I decided to revisit Cliff Lake and was determined to make it up to the cliff above the lake this time. The trail to the lake is a very rough road which is at one point made up of piles of miscellaneous-sized rocks. There was one jeep that made the drive to the lake, but most cars will not. There was a group camping at the lake, so I felt less isolated than my last visit. The lake was full and beautiful, with some water still exiting the outlet of the lake--one of the several sources of water that eventually becomes the Sacramento River. This time I found the trail that leads to Terrace Lake, it was a little difficult to follow but it was there. Terrace Lake was smaller, but the water was still clear and it was below by a nice green hill side. I continued on towards Upper Cliff Lake which during the Spring will flow into Cliff Lake creating some beautiful waterfalls. There was no trail beyond Terrance Lake so I chose my own path and did my best to avoid having to step through manzanita. I found a small pond then continued on to Upper Cliff Lake and ate lunch at a local peak overlooking each of the Cliff lakes. Visibility was lower than usual due to CA wildfires, but was much better than the week before. I could see four lakes from where I was perched for lunch. Upper Cliff Lake was shallow and darker--not very inviting for swimming. So I hiked back down to Cliff Lake for a refreshing swim in its crystal clear water before heading back to the car happy with my decisions of the day.
The Cliff Lakes are the headwaters of the West Fork of the Sacramento River. They create the West Fork Sacramento River which combines with the North Fork and Middle Fork to become the Sacramento River.
This was a nice hike to a beautiful alpine lake with a backdrop of rocky cliffs. There was lots of flowing water throughout the hike and even some falls could be seen across the lake. I wanted to make it to upper Cliff Lake, but there was no trail up the steep hill. I decided to turn around after hiking through lots of manzanita. Next time I will bring a friend so I don't have to trek up there alone.
average hiking speed 1.8 mph
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.