Stuart Fork Trail to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

MODERATE 13 reviews
#3 of 15 trails in

Stuart Fork Trail to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes is a 24.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Lewiston, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. 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.

DISTANCE
24.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4448 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

trail running

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

backpacking
3 days ago

I backpacked to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes as a 2 days backpacking trip with my dog near the end of October. It was stunning the entire way from trailhead to the lakes. Fall 2017 in the Trinities was a very vibrant autumn and this trail really showed off the yellows and oranges of the deciduous trees lining the trail. The contrast of dark green evergreens vs yellow maples vs the Stuart Fork creek was beautiful. I camped up at Emerald lake, just barely made it before sunset - I clocked 16 miles on my fitbit. There was only one other tent there. I passed only 2 other couples along the trail and they ended up camping at the meadows. Walking through forests, along a creek, through a random meadow, crossing a few small waterfalls and constant views of the valley's peaks. It was a very secluded hike. The trail is well maintained. The scramble up to Sapphire lake gives a beautiful view of the valley you just climbed up.

backpacking
3 months ago

The best solo backpacking trip I've done so far. Firstly, this is 15 miles from the trailhead to Emerald Lake or back. I used my fitbit to calculate the return route on my last day.

Here's what you should know:

1. Dirt Road Approach is about 2 miles so drive slow and definitely make sure you have tools just in case.
2. No service about 30 min before you even get to trinity county so be aware.
3. Trail has lots up ups and downs through the forest but so worth the hike, make sure you stay hydrated and stop for snacks/rest.
4. Hiking shoes are a must.
5. Ran into 6 snakes, but they slithered away so just watch where you step.
6. If you're camping at the Meadows for your first night, note that you will approach a sign right before it that breaks a trail in half. The right will say "trail", the left won't have a sign but head left into the meadows to camp. Going right will just take you further up the trail. Morris Meadows is also 9 miles from trailhead, just fyi if you're keeping track.
7. There are plenty of streams to refill your bottles.
8. Once past the meadows, its like walking through a jungle. Its sooo incredible.
9. I camped out at the top of Emerald lake next to the waterfall. Didn't run into a single animal. I definitely recommend it.
10. Keep your food secured and away from your camp, lots of bears (I've heard) and critters.
11. You can camp at several creeks/lakes before or past the meadows as well. Deer creek is great if you're going solo. The waterfall will put you to sleep in no time.
12. Lastly, enjoy the beauty of this magical place !!! I'm so glad I went.

backpacking
4 months ago

Emerald and Sapphire Lakes are both amazing. Here is a trip report with pictures that I wrote for a backpacking trip out to the lakes and back. https://backpackersreview.wordpress.com/trip-reports/trinity-alps-emerald-lake/

backpacking
4 months ago

there seems to be a lot of mis information about how long this hike is. The USFS map we picked up from the ranger station in Weaverville said 17 miles to Sapphire Lake. The sign at the trailhead at Bridge camp where everyone parks said 14. We took our Garmin and it read 11.5 on the way up and 12.5 on the way back. So who the heck knows! In any case it is one of the prettiest hikes I've ever done. Morris Meadows half way up is a great half way point if you wanted to take two days to make it to Sapphire. Both Sapphire and Emerald are gorgeous. Wear long pants past Morris Meadows, as Jonathan said below, it's like walking through a tropical jungle. The wildflowers and butterflies were gorgeous. We saw 6 snakes in 3 days so keep an eye out! None were rattlers.

hiking
4 months ago

I'll start off with tips:

The gps location they give is about 2.5 miles away from the trailhead. I was dropped off and had to walk that distance to the trail head and subsequently after to meet my ride because of no cell service.

When you get to the rock scramble do not go down and do not go up. I accidentally went up about a quarter mile on some sketchy rocks until I saw the lakes and had to climb back down. Just go straight ahead when you see the rocks. You will get what I mean.

The board says 14 miles to Sapphire Lake not 12

In total it became a 30+mile hike

NOW the review.

I did this as a day hike. I started at 6 am and ended at around 5 due to all the extra mileage. It starts off slow with some nice views of the river.

The changing point was when I hit the meadow. It was extremely nice and has about knee height plants (I'm 5'10). The trail is really easy to follow.

After the meadow you then fall into what seems to be a tropical jungle. At certain points i wish I had a machete to make a clearer path but that is just me. Haha. Most of the trail is extremely easy to follow.

Once you pass this point you are almost there. You have some decent elevation and then boom you see the first lake. It surprised me. Very beautiful. Go up a mile or less and then you get to see Sapphire. I sat for 20 mins and made my way back.

If I brought my own car and started at the trail head the hike would have been from 6 am to 3pm.

The trail isn't hard. Anyone who is in decent shape can do it with the correct stamina. I am new to hiking and I did 14-15 mile hikes for 4 days previously and was still able to complete this easily.

Totally worth it though. One of the best hikes I've been on.

hiking
5 months ago

backpacking
5 months ago

This hike was great but it's 30 miles, not 25. That's a pretty big difference when planning to do it in 2 days. Still a very nice hike.

hiking
5 months ago

6 months ago

6 months ago

hiking
Saturday, September 12, 2015

Glad when I finally got up here it wasn't the weekend cuz I heard it can get crowded. We had a nice camp-site at Emerald for a night, then day-hiked up to Sapphire & Mirror Lakes. Quite a scramble to Mirror, but it was spectacular!

camping
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Went up here for labor day weekend. Camped in Morris Meadows and did a day trip to Emerald lake. Great trail and kind of maintained. The worst part is the last kilometer before Emerald lake, but it's well worth it.

camping
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beautiful! And a relatively easy 12 miles in and out