Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith Lake Trail

MODERATE 41 reviews
#9 of 69 trails in

Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith Lake Trail is a 5.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Pollock Pines, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

5.5 miles
1709 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly



nature trips





wild flowers


1 month ago

BEAUTIFUL hike, but let me tell ya, when its covered in snow there are quite a few tricky spots, and we lost the trail a few times. also the lakes are completely snowed and frozen over right now. enough that when I thought I was solid i hit the edge of the creek coming out and managed to fall knee deep in ice water. Definitely beautiful, but maybe wait til snow melts.

3 months ago

Hiked to Grouse and Hemlock yesterday through a light coat of early season snow. The trail was a fun and solid workout, and the views up top were gorgeous.

4 months ago

This is a pretty vigorous hike to some wonderful lakes. Great if you are looking for a decent workout--not too easy, but not too hard. Smith lake is the final lake and is my personal favorite. It sits high in elevation just at the tree line with some excellent views of the valley below. Very much worth it!

5 months ago

This is one of my favorite trails. It's definitely an uphill workout in some spots and it pays off big. Climb up the rocks past Smith Lake for even more amazing views.

5 months ago

Ooh la la. All star views, diverse wildlife and fun trails. Immaculate.

5 months ago

Absolutely beautiful! Wildflowers are blooming and the streams are flowing. Went on a Tuesday morning- surprisingly quite a few people were out! Looked like a great place to backpack in if you're looking for something short.

7 months ago

This was a fantastic hike- made it to Smith which was snow covered and gorgeous. It's on the moderate-to soft hard, totally doable and worth it if your in good shape. Considering there are much more difficult hikes near- longer and more gain I would not rate it "hard". But a good challenge. Go to the top it's beautiful!!! Will not be able to follow to trail to smith but use some type of gps tracker or trust going straight up from grouse and tracking through snow.

7 months ago

I went to the Grouse lake today. 7/11.1 big patch of snow I had to cross otherwise trail is easy to find and the lake is ice free. I Will try getting to Hemlock and Smith in a few weeks since the trail looked covered with snow still. The water runoff from Smith looked gorgeous.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Beautiful trail, a steep incline-definitely tougher than moderate.
Grouse lake is a perfect spot to stop and eat before heading on to the next 2 lakes.
Definitely would do it again

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Amazing hike so peaceful on a Monday! Grouse Lake was gorgeous and water even warm enough to swim a bit. Great spot to eat lunch and relax! Must hike!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bit of a difficult trail but very enjoyable. Got to the parking lot at 9am on Saturday and it was mostly full. Quiet hike up but ran into lots of hikers on my way back down. Fitbit tracked this at a little over 5 miles round trip to just Grouse Lake. Will definitely do again and possibly stay overnight. Hiking poles would have been helpful on this hike.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

This is a more difficult trail than moderate if you go all the way to Smith Lake. It is also longer that the stated my Fitbit and GPS both put it around 7 miles give or take a 10th or so. Nice trail though with great views of Wright's , Union and Icehouse lakes. Hike early to beat crowds this time of year as the trail is narrow for larger groups.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

This, in my opinion, is not a moderate hike, but a lovely one. I left the trail head just after noon and made it to Grouse right at 2. Grouse Lake was definitely worth the struggle. I went there on a weekday and was the only one at the lake. I was hoping to swim, but the water was still too cold. Like everyone already says, when you're almost to the top the trail kind of ends with a creek at the left and you have to cross the creek hopping rocks to pick the trail back up. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

