The broad blue expanse of Lake Eiler highlights this hike in Thousand Lakes Wilderness. Numerous other lakes, including Everett Lake, Magee Lake, and Barrett Lake, can be reached by trail or cross-country.
You can definitely do this as a day hike, but Thousand Lakes Wilderness is also a major backpacking destination, with many people hiking the trails to Everett Lake, Magee Lake, and Magee Peak (not specifically covered in this post).
Lake Eiler Trail Key Data
Distance: 6.9 miles roundtrip
Type: Day hike or multi-day backpacking trip
Elevation gain: 700 feet
High point: 6500 feet
Season: late June through October
Information: Hat Creek Ranger District, Lassen National Forest, 530-336-5521
Map: USGS 7.5′ Thousand Lakes Valley
Permits: no wilderness permit required. Backpackers require a California campfire permit
Lake Eiler/Tamarack Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 42.862 W 121 32.142
Notes: dogs allowed; zillions of mosquitoes through July; roads to trailhead can be a bit rough; substantial evidence of past forest fires
Lake Eiler/Thousand Lakes Wilderness/Tamarack Trailhead Directions
Note that higher clearance vehicles usually can drive all the way to the actual trailhead, but other vehicles may have some difficulty. You might need to park a mile or more below the trailhead.
Reach Road 33N25, which is on Highway 89’s west side, 1.2 miles south of Honn Campground, 7.4 miles north of Highway 89’s junction with Highway 44 East, and 50 yards north of Wilcox Road. ”Trailhead” signs mark major junctions. Go left at a fork at 0.7 mile. At 2.8 miles, Road 33N25 goes right and briefly joins Road 34N78 and then, after 50 yards, heads left uphill. Continue on 33N25 and then reach Road 33N23Y at 5.7 miles, where you go right for the final 1.5 miles to the Tamarack trailhead.
Starting on the Lake Eiler Trail
The route starts level through a mixed forest of Jeffrey pine and white fir. Reach a substantial lava flow and ascend. Continue relatively level past small meadows lush with willow and spirea flower-spikes, then go right at a trail fork at 1.8 miles. Shortly beyond, you’ll discover three shallow, trailside ponds ringed by lodgepole pines.
Ascend for another 0.4 mile, then drop to the shore of Lake Eiler, by far the largest body of water in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness. It’s also one of the prettiest: From the grove of quaking aspen at the northeast edge, Lake Eiler reflects the imposing visage of Magee Peak, Crater Peak, Red Cliff, and the other thin-air heights that grace the southwestern horizon. Near the east, south, and west shores, backpackers will find numerous sites among a mixed forest composed of lodgepole, western white, and Jeffrey pines, and red and white firs. Warm-weather swimmers will find the steepest drop-offs along the south shore, which also offers the best views of the basalt boulder shoulders of Freaner Peak.
Option: Everett Lake and Magee Lake
The main trail borders Lake Eiler’s south side for 0.8 mile, then reaches a trail fork, where you go left. (A right turn takes you 2.3 miles to the Bunchgrass trailhead.) From here, climb gently 0.4 mile to a four-way junction. Going straight would connect you with Hike 100 in my book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions, which goes to Everett Lake, Magee Lake, and up to Magee Peak.
Hiking to Barett Lake
However, for our main hike bear left and hoof it 0.7 mile to lodgepole-lined Barrett Lake. Too shallow for swimming, the lake offers a campsite on the northwest side, an attractive option for those who find the much more popular Lake Eiler too crowded. For a similar milieu, head right at the trail fork for a half-mile side trip to Durbin Lake, which has more campsites.
To complete the loop from Barrett Lake, head northeast for a mile to the trail fork encountered east of Lake Eiler, turn right, and head back to the trailhead. Those with good cross-country hiking skills may also want to investigate shallow Box Lake and the several ponds found in the interior of the loop.
Your Take: Lake Eiler and Thousand Lakes Wilderness
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