Possibly my favorite backpacking destination so far, Tangle Blue is a secret treasure hidden in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of Northern California. But this breathtaking mountain lake can’t be taken freely – it has to be earned with blood, sweat, and possibly tears.
First of all, I’d like to mention that the dirt road to the trailhead is BARELY MARKED! If we hadn’t had the exact GPS location of the road pinned on my phone, I doubt we would have found it given the lack of cell service in the area. The only indication that the service road leads to anything is a laminated 8.5×11″ piece of paper with the trail name faintly printed on it and stuck to a tree. It’s on the outside/left side of a right-hand curve. I hope this helps anyone reading this prior to venturing to the lake!
Anyhow – the “moderate” hike (as rated by AllTrails, my go-to trail app) is a strenuous one with a full pack on a hot summer day. It begins on a dry, rocky dirt road that crosses over a trestle bridge and continues for the first few miles before any good treecover or running water are reached (read: bring water, sunblock and a hat!). From there it’s beautiful forest and flowered pastures peppered with excruciatingly steep trail legs in between. The latter come in short bursts but they are leg-killers!
Once you finally reach Tangle Blue you have your pick of campsites around the shore. Our pick was a site on the far side from the trail, backing up to the eastern edge of the granite bowl that the lake is situated in. Once you have successfully refueled, tanked up on water, and set up camp (impromptu hammock nap optional) you’re ready for one of the most relaxing, tranquil stays of your backpacking career.
The lake itself is gorgeous, crystal clear, and delightfully refreshing. To my husband’s delight, it boasts its fair share of trout – perfect for roasting over the campfire when Mountain House starts to get old. We spent most of our trip swimming, sunning ourselves on the massive boulders littered along the shoreline, and reading from the comfort of our hammocks.
For those of you who want to venture away from the serenity of the lake there are multiple other day hikes to be taken in the surrounding area. Our jaunt of choice, although there was not a trail leading to our destination, was to the top of Scotty’s Peak on the very edge of the aforementioned granite bowl. The hike was essentially an extended scramble up the granite mountainside but the bird’s-eye view was absolutely worth the 3,000ft hand-over-foot elevation gain.
As far as wildlife goes we saw next to none. Aside from the fish my hubby caught we had a very large toad venture into our camp, and that was it! I think there’s enough foot traffic to keep large mammals away during the summer months. Although it was memorial day weekend we only saw two other groups of people, and they were pretty respectful of other campers considering they had a mule in tow.
So if you’re ever in the Trinity Lake neck of the woods and you’re looking for a healthy hike with great reward, Tangle Blue will always be my #1 recommendation!