Summit Lake is within the Sequoia National Park. However, one of the trails to the lake is within the Golden Trout Wilderness. Summit Lake is approximately 300 feet north of the Golden Trout Wilderness boundary.The trail crosses the North Fork Middle Fork Tule River 3 times. The first two times can be the most dangerous depending on the time of year.
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The trail begins in Mountain Home State Forest near Shake Camp. A nicely marked wooden kiosk informs hikers that Summit Lake is approximately 7.6 miles. Most of those 7.6 miles is uphill, especially the last couple of miles where the trail is the steepest. A short climb uphill and the trail contours its way down to a first major stream crossing. The trail to the crossing is approximately 2.3 miles and well shaded.
The river crossing, known as Redwood Crossing, has a fallen sequoia tree that some take across. It has been there for several years and users cross at their own risk. The sequoia goes up at an angle and is about 10 to 15 feet above the river. Otherwise ford across and continue on the trail to the next junction.
Take a left (north) at the trail junction towards Summit Lake. The trail makes it way up the canyon near the river at times for approximately 2.5 miles. Hikers will trek through meadows, see wildflowers, and cross the river once more prior to the “harder” uphill climb to the lake. Near the end of the 2.5 mile trek, an old sign weather over time signals another trail junction. Keep to the right (east) following the river.
The last major crossing on the North Fork Middle Fork Tule River is at the base of the long 3.4 mile (approximately) uphill climb. The trail is rocky and trees are down in a lot of places. Reroutes make the 3.4 mile longer. There won’t be any water till the base of the lake, so make sure to refill before ascending.
About 1.75 miles the trail leaves the conifers and is not as steep. Views of Sheep Mountain can be seen ahead as well as the canyon and drainage for the North Fork Middle Fork Tule River. The trail is down warn and cut down due to lake of maintenance and weather. Hikers will be walking in a gully with rocky footing. Take your time and watch for snakes along the edges.
As the trail comes out of the canyon and is about to the wilderness boundary sign, many users camp here. Dispersed camping is scattered here as one can camp anywhere they’d like and have a camp fire. Across the wilderness boundary and about 300 feet is Summit Lake. Enjoy fishing and swimming during the day and a nice camp fire a few hundred feet south back in the GTW.
Day 2 or 3
Either have a day of rest and enjoy the stay near the lake or head back downhill. Start early in the morning to enjoy cooler temps and better lighting for photography. The trek home should be faster since it is all downhill.
I did this weekend overnighter based on this posting, thanks! I was up there on 6/21-22/2014 and predictably the river crossings were pretty easy due to the dry winter we had, I didn’t see the downed tree at Redwood Crossing but I wasn’t looking for it either. The trail is well signed and seems well traveled making it easy to follow, even up the steep climb. I camped about as far east as possible on the GTW side of the boundary near the lake and I was the only person there as far as I could tell. There is a use-trail that climbs to the right just before the National Park signage and there are several places that would make a good campsites, there are NP boundary signs on some of the trees south of the trail. There are people who obviously camp right at the lake, presumably illegally, but I have to imagine they get eaten alive by mosquitoes that close to the water. Just to mix it up I hiked out by going north past the lake and west on the trail that connects over to Summit Meadow, the trail doesn’t get much use and can be hard to follow but not impossible. This added around 3 miles to trip and doesn’t offer any more scenery than you’d get on the trail in, but it’s nice to not have to backtrack the whole hike out.
How was the trail from summit meadow down to the junction?