Hay Meadow Loop – Hidden Lakes, Long Lake, Posey Lake, Beauty Lake
The entire highway through Lassen National Park is only open a few months a year. So what do you do in the months that it’s closed? There is plenty of hiking near Lassen National Park – one is this loop from the Hay Meadow Trailhead in Caribou Wilderness. You can spend an entire day exploring all of the lakes here. Or multiple days, as there’s excellent backpacking spots as well. The trail takes you past about 15 lakes, named and unnamed!
- Trailhead: Hay Meadow Trailhead, end of Forest Rd 10.
Open in Google Maps.
- Length: 7 mile loop; 2-4 hours.
- Difficulty: Easy. It may be 7 miles in length but it’s mostly flat.
- Usage: Hikers, dogs, horses. Free.
- Best Time for Photography: You’ll be shooting across the various lakes from all directions, offering different types of lighting. Of course the Golden Hour will most likely be best, and there’s plenty of camping options here.
- Are Drones Allowed: No. Lies within Caribou Wilderness
- Trail Info Current: July 16, 2017
- Further Reading: Lassen Volcanic National Park: Your Complete Hiking Guide
Hay Meadow Hiking Loop around Hidden Lakes, Long Lake, Posey Lake, and Beauty Lake
It was foolish of me to not check the status of Lassen Scenic Highway through Lassen National Park. Who would think it’d still be closed in mid-July? Well, there’s still over ten feet of snow on the road and crews were still working on clearing it all. So…hiking Plan B…Caribou Wilderness.
There are a few great options for hiking near Lassen National Park. The Caribou Wilderness borders the east side of the park and is home to dozens of small lakes. I decided to make a loop out of the Indian Meadow Trail, Hidden Lakes Trail, Posey-Beauty Trail, and Cone-Hay Meadow Trail, a seven-mile mostly flat hike.
The trail starts at the end of Forest Rd 10 out of Chester, following the signs for Hay Meadow. The road is paved almost the entire way and in good shape except for the end, but it’s not something that low-clearance 2WD vehicles can’t handle in dry conditions. You’ll find a large parking area and kiosk with information about the Caribou Wilderness. I got the impression that this trail sees low use due to the location of the trailhead.
The first part of the trail stays in the shade on the edge of two gorgeous meadows. After that it’s all lakes. The trail stays under cover of mixed conifers most of the way but it’s still exposed to sun, so you’ll want sun protection and water despite all the trees.
A third of a mile into the trail you’ll have the option of going left or right; I chose right because for some strange reason I do my hiking loops mostly in a counter-clockwise direction. No rhyme or reason to it. You’ll have a short series of switchbacks leading up to Hidden Lakes but it’s gently undulating terrain after that. There are a number of wildflowers along this trail and you’ll occasionally get a whiff of mint as well.
It’s just lake after lake upon leaving the meadows. If you’re looking to camp, the northern two large Hidden Lakes have some awesome spots between the lakes. Camping is fairly dispersed otherwise, but you’ll always be near water. No need to carry a five-gallon jug of water as I saw one group doing!
My favorite lakes on this trail were probably Evelyn & Beauty Lakes. Long Lake has a lot going for it too though! Well, Posey was gorgeous also and had some very inviting water…
Tips for the Hay Meadow Lakes Loop
- Bring plenty of mosquito repellant due to all the water on this trail.
- Only have an hour or two? There are two options for making the trail shorter; see the map.
- Want to make this into an overnighter? Continue north past Long Lake and up to Caribou-Cone Lakes.