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2013: Golden Trout Wilderness

September 21, 2013

Shaker Camp trailhead to Summit Lake

(17 miles round trip + 9 mile day hike)

September 13–16

Nick, Dave, Amy, Karyn, Tom, Jean, Sharol, and Randy

(This hike was part of a MeetUp group.)

Golden Trout

Day 1: Camp at Hidden Falls campground

Day 2: Shaker Camp to Summit Lake (8.4 miles)

Day 3: Summit Lake to Maggie Lake (round trip day hike, 8.8 miles)

Day 4: Summit Lake to Shaker Camp (8.4 miles)

Day 1: Camp at Hidden Falls campground

I carpooled with Dave, our leader, and Randy to Hidden Falls (in the Mountain Home Demonstration Forest, in Sequoia National Forest).

We arrived at Hidden Falls campground at about 1:30pm. The others arrived within the next hour or so. We were the only ones at the campground, situated above the creek. There were 8 designated sites, and while they had a nice table and fire ring with grill at each, there were not great spots for tents, though we made do. While the area was lovely, there was a lot of garbage left by previous campers. The campground also had two outhouses and a faucet with potable water.

Dave had suggested we have a potluck at the trailhead campsite, and head out Saturday, which we did. We had quite a feast of kabobs, vegetables, pasta, sardines and other tasty morsels.

Day 2: Shaker Camp to Summit Lake (8.4 miles)

6500' – 9300'

6500′ – 9300′

After some discussion the night before over whether to leave from the Hidden Falls trailhead or Shaker Camp trailhead, we decided on the Shaker Camp trailhead. While it added about a mile of hiking, it saved us about 500 feet of climbing.

We started from the trailhead at about 9:15am. For the first several miles, it is more of a gradual climb heading north (with even a small drop as well), gaining about 1000 feet through forest, with some magnificent Sequoias along the way. There were several creek crossing, though being late in the season and a dry year, these were quite easy, with no actual fording. Early in a wet year a couple of them would be more difficult. The trail follows along the Tule River, though most of the time it is a bit above it.

Group at Giant Sequoia. Photo by Tom

Group at Giant Sequoia.
Photo by Tom

Just past the junction to Summit Meadow, we took the right fork (heading easterly) toward Summit Lake. We stopped just a bit past the junction for a lunch break at about noon. Once we crossed the river again,  (where Dave lost his knife when his pack spilt), the trail started to quickly climb, and we did almost another 2,000 foot climb in the last few miles. While there had been some talk of possible going on to Maggie Lakes that day, when we arrived at Summit Lake a little past 3pm, most of the crew clearly had had enough hiking for the day.

Summit Lake

Summit Lake

On the north side of the lake are lots of good open camping spots, one with a nice fire pit, though no fires were allowed this year due to dry conditions. There was one other group of 3 campers there as well. The lake was quite low, and no good place for entering it on the north side being mucky and shallow. For getting water, swimming, or fishing the south side had the best spots (though still mucky bottom). I assume it is spring fed as we did not see any inlets. I took a dip soon after arriving. The water was cool, but nice. Karyn even did several laps in the early evening! (I would have had hypothermia if I had tried that).

Three members of our group tried fishing that evening without much luck, though since fires were not allowed, and they did not want to try to cook fish over their backpacking stoves, they were doing catch and release anyway.

Day 3: Summit Lake to Maggie Lake (round trip day hike, 8.8 miles)

9,400'  – 9,900' – 9,000'

9,400′ – 9,900′ – 9,000′ (reverse for the way back)

The next day we headed off for a day hike to Maggie Lakes. In the first mile there is about a 500-foot climb, and then a 1000-foot descent over the next couple of miles. We took a short break at Twin Lakes—there was a very developed camp site in the narrow stretch between the lakes (clearly illegal given the distance to the water on each side). They even had kitchen utensils hanging from hooks!

After a short break we headed off to Maggie Lakes, stopping at the one right off the trail. When we arrived I realized I had dropped my camera along the way! Maggie Lakes is quite lovely. On the north side of the lake, where the trail passes is quite open and flat with lots of fire pits and good places to set up camp. On the east side of the lake are great places to dive in from. Some of the group caught some small trout (which they released).

Karyn at Maggie Lake Photo by Tom

Karyn at Maggie Lake
Photo by Tom

We ate, lay around, read, sunned, and swam for a couple of hours there. Dave and I climbed up the little ways to the next lake, which was slightly smaller, and did not look like good camping, though we did not really explore it. We did not make it up to the third lake, which is the biggest.

Around 2:30 we headed back to camp, and I did find my camera where I had left it at Twin Lakes. We arrived back at Summit Lake at about 5pm. Time enough to wash up, get water, make dinner, fish and just hang out and enjoy the sunset. A couple of the guys caught some decent sized trout, which the released.

Day 4: Summit Lake to Shaker Camp (8.4 miles)

(reverse elevation profile for the way back)

After breakfast and breaking up camp, we were back on the trail to head out by 8:45am.

We did not take a real lunch break on the way out, just snacking along the way. Amy did find Dave’s knife in the bushes on the way out—so both dropped items were found again!  Just past the turn off to Hidden Falls, there is another unmarked turn off. The left fork, which headed straight down to the river, we decided also led back to Hidden Falls. We took the right fork, that stayed to the right of the river.

Nick taking a dip

Nick taking a dip

There are some great pools to swim in along that stretch before the trail crosses back over the river.  I stopped to take a dip in one, being jealous that Dave had gone in earlier at another spot (the group was somewhat spread out on our way down).

We got back to the cars about about 1pm.

We then rendezvoused in Tulare at the Black Bear Diner, where we had a feast.


If I was to do this trip over again, I would recommend either going to Maggie Lakes the first day (though need to be a strong hiker), or hiking in a few miles the first day rather than camping at the trailhead, and then making it to Maggie Lake the next day. Maggie Peak also looks like an easy peak to climb. David had wanted to do this trip as a loop, but he heard that the unmaintained trail that headed back west, south of Maggie Lakes, was in very poor condition.

To see the rest of my pictures from this hike you can click here to my Flickr album

From → Out and Back

  1. Joshua permalink

    A nice 3-day trip into the Golden Trout Wilderness. Thanks for sharing your adventure! Would you mind if I share your story on

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  1. Camp Fire Stories of 2013 | Golden Trout Wilderness

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