“A tour of the northern Sky Lakes Basin past lakes and expansive views.”
— Bruce Hope
Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming · Views · Commonly Backpacked
This trail is enters the Sky Lakes Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This trail is usually closed by snow between November and May.
This loop takes you past the amazing Puck Lakes
, then past the charming Snow Lakes to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), then along the PCT with big views in several directions, and then down through the big lakes in the heart of the northern Sky Lakes Area.
Although the Sky Lakes is a popular wilderness, this loop will take you far enough from popular trailheads to afford you some solitude. Water is plentiful, as are campsites. The larger lakes are ideal for swimming.
Need to Know
The Sky Lakes Wilderness is notorious for hoards of mosquitos from June to late August. Fall is an excellent time to visit this area.
This loop starts at the Nannie Creek Trailhead which, at 6,200 feet, is the highest trailhead in the wilderness. There are no amenities or water at this trailhead. From here, the Nannie Creek Trail #3707
climbs, in 1.6 miles, to a saddle and then descends gradually to a junction with the Puck Lakes Spur Trail
leading to the largest of the beautiful Puck Lakes
. There are ample camping sites around this lake and the smaller one just to the north.
From the Puck Lakes Spur Trail
, the Nannie Creek Trail #3707
continues descending to a junction with the Snow Lakes Trail #3739
at 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Along the way, you'll pass through an open area covered with plate-like rocks. From here, you have a view south to Pelican Butte, Mount McLoughlin, and Mount Shasta.
Turn right (north) onto the Snow Lakes Trail #3739
and follow it uphill through the forest, past several small, unnamed lakes, to another open area with those plate-like rocks. From here, you'll have a view east to Upper Klamath Lake. Continue on up the #3739 as it levels out on the rim, passes between the Snow Lakes and ends at a junction with the PCT some 6.4 miles from the trailhead. This area was ravaged by the 2014 Camp Creek Complex Fire.
Turn left (south) here on to the PCT and follow it south, with views of Devils Peak
to the north, to its junction with the Divide Trail #3717
. This junction is where there is an extremely sharp turn in the PCT; so sharp, you might miss it if you're not looking for it.
Turn left (east) here on to the #3717 and follow it down the south slopes of Luther Mountain and out along the rim above Margurette Lake. There are good views along here of the big lakes below and of Klamath Lake to the east. Continue down past Lake No-See-Um to the trails end at its junction with the Sky Lakes Trail #3762
at Margurette Lake, 10.3 miles from the trailhead. The #3762 is coming in from the east here and leaving to the north and its easy to confuse the two and go east instead of north.
Stay on the Sky Lakes Trail #3762
going north, as it starts a gradual climb up past a junction with the Donna Lake Trail #3734
, then past Snow Lakes (not the same ones you passed coming in) and Martin Lake to a junction with the Nannie Creek Trail #3707
some 12.3 miles from the trailhead. Turn right (east) here and take the #3707 back past the Puck Lakes Spur Trail
to the trailhead. This loop can be done as a long day trip or as a mellow 2- or 3-day backpack.
Flora & Fauna
Many of the nearly 200 lakes in the wilderness are shallow and do not support fish, but the deeper lakes may have some brook trout. A few lakes may have rainbow trout.
History & Background
Beginning several thousand years ago, Native American groups, ancestors of the Klamath and the Takelma people, hunted game and gathered huckleberries in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. However, prehistoric visitors did not spend a significant amount of time in the area due to the short season of mild weather and the limited variety of food plants and animals. Prehistoric stone tools have been found in the wilderness.