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China Gulch Trail to Grizzly Lake is a 18 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.

Length 18.0 mi Elevation gain 5,295 ft Route type Out & Back

Dog friendly

Backpacking

Camping

Hiking

Running

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Waterfall

Wildlife

Rocky

Scramble

Snow

Description
Waypoints (0)

This is a popular and scenic trail that can be very crowded during the summer months. Can be done as a very long and strenuous day hike, but most split up the miles into 2-3 days as a backpacking trip.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (84)
Photos (147)
Recordings (44)
Completed (142)
Nicki Crain
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jul 06 2020
BackpackingBlowdownBugsRockyScramble

If there was a rating above "hard", I would put this there! A friend's GPS (who was with us) said it recorded about 15 miles, which included the scramble to the top. We got a late start our first day and hiked in only about 3 miles then camped, and finished the other 12 the next day; I don't recommend that! Camp at or near the meadow so you can have lots of time to scramble up and enjoy the lake, if you're not camping up there. I brought trekking poles but did NOT use them on the scramble. I needed both of my hands free to tackle that. We got off course a couple times heading up to the top, which led us through some pretty sketchy terrain. I almost turned back because I was so scared during one stretch getting up there, but found the cairn and pushed through. No words can describe the lake and falls. I don't think I'd be physically able to get a full pack up to the top but if I could, I would! Overall, the trail is long and likely best enjoyed by staying 2 nights, instead of 1. Between the "hill" at the beginning (and don't forget, the end!) and the scramble, I was absolutely mentally and physically drained. Best adventure I've ever been on though!

Dulce Carolina
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 04 2020
HikingGreat!RockyScramble

Everything you can go through in this hike is completely WORTH IT. I am completely in love with this place! The views are out of this world!!! The hike it's hard, but it is not the hardest one I've ever done. You get to the rocky/scramble part until the end, when you are about to get to the lake. I backpacked myself and my dog and got really tired the first 5 miles and decided to camp when I found the perfect camping spot and decided to do the rest the next day without all the gear. Most people camp in the meadow which is beautiful, but for me it was just impossible with all the weight in my back. Others prefer to camp at the lake and I find this sublime! Just try to pack light for the climbing that implies to get to the top of the lake. The scramble part is not the worst. For me it was very doable, nothing super challenging (unless you have all your gear and you're really really tired). The trial is really well marked the whole time, until you get to the wall that takes you to the lake. As most people say, the cairns help a LOT! Make sure to follow them as these follow through the easiest path to the top. I brought my dog and tried to take a different one in order to avoid people and to try to find an easier way to get to the top, but we ended up in a really sketchy and super steep area. In order to enjoy the whole hike, without hating it for all the energy that it takes from you, I would have stayed 2 nights instead of 1. You'll find several downed trees at the beginning (first 2 miles) you need to climb over. Just a comment for dog lovers: I do not recommend to bring your dog to the top of the lake UNLESS you have a strong dog and had been exposed to climbing/scrambling before. My dog did Mt. McLoughlin when she was 4 months old and has been doing this kind of activities ever since. She's a German Shepherd and had some panic attacks in the way down, but overall, was easy for her. Her paws where just fine with all the rocks and I started early in the morning to avoid the rocks were hot for her. She loved to swim in the lake!!! But I heard of some dog owners having to come back because their dogs couldn't make it. Besides the scramble, the trail is completely dog friendly :) I recorded 19.2 miles round trip.

Ben Mango
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Jul 03 2020
RunningBlowdown
View Ben's Recording
Adam Tetelman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jul 03 2020
HikingGreat!Scramble

This was a great trail. If you want to get all the way up to the lake I would say you should give yourself more time than you think for the last mile. The scramble is slippery and a bit difficult to do with a full pack. If you are camping out in the meadow before the lake, watch out for the deer. We left some clothes out to dry overnight and the deer came around and chewed up a bunch of the clothes and one of our backpacks. The comment I read about "salt-starved" deers makes a lot more sense now. Plenty of water supplies along the trail and a few downed trees at the beginning you need to climb over.

Grant Wise
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 28 2020
HikingOff trailRockyScramble
View Grant's Recording
Mitchell Fox
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jun 15 2020
HikingScramble

Saw 2 bears. It rained on us for 18 hours. The scramble is wet and it’s easy to get lost in the boulder field especially on the way down. Try to follow the cairns. There is some snow/ I don’t recommend trekking poles. Mine snapped on the way down. Keep 3 points of contact on the scramble and don’t look down. Micro spikes were also useless/not needed. The fish will bite at anything. Some people are not practicing leave no trace in the meadow.

