Snake Lake Trail     
Lakes Basin Rec. Area  (View this page)
Tahoe National Forest  (View this site)
Plumas National Forest  (View this site)
Difficulty Rating:  
* Trail Length:  
** Elevation Range:  
Operating Season:  
Difficult
6.5 Miles - loop
6414' - 7409'
Late Spring After the Snow Melt

The Gold Lake Basin Area is a great place to relax and hit the trails. There is available OHV camping along the trail next to Gold Lake. Camping is first come first serve and is available without a fee. Most of the campsites line the shores of the lake and can be reached by stock four wheel drive vehicles, so come early to get a great spot.

Snake Lake Trail is the most difficult trail in the area and gets it's name from one of the numerous lakes in the area. The Pacific Crest Hiking Trail also crosses the trail a few times and offers a great reason to take a walk. The trail is run out and back with a loop at one end of the trail.

The trail is more difficult if the loop portion is run in the clockwise direction. This will require you to drive up Snake Lake Hill, which is very steep and loose. If you would like to attempt going up Snake Lake Hill it is suggested that you have at least one locker.

I would also suggest running the trail's loop in the counter clockwise direction. There is a small area at the bottom of Snake Lake Hill, next to Snake Lake, to stop and rest. It's fun to watch others attempt the climb and there are opportunities to turn around at the top of the hill if you would like to give it a try.

Trail Access - The trail begins near the boat ramp for Gold Lake. This is also the route to the Gold Lake 4x4 campground, accessible by stock four wheel drive vehicles.

Gold Lake 4x4 Camp - Gold Lake 4x4 Camp is accessible by stock vehicles and is a great place to spend the weekend. Campsites are free and have bear lockers, tables and fire rings. Most of the sites border the shoreline and fill up fast. Enjoy boating, fishing and swimming only a few feet from your tent.

Summit Lake Junction - Bear right and continue up the road toward Summit Lake. The road is will remain moderate as you make your way to Snake Lake Hill.

Deer Lake Junction - At this point you will come to a fork in the road. Turn right to continue on toward Snake Lake. Bearing left will take you toward Deer Lake along the Deer Lake Trail. The trail will begin to slightly increase in difficulty shortly after this point.

Snake Lake Loop - This fork in the road is the beginning point of the loop portion of the trail. It is recommended to bear right to complete the loop in a counter clockwise direction. Doing this will allow you to descend Snake Lake Hill, the most difficult section of the trail.

Snake Lake Hill (Top) - Snake Lake Hill is the most difficult obstacle on the trail. Acceding the climb should only be attempted with the aid of at least one traction device.

The decent starts of gradually with a few switch backs and quickly increases in difficulty. The slope increases along with the amount of loose rocks. Stay off your breaks as much as possible using a low gear and engine compression to keep your speed to a minimum. About half way down you will come up against a steep off camber rock face. This is the most difficult part of Snake Lake Hill.

Snake Lake - Snake Lake is a great place to stop for lunch along the trail. There is a place to park next to the trail that also serves as a turn around point for anyone wanting to take a crack at going up the hill.

Those who stay behind will have a great view of the others making their way up the hill.

Snake Lake/Deer Valley Jct. - As you make you way around Snake Lake pay attention to this waypoint. The trail will turn back to the left and appears to be a route back to the lake. From this point the trail turns South and follows a ridge West of Snake Lake.

Continuing straight from this point will take you down into a valley onto Deer Valley Trail.

Loose Rock Hill - This short decent is full of very loose rocks and does offer a bypass to the right. Use caution while traveling this section as rocks may shift suddenly.

Little Deer Lake - Little Deer Lake is a great place to stop and swim. At this point you are nearly finished with the loop portion of the trail and all the difficult terrain is behind you.

Trail Maps      

GPS Waypoints   (GPX)
Plumas National Forest   (US Forest Service)
Plumas National Forest   (US Forest Service)
Tahoe National Forest   (US Forest Service)
Tahoe National Forest - Basin   (US Forest Service)
Gold Lake   (USGS Topo)

Trail Photographs      

  (click to view)
   

Books      

Charles Wells: Guide to Northern California Backroads &...
Charles Wells & Matt Peterson: Guide To California Backroads & 4-Wheel-...

Directions      

From Sacramento Interstate 80 Via Hwy 49 (126 Miles)
- Head East on I80 from I5
- Exit 119c Elm Ave. in Auburn (32 Miles)
- Turn Right onto Hwy 49 (27.5 Miles)
- Turn Left after Nevada City to stay on Hwy 49 (42 Miles)
- Turn Right in Downieville to stay on Hwy 49 (16.6 Miles)
- Turn Left at Old Gold Lake Rd. (0.8 Miles)
- Left onto Gold Lake Hwy (5.2 Miles)
- Left at the Forest Service sign for the boat ramp

From Sacramento Interstate 80 Via Hwy 89 (146 Miles)
- Head East on I80 from I5 (100 Miles)
- Exit 188b Hwy 89 North (23.5 Miles)
- Turn Left in Sierraville onto Hwy 49/89 (17.8 Miles)
- Turn Right onto Gold Lake Hwy (6.3 Miles)
- Left at the Forest Service sign for the boat ramp

From Reno Hwy 395 (69 Miles)
- Take Hwy 395 North (23 Miles)
- Turn Left onto Hwy 70 West toward Quincy (33.5 Miles)
- Turn Left on Hwy 89 South (2.7 Miles)
- Turn Right on Gold Lake Hwy (9.1 Miles)
- Left at the Forest Service sign for the boat ramp

Waypoint Coordinates      

  Trail Access39° 40' 38.3" N- 120° 38' 46.6" W
  Gold Lake 4x4 Camp39° 40' 07.9" N- 120° 39' 41.4" W
  Summit Lake Junction39° 39' 50.4" N- 120° 40' 29.2" W
  Deer Lake Junction39° 39' 40.8" N- 120° 40' 31.9" W
  Snake Lake Loop39° 40' 04.9" N- 120° 41' 01.2" W
  Snake Lake Hill (Top)39° 40' 43.9" N- 120° 41' 14.4" W
  Snake Lake39° 40' 41.4" N- 120° 41' 25.9" W
  Snake Lake/Deer Valley Jct.39° 40' 42.6" N- 120° 41' 38.7" W
  Loose Rock Hill39° 40' 29.8" N- 120° 41' 34.8" W
  Little Deer Lake39° 40' 17.4" N- 120° 41' 29.9" W