portion of the trail. There was a large fire in the area a few years ago and the trail will show the signs of the fire. The forest is growing back. Once arriving to Grizzly Meadows there are plenty of camp spots to choose from. From the meadows it's another mile to the lake. This is the most difficult part of the trail. The trail now becomes a scramble. Rock ducks will show the way through a granite slide up and through a granite cliff. This accessible but very steep with some loose rock and gravel. This part of the trail I do not recommend having dogs. Once you get to the lake there is a couple of camp spots, however, I don't recommend having a bulky or heavy pack since you can loose your balance. It can be done. The lake is spectacular. The water is very clear. As you walk on the trail you will get closer to Grizzly Falls. This fall probably drops about 100 feet down to the granite slide below. Very spectacular. This app indicates it is a 13 mile round trip. My GPS said 16 miles round trip. So be prepared to leave the trailhead early. It will take 3 to 4 hours depending on your walking ability and how in shape you are in. All in all this is a great hike and trail.

3 months ago

4 months ago

5 months ago

Friday, September 23, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016