Hiking Project Logo

blue Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

  4.8 ( 5 ) Favorite


27.1 mile 43.7 kilometer loop


Ascent: 3,991' 1,216 m
Descent: -3,992' -1,217 m
High: 6,071' 1,850 m
Low: 2,709' 826 m


Avg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 30% (17°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Miguel Vieira

Make your way through spectacular mountain scenery to the headwaters of Stuart Fork

Miguel Vieira

Features Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers

Free wilderness permits and campfire permits are required to enter the Trinity Alps Wilderness.


Hike through forests and meadows to two lakes nestled in alpine scenery.


From the trailhead, follow an old road to the Trinity Alps Wilderness boundary at Cherry Flat. Climb gradually along the Stuart Fork of the Trinity River.

After four miles, the trail crosses Deep Creek over a bridge and then crosses Oak Flat.

At five miles, pass the turnoff for the Alpine Lake Trail, choosing instead to continue straight. The trail continues to climb gently, crossing Deer Creek over a bridge at around seven miles. Pass the junction with the Deer Creek Trail at eight miles and reach Morris Meadow at nine miles.

Morris Meadow has awesome wildflower displays all summer and plenty of campsites.

Beyond the meadow, the trail turns west into more mountainous territory. At 12 miles, you'll reach Portuguese Camp, the last good spot to camp before the lakes.

The trail becomes steep and open as it climbs to the west toward Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake is actually man-made, created for mining operations a century ago. There's still a lot of old mining equipment lying around, and this is a good place to take in the relics of the area's mining history.

Follow the cairns around Emerald Lake's north shore and then climb 600 feet to Sapphire Lake. At the deep, clear lake, enjoy the views of Thompson Peak and the Sawtooth Ridge.

Return the way you came.

Flora & Fauna

Look for Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, incense cedar, bigleaf maple, and Pacific dogwood in the lower elevations.

Rattlesnakes and black bears are common along this trail.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, History & Background

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.


Rate This Featured Hike

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Hike

Check In


Jun 14, 2019
Joshua Lyon
Aug 31, 2018
adrian lu
I did this over 5 days/4 nights (first/last days were short) in early September 2018. Wind was variable, the air quality was smoky 20% of the time.
Aug 8, 2017
Amna Dolphin
Sep 3, 2016
Marshall Phan

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 5 votes


  4.8 from 5 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Featured Hike Rankings


in California


758 Views Last Month
4,559 Since Jan 12, 2017
Intermediate Intermediate



Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking