Three Lakes Trail



  • Snow can persist on the Skyline Primitive Trail into late July or August. Expert map and compass skills as well as ice axe and self-arrest skills are recommended when the trail is snow-covered.
  • Bear canisters are required for food storage beyond Three Lakes.


Ecosystem Type: Montane forest, subalpine forest, subalpine meadow
Trail Tread Types: Infrequently maintained
General Elevation Trend: Moderate, after leaving Big Creek elevation becomes strenuous
River crossings: Big Creek may be hazardous/impassable during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt
Level of Difficulty: Moderate/Stenuous
Distance: 6.9 miles
Elevation Change: 500 feet to 3,200 feet
Best Season: Early July through October
Connecting Trails: Elip Connector Trail, Skyline Primitive Trail
Stock: Open to stock but closed to stock for camping



Permits/Reservations: For the most up to date way to obtain permits click here
Food Storage Method: A bear wire is located at Three Lakes. Along the Skyline Primitive Trail, bear canisters are required due to lack of suitable trees for food hanging.
Campsites: Three Lakes
Toilet Facilities: A pit toilet is located at Three Lakes. Elsewhere, bury waste 6-8" deep and 200 feet from water sources and campsites.
Water Source: Big Creek and Three Lakes
Stock: Three Lakes is closed to stock for camping


Special Concerns

Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace during your stay to protect vegetation and reduce impacts in the wilderness. Camp only on bare ground or durable surfaces.
Campfires: Campfires are prohibited at Three Lakes and along the Skyline Primitive Trail.
Respect Wildlife:To protect bears and other wildlife, all food, garbage, and scented items must be secured from all wildlife 24 hours a day. Bear canisters are recommended in this area as there are no suitable trees for hanging food.

  • During fall, winter, and spring months, winter weather can occur even at lower elevations. Be prepared for trees across the trail, snow, hazardous stream crossings, trail and road washouts, and cool, wet weather.
Roosevelt Elk in the high country
Roosevelt Elk in the high country
Big Creek
Big Creek Crossing

NPS Michele Vaught

Last updated: September 6, 2021

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