Stuart Fork Trail to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

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Trinity Alps Wilderness

Stuart Fork Trail to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes is a 26.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Lewiston, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 26.8 miles Elevation Gain: 4,520 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

running

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

hiking
over grown
1 day ago

The last mile of the road is unpaved but is easily drivable for all vehicles. The trickiest part is the beginning. It’s a steep include with potholes so a higher clearance vehicle is recommended. I got up this in a 2003 Honda Odyssey. This trail is so beautiful and so much fun! It offers lots of forest and covered views for the first 9 miles. After that it switches from meadows to forests to open trail or cliff views. I went from 05/21 through 05/24. On that Saturday there were TONS of people. Probably due to the three day weekend and this area not being closed. Leading up to the meadows there are camping (and watering) spots every 1.5-2 miles. The meadows is huge and open so camping is no problem and you can easily get away from other groups. There are a few camping spots on the way to emerald lake including portuguese camp which isn’t marked. It is about 3 miles after the meadows on the left. On the right is a burnt forest area. Emerald lake has little campgrounds. There’s a nice secluded spot on the trail to Sapphire; only two campsites on the way to Sapphire. All of the trail to Sapphire is over grown. The last mile to Emerald is overgrown too. I recommend zip offs or someone to cut the overgrowth back. There are no good campgrounds at Sapphire in my opinion. Not too much granite until a mile or so before Emerald and all of the trial to Sapphire is granite.

hiking
1 day ago

The trail follows the Stuart Fork of the Trinity River through a forested Canyon for nine miles to Morris Meadows. Our guide book discourages camping at Emerald and Sapphire lakes due to limited space for tents so we set up camp just beyond Morris Meadows. We took a daypack and went to Mirror Lake. The path around Sapphire Lake was brushy in places but not too hard to find. It was a scramble to get up to Mirror Lake, which was still snowed over on Memorial Day weekend. The day hike was 15.6 miles and 191 “floors”, according to my iPhone. The out and back hike took 9 hours, 45 minutes with stops. Three full days are recommended for this trail!

backpacking
2 days ago

Did this as a 3d/2n backpacking trip. The trail was very well marked and the views were amazing. Be aware that parking close to the trailhead can be a bit treacherous, especially on a busy weekend. Be prepared to park along the narrow dirt road and hike in a bit to the trail head.. The first 9 miles are through beautifully shaded forest along side the river. Then you come to Morris Meadow which was lush and green. From here you can see the granite peaks all around you. We camped under some pine trees close to a little creek to the left once you get to the meadow. There were quite a few other backpackers camping here but everyone was friendly and kind. We left our bags and hiked up to Emerald Lake, about 5 miles from the meadow. It was a gorgeous hike and the lake was pristine! I then hiked an extra mile up to Sapphire Lake. Be aware that some of this is through thick brush and up a steep rocky path. But the lake and views were worth it! I would definitely do this one again!

Beautiful hike we went during! We went on memorial day weekend during Covid and the trails were absolutely packed. Had to share camp one night unexpectedly unexpectedly, but I think those crowds were atypical. Stunning scenery and well worth it.

hiking
muddy
rocky
5 days ago

backpacking
5 days ago

went here in late April 2020 with a group of 2. made it up to emerald but not sapphire. snow was still present in small patches, but mostly melted until the upper lake. beautiful trail, the time of year I went was perfect because no one else was around. meadows campground just to the left has an amazing view over the ridges. emerald lake was nice, but exposed. not many camping spots, but we managed to nestle under some trees just to the right of you approach the lake from the trail. hike was fairly easy with some up and down in the first 4 miles. last mile up to the lakes was exposed and steep, but certainly manageable. would go again with a larger group due to well marked trail and ample campsites.

hiking
bugs
15 days ago

Backpacked 3d/2n trip 5/8-5/10. Temps were hot, lots of flies and other bugs but very few mosquitoes, barely any snow on trail. Lots of places to fill up water. No tricky stream crossings. Overall trail to the meadows was okay. 9 miles of forested hike. Hiking along the river was cool for first few miles and thankfully it was shaded, but 9 miles was just a little too long and boring. Barely any views and lots of dead/fallen trees. The meadows was also nice, but not stunning or the best I’ve seen. More people than expected camping at Morris Meadows so don’t expect solitude. If you plan on just doing a day hike to the meadows, not worth it in my opinion. Trail from meadow to the lakes was a little better. Started opening up to some views the last mile or so. Lakes itself was nice and tons of awesome places to camp at Emerald. Too cold to jump in. Wouldn’t do this trail again mostly because 9 miles of hiking in the forest is just too long and I was itching to see something different.

