Backpacking the trails to Snag Lake, Widow Lake, and Jakey Lake in the Lassen Volcanic Wilderness of Lassen Volcanic National Park is richly rewarding. You’ll visit lakes large and small, along with a variety of volcanic landscapes, and you’ll share the territory with relatively few other backpackers.
Snag Lake, Widow Lake, and Jakey Lake Trails Key Data
Distance: 17.0 miles round trip
Type: overnight backpacking trip
Elevation gain: 2300 feet
High point: 7650 feet
Season: late June through mid-October
Contact: Lassen Volcanic National Park
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Mount Harkness, USGS 7.5′ Prospect Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park brochure
Wilderness permit: required for overnight trips; obtain it at the park or by e-mail; call (530) 595-4444 or visit the park website
Campfire permit: backpackers must obtain a California campfire permit
Water: sporadically available at lakes; purify first; always have 1 quart per person on hand
Nearest campground: Juniper Lake Campground
Snag, Widow, and Jakey Lakes Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 28.009 W 121 18.586
Notes: dogs prohibited; can be lots of mosquitos, so be prepared
Snag Lake, Widow Lake, and Jakey Lake Trailhead Directions
Reach Chester in Lassen County, go 100 feet east of the North Fork Feather River Bridge on Highway 36, and then turn north on Feather River Drive. Go right after 0.7 mile. Drive on pavement the next 5.5 miles; then the road turns to rough dirt (too rough for trailers). The trailhead is at Juniper Lake’s north shore, 13.4 miles from Highway 36 (just past the trailhead for Inspiration Point). Park in the large lot on the right.
Hiking Trail Map: Horseshoe Lake, Snag Lake, Widow Lake, Jakey Lake
This map courtesy of Caltopo. Note that the park brochure map is also quite good for hiking.
Backpacking to Snag Lake
Follow signs for Snag, Widow, and Jakey lakes. Climb through a forest of red fir, western white pine, and lodgepole pine, species that will dominate the forest for the entire hike, with the occasional addition of white fir and Jeffrey pine.
Reach a saddle at 0.4 mile, then drop steeply to a trail fork at 1.3 miles. The trail to the right is your return route. Go left, cross a stream, then go right at another trail fork 0.3 mile farther.
Descend past several small, flower-strewn meadows to another trail fork at 2.9 miles. (A left would quickly bring you to the trail that heads north along the west shore of Snag Lake to reach Cinder Cone and Fantastic Lava Beds.) Go right and walk near the east shore of Snag Lake, which has many campsites and places to swim.
As you continue, look north for views of the Fantastic Lava Beds, Cinder Cone, and Prospect Peak. After leaving Snag Lake, walk through an extensive aspen grove, climb briefly, then descend to a trail fork at 6.9 miles.
Hiking to Widow Lake
Consider a visit to Butte Lake 0.2 mile down the left. Then head right for the 1.3-mile climb along Widow Lake’s outlet creek (dry from midsummer on) to Widow Lake. This secluded lake invites you to spend the night at any of the numerous campsites spread around its shores.
Red Cinder and Red Cinder Cone Cross-Country Hike
A trail running 2.6 miles east to Triangle Lake in the Caribou Wilderness goes left 0.9 mile south of Widow Lake. Continue to climb towards Red Cinder and Red Cinder Cone, noting the hardy mountain hemlocks that appear as you approach a saddle between the two at 11.5 miles. Experienced cross-country hikers armed with topographical maps can tackle the summit of Red Cinder Cone to the west and thus gain good views of Lassen Volcanic National Park and Caribou Wilderness terrain.
Jakey Lake Camping and Swimming
From the saddle, the hike’s highest elevation, descend gently through forest. Soon small trailside lakes offer visual relief; some are deep enough for swimming and have level areas for camping. The largest, Jakey Lake at 14.2 miles, features camping near the west shore and swimming along the north shore.
The route then travels near Jakey Lake’s outlet stream and hosts coyote mint, yarrow, and lupines on the forest floor. Several small meadows and a large pond line this final 1.5 miles to the previously encountered trail fork just north of Juniper Lake. From here, it’s 1.3 miles to the trailhead.
More Lassen Volcanic National Park Hiking Trails
I’ve written two books that have all the best trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions has 16 hikes in the park, while 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition, has 10 hikes. Both are available at many bookstores in Northern California, always from Amazon here and here, and frequently at the two visitor centers in Lassen Volcanic National Park.