4 days, 3 nights
*click the map of the trip to visit my Gaia GPS account for a more interactive map. Please note, this trip was recorded before I started using Garmin to track my trips.
Swift Creek Trail Head to Bear Basin
The trip begins at the Swift Creek trailhead in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Permits are very easy to get, just stop by the Ranger station in Weaverville, CA. They are free and can be self-issued in front of the ranger station, or you can go in if you would like to talk to a ranger. You can also pick them up after hours in case you wanted to drive to the trailhead and camp the night before.
From Weaverville, it is about 35 miles to the trailhead. You'll drive down CA Hwy 3 and turn onto Swift Creek Rd near Trinity Center. Expect the drive to the trailhead to take about 60 minutes. Swift Creek Rd is all dirt and gravel and can be slow going, and CA Hwy 3 is windy and also slow going.
Once at the trailhead, you will follow the signs for the Swift Creek Trail. Like most trails in the Trinity Alps, this one begins in a forested river canyon. You'll follow Swift Creek for several miles with mild elevation changes throughout but mostly a gradual net gain of elevation. To do the loop in the same direction that we did (highly recommended), you will pass the Granite Creek Trail and keep hiking until you reach the junction with Bear Creek. Turn here and follow this as you gradually ascend towards Bear Basin.
On our trip, we drove from Sacramento to Weaverville, and then to the trailhead. So we ended up setting up camp for the night not too far after we turned off onto Bear Creek and just before the ascent to the beginning of Bear Basin. You will notice several highly used campsites near Bear Creek as you ascend the valley.
Bear Basin to Summit Lake
The trail meanders through Lower Bear Basin on its way to Upper Bear Basin.
As you continue to climb, the basin just gets better and better. As you reach the upper basin (below left), the trees thin out, and views of the ridge line and Seven Up Peak start to come into view.
Once you reach the top of Bear Basin, you will have an incredible view of the Sawtooth Range (below right) and will reach a trail junction with a few options.
From the junction you will have the option to head; North towards Mumford Peak and Mumford Basin, West down Black Basin towards Deer Creek and the Stuart Fork Canyon, or wrap around Seven Up Peak and head South towards Granite Creek and the Four Lakes Loop. You will want to head South.
As the trail wraps around Seven Up Peak the views are incredible! Make sure to keep your eyes on the trail here though. The trail is cut into the hillside and a wrong step could have you sliding down the loose rock for quite awhile.
In the picture below, the granite mountain in the middle is Silago Peak which you will circle when doing the Four Lakes Loop. To the left of Silago Peak is a reddish peak and ridge line. Just below it, in the saddle and just out of view is Deer Lake. Above Deer Lake is Deer Pass. On the way to Deer Pass is the junction with the Four Lakes Loop. Traverse the bowl above Deer Lake here to a saddle that leads to Summit Lake, your destination for Day 2.
Get familiar with this area since you'll be seeing a lot of it over the next 2 days. The lake to the right of Silago Peak sitting on the other saddle is Luella Lake and in the meadow far below is Deer Creek and Round Lake.
From this viewpoint continue following the trail South until you come to the junction with the Granite Creek Trail. At the junction head right and descend towards the meadow with Deer Creek and Round Lake. Be prepared for a lot of long, gradual switchbacks as you descend to the meadow below. However, if you hate hiking down hill, don't worry a nice long climb back up to Deer Pass is coming up next....
Now that most of the downhill hiking is over for the day and you have reached the meadow below (below left), take advantage of refilling your water at Deer Creek. If not, the next chance for water will be at Deer Lake (below right) which you'll find up and over that last saddle. Once you get to Deer Lake (below right) it's another exposed climb over the ridge to Summit Lake and the destination for the 2nd night.
Summit Lake is beautiful at sunset, and you'll find plenty of mostly exposed campsites all around the lake on the hillside.
Summit Lake to Granite Lake
Now prepare for more fantastic scenery as you'll complete the Four Lakes Loop and end up on the way back towards the car.
Your morning starts out by climbing the ridge you descended to get to Summit Lake. From here, you'll slowly traverse until going up and over the ridge and down towards Diamond Lake (below). Diamond Lake is one of the prettiest "infinity" style lakes I've seen. From the water's edge, it looks like the heart of the Trinity Alps is rising from just the other side of the lake.
Once you descend to Diamond Lake (above), you'll begin traversing the gorgeous meadow (below left) on the way to the next ridge that stands between you and Luelle Lake (below right).
Once you descend to Luelle Lake (below left) you will have another long descent back to Deer Creek (below right)
Once you've climbed back up to the Granite Creek Trail, make sure to admire the view again of Mt Silago and the Four Lakes Loop (below left). It was a tiring loop with lots of ups and downs, but also incredible scenery. Now you'll get to descend the Granite Creek Trail (below right) and have almost nothing but downhill back to the car.
Granite Lake to the Swift Creek Trail Head
Now you're in for an easy day through the forest as you wind down the canyons and back towards the car. You'll get to pass through some gorgeous forest (below left) and also see Gibson Peak over Gibson Meadow (below right) on the way out.
I hope you enjoy this trip. I still look back on it as some of the best scenery mile after mile and will definitely do it again.