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Crooked Lakes Trail to Penner Lake

MODERATE 146 reviews
#14 of 194 trails in

Crooked Lakes Trail to Penner Lake is a 6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Nevada City, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 6.0 miles Elevation Gain: 718 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

wildlife

Directions from Nevada City: Travel east on Hwy. #20 for approximately 19 miles and turn left onto Primary Forest Route #18. Travel north and turn east at the Lindsey Lake, Freely Lake, Carr Lake sign. Follow the signs to Carr Lake and park. Continue on by foot to Feeley Lake where the trail starts. Follow the Lindsey Lakes Trail to access the trail from the north.

hiking
1 month ago

beautiful! swam in one of the lakes! refreshing!

hiking
1 month ago

Backpacked up Thursday for 1 night and stayed at the western most campsite at Penner Lake. Starting at the southwest corner of the lake, the trail to the campsite is on the side of a steep hill, which is fun and exciting for me but maybe difficult for others not inclined to boulder jumping. The weather was perfect and I only saw one mosquito. Met a nice backpacker named Cara, I believe, on the way back on Friday, I hope you made it up to Penner and found a nice camp spot before it got dark :)

hiking
1 month ago

What a nice trail! Great views and nice lakes. I was in the area last month but there was a lot of snow that made most trails hard to navigate. Late season trail for sure

The area is very pretty, and the trails are excellently maintained! We went for 2 nights (Sunday - Tuesday) and barely saw any other people. A call to the ranger station beforehand indicated that there might be lots of mosquitos (there were some, but fewer than expected, we didn’t even use the bug spray we brought) and that the Carr-Feeley trailhead would be a flatter hike. Great recommendation!

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked on Sunday, August 11. Carr campground parking lot was almost full, but we found space. Not many people on the trail, we had it mostly for ourselves. This hike is gorgeous and the lakes are pristine. The views are jaw-dropping, you feel like you are walking in a postcard. When you get to Penner lake there is a little bit of an uphill in the last 0.5 miles, but it's not too bad. If your group is slow, it might be worth stopping for a swim at Island Lake and turning around rather than continuing all the way to Penner. There are a lot of nice points you can enter Island Lake after you make this left turn at Island Lake and walk north along its west shore. That would cut the hike in about a half. The stories about Forest Road 17 are exaggerated IMO. We were able to drive in all the way to Carr campground with a Hyundai Sonata (sedan) and a Honda CR-V with no problem. True, the final 3/4 of a mile of the road is rougher, but nothing that a sedan couldn't do if you drive carefully and avoid rocks. YMMV. We drove in August when it was completely dry.

I usually come after the summer rush. This year we went in August and every spot save for one was taken on a Tuesday by 1:30. Time to find a new place. Edit: I saved the above just as we arrived. While we were there, an honest-to- -god helicopter landed and they (and their transportation) camped over night. When there is poop & TP everywhere, fish heads, guts, bait and hooks on the rocks and now campers dropping from the sky, it’s fair to call the place “impacted”.

hiking
2 months ago

Super crowded! We arrived early Friday morning got a great spot at Penner..Friday night a lot of people arrived. Day hike to Rock lake was mellow..nobody on trail. overall great trip swimming, jumping off rocks, meteor showers.

no shade
off trail
rocky
scramble
2 months ago

Rock scramble up the boulders overlooking the crooked lakes camp sites

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

The hike into Penner lake is gorgeous, the hike passes by lake after lake. There's one significant uphill climb, other than that the hike is pretty easy. Penner lake is quite pretty, but it's above the tree line, so don't expect to find a lot of cover, it's more rocky than anything. Finding a good spot to hang food away from bears and critters might require more of a walk than usual. Overall though, this was a really nice weekend trip, and a good trip to take beginners on.

hiking
3 months ago

Penner Lake out to Carr Lake trailhead. Beutiful views. Well marked trail. Nice lakes along the way.

hiking
3 months ago

6/25. Trail was beautiful with just enough snow to be fun. Needed boots for the creek crossings and some slush but otherwise pretty dry trail. Beautiful lakes the whole way.

hiking
muddy
snow
3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

As of the second week of June, the road to the trail head is impassable because of snow. We stopped about a mile away from the trailhead and made our way over the dirty, melting drifts. There were only a few other brave souls. We made it as far as Freely. Both Carr and Freely were partially (mostly) frozen. Beautiful. A friend we encountered said he had made it as far as Island Lake but it was treacherous. We headed back at that point. It was still a nice vigorous walk but not quite what we expected. We will head back later in the summer hopefully.

walking
11 months ago

*gravel road up to trailhead is a slow go, wash boards and rocky rocky. *beautiful wonderful marvelous scenic easy short hike with lakes and forest. *went in early November, so the crowds of summer are absent.... *lots of gorgeous other hiking in the area around here to explore. *definately will come back here to explore some more.

