Paynes Lake via Pacific Crest Trail

MODERATE 5 reviews
#9 of 18 trails in

Paynes Lake via Pacific Crest Trail is a 11.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Etna, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, fishing, and backpacking and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

11.2 miles
2,339 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash




nature trips




2 months ago

Made it to Paynes Lake again yesterday, my 3rd visit this month. This time hiked from the Music Creek trailhead, then took the PCT north to Paynes. Also got an aerial view of Lipstick Lake on the way, though part of it looked dried out. It's a pretty small lake, more like a really big puddle.

2 months ago

Made it to Paynes Lake again on October 20th, two days after my first visit on October 6th. This time I took the longer but much less strenuous route from Etna Summit rather from the Paynes Lake trail head. The Etna Summit route is not only less strenuous, but also much more scenic. Aerial views of Smith Lake and Taylor Lake along the way. Great views of Mount Shasta and Etna backdrop as well.

3 months ago

I reached Paynes Lake today from the Paynes Lake trail head. (Can't seem to find that option here on this website, otherwise, I would have written the review there instead.) This is a a much shorter trail to get to Paynes Lake rather than taking the PCT from Etna Summit, however, it is quite steep and strenuous. I was the only one on the trail and at the lake. Also of note, lots of bear poop on the trail and around the lake, but didn't see any bears.

Last weekend I did part of the trail that leads to Paynes Lake from Etna Summit, but stopped and turned around once I got to the overview of Smith Lake. Also visited Ruffey Lake on this hike. I will post pix of Ruffey, Smith, and Paynes here.

4 months ago

Such a beautiful trail! The first half is all uphill so be prepared to climb, but the views are spectacular! About half way you should reach the top of a ridge, and depending on what time of year it is, there might be an area covered in snow. Because you’re so high up, the view from that spot is AMAZING. I would also suggest taking a day hike up to Albert and Upper Albert lakes. There is a small trail leading to Albert if you follow the small trail that leads through camp to the right. However there is not a trail up to Upper Albert so you’ll have to make the trek up the side of a cliff essentially. It’s totally worth it though. but don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself.

Saturday, September 23, 2017