This day hike or short backpacking trip to Seven Lakes Basin on the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the best in the Mount Shasta region. The basin holds Upper Seven Lake, Lower Seven Lake, and several smaller lakes, with swimming the best in Upper Seven Lake. On the way to Seven Lakes Basin, you’ll be treated to vistas of the Trinity Alps and Mount Shasta.
It takes a bit of easy cross-country hiking to explore all of Seven Lakes Basin, as the main trail becomes very difficult to follow beyond Upper Seven Lake. If you want to wander the entire basin, be sure you are adept at finding your way in the wilderness.
You can also easily visit Lake Helen and climb nearby Tri County Peak.
The Seven Lakes Basin journey is Hike 50 from 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition. I discuss the same route in Hike 56 of Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions. Here’s the description of the Seven Lakes Basin from 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition.
Key Data: Seven Lakes Basin Hike
Length: 6 miles round-trip
Hiking time: 5 hours or 2 days
High point: 6,825 feet
Total elevation gain: 1,400 feet
Season: early June through late October
Water: available only at Seven Lakes Basin (purify first); bring your own
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Mumbo Basin, USGS 7.5′ Seven Lakes Basin, USFS Mount Shasta Wilderness and Castle Crags Wilderness
Information: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Campfires: you need a California campfire permit, backpackers
This hike gives you the best of the Klamath Mountains with little effort. You’ll have 360-degree panoramas of far Northern California mountains, cool and clear mountain lakes to dip into, a varied palette of wildflowers, and several excellent campsites if you decide to backpack.
Seven Lakes Basin Trailhead Driving Directions
To reach the trailhead, take the Central Mount Shasta exit from Interstate 5. Cross the freeway and go west and south on South Old Stage Road and W. A. Barr Road. Arc around Lake Siskiyou as the way becomes Forest Road 26. Follow this paved road to Gumboot Saddle, 18.3 miles from the freeway and 2.5 miles beyond Gumboot Lake and its campground.
Seven Lakes Basin Trail Map
Pacific Crest Trail to Seven Lakes Basin
Begin on the saddle’s south side and head south on one of the most beautiful Pacific Crest Trail sections in Northern California (hikers and equestrians only). You quickly reach an open area with an unimpeded vista of the jagged spires of the Trinity Alps to the west, with forested mountains filling in the northerly and southerly views.
Travel south, undulating gently along the spine of the ridge, occasionally shaded by a Jeffrey pine, western white pine, red fir, or white fir. Note the various flowers, including blue lupines and yellow sulfur flowers.
The first decent campsite appears on the left at 0.3 mile, followed by the inaugural view of Mount Shasta, with Mount Eddy and Gumboot Lake coming shortly thereafter. A westward glance shows the Mumbo Lakes and Mumbo Basin just below.
Leaving the PCT for Seven Lakes Basin
A trail fork on a saddle awaits at 2.4 miles and adds new peaks to your day’s checklist. To the near east the granite spires of Castle Crags dominate, with Seven Lakes Basin just below and Boulder Peak rising above Echo Lake. Far to the southeast are Lassen Peak, Magee Peak, and Burney Mountain.
To quickly reach the Seven Lakes Basin, ignore signs and go 30 feet farther on the Pacific Crest Trail. A faint and unmarked path drops down on the right, soon intersecting a four-wheel-drive road that you follow down to Upper Seven Lake, a total 0.5 mile distance. The lake’s waters invite you to swim, but two campsites by the water are too close, so explore farther from shore for a level spot. Lower Seven Lake lies 100 yards to the south but has no campsites.
My Youtube Video of Seven Lakes Basin
Heading Cross-Country Toward Echo Lake
You can hike cross-country to explore the basin. The actual trail fades as it runs east toward Echo Lake, which lies below Boulder Peak. Do not attempt to visit this lake: It’s privately owned, and the owner is notoriously cranky and very hostile to visitors.
Climbing Tri County Peak: Where Shasta, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties Meet
Tri County Peak is located just a couple hundred yards south and 125 feet of elevation above the gap above Seven Lakes Basin. Leave the PCT for the moderate scramble up the slope. A modest plaque marks the summit of Tri County Peak, but you’ll love the views of the Trinity Alps, the Trinity Divide (including Mount Eddy), plus Seven Lakes Basin, Castle Crags, Gray Rocks, and distant Lassen Peak.
Hiking Trail to Lake Helen
To reach Lake Helen, leave the Pacific Crest Trail at the gap and go right. After 0.3 mile you’ll see a trail on the right that quickly leads you to the forest-ringed lake.