hiking
bugs
16 days ago

Beautiful trail. Hiked 9.5 miles to the meadows. Setup camp in the backpacking Campground area. Day hikes to emerald and sapphire lakes. Clocked in 11.50 miles that day. Hiked out third day for a total of 30.50 miles. Beautiful scenery entire hike! Following the river is beautiful. The lakes were stunning. Definitely worth it to go up to sapphire lake.

hiking
1 month ago

April 25, 2020 - 65°-70° outside - Awesome trail! Myself and two other friends left the start of trail head at 8 am. Hiked all the way to Morris Meadows, which is 9.5 miles in (took us around 5 hours), had lunch in the meadows and then turned around and hiked the 9.5 miles back. All within about 9 1/2 hours - and almost 20 miles, ended at 6:00 pm. Will be going backpacking next month to do the entire thing start to finish and go see the lakes. Lots of up and downs in the beginning, and beautiful waterfalls and sceneries. Mostly the entire walk to the meadows was shaded except a few parts towards the end. Seen about 8-10 people walking in and out and TONS of awesome camp site spots along the way for those who wouldn’t be able to make it to the Meadows on the first day. Definitely looking forward to the entire 3 day trip next month. It’s such a beautiful walk and the views at the end in the Meadows was so worth the 20 mile hike in and out. There are also a few spots that get tricky when it comes to crossing water. But we made it through without getting wet and using our skills to cross and balance on logs and rocks. Recommend this trail! This was a trip for the books for sure!

Nice trail, well kept, does have some up and down segments so walking back isn’t all down hill. Lots of bear poop but we didn’t see any bears, so that was nice. Parking is ok overnight as long as you don’t use the day use sights, dispersed camping is free but you need to grab a permit in weaverville.

I would recommend this trail to anyone wanting to backpack. The views were great and the weather has been fair.

snowshoeing
1 month ago

Beautiful trail. Turned around at the meadow due to time constraints.

Just completed mid April. Snow wasn’t too bad. Can easily make it to the first lake. 2nd lake was a stretch and a lot harder to reach cause of the snow. Meadow is amazing at 9 miles. Don’t see a whole lot of snow until the last 2 miles

backpacking
6 months ago

Did a two nighter on this trail. It was absolutely amazing. I'm surprised not a lot of ppl were on this trail but got to have the lakes with only two other people. I recommend doing this trail!

hiking
7 months ago

Day Hiked 10-12-19. The trail is very well-maintained (and more heavily traveled) than many Trinity Alps hikes. At least 80% of the hike is in the canyon where the air is cooler and the sun doesn’t crest the ridge until late morning. The final portion of the hike is where the views become beautiful as the trees become more sparse. Ample water for filtering throughout the hike. Some decent fall color change around Emerald/Sapphire this time of year.

hiking
7 months ago

This trail is great! I just did this as a two night trip, camped the first night at Morris Meadows, did a day trip to the lakes the second day, and then headed back down the trail and camped at the turnoff for Alpine Lake the second night. I did this as my first solo backpack trip, and would totally recommend it. Trail is easy to follow, not hard to climb and very scenic. The colors are beautiful this time of year. Will absolutely go back.

hiking
over grown
rocky
7 months ago

backpacking
8 months ago

Really nice and the elevation gain is not too painful or noticeable. The shade is welcome though I didn't have too warm of weather. Camped at Morris Meadows 1st night. Up to the lakes from there the next day. Planned to stay 2nd night but after coming down from summit to camp, it started to rain, so packed up and headed down. There are plenty of sites all along the river from the bottom to a little past Morris Meadows too so can be flexible with planning. I only saw 6 hikers in total in the trip and no one camped at the lakes probably b/c of the cool temps and ripping wind. Looks like could connect to 4 lakes mid way up or near the top head to caribou. Next time!

backpacking
bugs
rocky
8 months ago

Phenomenal views and campsites. Made it up to Emerald Lake on the first day, and did a day trip the second up to sawtooth ridge. Would highly recommend the out-and-back climb up there, difficult but rewarding! Didn’t make it to Mirror Lake as it was only a 2 night trip, but the granite(?) peaks surrounding Emerald lake was more than enough to look at. Only qualm would be the weekend warriors camping at Emerald lake the second night as they were quite noisy. Our trip was 6/27-6/29.

hiking
8 months ago

Very nice hike with a great pay off. Nothing like swimming around saphire on a hot day. I camped just up the meadow where the stream re-connects with the trail and made a day hike of the lakes. Seemed a little bit crowded around the lake.

Great hike, we started at 3:30pm and made it to Morris Meadows just at dusk. Steady gradual incline most of the way there. Set up a quick camp and then onto Emerald in the morning which took approx 1.5-2 hours from the Meadows. When you reach Emerald be sure to keep RIGHT (along the trail) to go up to Sapphire if you’re heading up there. We noticed a lot of people trying to go around the left side of the lake because it appears to be easier but it’s not. We got lucky to snag the best campsite just around to the right of the lake (Emerald) which was great shade and a beautiful view. In 3 days between the two of us we caught 38 fish, red/yellow spotted Panther Martin spinners seemed to work the best at Emerald and bright Orange rooster tails were hitting in the creeks along the trail. Anything with red in it seems to be what they want. All small fish but still fun to catch! Clocked the time it took to hike back down to the trailhead and it was exactly at 4 hours (14 miles) from Emerald down there (not including fishing breaks in the creek!). Two rattlesnakes encountered in the trail so keep an eye out. Great hike and beautiful scenery as always in the Trinity Alps.

hiking
9 months ago

Fantastic hike with (as mentioned) something for everyone: gorgeous river with numerous tributaries/waterfalls/pools, beautiful pine and oak groves, meadow surrounded by craggy peaks, heavily vegetated and verdant section (from meadow up to Emerald Lake; slightly overgrown and would suggest pants, but extremely manageable), and of course the lakes themselves. We arrived at the trailhead at 6 p.m. on Friday and made it up to Oak Flats by ~7:40 p.m., walking fairly casually. The next day we hiked up to Morris Meadow (took roughly 2:15) and decided to spend the entire afternoon in the meadow (easing in an injured ankle). Day three, we day-hiked up to Emerald Lake and then back down to Oak Flats (covered roughly 15mi for the day) for the night before hiking out the next morning. We were concerned about the heat considering the temperatures in Redding (as well as Weaverville) were pushing 100F, but we had no problems - did not feel that hot on the trail and there was plenty of water and shade throughout. Trip was coloured by the fact that we ran into search & rescue at the trailhead (unfortunately the lost party did not make it, being found at Mirror Lake) and all along the trail, but overall was a wonderful hike and definitely plan to be back in the Trinity Alps in the near future.

backpacking
9 months ago

A great low difficulty backpacking route with very nice scenery at the lakes. Emerald Lake has more campsites, but is more crowded so consider camping at Sapphire if you are a small group. If you have time, also try to do the day hike up to the ridge looking over Caribou Lake. Here is a report I wrote detailing my trip here with lots of pictures: https://backpackers-review.com/trip-reports/trinity-alps-emerald-lake/

backpacking
over grown
rocky
9 months ago

Went on this trail last weekend and it was absolutely stunning! Morris Meadows was my favorite part with unreal views and plenty of deer frolicking throughout! The first part of hike from start to meadows seemed to be longer than 8 miles, and was a nice steady incline. The second part from meadows to Emerald lake was harder with many steep inclines, lots of overgrown bushes, and not as much shade. However it was around only 5 miles and the time flew by! Going up to sapphire from emerald lake was difficult as well since it was mostly on granite and was fully exposed to the sun, but it was well worth it. Everyone should do this backpacking trip! And it was the perfect one to be my first :)

hiking
9 months ago

Luscious green forests turn to granite boulders with crystal clear rivers flowing beside them. As the hike can be hot and filled with brush and manzanita, the final destination is more than worth it. Truly a blissful hike. Wear pants.

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