• Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

This 12-mile loop in Lassen Volcanic National Park is perfect for weekend warriors looking for an overnight escape into the beautiful trails of Northern California.

This hike is one of my favorites for when I only have a weekend to get my nature fix. To start off, visit either the Loomis Museum, Loomis Ranger Station, Butte Lake Ranger Station, Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, Warner Valley Ranger Station, or Juniper Lake Ranger Station and pick up a wilderness camping permit (free of charge).  Also be sure to have your bear canister to store your food in, as they are required for overnight wilderness camping. If needed you can rent a canister at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center for $10 with a $95 deposit that you get back when you return the canister.

Once you have your permit and your canister, head into the National Park to Summit Lake. While you can park at either North or South Summit Lake Campground (about 7000ft elevation), I usually choose South as they tend to have more open spaces. Once you have your vehicle parked and your gear on, find the Echo Lake/Twin Lakes Trailhead located near North Summit Lake Campground. This four mile trail will lead you past FOUR awesome little lakes, all with spots perfect for throwing up a hammock and relaxing.

Follow the Echo Lake/Twin Lakes Trail until it splits into the Lower Twin Lake South Short trail. Follow that short trail until it intersects with the PCT. This area is beautiful and great for setting up camp for the day if you'd like to do so. Personally I like continuing down the PCT south for about another half mile, until you find Swan Lake. This spot is my favorite to set up camp, and there is fresh water in the form of Kings Creek about another mile down the trail if you feel the need to filter some water for drinking/cooking. This spot is also nice because it is right under Crater Butte, a fun spot for some hiking and climbing during the day complete with a small lake nestled within the crater of the butte itself.

Once you're ready to continue on, head down the PCT for another half mile or so below Swan Lake until the you find the Horseshoe Lake Trail that splits away from the PCT. Follow this trail in the shadow of Crater Butte for just under a mile until you find the Grassy Swale Trail (also a part of the PCT) which follows Kings Creek. You will stay on this trail for just over three miles (3.3 to be exact) and follow the Kings Creek through the trees and beautiful meadow areas.

Eventually the trail will intersect with Kings Creek Trail, which you will then follow for just over a half mile until you will branch off onto Summit Lake trail. If you don't mind putting in an extra few miles, you can choose to continue on Kings Creek Trail until you come to the Kings Creek Falls, which are in awesome form right now. If you choose to do so, simply double back on the Kings Creek Trail until you return to the intersection with the Summit Lake Trail. Then it is a simple matter of following this trail right back to the Summit Lake parking area. All in all you will have: hiked past/to seven lakes, camped under the start in the shadow of Crater Butte, enjoyed the meadows and wildflowers prolific along the Kings Creek trail, and ended up right back where you started. 

Pack List

  • Wilderness Camping Permit
  • Bear Canister
  • Food for two days
  • Water for two days (or filtration system)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Swim attire (for the lakes)
  • Towel
  • Camera (if so desired)
  • Jacket
  • Headlamp
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • Hammock (optional)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Taylor Hinchcliff

Working full time for Chico State University. Hiking and camping are what keep me sane and feed my soul.

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