The Journey To Long Gulch Lake


A Journey Worth Taking

Long Gulch lake is located in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. There are actually two lakes on this loop trail, Long Gulch and Trail Gulch. I have not completed the full loop as of yet so this article will detail the hike up to Long Gulch Lake only. Like several other Trinity Alps trails, this one begins about 15 miles outside of the tiny town of Callahan, CA. The trail offers beautiful views of creeks, meadows, jagged crags, and abundant wildlife. There are multiple campsites along the shore of Long Gulch Lake that offer immediate water access for swimming, fishing, or cooking.

From the trailhead, you start your hike on a relatively wide well-kept trail that meanders through the dense pine and fir trees. It was very chilly in this shaded section on the morning I began the hike this last summer. So keep a light sweater or jacket handy if starting out early in the day. The trail slowly but surely begins to climb pretty soon after beginning. Although the climb is not intense, you do start to feel it after a mile or so. The one-way distance to Long Gulch Lake is 3.4 miles with an altitude gain of 882 feet. After clearing the forested areas at the beginning of the trail, you begin to wander into several large meadows that offer majestic views of the sharp crags and rock formations on the high ridges above you.

long gulch lake at sunset
The final touch of sunlight on Long Gulch Lake.


The Final Stretch

The final 1.5 miles of the hike were the toughest for us. The trail begins to rise much more and becomes rockier with a couple of sections of granite stairs. All along the trail, we were accompanied by birds, squirrels, and occasionally cows as this area is open rangeland. Once you crest the final climb you are rewarded with your first views of Long Gulch Lake. It is a small lake, but it is surrounded by a beautiful backdrop of pine trees and towering granite cirques. The first of several campgrounds is located just off to your right as you catch your first look at the lake. It is a larger site which could fit several tents if you are camping with a group.  Continuing down the trail you’ll see the remaining sites scattered along the lakes shore in the boulder field. If you are camping here be aware that the campsites can be quite small and contain lots of smaller boulders. We camped overnight using hammocks so this was not as much of a concern for us.

Once we found our campsite and got set up we spent the rest of the late afternoon relaxing by the lake and watching the fish jump after the flies that were plentiful on the water. I wish I had brought my fishing pole on this trip, but oh well. The sunset was warm and colorful and we were able to capture some great photos of the lake and it’s mood. After that, we cooked up some dinner, got our fire started, and changed into warmer clothes as the temperature dropped drastically once the sun was down.

The Night Sky

Later in the evening, once the sky was black and the stars were shining down, we got out our photography gear again and got ready to photograph the night sky. All of the lakes in the Trinity Alps that I have visited offer extraordinary views of the night sky. Weather permitting of course. Throughout the next hour or so we got several great photos of the stars and the Milky Way (see below).

milky way over long gulch lake
The Milky Way rises over Long Gulch Lake.

After a night of photography and breathing in the crisp mountain air, we headed to bed. In the morning we cooked breakfast and took our time packing up our camp. It was a chilly morning, but we warmed up very quickly as we started hiking back down the trail. Halfway down we were greeted by the cows again that all turned to say “good morning!” in their monotone moos. We reached the truck and finally were able to take off our heavy packs. It was yet another amazing overnight adventure in the Trinity Alps that we will never forget. If you are ever in the area and are looking for a great day trip or overnight backpacking adventure I highly recommend the Long Gulch Lake Trail.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *