Lower, Middle, and Upper West Park Lakes lie just a few miles from Mount Eddy and the Deadfall Lakes, yet few people hike the trails to these gems, even though they are fairly easy to reach.
I did the West Parks Lakes as a day-hike in late August, the day after I explored the nearby Caldwell Lakes. (The two trails are within a mile or so of each other.)
I present the details of the hike, followed by a series of photos. Note that I started from Parks Creek Road/Forest Road 17 because I decided not to take my Subaru Outback up Forest Road 41N73 because of the initial rough stretch for the first 200-300 feet. (I could have made it, but I thought if the road begins like that, what’s it like farther on?) However, if you can make that part (which you can see from Parks Creek Road), you can also make it through the next half-mile of occasionally rough road, which then turns into easy driving until you get to the end, a total distance of 2.5 miles that also saves you 1750 feet of elevation gain. And I recommend that you have a topo map or some device with topo software to guide you. Update, October 2015: I think the Forest Service did some work on Road 41N73. That initial part that bothered me now is quite doable for cars with a bit of clearance, but not for passenger cars.
West Parks Lakes Trail Key Information
- Length: about 5.0 miles round trip, from the end of Forest Road 41N73 (see what I say above)
- High Point: 7650 feet at Upper West Park Lake
- Elevation Gain: 1600 feet to the upper lake; 1300 feet to the middle lake; 1100 feet to the lower lake
- Difficulty: moderate
- When to Hike: late June to mid-October, as snow permits
- Controlling Agency: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 204 West Alma, Mount Shasta, CA 96067. (530) 926-4511.
- Special Features: meadows; wildflowers; swimming in the lakes; fishing; great views of Mount Shasta, Mount Eddy, the Eddy Range, and the Shasta Valley
Directions to the West Park Lakes Trailhead
On Interstate 5 take the Edgewood/Gazelle exit. Go to the west side of the freeway, turn right at the stop sign, and 0.3 mile farther turn left onto Stewart Springs Road. Go 4.7 miles turn right onto Forest Road 17, which is also called Parks Creek Road. Drive 4.4 miles to Forest Road 41N73. See description of road above; it’s about 2.5 miles to a small parking area where the road is blocked off at a fork of Parks Creek (stay left at the one major intersection with another road). If you don’t drive up 41N73 you can park about 100 yards downhill on the main road.
I describe this assuming you’ve actually driven 41N73.
Hiking to West Parks Lakes
Cross the creek on a bridge and begin a steady climb through mixed forest and occasional meadow. You’ll be on an ATV road much of the way. The Forest Service has plans to a eventually stop ATVs about a half-mile short of Lower West Parks Lake and have a footpath that continues the rest of the way to that lake.
Lower West Parks Lake
This beauty awaits 2.0 miles from the trailhead. You’ll find a good campsite just as you arrive. (Backpackers need a California campfire permit if they plan to have a fire.) The lake (7200 feet) is deep enough for a good swim, and there were a lot fish jumping when I was there.
Middle West Parks Lake
The topo map shows a trail to Middle West Parks Lake, but I couldn’t find it. I started on what I thought was the trail from the east end of the lower lake, but it quickly disappeared. No matter. I just made my way up an easy quarter-mile cross-country and found the lake (7440 feet) no problem. It also is swimmable and has even more fish.
Upper West Parks Lake
Getting to Upper West Parks Lake (7750 feet) takes some skill in navigating and climbing cross-country up steep terrain. Swing around the south side of the middle lake and head up and a bit to the left so you follow the drainage that leads from the upper lake to the middle lake, a total of a quarter-mile and 300 feet of elevation gain. This was my favorite of the three and it’s where I went swimming (OK, skinny-dipping) and had a bald eagle fly 20 feet directly above me.
Climbing China Mountain
Note: skilled cross-country hikers with the right equipment and maps should be able to climb nearby China Mountain from the West Park Lakes basin and drop down to the Crater Lake basin to the west.