Andy H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu May 28 2020
HikingBugsIcyMuddyNo shadeRockyScrambleSnow

Trail was difficult to say the least. I was traveling with a 65 lb. pack. I didn’t make it up to the lake, the snow was really slushy, however a lot of people were still doing it. The scramble is pretty dangerous when the snow is melting. Bring trekking poles!!!!!!! The hike started with a brutal hill (mountain) which took us 5.5 hours to get over and down, keep in mind we had heavy packs since we were staying out there for 7-nights. The hike would of been easier with lighter pack. We saw people doing the full hike in a weekend or a day with light packs. There was barley any water on the giant hill so make sure you have enough water for your accent and decent especially if it’s hot. Parts of the hill can be exposed. We found lots of Morel mushrooms. After you conquer the giant hill(mountain) you can camp at Low Gap campsite which is about a 5 minute walk from the base of the hill you just went over. From Low Gap it’s a steady incline with with variations in the slope, from gentle to small scrambles. The trail at times not by the creek so make sure you have enough water if you are running low. The creek is accessible at low gap and there was small springs along the way, but depending on what time you are going the springs might be dried up, so always have enough water. We stayed at the lower meadows but you could try and push on another 2 miles and to the upper meadows. The creek wasn’t the best place to fish or we were just not getting lucky. The lake was frozen over but should be thawed in the next couple weeks. Like I said, I didn’t make it up the scramble but I know several people who did. It is certainly possible, I would just wait for the snow to melt which should be in the next week couple of weeks. If you are going to attempt it bring trekking poles. My buddy tried to summit Mt. Thompson, he’s a badass. If you love taking it to the limit and pushing yourself this hike is perfect for you. If you want to chill, take it easy, and not push yourself then I would not recommend this hike. This trail is beautiful and is worth the effort it takes to get to the lake for the people to complete the journey.

Allison Isaacson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue May 26 2020
HikingSnow

Great trail. The beginning is climbing over a ridge, two miles of it, then a mile drop down. Creates a challenge when coming back out! Six mile slow climb to grizzly. I went last weekend and even at the end of may, Tons of snow at the lake and down in the valley. It was all slush snow, and we encountered some issues with safety and falling through snow to the boulders below. One in our party did go up to the lake, personally I’ll wait to scramble up dry boulders. All in all, great campsites and a very fun hike.

Andrew Jordan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue May 26 2020
BackpackingIcyOff trailRockyScrambleSnow

Just hiked up to Grizzly lake on Memorial day weekend. trail was clear of ice and snow until the base of the lake scramble. We followed the map for the scramble up to Grizzly lake. the map has a different approach for the ascent and descent to the lake. with the snow coverage the map route up to the lake is covered and very sketchy. I would recommend taking the return route (cut back to left earlier) to avoid climbing on all fours. The lake is still frozen over mostly, but the edges along the shore have melted. a few people around us fishing had some luck catching trout. overall beautiful trail and loved staying at the lake alone (no one else was stupid enough to hike up with full packs through the snow).

Jeff McGrew
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon May 18 2020
Camping

hey Doug no motorized vehicles within the trinity Alps wilderness but you can take a mountain bike :) has anyone done grizzly lake recently? hoping to get up there as soon as the snow is all melted?

Doug Olson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun May 17 2020
Hiking

Does anyone know if you can ride dirtbikes on this trail? Me and a friend wanted to go explore the beauty of this trail just wasn’t sure if you can ohv ride or not?

Thomas Montegary
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Oct 15 2019
Hiking

This definitely earns the rating of hard but well worth it. The number one tip I’d give to anyone going is regarding the scramble to the top. At any point you can’t see a cairn for reference, you’re going the wrong way. They’re hard to see going up but are visible if you look. Also, the route that loads when you download this trail shows two different routes to the top (one up and one down obviously) the one that is closest to the falls is outright dangerous, I know this because we followed it. Also if you go back to my earlier point, there were no visible cairns after a certain point. This all gets even harder with large packs and being exhausted from hiking all the way in. Don’t hesitate to stay in the meadows and break up the hike if you or anyone in your group is wore out. We hiked in the fall when the leaves were changing color, enhanced the already gorgeous scenery. The nights were cold, but we were prepared for near freezing conditions. Once you get to the top, well..... the pictures say it all. Enjoy.

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