Start: Summit Lake Ranger Station/Trailhead
Permits are required for all overnight stays in the wilderness or backcountry.
The Cluster Lakes Loop Trail, in the central area of the park, is a popular route for overnight backcountry hikers. It also offers great spots for swimming, fishing, and wildflower viewing in the later months of summer. Please bear in mind that earlier in the season, mosquitoes are abundant at nearly every lake on the Cluster Lakes Loop route. The trail begins on a boardwalk near the ranger station and then follows the edge of east Summit Lake. Once you reach the junction with the Corral Meadows Trail, bear left, and your hike to Cluster Lakes has begun. Keep in mind, this is a hike that continuously gains and loses elevation over its nearly 11 mile course.
On the first rise, Lassen Peak and Crescent Crater are clearly visible in an area of open forest and pinemat manzanita. After one mile, at another trail junction, bear left to travel towards the first lake on the loop, called Little Bear Lake-you will be passing nearby Hat Mountain, a cinder cone composed of andesitic lava flows. Next on the trail are Big Bear and Silver Lakes, both in pleasantly forested areas with good campsite areas by their shores. If you rise early at Silver Lake, and the winds are calm, you might even get to see some beautiful mountain views reflected in the waters.
From Silver Lake, the trail continues to Feather Lake, then southeast towards Lower Twin Lake-this section of the trail briefly runs the same course as the Pacific Crest Trail. Once you reach Lower Twin Lake, be sure to follow signs towards Upper Twin Lake. From here until the end of the loop at Echo Lake, look for an interesting mixture of plant life, ranging from red mountain heather to primrose monkeyflower, and tobacco brush.
Last updated: August 25, 2013