Cluster Lakes Loop Trail is a 10.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Old Station, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October.
Whether you measure your lakes by quality or quantity, this hike's a winner either way. Located four hours north east of San Francisco this Northern California park might be a little out of the way, but it's a prime destination for seekers of tranquility and those with even just a passing interest in geology. This guide explores a chain pristine lakes and pools at least a dozen in number, on this loop trail deep in the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Elevation gain: - 1,100ft (from 6,600 - 7,200ft)
We did the Cluster Lakes Loop in a clockwise direction whereas most of the reviews I've seen do it the other way. The benefit of doing in clockwise is that you get the area burned in 2012 out of the way instead of ending your trip with it. We started at the parking lot of the Summit Lake Ranger Station and headed out. We went left at the Y and headed to the cluster. We passed Little Bear, Big Bear and Feather Lakes. The majority of this portion of the trip was downhill however, the gravely terrain made the going a bit more difficult. Our destination for the evening was Rainbow Lake so we came to Lower Twin Lake and stayed to the left. Rainbow Lake was beautiful. A bit too many mosquitoes for my liking in the evening but with a little repellent, it wasn't too bad. Next morning we headed back to the trail-head passing Lower Twin. Upper Twin and Echo Lakes. Since it was mostly downhill going in, it was mostly climbing coming back. The climb from Echo Lake up toward Summit Lake was at least moderate in difficulty. An easier trip would be to go to the right at the Y and bypass the burned out areas for now.
Our first backpacking trip. We worked the trail counter-clockwise to avoid the business of Twin Lakes (and the apparent bear who'd set up shop). Gathered fresh water at Big Bear Lake and camped at Little Bear. The wind picked up in the middle of the night (which was a bit terrifying when surrounded by half-dead trees). The trail was pleasant and lakes enjoyable for swimming in the late summer heat. Definitely a trail we"ll re-visit.
If you like lakes, this is the trail for you. There's nothing stunning expect for the summit lake, which offers the best reflection of Mt. Lassen, but everything is very pleasant. Unfortunately, the cluster lakes area suffered a forest fire recently and everything looks depressingly grey.
Instead of doing this loop, consider hiking just to the twin lakes, or use the twin lakes as a jumping point for your longer backpacking trips.
Great hike going counter clockwise for the first 4 to 5 miles, but remaining 4 miles is all burnt woods from just over a year, and was depression to walk through. Wait some time for the growth to re-appear