11 months ago

Wonderful trail!

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

This trail is one of the best I’ve been to. I’m a beginner hiker and went with an experienced hiker who had done the trail once before. It’s not marked in certain spots so it’s good to go with someone you know. Making it to Penner Lake, starting at Carr Lake took us about 5 hours to complete walking at normal pace and only stopping to take in the view and having lunch once we got to Penner. I’d rate the terrain as medium with mild inclines once you get closer to Penner it gets a little steep, but nothing too bad. It’s a great hike in October! Not a lot of people on Monday (Columbus Day!) but we were glad to find a hunter on the trail and about three other small groups of hikers. One thing I learned here is you can hike, backpack in and camp, camp at the campgrounds, bring a pet, come for the day or the night, it will not disappoint. Every single step provides a new scene and a new Lake to see. Breathtaking views. And it didn’t cost us anything but fuel and the food we brought for snacks and lunch. I can’t wait to come back and camp here. We did the entire 6 miles in one afternoon and we’re pretty tired by the time we reached the parking lot. Stopped in Grass-valley at Big A’s for early dinner-perfect ending for a perfect day hike trip!

backpacking
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

This is a great trail, but as mentioned previously, it's getting too popular and not as secluded. Hard to find camp spots at Penner as there really is only one side that is flat enough for camping. But it's still one of my favorites! Just a little harder on the climb towards the end, but nothing too too strenuous.

hiking
Monday, September 03, 2018

Accessing the trailhead was fairly easy. the last 2.5 miles or so is dirt road, but the majority of this road is well maintained. It was really only the last quarter mile that was really bad. My Ford Fusion definitely dragged bottom a bit, so for power profile cars I would recommend stopping short and parking a little ways back from the main trailhead parking area The trail itself was beautiful with many amazing views. The last part of the trail, maybe 1/2 a mile from Lake Penner is the steepest portion and gets a little rugged; but is likely manageable for kids 4+ Other reviewers have mentioned an accumulation of human waste and toilet paper around Lake Penner. I did not encounter too many campers around Lake Penner (there were far more campers around some of the other lower elevation lakes along the trail) and did not see the same accumulation of waste mentioned in other reviews. That being said, I did not traverse around the entirety of the lake, so cannot tell you what it is like around the entirety of the lake. However, I did not come across a single piece of trash on my way in or out and actually thought the trail was well kept given the number of people I encountered.

backpacking
Monday, September 03, 2018

Unfortunately, Patrick’s review is right, this area is just too impacted. There is a fair amount of toilet paper scattered about the area, as well as other trash. It’s too bad, because it was a great hike and the views are amazing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

This is my second time hiking this trail. This place is quickly becoming overcrowded and abused. Lots of toilet paper and human waste at Penner lake. Disappointing to see so many careless hikers and campers there. I will not be coming back here. Trash, left over garbage in the shore of the lake, it’s sad.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Easy and gorgeous trail

hiking
Saturday, August 04, 2018

Great trail! Smokey from the fires but still pretty! We will be back to backpack in and stay a night. Easy trail too!

backpacking
Monday, July 23, 2018

great spot. great lakes. great swim. great hike. great view. cows.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I don’t see how you can do better than this hike. You have multiple lakes, forests, stunning views, rocks of different colors and types, flowers, butterflies. And all in six miles with only moderate climbing. Highly recommended. The road to Carr Lake is challenging but our Ford Cmax made it - we just stopped a few hundred feet before the parking lot when the bumps got a bit more than we could handle.

hiking
Saturday, July 14, 2018

Our second trip to Penner lake. The road is still pretty rough getting to the trail head but it's worth it! We had a great trip, although it seems like it's becoming more and more of a party spot. 1998's Eve 6 blasting through a stereo at 1AM seems to be kind of missing the point of the place.

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