I have met quite a few people doing this hike that want to give up just before they get to the first lake. Grouse Lake Trail ascends very aggressively and is not for the faint of heart! It is quite vigorous and requires good footing as well.
The trail turns to the left, (feels like it might not end its vigorous elevation gain), and looks like a creek that you cross over on stones. To the right you see steeper rocks that could be climbed to get to Grouse, but the official trail goes to the left and is easier. Don'f give up at that creek. Just rest with the skeeters, then resume and get the reward of at least Grouse Lake! Take water because you will sweat for this prize! Wear reliable shoes! Trekking poles help me so much!
I did 6+ miles by roaming up the north ridge of Smith Lake and over the spillway. Since I last went, I heard someone has vandalized the bridge and that they do not intend to fix it. Smith is gorgeous!!! It has forest and a few hidden campsites on the north-ish side and the high bowl walls on the other sides except for the west that has long, beautiful views and sunsets. The trail is pretty good, but strenuous in some sections. You can get a little lost, but keep looking around yourself and you can find the trail ahead. My GPS helped the first time up, and there is a clear trail that runs fairly parallel to the runoff from the Smith Lake dam. It traverses mildly and heads downward more directly, without bushwhacking, and gets you on a more level easy trail pretty quickly.
Hemlock is amazingly gorgeous, but without the distant views seen earlier along the way and at Smith. Super clear water!
I love this hike! PS. Don't bother building cairns. The wilderness policy is to break them down. If you rely on them, not your own observations on the way, they may be gone by the time you return!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Amazing trail! It is listed as difficult on the entry sign. It is not an easy trail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Beautiful hike Smith Lake is worth a little longer hike

Monday, October 13, 2014

We just did this hike 10/12/14 and i would highly recommend it. its well worth the time to go up and see Grouse lake...since we started on time, but lost half the group who ended up going somewhere else, so we ran out of time, and did not go past Grouse to Hemlock or Smith Lake. So, I would suggest to start early and do all three....from Grouse to the others is not difficult, you pretty much do all the work getting to Grouse Lake. They have camping areas up there, so we plan on going back to camp up there.

We started at the West side of Wrights Lake...took the loop trails around to the NE corner of the lake...there you will sign up for a FREE wilderness permit (so that they know you are out there)...from here you start on the Twin Lake trail. You will cross the wilderness boundary and then 15 minutes later you should come to the split of where the Twin Lake and Grouse Lake trails split....from here its pretty straight forward.

The trails does get lost at times, but look for footprints or where the path may restart again....this happens when you hit the granite rock areas. The other thing that we found was that it was somewhat difficult to figure out when we would know that we are crossing the wilderness line and where the split was for Grouse Lake from the Twin Lake trail. I've added pictures of those markers...this should help knowing that its not an arbitrary marking that you will miss :)

Also, I hiked in runners....its doable. You will slip on the granite rock areas and bang your knee unnecessarily if you are not careful. Hiking shoes definitely recommended. Take plenty of water and energy food, you will need it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Did this hike on a Saturday in late July in a severe drought year with a 2 year old in a backpack and a dog. Lake levels are still excellent. Trails were not very busy but the recreation was. Get there early for parking at the trail head. went swimming at Grouse and Wheeler lakes. was pleasantly surprised at how warm they were probably from the lack of snowpack. Views are amazing it is worth packing the Fancy camera. Lots of climbing and you are exposed to the sun on a lot of the trail. i wore my trail running shoes instead of boots and slipped a lot on the granite on way down the hill. i also recommend trekking poles for this hike. To help with the large step ups. This is definitely a 5 star trail for us.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beautiful hike. We only made it as far as Grouse Lake, but I can't wait to come back here another time and do the whole trail all the way to Smith Lake. The trail is steep, but we took our time. What amazes me is the change of perspective on the way up and then on the way down. I noticed different things on the hike up, and then saw more of the beauty of the little details on the way down. Fantastic panoramic views! It was an uphill journey the whole way, but it was an adventure. You lose sight of the trail sometimes, but it was fairly easy to pick it up again. There seemed to be a lot of fish in Grouse Lake, and a woman said she hooked something every time she cast out. Happy trails!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The trail to Grouse Lake from Wright's Lake Trailhead is a moderate climb. From Grouse Lake we took a trail due east to.Smith Lake (we followed the stream bank trail which is not marked on any map)-this trail was difficult due to elevation gain in a short distance. We then hiked back the marked trail to Hemlock Lake. The view at these 3 lakes doe not disappoint! We also did some fly fishing at both lower elevation lakes - used nymph and elk hair caddis. Most all were caught on nymph. Please catch and release at these lakes. Our hike was midweek on August 6 and we saw 5 others total in this area all day long.

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